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Professors’ Square & The Great War

This week is the last week before the start of the next academic year! Professors’ Square saw its first residents move in, in August 1870 in time for the first academic session on the new Gilmorehill Campus and so what better time for the Great War Project to find out what life was like in The Square during WW1?

Post by Annika Firn, postgraduate student, M.Sc. Museum Studies, University of Glasgow:

c.1890, Professors’ Houses SW Facing, Professors’ Square. (Reference, PHU3/3)

c.1890, Professors’ Houses SW Facing, Professors’ Square. (Reference, PHU3/3)

The Glasgow University’s Great War Project is hoping to uncover and share new stories and perspectives from the University during the First World War. During my placement, I researched Professors’ Square, a specific area of the University’s campus and the people that lived there during the war.

The Square was built in the 1860s and welcomed its first residents in August 1870. The thirteen houses in this area served as homes to Professors and their families from 1870 until, in some cases, the 1990s. Twelve of the Professors were Chairs of University departments and the thirteenth house served as the Principal’s lodgings. This was the only house that came furnished with £300 of furniture. Residents were able to decorate the interiors to their personal tastes and make their homes as comfortable as possible.

The Drawing Room at No. 8 (from James Cooper: A Memoir by H. J. Wotherspoon, p. 299).

The Drawing Room at No. 8 (from James Cooper: A Memoir by H. J. Wotherspoon, p. 299).

This distinct community was not closed off from the University staff and students and welcomed distinguished international visitors, as well as students. What I found the most interesting throughout this experience were the close relationships that Professors formed with their students. This was especially interesting because of the time period and the time commitment that the war effort took from the Professors’ daily lives. However, getting to know the students started before the war did. The trend in teaching at the beginning of the 20th Century was moving towards a more personal approach and the Professors in The Square were known for their excellent lectures as well as their kind and hospitable personalities.

William Murray Gloag and Rev. James Cooper were the most well known for the events that they hosted for their students. Gloag was known to invite select groups of his law students to his home at No. 3 for breakfasts after their early lectures. Cooper was also well known for his dining experiences, although his were more elaborate. While they were primarily social gatherings, Cooper also wanted his dinners to be training opportunities in social etiquette. This was to prepare them for the future when they might be guests or hosts in similar settings. Similarly, Professor Davies who lived at No. 6 often entertained the University’s Alexandrian Society with evening performances on the piano.

Rev. Professor James Cooper (Reference UP1/193/1)

Rev. Professor James Cooper (From College Courant, Vol III, No 5, Martinmas 1950)

Social gatherings in The Square were frequent, formal affairs. However, during the war years these opportunities for socialising decreased and all but disappeared. This was due to the extra responsibilities that each Professor was tasked with during the war. One example is Professor Gloag who played an important role in the Glasgow Munitions Tribunals court cases after the passing of the Munitions Act of 1915. While most of the Professors stayed in Glasgow and at the University during the war, they were still involved with the war effort, which made it difficult to carry on their normal lives.

William Murray Gloag (Reference: PH/PR2632)

Professor William Murray Gloag (Reference: PH/PR2632)

The Professors from The Square helped carry the University through The Great War by dealing with finances and sitting on various boards, such as the University Senate and Court. Without them the University could have changed irreversibly because of the war. The Professors’ close relationships with students also maintained the University throughout the war and changed the way that many of these students thought about their academics and their overall University experiences.

Find out the stories of the Professors in The Square here on HistoryPin where I created a virtual tour! Also, stay tuned to @GlasgowUniWW1 where we will be sharing some stories this week! Look out for hashtag #ProfSquareWW1

Online Resources and Further Reading:
University of Glasgow Story

• Glasgow University’s Great War Project:
o A centenary project
o Blog
o Twitter: @GlasgowUniWW1


Brown, A.L. and Moss, M., 1996. The University of Glasgow: 1451-2001. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Hetherington, H.J.W., 1924. The Life and Letters of Sir Henry Jones. London: Hodder and Stoughton Limited.

Hutcheson, R.T. and Conway, H., 1997. The University of Glasgow, 1920-1974: The Memoir of Robert T. Hutcheson. Glasgow: Glasgow University Library.

Macalister, E., 1935. Sir Donald Macalister of Tarbert. London: Macmillan and Co., Limited.

Moss, M., Forbes Munro and J., Trainor, R.H., 2000. University, City and State: The University of Glasgow since 1870. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Walker, D.M., 1985. The Scottish Jurists. Edinburgh: W. Green & Son LTD. Law Publishers.

Wotherspoon, H.J., 1926. James Cooper: A Memoir. London: Longmans,Green and Co., LTD.

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