Charles Bissland 1885-1888
FEW people could ever claim to have known
their home town as well as Charles Bissland knew Milngavie. He
was said to have been able to write down the name of every
man, woman and child in the village which at that time had a
population of just under 2,200.
Not only did he know everyone in
Milngavie, he appears to have been involved in just about
everything that was happening.
When he died in April 1913 the Herald, in the innocent
journalism of the time, described him as ''a man of affairs.''
And Bissland was indeed steeped in the civic and social life
of Milngavie — and not just because he owned a pub...
He was one of the original commissioners
when the burgh was formed in 1875 and served on the town
council for 18 years, holding every important office except
that of provost.
A believer in the value of education, Bissland was also a
member of New Kilpatrick School Board for 16 years. Before the
appointment of Robert Blair as headmaster of Milngavie Public
School in 1875, the village children got their lessons from
''From his earliest days he seems to have entered eagerly
and zealously into the public services of the burgh,'' said
the Herald. ''Having aims that had no taint in them of
personal interest, and being possessed of a native shrewdness,
he was able to impress upon the affairs with which he was
connected his influence and counsels in a manner that men who
were possessed of greater intellectual capacity and more
forcefulness of character were unable to do.''
Resident proprietor of the Douglas Arms, which stood on the
Douglas Street site now occupied by the Royal Bank of
Scotland, Bissland was married with no family. He was
concerned with the plight of the poor whose lot he tried to
alleviate through service on the parochial board and parish
council, the main social welfare agencies of the time.
The Herald credited him with being the driving force behind
the once thriving Milngavie Mechanics Institute, a social and
literary society which he served as secretary for 40 years.
He had many interesting stories to tell regarding the
institute, and it was his every endeavour to establish and
maintain a high standard of excellence in regard to the
entertainment and lectures,'' said the Herald.
An organisation which Bissland did more than anyone else to
establish — and which thrives to this day — is Lodge
Ellangowan. As well as its founder he was the first Worshipful
Master. The Herald stated that ''in masonic circles in the
West of Scotland there is no name better known than that of
Bro Charles Bissland.''
Bissland's first attempt to establish a
masonic lodge in Milngavie fell upon stony ground. He
organised a meeting for masons interested in setting up a
Milngavie lodge but only 14 turned up and a discouraged
Brother Bissland let the matter drop for a while. In time he
organised a second meeting which attracted an even lower
It was third time lucky when, in April 1885, he organised a
meeting in the Black Bull Hotel which met with a good
The Herald, in his obituary, paid special attention to
Bissland's masonic credentials.
''Initiated a member of the craft in Lodge Thistle (Glasgow)
No 87, in 1876, he was closely identified with the order till
the close of his life. He became a companion of the Royal Arch
Chapter, St Andrews 69, a companion of the Royal Ark Mariners
and Red Cross Knights in 1888, and was advanced to the Royal
Order of Scotland RSYCS (Rosy Cross) and Knight of the Eagle
and Pelican, Prince Rose Croix in 1889 and 1890.''
Other organisations in which Bissland, a native of Bonhill,
busied himself were Milngavie Horticultural Society, the 1st
Milngavie Company of Volunteers (a sort of Territorial Army
detachment) St Andrew's Episcopal Church, and Milngavie
He resigned as the Co-op Society's joint auditor just a few
days before his death at the age of 57, by which time he had
been in failing health for a number of years ''being a martyr
to sciatica.'' The Herald, obviously concerned that people
might try to read between the lines for some sinister reason
for his giving up the post, went on to make clear that
Bissland's resignation was entirely voluntary: ''The respect
in which he was held by the members caused them to bear with
their afflicted servant, and not at any time did they cause
him to relinquish his office.''
By that time Bissland had been more or less confined to his
home for about 12 years though the paper said he still found
it possible to pursue some public interests from his fireside.
Announcing the details of the masonic funeral at New
Kilpatrick Cemetery, the Herald felt it safe to predict:
''There is sure to be a large gathering of representatives
from public bodies and local societies.''