- Sir William Burrell (1861-1958)
Third of nine children, William Burrell was born on 9 July 1861. His father and grandfather were involved in shipping. Burrell entered the family firm in 1875 and, on his father's death, William and his brother took over the running of the firm. They developed the technique of ordering modern, advanced ships at rock bottom prices when the shipping market was in a slump, thus trading with brand new ships when the market recovered and then selling, at a large profit, when the market was at a peak. William also had an eye for detail and an astute eye for opportunities. Having learned that a squadron of Royal Navy ships were on a flag waving exercise in distant ports, he realised they were likely to run out of coal and sent some of his ships to one of the ports of call, selling the cargo at a handsome profit.
The brothers amassed a large fortune and Burrell entered into local politics. He was active in the setting up of the Glasgow International Art Exhibition in 1901. At the age of 40 he married Constance Mitchell, daughter of another ship-owner and the following year, with the birth of a daughter, the family moved to a "Greek" Thomson designed house in Great Western Road.
Having again built up a large fleet of modern vessels, the brothers sold most of them during the First World War - at more than three times the building cost. It was at this stage that Burrell effectively retired and devoted the rest of his life to being an art collector. He had a wide range of tastes but built up an important collection of Chinese ceramics, tapestries, stained glass, silver, bronzes, Persian and Indian rugs and furniture, travelling widely in the process. In 1916 he bought Hutton Castle in the Borders, although he did not move in to the castle until 1927. The same year he was knighted for his public work and services to art. He always had a good eye for a bargain - a 14th century Chines porcelain ewer was bought for 85 pounds and is now worth over 250,000 pounds.
In 1944, he gave almost his entire collection to the city of Glasgow along with 250,000 to construct a building to house it. However, the terms of the bequest (he thought it should be in a rural setting) posed problems and it was not until the 1970s that a building for the Burrell Collection>, in Pollok Country Park, was eventually completed.
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