- Sir Thomas Blake Glover (1838 - 1911)
Thomas Glover was born in Fraserburgh> on 6 June 1838, the fifth son of a family of seven boys and one girl. His mother was from Fordyce> in Banffshire and his English father was an officer in the Royal Navy.
Glover visited Shanghai with his brother in 1857, and in 1859, in the closing days of the Tokugawa Shogunate, he arrived in Nagasaki, aged 21. He worked for Jardine, Matheson & Co., tea merchants (possibly also a bit of opium trading too), and two years later set up his own independent business. He clearly did very well, and in 1863 built Glover House on Minami Yamate, a beautiful hillside overlooking Nagasaki Harbour. It is the oldest western-style building in Japan and the house and garden are visited by two million Japanese every year. Last year, the plaque on the building was changed to describe him as a "Scotsman" rather than English.
He and other foreign residents financed the building of the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in 1862 at the foot of the hillside. In the early days of the Meiji Restoration, Glover provided technical know-how for shipbuilding and mining; he owned the Takashima Coal Mine and later constructed the first Western-style shipyard in Japan, in an inlet of Nagasaki harbour in 1869. He also ordered three warships for the Japanese Navy from shipyards back in Aberdeen and introduced the country's first railway locomotive. He formed strong links with the former samurai clans Satsuma and Chôshu, and was instrumental in sending sons of these clans to Britain to study in 1862, among them Hirobumi Ito, later to become the first prime minister of Japan. Glover was the first non-Japanese to be awarded the Order of the Rising Sun - one of the top honours in the country. Eventually Glover overstretched himself and in 1870 he became bankrupt. Mitsibushi took over the companies but retained Glover as a consultant.
Another claim to fame is that Glover's Japanese wife Tsuru, whom he married in 1867, is said to have been the inspiration for "Madame Butterfly", a story written by the American author John Luther Long, and later turned into the famous opera by Puccini and first performed at the Scala, Milan, in 1904. Tsuru had been obliged, at the age of 17, to divorce her first husband, a samurai, due to political differences between her family and his at the time of the overthrow of the Tokugawa Shogunate, and was thus separated from her baby daughter, Sen. However, there the resemblance between Tsuru and the fictional character ends, for although there may have been a suicide attempt, she lived to marry Thomas Glover, and to give birth to Hana and Tomisaburo ("Tommy" to his father). Tsuru's nickname was "Ochô-san", from the butterfly motif on her kimono, hence the name of the popular opera heroine.
Glover eventually became the most famous foreigner in Japan, and died in Tokyo on 13 December 1911, aged 73. His ashes were interred in Nagasaki's Sakamoto International Cemetery.
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