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Second City of The Empire: 1830s to 1914


Isabella Elder

By W Hamish Fraser

Mrs Elder Isabella Elder (1828-1905), born Isabella Ure, the daughter of a solicitor, she married the increasingly successful shipbuilder, John Elder in 1857. When Elder died suddenly in 1869, she briefly took over the running of the firm of John Elder & Co at Fairfield, but soon left it to others to run the firm.

"Lady Elder" Isabella Elder had been bequeathed a considerable fortune and from the 1880s, between extended stays on the Continent, she became a major philanthropist. Her first interest was in higher education. She initially provided support for a chair in civil engineering and, in 1883, she endowed the Elder Chair of Naval Architecture at the University of Glasgow. She also bought North Park House, in what is now Queen Margaret Drive, as the base for the new Queen Margaret College to provide higher education for women. She played an active part in the running of the College in its early years. When a medical school was attached to the college in 1890, she took on most of the running costs. She eventually, and with difficulty, helped persuade the University to admit women students.

Elder Park pond She retained an interest in Govan where the Elder shipyard had eventually been based. In 1883 she bought and had laid out a recreational park in the town, the Elder Park. In 1885 she provided the money for a school of domestic economy for the training of young girls. She helped resource a library in the Elder Park in 1901 and two years later was the main contributor to the establishment of a cottage hospital in Govan, together with a nurses' training home.

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