Thomas Steel Anderson – ship broker and businessman

Thomas Steel Anderson was a successful businessman whose life took him from Lanarkshire to India.

He was on the Glasgow Swimming Baths Company and a member of the Committee of Management of the Arlington Swimming Club which founded the Arlington Baths.

Thomas Steel Anderson was born on 2 March 1845, the second son of Stephen Anderson of Carfin and his wife, Marion Steel.

At the time of the 1851 census the family – father, mother with their three sons and three daughters aged between 2 and 13 years – were living in some state at Carfin House, Crossford, which Dr Stephen Anderson had purchased after the death of its previous owner in 1844.

The children were:

  • Jessie Ann, 13
  • John Alex, 10
  • Jean Mary, 8
  • Thomas Steel, 6
  • Stephen William, 3
  • Marion Steel, 2

Also listed on the census were a governess, two nursery maids and five other servants. Stephen Anderson is described as a Justice of the Peace and Landed Proprietor. In 1865 the house was sold to a Captain Gavin Steel, presumably a relative of Marion.

By 1861 the Anderson family had moved to India Street in the Blythswood district of Glasgow. Marion Anderson may have died as she is not listed. The six children are still unmarried. The eldest son, John Anderson, is described as Clerk in East India Commercial House while his brother Thomas is also a Clerk in a Commercial House – the precise name is illegible.

Sepia photo of two older men in Victorian clothes sitting down with palm leaves behind them. They are labelled 'John' and 'Tom Anderson'.
John and Tom Anderson. © David Steel. Permission has been granted for use by the Arlington Baths Club.

In 1871, the year of the Club’s opening, Thomas Steel Anderson was lodging at 140 Holland Street and was described as a Ship and Insurance Broker. The GPO directory of the same year lists his employer as Patrick Henderson and Company aka Paddy Henderson. This was was a ship owning and management company based in Glasgow, Scotland originally run by three brothers. In 1870 the company had just begun a steamship service between Glasgow, Liverpool and Burma via the recently-opened Suez Canal. You can see one of the company flags on the Royal Museums Greenwich website.

The Englishman, 21 Feb 1901

But there the trail on Thomas Steel Anderson went  cold until his death in Calcutta – now called Kolkata – in India. He died on 18 February 1901 and it was announced in Lloyds List on 20 February.  On the following day, 21 Feb, The Englishman newspaper gives a fulsome account of his funeral and interment in the Scottish Cemetery.

Thomas  seems to have been a popular member of the British community living there, leaving “behind him hundreds of sincere mourners for the loss of one who to many  had proved a friend indeed, to others, a friend in need and to his many brother sportsmen, a genial and estimable  personality.”

Around 4-500 people took part in the funeral procession and were present at the ceremony, including “All the leading members of the mercantile community in the city, Judges, Barristers and Attorneys of he High Court, Volunteer Officers and a host of others…”

Because he had been a member of the Calcutta Light Horse, a Cavalry Reserve in the British Indian Army, he received a military funeral, led by a band and 60 light horseman followed by “hundreds of conveyances containing friends and general mourners” including Sir John Woodburn, the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal.

This short video shows the Scottish Cemetery today.

Thanks to information from Mr David Steel, a descendant of Thomas’s eldest sister Janet (Jessie) and her husband John Wilson, we now know the connection to India. John Wilson was a director of James Finlay and Co, at that time a company of cotton merchants and manufacturers. His brother-in-law, John Anderson, also worked for the company and was sent to India where Finlay’s established a base to supply an alternative source of cotton as a result of the American Civil War.  In 1872, John Anderson and his brother Thomas set up the firm of Anderson Wright and Co in Calcutta.  Their nephew, Robert Dalglish, son of founder Robert Dalglish also worked for the company.

Anderson, Wright and Co. is mentioned a few times in Recollections of Calcutta for over half a century by Montague Massey, published 1918, which refers to the company initially having offices at 12 Clive Row. In Aspects of India’s International relations, 1700 to 2000 : South Asia and the World, Jayanta Kumar Ray  and Kingshuk Chatterjee refer to Anderson, Wright and Co. as being one of the British companies involved in importing US oil into India in the 1890s. And a Mr J A Anderson of Anderson, Wright and Co. appears several times in the 1898 Report of the Commission Appointed to Inquire into the  Indian Currency.

He was clearly a highly regarded member of the community and, like Arlington Baths founders F. W. Allan and Wemyss Bulley, had been a member of a volunteer regiment, in his case the Calcutta Light Horse. There is no mention of wife or children so we must assume that he was unmarried.

Though he seems to have spent a long time in India he retained a small connection with the swimming baths that he had helped to establish so many years before.

For, in the Arlington Baths Club annual report of May 1906, the Club acknowledged the receipt of three shares from the estate of Thomas Steele Anderson, Esq.

Arlington Baths Club annual report 1906, Glasgow City Archives T9965/?

Researchers: Eunice Crook and Lucy Janes

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