James Bryce was born on October 19, 1806, in Derry, Cavan, Ireland. He married Margaret Young on June 27, 1836, in Belfast, Antrim, Northern Ireland. On 10th May 1838 their son James Annan Bryce was born in Belfast. In 1843, another son John F Bryce was born, followed by daughters Mary in 1848 and Catherine in 1850. In 1851 the family lived in Maryhill in Glasgow, with James teaching mathematics at Glasgow University.
In 1857, three handsome villas were constructed by Wallace Russell at the path from Glasgow Road to Blantyre Works in Blantyre, on what we now know as the Dandy. According to the 1859 name book, “This name applies to three handsome Villas built within these last two years. The eastmost Cottage (Thornhill) has been recently named by the occupier, but “Boweshill” still applies to it, as well as the others. The houses are the property of Mr Russell on a feu from R. Monteith’s Esqr. property. There is an Avenue passing this to “Blantyre Lodge”. Robert Lockhart a wine merchant is noted as being the first occupier but an advert in the Glasgow Herald on 27th May 1859 confirms Robert’s death and that Boweshill was up for lease at £40 per year, a cut price from the £75 Robert had paid per year. James Bryce took up residence in Jun 1859, moving to the relatively new villa in Blantyre.
*He has no association to a man of the same name, whom in 1844 elsewhere in Scotland murdered his brother in law and whose confession was the subject of a ballad.
In 1861 he is noted in the census as being 54 years old. By then eldest son James Bryce jnr was absent but the rest of his family were with him, along with Bessie Stewart a 22 year old domestic servant.
James Bryce is noted in the 1862 Handbook of Hamilton, Bothwell, Blantyre & Uddingston Directory as being L.L.D (doctor of law, i.e. a lawyer) at Bowes Hill the western house of the three in Thornhill Avenue, Low Blantyre. He taught at Glasgow University, an LLD, a teacher of Mathematics. In 1865 he was the tenant and occupier of Boweshill, then still owned by the trustees of the late Mr. Russell, (the likely constructor of the house, who is confirmed as alive in June 1859, but had passed by 1862.)
In 1871, the family are still at Boweshill (although the census notes incorrectly it being Bowerhill) John, Mary and Catherine are still there with both parents.With them were 2 servants Sarah Crawford 29, and Margaret McKnew 18.
On Sunday 27th April 1873, Dr Bryce was descending the spiral staircase at his home at Boweshill, when he lost his footing and sustained a fall, which resulted in him severing his tendon at his knee. This must have caused him considerable pain for many years. He was 66 years old by this time. That same week, Blantyre was in mourning, as David Livingstone was being buried at Westminster Abbey.
Almost exactly 3 months before the Blantyre Pit Disaster, James Bryce died on 23rd July 1877, aged 70. His family moved from Blantyre afterwards. He should not be confused with another James Bryce who moved to Blantyre and appears in the 1880s and 1890s as a lowly ironmonger with a house and shop in Stonefield.
The son of James Bryce of Boweshill, also James Bryce Jnr (b1838-d1922 pictured) led a very full and colourful life. James Bryce Jnr did not inherit Boweshill and was overseas at the time of his fathers death. The house is noted in 1885 Valuation roll as being owned by trustees of the late Charles McKinnon, meaning the house had been sold and indeed it is known it had been sold before 1875, whilst the Bryce family were living there. A Captain, unrelated to the Bryce family lived there by that time, paying an annual rent of £60.
James Bryce Junior was born in Belfast and spent the early part of his life living with grandparents in Ireland.He was a noted historian and wrote 2 major books, The Holy Roman Empire and the American Commonwealth.He was educated in Belfast, Glasgow and Oxford.He had a keen interest in archaeology and undertook a dig at Arran in May 1861 under the expense of the Duke of Hamilton. He was a Professor of Civil Law at Oxford University in 1870. He went on to hold several important positions within the British government, after becoming a Liberal MP. These included the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in 1891, President of the Board of Trade in 1894 and Secretary of State for Ireland in 1896.
By 1876, he had travelled to Iceland and to Russia, where controversially, he claimed to have found a piece of wood that once belonged to Noah’s ark. When in the UK, he lived in London and at times in Aberdeen. In February 1907, he was appointed British Ambassador to the United States and lived in the British Embassy in Washington.
After his retirement as ambassador and his return to Great Britain, he was raised to the peerage as Viscount Bryce, of Dechmount in the County of Lanark, in 1914. Thus, he became a member of the House of Lords, the powers of which had been curtailed in the Liberal Parliamentary Reform of 1911. The Daily Record newspaper at that time records incorrectly that his father resided at Priory House, but this was not the case, it was at Boweshill, one house to the west.
Lord Bryce married Elizabeth Marion, daughter of Thomas Ashton and sister of Lord Ashton, 1st Baron Ashton of Hyde in 1889. They had no children. He died on 22 January 1922, aged 83, in Sidmouth, Devon, on the last of his lifelong travels
Sidenote: Well known contractor Mr. George Stewart of Blantyre owned Boweshill during the 1930s. The name John Downie is attached to Boweshill in the 19th Century but remember the name applied to 3 villas, John living in the middle one later to be named Priory House between Boweshill and Thornhill. Today, both Priory House and Boweshill are demolished and now Manus Duddy Court occupies the space.