James Cowan

James Cowan (1830 – 1907)

James Cowan (1828 – 1907) is best remembered in Barrhead for his bequest of £10,000 to create Cowan Park.

James Cowan was born in Barrhead in 1828, son of Lachlan Cowan and Lilian Bruce. His father was a saddler in Main Street, Barrhead and by 1861 James seems to have taken over this business and then diversified, building up a very successful business as a railway carrier and contractor.

The business Cowan & Co seems to have been extensive. In 1897, it is listed in the post office directory with its headquarters at 23 St. Vincent Street, Glasgow. They are listed as ‘general carriers, carting, shipping and forwarding contractors’ and are also listed as agents for numerous railway and shipping companies all across the United Kingdom.

The business clearly generated great wealth for James as he was able to buy Rosshall Estate, Crookston and build Rosshall mansion house in the 1870s. This house is now Rosshall private hospital and its history is well documented elsewhere.

Like many successful businessmen at the time, James also took an active role in politics and society. He was a Justice of the Peace, the Chairman of the West Renfrewshire Conservative Association and held official roles in several other societies and clubs.

However, James seems to have held his home town of Barrhead with much affection and when he died in 1907 he left a bequest of £10,000 to provide a park for the burgh. It was his ambition to see this happen during his lifetime but in the end it was taken forward by one of his trustees, Henry Morgan, who was a partner in Cowan & Co.

The newly opened Cowan Park, c.1911

The 40 acre site for Cowan Park was purchased from John and Joseph Turner of Parkhouse for the sum of £4750 and the park opened on King George V’s Coronation Day in 1911. A plaque at the lodge records that the park was the bequest of James Cowan of Rosshall.

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