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Basic Biographical Details

Name: Charles Gourlay
Designation: Architect
Born: 31 March 1865
Died: 20 June 1926
Bio Notes: Charles Gourlay was born in Edinburgh on 31 March 1865, the son of Charles Gourlay and his wife Ann Ingram Clark. 'Early in life' he came to Glasgow with his parents and was apprenticed as a joiner for two years whilst studying in the Architecture department at the Glasgow School of Art. In 1881 he began a second apprenticeship of three years to Duncan McNaughtan, taking evening classes at Glasgow High School. On completion of this apprenticeship he worked as a draughtsman with James Chalmers (then Chalmers & Robson) for two years. He was awarded the Glasgow Architectural Association prize for measured drawings and sketches in 1886, and in the same year obtained a Teacher's Certificate from the South Kensington Science & Art Department and commenced teaching. He passed the qualifying examination and was admitted ARIBA on 13 June 1887, his proposers being Thomas Lennox Watson, John Honeyman and William Forrest Salmon.

Gourlay commenced independent practice in Glasgow in 1888, and in the same year was appointed lecturer in building construction at Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College. He began with forty-two students but the numbers quickly rose to nearly five hundred, even after turning away fifty to one hundred students each year. The demands of this position proved such that he chose to give up architectural practice two years later to devote himself wholly to teaching, and his work in this field was so successful that in 1895 he was appointed to the first Chair of Architecture and Building at the Glasgow School of Architecture (it did not have that formal title until 1904), which had been created in the previous year from courses at the School of Art and Technical College, his colleagues at Glasgow School of Art being Professor Alexander McGibbon and William James Anderson. From 1904 the architecture and building course at the Technical College was merged with those at Glasgow School of Art as the Glasgow School of Architecture under Professor Eugène Bourdon. As before Gourlay taught construction at the Technical College while design was taught at the School of Art.

In parallel with his architectural teaching Gourlay founded the Architectural Craftsmen's Society in 1896, of which he was honorary president; and concurrently he read science on a part-time basis and graduated BSc in 1899 or 1900.

Gourlay had strong antiquarian interests particularly in respect of Glasgow Cathedral. Although he did not publish much on the subject he was one of the protagonists in the Chalmers-Watson-Honeyman disputes on the Lower Church, believing he had located the Lady Chapel. He travelled extensively on the continent, particularly in France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Asia Minor and Turkey, articles appearing in the RIBA Journal on 'Salonika - the Ancient Thessalonica' (November 1906), 'The minor Byzantine churches of Constantinople (August 1907), 'The Parthenon' (September 1908), 'The great Church of St Sophia, Constantinople' (July 1914), and a number of English and French cathedrals. It was during their travels that he married Helen Mary Ramsay in Constantinople in 1905.

Gourlay's other publications were all related to his teaching. The first, written at the request of Arthur Cates, appeared in the RIBA Journal on 29 September 1892, and was followed by 'The teaching of architecture' (1896), 'Elementary building construction and drawing for Scottish students' (1903), 'The construction of a house' (1910, revised 1922), 'The Italian orders of architecture' (1916).

Of Gourlay McGibbon wrote that 'the claims of his calling as a teacher obsessed him to the exclusion of recreation or hobby; he was indeed the most conscientious of instructors, patient and painstaking to a fault… never too robust, in later life his health was indifferent'. William James Smith, later Professor, called Gourlay 'Pa' though A G Lochhead was too respectful to use the nickname.

Gourlay was admitted to the Glasgow Institute of Architects in 1893, and served on the Council of that organisation. He was admitted FRIBA in 1921, proposed by Alexander Nisbet Paterson, John Keppie and William Brown Whitie, who wrote that 'no one in Scotland has done more than Professor Gourlay to establish and improve the standard of Architectural education'. His last years were, however, clouded by being passed over for the appointment of Head of School in succession to Bourdon with whom he had had a happy relationship. This first happened in 1920 when Edward Grigg Wylie was appointed, again in 1921 when James Black Fulton was appointed and yet again in 1922 when Thomas Harold Hughes was appointed. This caused him some annoyance, and with Hughes he had a particularly bad relationship which the Governors resolved by giving Gourlay a written description of his duties setting out the extent of Hughes's authority.

Gourlay died after an operation on 30 June 1926, survived by a daughter, his wife having died six years earlier in 1920. A memorial was erected in St Paul's Outer High Church, designed by William James Smith.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 7Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate1865Before 1879Place of birth
Item 2 of 743, Park Road, Glasgow, ScotlandPrivate1887 *After 1888 
Item 3 of 7102, Bath Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusiness1888 *1889 
Item 4 of 792, Park Road, Glasgow, ScotlandPrivate1894 *  
Item 5 of 72 Oakvale, Gibson Street, Hillhead, Glasgow, ScotlandPrivate1899  
Item 6 of 730, Hamilton Drive, Hillhead, Glasgow, ScotlandPrivateBefore 1909After 1914 
Item 7 of 7Coniston, Craigdhu Road, Milngavie, Glasgow, ScotlandPrivateBefore 1921After 1924 

* earliest date known from documented sources.

Employment and Training


The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 2Duncan McNaughtan18811884Apprentice 
Item 2 of 2Chalmers & Robson18851887Assistant 

Employees or Pupils

The following individuals were employed or trained by this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 2James Campbell Reid18971901Assistant 
Item 2 of 2Joseph Wilson1913After 1919AssistantWith the exception of war service


RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this architect for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 6John Honeyman13 June 1889for Associateship
Item 2 of 6John Keppie1921for Fellowship
Item 3 of 6Alexander Nisbet Paterson1921for Fellowship
Item 4 of 6William Forrest Salmon13 June 1889for Associateship
Item 5 of 6Thomas Lennox Watson13 June 1889for Associateship
Item 6 of 6William Brown Whitie1921for Fellowship

RIBA Proposals

This architect proposed the following individuals for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 16Walter AlexanderLate 1922for Associateship
Item 2 of 16Robert BlainMid 1923for Associateship
Item 3 of 16James Stirling Boyd18 July 1910for Licentiateship
Item 4 of 16Thomas Victor Deas301 November 1925For Associateship
Item 5 of 16John Glen Dunn20 July 1911for Licentiateship
Item 6 of 16Ludovic Gordon Farquhar30 November 1925For Associateship
Item 7 of 16John Harold HaywardEarly 1922 or mid 1922for Associateship
Item 8 of 16Alexander Thomson Heathcote20 March 1911for Licentiateship
Item 9 of 16George Gerard HowardMid 1923for Associateship
Item 10 of 16William Kerr20 July 1911for Licentiateship
Item 11 of 16Thomas Martin18 July 1910for Licentiateship
Item 12 of 16William McClelland20 July 1911for Licentiateship
Item 13 of 16John Sibbald McKay11 June 1923For Associateship
Item 14 of 16Joseph Charles Miller30 November 1925for Associateship
Item 15 of 16George Bruce Scotland8 January 1923For Associateship
Item 16 of 16John Shanks4 July 1911for Licentiateship


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 5Ferguson, H C S Glasgow School of Art: the history   
Item 2 of 5Post Office Directories     
Item 3 of 5Who's Who in Architecture1914    
Item 4 of 5Who's Who in Architecture1923    
Item 5 of 5Who's Who in Glasgow1909    

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 3Builder9 July 1926  Obituary
Item 2 of 3Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College MagFebruary 1911v3, no5  
Item 3 of 3RIBA Journal9 July 1926 London: Royal Institute of British ArchitectsObituary by McGibbon p542

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 2Professor David M Walker personal archiveProfessor David M Walker, notes and collection of archive material Additional research by Iain Paterson
Item 2 of 2RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Nomination Papers A v9 p137 (microfiche 38/B2); F no1856 (microfilm reel 15)


© All rights reserved. © Glasgow Institute of Architects 

© All rights reserved. © Glasgow Institute of Architects