Basic Biographical Details

Name: Norman Aitken Dick
Born: 12 April 1883
Died: February 1948
Bio Notes: Norman Aitken Dick was born on 12 April 1883 at 45 Andrew Terrace, Newington, Edinburgh, the son of Robert Dick, wholesale druggist and his wife Margaret Broadfoot Aitken. He was educated at Merchiston Castle School from 1892 to 1897, and was articled to Peddie & Washington Browne from 1901 to 1905 and studied in Paris from the latter year, though not at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts as he claimed to have done when he joined Burnet's office, a claim so engrained that it was repeated in his nomination paper as late as 1929. At the end of his studies he travelled throughout France and Brittany, working for Cheston & Perkin (mistyped Chester & Perkin in his FRIBA nomination papers) on his return from October to December 1907.

Big, red-haired, stand-offish and somewhat short of temper, Dick was an extremely fast draughtsman, and in December 1907 he was recruited by John James Burnet for his Glasgow office. At that time Burnet was spending only a few days a month in his Glasgow office due to his commitments in London on the British Museum and the General Accident building. Dick had money at a time the practice needed it, and in 1909 he bought a ten-year partnership which was confined to the Glasgow practice of John Burnet & Sons, a development which was a matter of some disappointment to William John Blain and James Wilkie Weddell, who had been given the main responsibility for the work of that office in Burnet's absence but were not offered a partnership.

At that date Burnet still did all the designing and Dick's role was essentially that of office manager and chief draughtsman for the major projects the Glasgow office now had in hand: the Alhambra Theatre, an austere twin-towered design of red brick banded with black and panels of white-glazed tile towards the top, built in 1910-11; the Sick Children's Hospital at Yorkhill, again red brick with a very American glazed porte-cochere; and in 1913-22 the Albert Kahn-like Wallace Scott Tailoring Institute at Cathcart, an American garden factory with broad-bayed pilastrades stretched between corner pylons, a brick version of the British Museum colonnades with the spandrels of the windows patterned in the French manner. All three of these buildings were basically American in inspiration, directly related to Burnet's second study visit to the United States in 1908 which was concerned with warehouse and hospital design and a third late in 1910 which was primarily concerned with museum and gallery design. Also in America at that time was William Forsyth, the son of Burnet's most important private client, Robert Wallace Forsyth, who had returned full of ideas on the organisation of industry for the Wallace Scott Tailoring Institute. But their inspiration may not have been wholly American: also of significance was a visit by Burnet to Germany and Austria later in 1911, in the course of which he saw the work of Otto Wagner and his circle and just possibly that of Peter Behrens.

Dick enlisted shortly after the outbreak of the First World War and was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Royal Scots. After the war Burnet's London office recovered rather more quickly than the Glasgow one. Burnet consequently needed to rebuild his office staff there. He persuaded Thomas Smith Tait to return and took both Tait and his former office manager David Raeside into partnership, the London practice now becoming Sir John Burnet & Partners although still not completely separate from the Glasgow one. In Glasgow the situation was more complicated. There were several major commissions due to go ahead: the implementation of the 1913-14 scheme for Glasgow University Chapel as a war memorial, the enlargement of the Wallace Scott factory and additions to the Sick Children's Hospital. Although Burnet was initially glad to get Dick back, having had difficulty in securing his release, the previously good relationship between them did not last. Burnet's niece Edith had hoped for a place in the London office, and her husband Thomas Harold Hughes whom she had married in 1918 had hoped for a partnership there; but Tait demurred at Hughes joining the London office and there was no separate female lavatory at Montague Place. Hughes was given a partnership in Glasgow but Dick disliked him as much as Tait had done, openly referring to his refined wash drawings and their brown ink script as the 'pansy productions of that wishy-washy College of Art b****r'. As a result Hughes worked entirely alone in a small first-floor room with the door closed, almost exclusively on war memorials. The catalyst for the end of this unhappy state of affairs was the firm's trusted chief clerk, Duncan, who withdrew the moneys held on behalf of contractors and disappeared. Burnet and Dick had to make good the loss, the latter by repurchasing his partnership, and for the good name of the firm Duncan was not reported to the police. The Glasgow practice then became Burnet Son & Dick. Hughes withdrew to teach at the Glasgow School of Art, succeeding Fulton as head of school in 1922. After the departure of Hughes, James Wallace, a big man who had been a pupil of Neil Campbell Duff and an assistant with Thomson & Sandilands, joined the office. The Glasgow Cenotaph and the fine Zoology building and chapel at the University were all successfully completed: these were designed by Burnet himself with the aid of the accomplished draughtsmen Walter J Knight and James Napier, but the enlargement of Forsyth's in Edinburgh and the extension of the Sick Children's Hospital were largely the work of Dick and Wallace on their own. Apart from the University Chapel, the most important Glasgow commission was the North British and Mercantile Building on St Vincent Street of 1924-26, which Burnet had planned to be his final masterpiece. It was a brilliant design, in some degree influenced by the classical work of Charles Holden at its arcaded ground floor, but the building of it was beset with problems. Burnet was over-committed in London, his health was failing and he was not in the Glasgow office often enough; Dick did not take enough interest in it; Knight, the draughtsman initially engaged on it, incorrectly interpreted Burnet's jointing of the plinth as channelling and Burnet insisted on the granite work being recut; and because of an error in the design of the steelwork in relation to the staircase window, the steel frame had to be partly dismantled and modified. To correct these defects the Glasgow partnership had to pay the contractors something like 10,000. Dick had already been at loggerheads with Burnet on a number of other issues and this final disaster brought about the effective dissolution of the Glasgow partnership in the late 1920s.

Dick was admitted FRIBA in 1929. He was not nominated by Burnet but by the RIBA Council, perhaps on an allied society basis as President of the Glasgow Institute and a Governor of Glasgow School of Art. He practised successfully enough in the early to mid-1930s, notably at the Tennent Institute for Glasgow University and at the Nurses' Home at Gartnavel; during those years he lived in considerable style at Boghall, Baldernock. But with Burnet's retirement the old agreement that the London practice would not compete with the Glasgow one ended. With his Paisley connections Tait began to receive commissions Dick might have expected and Dick was not among those invited to participate in the Glasgow Empire Exhibition in 1938. The loss of Glasgow University's business to Hughes was particularly hard to take and aggravated a tendency to drink too much. He closed the Glasgow office in 1940 and put the firm's archive into store with Morrison McChlery; when he failed to pay their charges despite reminders, that firm sent the entire collection for salvage. By that time Dick was living in London: it is not yet known what he did there, but he was expelled from the RIBA in 1942 and on one occasion John Watson found him slumped on a stair in the London Underground. He died in London in February 1948.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this :
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 3239, St Vincent Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusiness19071932 or 1933With the exception of war service, 1914-19
Item 2 of 3Boghall, Baldernock (nr Milngavie), Stirlingshire, ScotlandPrivate1929 *  
Item 3 of 315, Blythswood Square, Glasgow, ScotlandBusiness1939After 1940 

* earliest date known from documented sources.

Employment and Training


The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 6Peddie & Washington BrowneJune 19011905Apprentice 
Item 2 of 6Cheston & PerkinOctober 1907December 1907Draughtsman 
Item 3 of 6John Burnet & SonDecember 19071909Draughtsman 
Item 4 of 6John Burnet & Son19091919Partner 
Item 5 of 6John Burnet, Son & Partners19191920 or 1921Partner 
Item 6 of 6Burnet, Son & Dick19211940Partner 


RIBA Proposals

This proposed the following individuals for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 5Alexander Buchanan Campbell6 December 1937for Associateship
Item 2 of 5James Henry Gray19 July 1937for Fellowship
Item 3 of 5George Irving Hunter5 December 1938For Associateship
Item 4 of 5Alexander William Thornton4 December 1933for Associateship
Item 5 of 5David Stark Reid WaughLate 1929for Associateship

Buildings and Designs

This was involved with the following buildings or structures from the date specified (click on an item to view details):
 Date startedBuilding nameTown, district or villageIslandCity or countyCountryNotes
Item 1 of 851907Scottish National Exhibition, 1908Saughton EdinburghScotlandCompetition design - unsuccessful
Item 2 of 851909Alhambra Theatre  GlasgowScotland 
Item 3 of 851909Black's warehouse  GlasgowScotlandAlterations
Item 4 of 851909Glasgow Royal Asylum for Lunatics  GlasgowScotlandNew south west wing and alterations to west house
Item 5 of 851909Usher Hall  EdinburghScotlandCompetition design for the Mound site - not successful (exhibited at RSA as 'sketch suggestion for site')
Item 6 of 851910Elder Cottage Hospital, nurses' homeGovan GlasgowScotland 
Item 7 of 851910Glasgow Royal Asylum for Lunatics  GlasgowScotlandLaundry extension
Item 8 of 851910Marine HotelElie FifeScotlandAdditions
Item 9 of 851910Tennant Mansion, 195 West George Street  GlasgowScotlandReconstruction and enlargement of Tennant mansion as offices for Nobel Explosives Company
Item 10 of 851910Trochraigue HouseGirvan AyrshireScotlandAddition of tower and other work. he is credited with the design of the tower in 'Buildings of Scotland'.
Item 11 of 851910Western Infirmary  GlasgowScotlandClinical laboratory. Also work on this 1914
Item 12 of 851911Duart CastleCraignure (near)MullArgyllScotlandExecuted scheme which had been prepared in consultation with Ross & MacGibbon
Item 13 of 851911Royal Hospital for Sick ChildrenYorkhill GlasgowScotland 
Item 14 of 851911Western Infirmary  GlasgowScotlandNew dietetic kitchen
Item 15 of 851912Cumberland InfirmaryCarlisle CumberlandEngland 
Item 16 of 851912Kidston HallKilmacolm/Kilmalcolm RenfrewshireScotland 
Item 17 of 851912Kilmarnock Infirmary and Fever Hospital, Mount PleasantKilmarnock AyrshireScotlandNew ward added
Item 18 of 851912Union Bank  GlasgowScotlandRemodelled
Item 19 of 851913Jordanhill Teacher Training CollegeJordanhill GlasgowScotlandCompetition design - not successful
Item 20 of 851913Jordanhill Training College, lodge and gatesJordanhill GlasgowScotlandWas offered the commission (as partner with Burnet) for lodge and gates bu declined
Item 21 of 851913Wallace Scott Tailoring InstituteCathcart GlasgowScotland 
Item 22 of 851914Clyde Navigation Trust Building  GlasgowScotlandThird phase on Broomielaw proposed; not carried out due to outbreak of World War I
Item 23 of 851914Letham HillHelensburgh DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 24 of 851915Kilmarnock Infirmary and Fever Hospital, Mount PleasantKilmarnock AyrshireScotlandNew ward block
Item 25 of 851919New Alhambra Theatre  GlasgowScotlandDesigns drawn up
Item 26 of 851920Alhambra Theatre  GlasgowScotlandFurther work
Item 27 of 851920Arbroath Parish ChurchArbroath AngusScotlandWar memorial
Item 28 of 851920Dumbarton War MemorialDumbarton DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 29 of 851920Trochraigue HouseGirvan AyrshireScotlandInterior work
Item 30 of 851920University of Glasgow, Engineering Building  GlasgowScotlandAdditions
Item 31 of 851920Wallace Scott Tailoring InstituteCathcart GlasgowScotlandFormal garden, pergola and retaining walls executed
Item 32 of 851920Wellington UF Church, War Memorial  GlasgowScotland 
Item 33 of 851920Western Infirmary  GlasgowScotlandMassage building, x-ray department
Item 34 of 851921Broomhill Congregational Church and hallsPartick GlasgowScotlandWar memorial
Item 35 of 851921Clyde Navigation Trust, War Memorial  GlasgowScotland 
Item 36 of 851921Clydesdale Bank Headquarters, St Vincent Place  GlasgowScotlandWar memorial
Item 37 of 851921Glasgow Cenotaph  GlasgowScotlandInvited to submit design in limited competition - design selected
Item 38 of 851921Kilmarnock Infirmary and Fever Hospital, Mount PleasantKilmarnock AyrshireScotlandAlterations to administration block and No 1 block
Item 39 of 851921New Cumnock War MemorialNew Cumnock AyrshireScotland 
Item 40 of 851921Stenhouse Parish Church War MemorialStenhouse EdinburghScotland 
Item 41 of 851922Ballater War MemorialBallater AberdeenshireScotland 
Item 42 of 851922Elder Cottage Hospital, nurses' homeGovan GlasgowScotland 
Item 43 of 851922Grangemouth War Memorial, Zetland ParkGrangemouth StirlingshireScotland 
Item 44 of 851922Merchiston Castle School, War Memorial  EdinburghScotland 
Item 45 of 851922Royal Hospital for Sick ChildrenYorkhill GlasgowScotlandAdditions to nurses' home; administration building largely designed in Glasgow office
Item 46 of 851922Skelmorlie and Wemyss Bay War MemorialSkelmorlie AyrshireScotland 
Item 47 of 851922St Philip's Episcopal Church  EdinburghScotlandPorch and vestry
Item 48 of 851922University of Glasgow, Zoology Building  GlasgowScotland 
Item 49 of 851922Western Infirmary  GlasgowScotlandNurses' home extension and nurses' lecture theatre
Item 50 of 85c. 1922Faculty of Accountants War Memorial   Scotland 
Item 51 of 851923R W Forsyth Ltd Department Store  EdinburghScotlandWest extension over site of George Washington Browne's Redfern building (see separate entry) and new building at 3 St Andrew Square with bridge over mews lane
Item 52 of 851923University of Glasgow, War Memorial Chapel and Arts BuildingGilmorehill GlasgowScotland 
Item 53 of 851924University of Glasgow, William and George Hunter Memorial  GlasgowScotland 
Item 54 of 851925North British and Mercantile Building  GlasgowScotland 
Item 55 of 851925Savings Bank of GlasgowBridgeton Cross GlasgowScotland 
Item 56 of 85c. 1925John Ross Memorial Church  GlasgowScotland 
Item 57 of 851926Dunoon District Cottage HospitalDunoon ArgyllScotlandBuilt replacement
Item 58 of 851926Merchiston Castle School, War Memorial Hall  EdinburghScotlandWorking in assication with Dick Peddie & Walker Todd
Item 59 of 851926Western Infirmary, Alexander Elder Memorial Chapel  GlasgowScotland 
Item 60 of 851927Alhambra Theatre  GlasgowScotlandWestern addition
Item 61 of 851928Cumberland InfirmaryCarlisle CumberlandEnglandAdditions/reconstruction
Item 62 of 851928Royal Northern InfirmaryInverness Inverness-shireScotlandAlterations to original 1799-1804 main building and new ward blocks
Item 63 of 851929Glen Tower  GlasgowScotlandRemodelled villa to form homeopathic hospital
Item 64 of 851929St Gerardine's Church and hallLossiemouth MorayshireScotlandChurch hall
Item 65 of 85Before 1929Clyde Navigation Trust War Memorial   Scotland 
Item 66 of 85Before 1929Clydesdale Bank War Memorial   Scotland 
Item 67 of 85Before 1929McDonalds Ltd warehouse  GlasgowScotlandReconstruction
Item 68 of 85Before 1929North Staffordshire Royal Infirmary  StaffordshireEnglandReconstruction
Item 69 of 851930Our Lady and St Columba RC ChurchKingussie Inverness-shireScotland 
Item 70 of 851931Crosshill School  GlasgowScotland 
Item 71 of 851931Old Greyfriars ChurchGovan GlasgowScotland 
Item 72 of 851931Skinner's Bakery and tea roomCharing Cross GlasgowScotlandRebuilding (?) of nos 1-7 Newton Street
Item 73 of 851931Western Infirmary  GlasgowScotlandKelvin block, alterations and additions
Item 74 of 851932Black's warehouse  GlasgowScotlandReconstruction
Item 75 of 851932Glasgow Royal Asylum for Lunatics  GlasgowScotlandAlterations
Item 76 of 851932Western Infirmary, Nurses' Home  GlasgowScotland 
Item 77 of 851933Tennent Memorial Institute of Ophthalmology  GlasgowScotland 
Item 78 of 851934Glasgow Royal Mental Hospital, nurses' home  GlasgowScotland 
Item 79 of 851935152 Renfield Street  GlasgowScotlandReconstruction
Item 80 of 851935Glasgow Western Infirmary, Pathology Building  GlasgowScotlandMargaret Macgregor extension
Item 81 of 851935Holyrood RC SchoolPolmadie GlasgowScotland 
Item 82 of 851935Western Infirmary  GlasgowScotlandBoiler house, septic block and ENT department
Item 83 of 851937Daily Record Building  GlasgowScotlandConversion to clothing warehouse
Item 84 of 851937University of Glasgow/Western Infirmary, Gardiner Medical Institute  GlasgowScotland 
Item 85 of 851937Western Infirmary  GlasgowScotlandNew radiology department


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this :
Item 1 of 1RIBA1939The RIBA Kalendar 1939-1940 London: Royal Institute of British Architects 

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this :
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 1Scotsman7 February 1948  Obituary p3

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this :
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 2Professor David M Walker personal archiveProfessor David M Walker, notes and collection of archive material  
Item 2 of 2RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Nomination Papers F no2686 (box 10)