James Ewing

Biography of James Ewing

James Ewing
James Ewing

James Ewing of Strathleven (1775-1853) was a University alumnus and Lord Provost of Glasgow.

Born in Glasgow, Ewing studied at the University from the age of 12. He worked for his father, an accountant and West India merchant, before forming his own company, James Ewing & Co, and amassing a fortune as a West India merchant and plantation owner. Ewing was the owner of a sugar estate, Caymanas, in St Catherine in Jamaca, from the early 1800s though he was an absentee who likely never visited the island. In Glasgow, he was the de facto head of city’s West India interest. He had a principal role in the establishment of the Glasgow West India Association, a pro-slavery lobbying group established in 1807. On the abolition of slavery in the British West Indies in 1834, Ewing collected almost £10,000 in compensation from the British Government for the loss of his property, enslaved people in Jamaica.

James Ewing kept his commercial connections circumspect throughout his life and his status as a slave-owner did not preclude him from public office. He played a major role in the foundation of the Glasgow Savings Bank and in the opening of the Necropolis. In 1809 he was one of the founders of the Glasgow Bank. In 1826, the University of Glasgow awarded him an honorary LLD. He was elected Dean of Guild in 1816 and again in 1831, and was Lord Provost of Glasgow from 1832 to 1833. He was the city's MP after the Reform Act of 1832.

In 1827 Ewing presented the University with a gift of £100 to establish the Ewing Gold Medal, a prize for the best essay in Civil History. This bequest currently provides two prizes for History undergraduates in modern and medieval history. James Ewing was named in the report ‘Slavery, Abolition and the University of Glasgow’ (2018).


James Ewing

Born 7 December 1775.
Died 29 November 1853.
University Link: Alumnus, Honorary Graduate
GU Degree:
Occupation categories: merchants; plantation owners
View Additional Information
Record last updated: 1st Jul 2019

University Connections

University Roles

  • Alumnus
  • Honorary Graduate


There are no comments available.