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HD Douglas and Son brass instrument makers of Glasgow






Hugh Dow Douglas (1833-1887) was a musical instrument maker who started his business around 1850 at 190 Trongate, Glasgow. His company made or sold a variety of woodwind, brass and bagpipe instruments aimed at the military and growing civilian wind band market. Douglas himself was a brass player and is listed as bugler to the 1st Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers. The 1st Lanark had a bugle band, but by 1887 it had become a brass band under Mr Robert Strachan and promoted to the 1st Battalion replacing the pipe band who were demoted to the 2nd. The 3rd Lanark didn’t have a band. They had a football team instead! Its probable that Hugh Douglas started in the bugle band and moved into the brass band, possibly even supplying some of the instruments.

Douglas seems to have been something of an entrepreneur and saw the potential for the new brass instruments to supplant woodwind instruments in civilian bands as a money making opportunity. In 1862 he organised and sponsored the first brass band contest in Scotland (known as H D Douglas' Contest) with a series of further competitions in 1864 and 1865. The top prize was £77 - equivalent to £1600 in today's money.
Credit is due to the late Mr. H. D. Douglas, musical instrument-maker, Glasgow, who was Field Bugler to the 1st L.R.V., for having attempted to do something for the improvement of these bands while they were still brass bands. He organised contests in 1862,1864, and 1865, with the view of "increasing the efficiency of the Volunteer and other bands in Scotland.

However, later in 1862 something appears to have gone wrong and he was in debt with his assets subject to sequestration (notice from the Edinburgh Gazette):

Maybe he was one of the first promoters of brass band contests to find out that there was no real money in it? This not withstanding, his business continued and by 1870 included his son at expanded premises 36-38 and later incorporating no 42 Brunswick Street. Then in 1908 the firm moved to no 66 Brunswick Street.

Business Names and locations:
1850 - 1870 Hugh Douglas, 190 Trongate
1870 - 1907 Hugh D Douglas & Son, 36-42 Brunswick Street
1907 - 1920 Douglas & Son Ltd, 66 Brunswick Street

By the onset of the first world war the company was mainly producing bagpipes and seems to have stopped trading totally around 1920.

Its not clear if Douglas & Son made brass instruments themselves or just marketed other peoples. His premises were rather small and although that does not preclude manufacturing of small instruments, manufacturing the full range of larger instruments he sold would have been difficult. At the time of Hugh D Douglas' death in 1887 he was selling instruments made by Thibouville Lamy of France (according to his will which lists a debt to that company), but he also owed a debt to an electro plating company in Glasgow so he must have been repairing or manufacturing something.


Hugh Dow Douglas was born on 4th Jul 1833 in Perth, the son of - Hugh Douglas (also as a musical instrument maker) and Margaret Walker

He married Christina Gray on 17 Jul 1857 in Edinburgh.


1871 census - 37 North Albion Street
With his wife Christina, son John (aged 11) and Christina Milne (a saleswoman)
Occupation - assistant instrument maker employing one boy
1881 census - 106 Sauchiehall Street
With Christina and son John G
Occupation - music seller

Hugh and Christina had the following children:

Christina Douglas, 25 Jul 1859, Glasgow (died in infancy)
Margaret Douglas, 13 Jun 1860, Glasgow (died in childhood)

Christina Gray Douglas, 24 Nov 1861, Glasgow (died in infancy)
Christina Douglas, 07 Nov 1863, Glasgow

Hugh Dow Douglas, b 18 Aug 1865, Glasgow (died in infancy)
John Gray Douglas, 03 Jan 1867, Glasgow
Hugh Dow Douglas, 24 May 1869, Glasgow
Margaret Walker Douglas, 30 Jul 1870, Glasgow


He died on 4th April 1887, Glasgow (106 Sauchiehall Street), from liver disease.


According to his will lodged in the Glasgow Sheriff Court, Hugh D Douglas died with debts including:

£4 to Thomas Smith and Son Electroplaters
£86 to J Wallis and Son, London (suppliers of woodwind instruments)
£35 to Thibouville Lamy & Co, London (manufacturers of brass instruments)
£3 to Riviere and Hawkes of London (later an instrument maker, but at this stage making instrument reeds and publishing music for military bands)

His main asset on death was his shop stock, worth £689. His cash in hand was insufficient to pay for the funeral. The business was inherited by his wife along with the rest of his estate.


From research by Gordon Hudson.



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Last modified: Sunday, 20 January 2019