Finlay Smith


Finlay Smith (born Paisley, 1829–1911) and his brother John (1831–1878) founded the firm of F. & J. Smith, tobacco and snuff manufacturers in 1858. Finlay Smith 'was of a retiring disposition', playing little part in public life, and instead concentrated on business. 1 John's sons, James (born c. 1860–1) and John Junior (born c. 1868), later joined the firm, based at 107 Argyle Street from 1860, and then George Street from around 1899. 2 Their two factories were appropriately located in the 18th-century ‘Merchant City’ where Glasgow’s tobacco trade had originated. 3

In late 1901, Imperial Tobacco ‘was formed in order to keep the tobacco trade ... in British hands’ by Smith and 12 other companies as a conglomerate while retaining their own identities. 4 They countered the powerful American Tobacco Company’s $30 million acquisition fund, intended for purchasing UK brands. This tactic worked, and the Americans withdrew. 5

Smith married at the age of 59 in 1888 and bought the ‘Italian Villa’ situated in exclusive Pollokshields. 6 In 1903, he purchased Gadgirth, a beautiful wooded estate near Ayr, with a typical bow-fronted early 19th-century small classical mansion, where he commissioned Ayr builder William Auld to construct estate cottages in around 1906. 7 Around the same date, Smith contributed £200 to the Glasgow School of Art extension fund. 8

Smith rests among the mercantile elite in Glasgow’s Necropolis, under a monumental granite copy of the ancient Roman consul Scipio Barbatus's sarcophagus, in continuance of his classical taste. 9 He left £598,074 (gross), and in 1917 his widow bequeathed £209,811 (less tax and bequests) to hospitals and charities. 10


1: Glasgow Herald, 31 March 1911, p. 8.

2: 'F. & J. Smith', in 'Second City of the Empire', The Glasgow Story, Mitchell Library and Glasgow University, [accessed 28 November 2012]; census, birth and death information, and [accessed 28 November 2012].

3: Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1860–1, p. 260; 1899–1900, p. 555.

4: Manchester Evening News, 1 September 1902, p. 5; The Times, 17 February 1902, p. 4A; Edinburgh Gazette, 25 July 1902, p. 765.

5: Michelle Feder, 'Imperial Tobacco Group P.L.C.', 2002, International Directory of Company Histories, by The Gale Group Inc. (online resource), [accessed 28 November 2012].

6: 'F. & J. Smith', in 'Second City of the Empire', The Glasgow Story, Mitchell Library and Glasgow University, [accessed 28 November 2012]; '55 St Andrew's Drive, Glasgow, Listed Buildings report, [accessed 28 November 2012].

7: Edinburgh Evening News, 13 March 1903, p. 3; Gadgirth House Aerial Photograph, 1950s, in 'A Brief History', I. and K. Hendry, Gadgirth Estate Website,, [accessed 28 November 2012]; 'Plans and Elevations of Proposed Cottages, Gadgirth', 1906, by W. Auld & Sons, Cat. No. RHP40209, National Archives of Scotland Online Public Catalogue, [accessed 28 November 2012]; Ayr Post Office Directory, 1903–4, p. 231.

8: Glasgow School of Art Archives: Notebook – School Extension Fund, GOV 5/3/11.

9: Illustrations of Barbatus's tomb, now in the Vatican Museum, e.g., Drawing, Museum No. 2010,5006.1787, Ex-Charles Townley Collection, British Museum Online Collection Search, [accessed 28 November 2012].

10: Scotsman, 12 May 1911, p. 11; The Times,18 May 1911, p. 11; 20 November 1918, p. 9.