Sir James David Marwick lived from 6 December 1826 to 24 March 1908. He is best remembered as the Glasgow Town Clerk who oversaw the development of the city through much of the second half of the 1800s. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
James David Marwick was the son of William Marwick, a merchant from Orkney. He was born in Leith and then educated in Kirkwall on Orkney before becoming a student at the University of Edinburgh. In 1852 he became a lawyer in Dundee, before moving to Edinburgh in 1858. He became Town Clerk of Edinburgh in 1860, and the following year also became Clerk to the Convention of Royal Burghs.
In 1873, Marwick was offered the post of Glasgow Town Clerk, with a salary of £2,500 per year. This was a large amount at the time, and three times what he had been earning in Edinburgh. At the time, many felt that the man behind Marwick's recruitment was Glasgow Councillor William Walls, who was a fellow Orcadian from Kirkwall. Marwick went on to spend 31 years as Glasgow's Town Clerk, the most senior permanent employee of the city. During that time he drove forward a wide range of initiatives which saw Glasgow transformed to become the "Second City of the Empire". These included the expansion of the city boundaries, transformation of medieval slum areas, improving the water supply to the city, the introduction of trams, the cleaning up of the River Clyde, and the introduction of an electricity supply. He also came to be regarded as the leading expert in municipal law in Scotland.
Meanwhile he had married the daughter of an Edinburgh solicitor and they had a son together. He also found time to write a large number of books on municipal and historical subjects such as History of the High Constables of Edinburgh (1865), the four volume Records of the City and Royal Burgh of Edinburgh (1866-85), Records of the Burgh of Peebles (1872), the two volume Records of the City and Royal Burgh of Glasgow (1876-82). and The River Clyde and the Harbour of Glasgow (1898).
Marwick was elected to be a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1864, and he received an honourary degree from the University of Glasgow in 1878. He was also awarded the Freedom of the Burgh of Kirkwall, and in 1888 he was knighted by Queen Victoria when she was visiting Glasgow. Sir James David Marwick retired from his post as Glasgow Town Clerk in 1904, and died in 1908.