Following the flame: Glasgow - birthplace of burglary insurance and home of heroes
08 Jun 2012
Posted by: Anna Stone
Subjects: Interesting stories
Our first agent in Glasgow did not work for Norwich Union! In fact Norwich Union was only the third of our companies to be represented there, preceded by Hercules Fire Insurance, which had a agency there under Mr Brown by 1814...
...and by North British & Mercantile which appointed Douglas and John Bannayne in 1809.
The following year the company lost £8,000 on buildings and goods insured in the city when a large fire was caused by a firework flying in through an open window. The rockets had been lit to celebrate the King's birthday and the company's agents also blamed the birthday festivities for the subsequent spread of the fire.
They wrote: "the Fire Engines were soon on the spot, but unfortunately, and to the great disgrace of the Glasgow Police under whose management they are, they were in such a miserable state of disorder and the Firemen all drunk, it being the evening of his Majesty's birthday, that they were of no use, and the fire was literally allowed to burn."
By 1838, when the fire insurers met once more to discuss the local fire brigade, another four Aviva companies had started business in Glasgow. Aberdeen Fire and Life, later Scottish Provincial, was represented by Mr Smith and Scottish Union by Mr Finlayson. Meanwhile, West of England had appointed Mr Wardlow as agent and Yorkshire was represented by Peter White at 20 Buchanan Street. In 1836 the company wrote this policy for local merchant James Black...
...and in 1840 they were called upon to pay their share of this bill for brigade attendance at a fire in the property of Alexander Craig.
1838 was also the year that the oldest of our Glasgow-grown constituent companies was established. The City of Glasgow Life Assurance and Reversionary Company was eventually acquired by Scottish Union and National in 1913 and it produced such attractive proposal documents that I have had to include more than one here.
City of Glasgow Life is one out of a total of 13 Glasgow companies which went on to become part of Aviva. Next to be established, in 1844, was Western Fire and Life Insurance Company of Scotland...
...followed in 1845 by Glasgow Life Association whose head office was at 59 St Vincent Street under manager and actuary Henry Rhind.
Two decades later, in 1865, Scottish Imperial Insurance Company was established...
...and its first life policy, for James Nicol Flemming, was issued the following year.
Other Glasgow companies acquired included Glasgow and London Fire (established 1881), Home Fire of Glasgow (established 1894), Western Fire of Glasgow (established 1899) and National Insurance Company of Great Britain (established 1897).
One notable acquisition was Scottish Alliance (established 1888) which was taken over by Union Assurance in 1903.
Scottish Alliance had itself acquired, in 1891, the Mercantile Accident & Guarantee Company of Glasgow...
...a company famed, in insurance circles, for issuing the first ever burglary policy.
The picture below shows F W Rutherford who founded the Burglary Department in 1889.
Our final three Glasgow constituents were all founded at the start of the 20th century. In 1906 General Accident acquired Regent Fire Insurance Company (established 1902), in 1914 British General acquired the Northern Equitable (established 1907) and in 1919 Scottish Automobile & General began business from these offices at 136/138 Hope Street which were photographed in around 1940.
In addition to these local insurers Glasgow was home to many of our larger constituents. By 1910 Northern's new building on their 90 St Vincent Street site...
...had emerged from this scaffolding...
... Commercial Union was based in these offices at 23 West Nile Street...
...and Norwich Union was at the corner of Hope and St Vincent Street.
The company was still occupying the same premises in 1940 when this series of photographs was taken.
In this instance the scaffolding was in place to allow the building to be washed - which was clearly making a huge difference to the colour of the facade.
General Accident first appeared in Glasgow in 1887 and by 1895 was based in offices at 157 West George Street.
According to later reminiscences, branch staff in this period included George Auchterlionie, Robert Wylie, Mr Handyside and Michael Piggott. The branch held employers liability risks for important local concerns such as the Glasgow Water Works, Tramways and Central Railway as well as firms whose names we recognise today such as Robert McAlpine and Sons.
In 1901 the company had this fabulous stand built for the Glasgow Exhibition...
...which also featured on the cover of a promotional leaflet...
...which included this photograph of the Glasgow branch at 100 West Nile Street.
In 1907 the branch moved again to an "imposing site" at 142 St Vincent Street. It was at this address in 1930 that a letter safely arrived having been addressed as follows: "Fire & Water Insurance 146 St Vincent Street Glasgow, I don't know if this is right it might be 124 please try and find it." By this date the manager was E E Clutterbuck shown below with his staff in 1929...
...and alone in a formal portrait the same year.
He was still in charge when the branch moved to new premises at 141 West George Street in 1932 where this photograph was taken.
To celebrate the official opening of the new offices in 1933 Mr Clutterbuck organised a "luncheon" at the Central Station Hotel. In this task he had much interference from the general manager, Francis Norie-Miller, who was apparently "not pleased" with the original menu and suggested "fillet of sole be substituted for plaice and that there will be a choice of chicken or mutton".
In 1951 when the managing director, Stanley Norie-Miller, visited the branch it was a worn carpet which attracted his attention and featured in his branch report: "his present carpet is literally in shreds and tatters; I would be ashamed if any member of the public came in to see him and noticed it".
In the same year Norwich Union reported a fire claim for £1 for "loss of eyebrows and portion of hair belonging to son John - aged 19". Scottish Accident, a reliable source for amusing claims, reported paying £75 in 1885 to a Glasgow shipbuilder who "trod on dog in room and fell" and a further £21 to a surgeon who suffered blood poisoning after a bite from an adder while "gathering wild flowers". In 1961 General Accident reported another unusual claim caused by a patient kicking his dentist out of the window as he came round from his anaesthetic.
It appears that Norwich Union's own staff supplied a number of interesting claims. A fire loss clerk claimed for damage caused by the accidental ignition of matches in his pocket and an unfortunate inspector claimed for his trousers which were shredded in an attack by a dog.
It is perhaps fortunate that the Norwich Union Glasgow manager for this period, James Greenshields, was made of stern stuff having been awarded an MC in the First World War
Another MC recipient, flying ace Mathew Brown 'Bunty' Frew, had started his career at the head office of City of Glasgow...
while heroism of a different kind was shown by Ian W Craig at Employers Liability who "narrowly escaped cremation in a Wellington Bomber" in 1942. As a result he was a proud member of the famous Guinea Pig Club formed by those who underwent experimental reconstructive plastic surgery under Sir Archibald McIndoe at Queen Victoria Hospital.
The final claim to fame for our Glasgow branches is related to golf. Norwich Union's Glasgow branch in 1936 housed Gordon B Peters who was a member of the first British Walker Cup team to win the trophy from the Americans.