John Wishart (1860 – 1928)

Wishart Tree WIS0020

Born: 27 August 1860 – Cadder, Lanarkshire.
Died: 10 June 1926 – Hillhead, Glasgow

Despite a relatively unpromising start to his life, John Wishart, through a combination of luck, ability and hard work became an eminently respected business manager in the Scottish shale oil industry and rubber manufacturing companies with plantations in Malaysia. In the process he became rather wealthy, able to indulge his love of golf by living for a spell in the grand house next door to (Royal) Troon Golf Club, of which he was captain for 2 years.

John’s father, Archibald, a stone quarrier, died when John was 6, leaving John’s mother with 3 children under 6 in Belfast, where Archibald had taken the family. John and his family returned to his mother’s home parish of Dalserf in Lanarkshire where she remarried a widowed miner. That marriage lasted at least until 1881; John was a ‘Commercial Clerk (Oil)’ living with his mother and stepfather. By 1891, the stepfather had disappeared and John had assumed the role of head of the house, providing for his mother and 2 younger brothers. John was by then an ‘Oil Company Secretary’. The family were living in a substantial house in Cambuslang, near Glasgow, with one servant.

John married in 1895. His bride was the daughter of a wealthy distiller from Paisley. They had a son and daughter (Mary Winifred, who has her own Profile). As time passed as shown in birth certificates and successive censuses, they were living at more prestigious addresses with more servants. In 1901 they were living in a Greek Thomson designed terrace in Glasgow’s West End and John was now describing himself as a Mineral Oil Manufacturer. In 1911 John was living next to his beloved golf club.

The archives of the Scottish Shale industry provide more information. By 1886 John was already Company Secretary of the Oakbank Oil Company, one of the 4 most successful and enduring companies in the field. Sometime later he was made general manager and then in 1897 he became the Managing Director. He remained in this post until 1919, by which time the indigenous industry was facing the challenges of Persian Oil. Oakbank, with 3 other surviving shale oil companies was effectively nationalised as Scottish Oils. Scottish Oils became part of British Petroleum. At that time, John was also Chairman of a least 3 Rubber companies; he pops up in records as a Chairman intent on restructuring companies. He was also a director of a light railway and Moss Empires, the holding company for an extensive network of theatres and concert or music halls. John died on 10 June 1926 in Glasgow.