Commemoration Day 2013: Lord Roberts’ visit 100 years ago

Today is Commemoration Day, the day on which the founding of the University in 1451 is celebrated each year.

IP6/1/19 p47

IP6/1/19 p47

As well as the commemoration of the benefactors of the University, the celebrations include the conferring of honorary degrees by the Chancellor.

One hundred years ago the University conferred a number of honorary degrees including an LLD to Frederick Sleigh Roberts (1832-1914). Lord Roberts (Field Marshall, the Right Honorable, Earl Frederick Sleigh Roberts, Earl Roberts of Kandahar, Pretoria and Waterford) was a very able and highly respected field commander who was quite a celebrity in his day. Some spectacular victories in the 1880s captured the imagination of the public and he became a public hero.

Conferring upon him the honorary degree of LLD was not the first honour the City of Glasgow bestowed upon Lord Roberts and Glasgow was the first city in the UK to make him a freeman, the highest possible honour, which was conferred upon him in 1893.
The collection of press clippings (collection reference IP6) in the University of Glasgow Archives includes a very detailed account of Lord Robert’s visit to Glasgow on the 5th May 1913 as it was reported in the Glasgow Herald the next day. The blow-by-blow coverage details the great reception Lord Roberts received in Glasgow. The piece opens:
‘Lord Roberts, the famous old Field Marshall and protagonist of a national military service, had a magnificent reception from the citizens of Glasgow yesterday.’

Lord Roberts was visiting Glasgow as part of his duties to the National Service League and aimed to ‘rouse public interest to the necessity of a more adequate home defence.’ The University decided to confer his honorary degree upon him at a special ceremony, a little before Commemoration Day, to coincide with Lord Roberts visit at this time.
Roberts stayed with Sir John Stirling-Maxwell in Pollock House, on the south side of the city, during his visit and from there they set out with an escort from Officers of the City of Glasgow Royal Field Artillery as well as a landau, dressed in the St Andrews flag, drawn by six horses. The procession made its way firstly to George Square before heading to the University of Glasgow where they met scores of spectators:

IP6/1/19 p49

IP6/1/19 p49 (click to enlarge)

‘The crowd assembled in Bank Street and in front of the University gates was very large, and as the party drew up Lord Roberts was received with a great outburst of cheering.’
Lord Roberts was received at the gates by Principal Sir Donald MacAlister and 100 members of the OTC. Professor James Moir, Dean of the Faculty of Law, presented Earl Roberts for the degree of Doctor of Laws and once he was capped, the crowd in the Bute hall began to sing “He’s a jolly good fellow”.
Lord Roberts then thanked the University for the great honour and told of his ‘profound admiration for the city of Glasgow.’ His visit was concluded with a dinner party at Pollock House.

You can read the detailed account of the whole proceeding in the newspaper clippings at the University of Glasgow Archive Services (item reference IP6/1/19, pp46-50). Please e-mail: to make an appointment.

Congratulations to all honorary graduates today and watch this space for more blog-posts over the graduation period this summer.

Categories: Archive Services

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1 reply

  1. You can, in fact, see a statue of Lord Roberts in Kelvingrove Park!

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