The James Ireland Memorial Library – who was James Ireland?

James Ireland

James Ireland

Written by Christine Leitch and David Stevenson

James Ireland (1915-1997) came to Glasgow in 1949 as senior lecturer and honorary consultant in charge of the Department of Conservative Dentistry.

On arrival one of his first questions was “Where is the Library?” He was told there was no library for staff and that the Students Memorial Library only contained two books published after 1945. With the support of the Dean and the University Librarian he set about establishing the Dental Departmental Library. Over the years an impressive collection of textbooks and journals was acquired, with many items being donated from the personal collections of staff and practitioners throughout the city.

By the time James Ireland retired in 1980 the dental library he had developed was considered one of the finest in Europe. This major achievement was recognised when the library was renamed the James Ireland Memorial Library.

16 - 051 James Ireland Library 128Born in Bonnybridge, Stirlingshire James Ireland studied medicine and dentistry in Edinburgh, qualifying in both. After active service with the RAF he returned to civilian life and was appointed lecturer in Birmingham University before coming to Glasgow. He became the first Professor of Conservative Dentistry at Glasgow University in 1971 and served as Dean of Dental Education from 1976 until 1980.

When James Ireland came to Glasgow the Dental Hospital & School was housed in a building at 211 Renfrew Street. Later, when more space was required a new building was constructed at 378 Sauchiehall Steet, and opened in 1970. These two buildings were joined together to form the current Dental Hospital & School. The library is in the older category B listed Art Deco building designed by Wylie, Wright & Wylie and opened in 1931.

James Ireland Memorial Library (1950 - The Conservation Hall)

James Ireland (foreground) supervising a student in the Conservation Hall, 1950.

Today the Dental Library is a branch of University of Glasgow Library. It has almost 6,000 print books and 2,200 print periodicals in stock.  The staff and students also have access to many electronic books, periodicals and databases. There are 24 computers available for students and about 50 study spaces.

The library continues to be a highly valued resource, and almost 70 years after he came to Glasgow it is a testament to the vision and endeavour of Professor James Ireland.


16 - 051 James Ireland Library 140

A view of the library today


Henderson, T.B., The history of the Glasgow Dental Hospital and School : 1879-1979 [Glasgow], [Glasgow Dental Hospital and School], 1980.
James Ireland obituary, British Dental Journal vol. 183, 1997 p.308
University of Glasgow story website accessed 25-4-2016,

Historic Scotland website accessed 25-4-2016
Gomme, A. & Walker, D. Architecture of Glasgow. London, Lund Humphries, 1987, p.271.

Categories: Library

Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: