45158: Matheson Monument, Stornoway

The Matheson Monument, commemorating the life of Sir James Matheson, is located in the Castle Grounds, Stornoway, above Cuddy Point and looking across the harbour. It was erected in July 1880 (produced by A Viegle, Mentone) and renovated in September 2006.

The front, bearing a relief bust of Sir James in profile, reads:


Sir James Matheson

Born at Shinness, November 17, 1796

Married at Edinburgh, November 9, 1843

Died at Mentone, France, December 31 1878

Well done thou good and faithful servant… enter thou into the joy of thy Lord

Matthew XXV.21

On the rear:

James Nicholas Sutherland Matheson, second son of Captain Donald Matheson and Katherine Mackay, his wife, was born at Shinness in the parish of Lairg. The said Captain Donald Matheson who died AD 1810 was the last of numerous generations who for centuries helped the Lands of Shinness. The said James N.S. Matheson was educated at the Academy, Inverness, and at the High School, Edinburgh. His class-fellows there with whom he disputed the head of the class were the Rt Hon Sir David Dundas, David Lord Marjoribanks, Sir Robert Christison Bart., The second Lord Brougham and Anthony Adrian, Earl of Kintore.

At the age of 17 he went to London and having spent two years in a Mercantile House at 19 he left for Calcutta, entering the counting house of Mssrs Mackintosh & Co. After a short sojourn in that city, he proceeded to China and was long resident at Canton and Macau and was one of the founders of the eminent house of Jardine, Matheson & Co. During his and Mr Jardine’s partnership the House acquired that high repute for honour, integrity and magnificent hospitality which gave a free passport to all using its name throughout the East.

With the exception of a short visit to his native Land in 1835-6, he remained in China till 1842. On the occasion of his departure he was presented by the Parsee Merchants of Bombay with a service of plate of the value of 1500 together with an address recording their thanks and their high sense of his energy and firmness by which alone they were enabled to surmount the commercial difficulties which had arisen in consequence of the war between England and China.

In 1840 he became owner by purchase of the estate of Achany and Gruids in his native Parish. In 1842 he became a member of the Legislature by being elected the representative of Ashburton in Devonshire, which seat he vacated in 1847 on being unanimously returned for the combined counties of Ross and Cromartie which high position he continuously held until 1868 when he retired into private life.

In 1843 he married Mary Jane, 4th daughter of Henry Perceval Esq. of Spencer Wood, Quebec, member of HM Legislative Council, by Anne Mary, his wife, eldest daughter of Sir Charles Flower, Bart.

In 1844 he added to his Highland possession the Island of Lewis which henceforth became his chief place of residence, devoting the remainder of a long and useful life to ameliorating the condition of the inhabitants of that island.

HM Queen Victoria in 1850 testified to her sense of his noble benevolence during the Famine in 1845-6 by creating him a Baronet of the United Kingdom. Sir James was appointed Lord Lieutenant for Ross-shire in 1866 and was likewise a fellow of the Royal Society, JP and DL for his native county, Sutherlandshire.

He died in Mentone, France, December 31st, 1878, aged 82.

To his Memory the Monument is erected by his widow, July 1880.

On one side:

In life a consistent Christian, possessed of those social virtues conducive to the happiness of others, and truly has it been said of him that he was a child of God, living evidently under the influence of His Holy Spirit.

In person he was a tall, handsome, noble-looking man with a beautiful placid expression of benevolence and a winning kindness and dignity of manner.

On the other side:

On this monument is added the name of Dame Mary Jane Matheson who during her husband’s life aided him in the benevolent and philanthropic works carried out for the benefit of the Island of the Lews and its inhabitants and who during eighteen years of lonely widowhood endeavored to fulfil the trust he had reposed in her.

Died in London March 19th interred at Lairg, March 26th, 1896.

"She hath done what she could."

Mark XIV.8

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