William Burrell was born on July 9th 1861. in Scotia Street, in the Blythswood area of Glasgow. William was the third of Nine children to Shipowner William Burrell and Isabella Duncan (nee Guthrie). William joined the family business in 1875 at the age of 14 and took over when his father passed away.
During the economic downturn the Burrell family continued to order ships and proceeded to use them to their advantage when the economy recovered. The recovery saw the family become rich. William and Constance would use the money to buy antiques.
William continued to buy his antiques well into his 50’s, he was a faithful patron of Scottish artist’s including Joseph Crawhall II, George Henry and John Lavery. He commissioned Lavery to paint a portrait of his sister Mary.
On the 3rd of June 1927 The King’s Birthday Honors were published, amongst them for public and political work and services to Art William was Knighted by King George V. The freedom of the City of Glasgow was conferred on him on May 26th 1944. He was also the recipient of the 1946 Saint Mungo Prize, this is awarded to the individual who has done most for the City over the previous 3 years. He received this from Lord Provost Sir Hector McNeill.
In 1944 Burrell donated his whole antique and art collection to the city of Glasgow along with £250.000 to house it. The conditions of this included that it be housed in a rural setting. This caused a problem until Pollok country park was donated back to the city by Mrs Anne Maxwell MacDonald in 1966, it was the perfect solution.
Above Marion Burrell meeting the Queen at the opening of the Burrell collection in October 1983. The Burrell collection would become one of the city’s most loved visitor attractions, it would bring in tourists from all around the world.
The collection closed in October 2016, since then it has underwent a £68.25M and is due to reopen on the 29th March 2022.
In 1901 William married Constance Mary Lockhart Mitchell, the daughter of another ship owner, they would go on to have a daughter Marion. Constance suffered from poor health. William and Marion had a major fallout and became estranged from her parents. She changed her name to Silvia and received no inheritance. She died in 1992.
William Burrell died at Hutton Castle in the Scottish Borders on March 29th 1958, he is buried in the family plot in Largs Cemetery.
William Burrell, Master Mason, Lodge The Princes No.607
Initiated 9th May 1892
Passed 7th November 1892
Raised 12th March 1893