HE WAS the larger-than-life boss of the Glasgow tramways, a ‘municipal missionary’ sent around the globe to share his wisdom.

James Dalrymple was General Manager of Glasgow Corporation Tramways from 1904 to 1926, and the driving force behind a raft of successful changes and initiatives that made the network the envy of the world.

But he was not always the easiest man to deal with. History website The Glasgow Story hints at a ‘bitter controversy’ which led to his resignation in 1926 when he went off to run the Sao Paolo tramway in Brazil and adds: “Dalrymple’s autocratic manner was not always popular and at times caused difficulties with both councillors and staff….”

Glasgow Times:

Mr Dalrymple initially worked in the Union Bank in Glasgow. He became accountant to the new Tramways Department of the Glasgow Corporation in 1894 and ten years later, he was promoted to General Manager.

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During his time in charge, he greatly improved the service, introducing roofing over the open-topped cars to protect passengers from the weather, adding a night service in 1913, and extending the tram tracks further out of the city, competing successfully with the railway companies.

In 1905, he was ‘borrowed’ by the forward-thinking Mayor of Chicago to advise him on a tram system for the city and he became known as a ‘municipal missionary’ for his travels abroad to help cities develop infrastructure.

Glasgow Times:

He was also an early pioneer of equal working rights, when Glasgow became the first city in Britain to recruit women during the First World War.

In September 1914, Mr Dalrymple helped to recruit a thousand volunteers to the 15th Highland Light Infantry (Tramways Battalion). Since so many enlisted, the service was severely short-staffed and as a result, women were trained and given new uniforms - jackets and long tartan skirts in Corporation green with matching straw hats.

By 1916, there were 1180 conductresses and 25 female tram drivers. Women received the same pay and working conditions as men, with Mr Dalrymple commenting that the city’s female employees were “strong physically, and knew what it was to do a day’s work.”

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The trams prompt many fond memories from Times Past readers and there is a wealth of information about them in Glasgow City archives, which is running an Ask the Archivist service while access to libraries is limited. More information is available on the Facebook page.

Archivist Barbara McLean, says: “The network began in 1894 with horse-drawn tramcars, which were replaced by overhead electric traction in 1902. By 1948, there were around a thousand electric cars in use.

“Metal tram rosettes for the overhead wires were fixed to buildings along the routes and many are still there - a reminder that trams were once the dominant mode of public transport on Glasgow’s streets.”

Glasgow Times:

She adds: “Many associate the last tram with the procession held on September 4, 1962 but the last day of the final operational tram service - the No. 9 Auchenshuggle to Dalmuir West - was actually three days before. It was pouring - but that did not stop around a quarter of a million people from coming out to say goodbye.”

Send us your tram stories and photographs - email ann.fotheringham@glasgowtimes.co.uk