On receiving one morning a letter from Colonel Tovey Tennant, of Stanmore, near London (a native of Stirling, who was married to a daughter of Sir Archibald Christie, Governor of Stirling Castle), along with a cheque for £1000 towards the erection of a High School in his native town, the Provost called a meeting of the Council and chief inhabitants, by whom a committee was formed to collect subscriptions, of which committee the Provost was chairman and the Rev. Dr. Beith deputy-chairman. A considerable sum was soon collected, which, supplemented from the funds of the burgh, was the beginning of the now prosperous High School of Stirling. As a strong friend of education, Provost Sawers did his utmost to assist in getting the very best teachers for the High School. On his advice the Council first appointed Dr. Donaldson (now Principal Donaldson, of St. Andrews University) to be rector of the school, and on the removal of that gentleman to the High School of Edinburgh, Mr. Paton, now Dr. Paton, and rector of the Glasgow High School, became his successor.
Being an active man of business, Provost Sawers was for many years a director of the Scottish Central Railway Company, and of the Dunblane, Doune, and Callander Railway Company ; auditor of the Stirling and Dunfermline Railway Company ; and one of the promoters and directors of the Forth and Clyde Junction Railway Company.
During the reign of Provost Sawers an event occurred of a kind not so common then as it has become in recent years, and he frequently referred to it as a memorable one in his experience. Along with some of the Provosts of the largest burghs in Scotland, he was invited by the Lord Mayor of London to a banquet in the Guild Hall there, to meet Prince Albert, who had then proposed the first great national exhibition, and he was afterwards present at the return dinner given at York. The Provost was appointed to collect samples of the manufactures, etc., of this district for the exhibition, and, in consideration of his services in this respect, he was, at the close of this memorable undertaking, presented with a medallion by Prince Albert.
Although a staunch Conservative, a strong adherent of the Church of Scotland, and a Representative Elder from the Burgh for many years at the General Assembly, Mr. Sawers never allowed his political or ecclesiastical tendencies to prevent his maintaining the most agreeable relations with all classes of the citizens. Indeed, the writer of these notes recalls the fact that many of his most intimate friends were keen, steady-going Whigs, and adherents of one or other of the Dissenting Churches. It is particularly recollected by some of the older townspeople that, at the time of the Disruption, when the congregation of the West Church, under the ministry of the Rev. Mr. Leitch, had not a place wherein to worship, they were much gratified in obtaining from the Provost, as the then Dean of the Guildry, the use of the Guild Hall, the erection of the beautiful window in which took place during the time Mr. Sawers held that office.
On the winding up of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Bank, in which he was one of the largest shareholders, Mr. Sawers removed to Gothenburg, the chief shipping and mercantile city in Sweden, where he continues actively to carry on business, although now in his 82nd year. He is now not so able to go into society as he used to be, but is a diligent reader of the English and Scotch newspapers, and has been long engaged in gathering old china, of which he has perhaps the finest collection in the north of Europe. His three sons, who were educated at the High School of Stirling, are prosperous men. The eldest, John, is Superintendent of the Bank of Australasia, and has charge of the many branches of that institution scattered over the Australasian Colonies. His second son, Robert, holds a high official position at Euston, for the London and North Western Railway Company ; and his youngest son, William, who is owner of two large sheep runs in New South Wales, is Member of Parliament for his county, and resides at Sydney.
The print of the photograph of Provost Sawers which we have been enabled to present to our readers, was taken when he was about 80 years of age, and includes also a portrait of his grand-daughter.
I hope this article has been of help to you,