Thomas Blake Glover

Thomas Blake Glover 1838-1911
National Hero of Japan

Merchant, Industrialist & Entrepreneur
Balgownie to Nagasaki
Born in Fraserburgh and educated at the Chanonry School, Old Aberdeen, he travelled to Japan in 1859 and later imported the 1st Steam Locomotive. He helped to establish the Mitsubishi Nagasaki Shipyard and received the Order of the Rising Sun (2nd Class, Gold & Silver Star) from the Meiji Emperor in 1908.  Thomas Blake Glover was destined to become one of Victorian Scotland’s most successful and influential Industrialists.  He was born at 15 Commerce Street, Fraserburgh on 6th June 1838 and spent his early childhood in the North East Fishing Town.

Census 1841

The 5th of 8 children to Thomas Blake Glover & Mary Findlay and spent his early childhood in the North East Fishing Town.  Glover was 13-yrs-old when his father settled at the Bridge of Don, as Chief Coastguard in 1851 and the boy’s name appears on the Register of Chanonry House School (The Gymnasium), Old Aberdeen, for the year 1854.  Thomas, the Scholar was living with his parents, 4 brothers, a sister & a servant. The Census record gives the birthplaces of his Mother and the older children as Fordyce in Banffshire.  In Aberdeen, he began working for a Trading Company and was Travelling the World.  Glover’s Family home in Scotland, Glover’s House, 79 Balgownie Road, Bridge of Don, is now open to the Public as a restored Victorian House, telling the Glover Story.

Braehead Cottage was Built in 1850 and remodelled to form a Villa, known as Braehead House, in 1863. The House was given in Trust by Mitsubishi in 1997 and has been restored to its 19thC appearance with many original details & features.  A Memorial Plaque to Glover was unveiled on the front Wall in 2006.  This House was even used to smuggle out some Japanese Rebellious Youth to get a University Education in the UK, which included their 1st Prime Minister Ito Hirobumi (1841 – 1909) and many more.  Though the achievements of the Chief Coastguard’s Son are surprisingly little known in his native North East Scotland, in Japan, Glover is celebrated as a National Hero. His house in Nagasaki is one Japan’s most popular Tourist attractions with nearly 2M Visitors every year.  In contrast, his birthplace didn’t fare so well.  During WW2 a Bomb hit 15 Commerce Street, Fraserburgh and razed the old Glover Family Home to rubble.  He also had a Residence in the Shibakoen Park area of Tokyo.

After he left Aberdeen, Glover took up Employment with the Trading Company, Jardine, Matheson & Co. He 1st visited Japan in 1857, aged 19, which at the time was widely viewed as a closed Society where Business was both difficult & dangerous for outsiders.  In 1859 the 21-year-old Glover established a presence for Jardine  Matheson in Nagasaki, buying Japanese Green Tea.  Two years later he set up his own Company in Nagasaki, the Glover Trading Company (Guraba-Shokai) aged only 23.

Nagasaki Bay

Nagasaki Bay, Japan’s only International Port from 1639 to 1859 under the Isolationist Policies of the Tokugawa Shogunate, was a thriving entrepot. Glover soon built a bustling Business there, largely in Exporting Tea. A larger Business opportunity emerged with rising tensions between the Shogunate & Rebellious Clans in Southern Japan. Glover made a fortune selling Ships & Arms to the rival factions.

1861 – Preoccupied at home with its own Civil War, the United States relinquishes its leading role in Japanese affairs to Great Britain, which, by 1864, controlled nearly 90% of Japan’s Trade with Western Nations.  The 1860s were a period of considerable success for Glover. He started by Trading in Ships & Arms to a number of Rebellious Clans opposed to the established regime in Japan. In 1865 he introduced the 1st Steam Locomotive ever seen in Japan, the “Iron Duke“, and by 1868 he was influential enough to play a part in the downfall of the Tokugawa Shogunate during the Meiji Restoration.

Glover Bros CoJames Lindley Glover & Charles Thomas Glover, Shipowners appear to be a local Aberdeen sourcing Arrangement for Thomas Blake Glover with Ships being Exported to him in the understanding that he could sell them Onwards in Japan for minimum sums.  They were joined by an elder brother Alexander Johnson and the eldest brother William was often Commander of the Ships while in Transit.  In fact, 5 of the 6 Glover Brothers were involved with the Firm.  Alfred the youngest brother born in 1840 was still at the Gymnasium School at Old Aberdeen in 1863
Glover Brothers, Shipbrokers, 19 Marischal Street, Aberdeen.
William (Eldest) James Linley, Charles Thomas, Alexander Johnson,  Jim, Thomas Blake, Alfred (Youngest 1850-1904), (7 Brothers) (Sister Martha Ann)

Satzuma – Barque built 1864 by William Duthie Jr’s Shipyard
The owner Charles Thomas Glover having all 64 shares, empowered Thomas Blake Glover to sell the Ship for a sum of no less than £500 in any place outside the UK. (Lost on the Japanese Coast in 1865)

Aberdeen Journal 30th August 1865
“There was Launched from the Inches Yard of John Smith & Co a beautiful Clipper Vessel of 420-Tons.  This Vessel has been built to the order of our enterprising Merchants, Messrs Glover, and is intended for the Japan Trade, for which she is admirably adapted and in which these Gentlemen do a large Business.  She will proceed to London and thence to Japan. She is under the Command of Captain John Wright late of the ‘Comet’ belonging to the same Owners, a Gentleman who has had long experience in the China & Japan Trades.  The Launching business was very successfully performed, and as the Vessel moved into the water, she was gracefully named ‘Owari’ (District in Nagasaki) by Mrs Mary Glover.  Among those present were 4-Japanese Officers of Distinction, who are in this Country on a Visit”.  It is thought that Mrs Glover who named the Ship was Mary Glover (nee Findlay 1807-1887) mother of the brothers James & Charles, purchasers of the Vessel.  The ‘Owari’ is also described by Alexander McKay as a ‘State-of-the-art Merchant Ship of which any Nation could be proud”.
Owari was the name of the then pro-Shogun Clan in the Japanese power struggle and the ‘4 Officers of Distinction’ at the Launch were Samurai loyal to the Shogun.

Kagoshima – Built 1866 John Humphrey’s Yard for Glover Brothers
Original Owner: James Lindley Glover, Shipowner (Aberdeen)
18th February 1867: James Lindley Glover 28/64 to Charles Thomas Glover, Shipowners, Aberdeen.  15th October 1868: Thomas Blake Glover, Merchant, Nagasaki, Japan, empowered to sell the Ship for a sum not less than £500 Sterling at any Port in China or Japan within 12-months.

Aberdeen Herald, 22nd August 1868;
‘Trial Trip – The Jho-Sho-Maru, a new Steam Gunboat, built for the Japanese Government by Messrs. A Hall & Co. made a Trial Trip in the Bay on Thursday, leaving the Harbour about Noon, and returning again about 4-pm. The anticipations which existed regarding her speed were fully realised. For the 1st ½-hr after leaving the Harbour she made 8-Knots an hr before the Wind, and during the 2nd ½-hr, 9-knots. When the Vessel was put about, she Steamed with bare poles at over 7.5-Knots, in the face of a stiff breeze, although the Engines were not working anything like their full power. The hopes maintained regarding her speed were thus fully met. Nothing could have exceeded the manner in which the Jho-Sho-Maru conducted herself, both under Canvas & Steam.’

Hall Russell Plans for the Kosuge Slipway
Kosuge Slipway 1-km South West of Glovers Home in Nagasaki Harbour

In 1868 Hall Russell’s Yard built a Patent Slip for raising Ships at Nagasaki. The Slip was Owned by Glover Bros & Co, who at the same time ordered a Clipper Barque from A Hall & Co, the ‘Helen Black‘, which carried all the Slip equipment to Nagasaki. The Slip had a capacity of 1200 tons and was powered by a 2 cylinder vertical Engine.  The Clipper Ship was later lost in 1871 near Hong Kong
Kosuge Slip Dock

Japan’s 1st Western-style Slipway, equipped with a Steam-powered Winch and personally demonstrated by Glover, is still in existence today.  In 1869, this Ship Repair Facility was established at Nagasaki Port through collaboration between Scottish Merchant Thomas Glover and the Satsuma Clan.  The Kosuge Ship Repair Dock, completed in January 1869, was the 1st modern Western-style Dock, which used a Steam Engine in Japan.  In 1869, it was purchased by the new Meiji Government and placed under the jurisdiction of Nagasaki Iron Works.  In 1887, Ownership of the Repair Dock passed to the Mitsubishi conglomerate, and the Site remains in the possession of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries today.  The Kosuge Ship Repair Dock was a Slip Dock designed so that at high tide a Ship could be set on Dollies that were hauled up along tracks running from the water to the Land by means of Cables & Boiler-powered Steam Winches operated from a Winch House.  In this way, workers were able to make repairs and do maintenance work on the Ship’s Bottom. When the repairs were completed, the process was reversed and the Ship rolled back into the water. The Dollies reminded the Japanese of a Soroban (abacus), and the Dock, therefore, became known as the “Soroban Dock.”  People called it the “Abacus Dock” for the way the Trolleys shuttled back & forth, and onlookers cheered as the great Ships were cranked out of the water. In 1872 Emperor Meiji himself visited Nagasaki and observed Japan’s 1st Steam Winches in action.  The outside walls of the Winch House, the oldest brick structure in Japan, are faced with “konnyaku bricks,” so called because their shape resembles thin slabs of konnyaku, or devil’s tongue jelly.  Nagasaki Iron Works (later, Nagasaki Shipyard) & Yokosuka Iron Works (later, Yokosuka Naval Factory) were the Pioneers of Japan’s modern Shipbuilding Industry.  The Kosuge Slip Dock & Winch House are the oldest structural remains of modern Naval Technology in Japan and provide a rare and valuable example of such transplanted Western Technology in the late Edo period and early Meiji Era.

Ironically, Glover & Co. found it difficult to adjust to the changes in Trade which occurred with the Meiji Restoration of 1868, including the economic decline of Nagasaki.  Glover attempted to shift to Entrepreneurial activities, constructing a Patent Slip Dock and developing the Takashima Coal Mine. He also started Branches in the newly opened Hyogo & Osaka, anticipating good Trading prospects. However, he was seriously undercapitalised and his new ventures did not produce results quickly enough. The Firm was declared Bankrupt in August 1870 and the Netherland Trading Society acted as Trustees. This failure is attributable to a lack of Managerial ability, probably linked to his optimistic outlook on Life, as well as to the disappearance of the circumstances which had earlier brought him Prosperity. After the Bankruptcy he continued to work at the Takashima Coal Mine, which was eventually bought by Mitsubishi. Mitsubishi was founded by Yataro Iwasaki, a former Tosa Samurai, who had had Business dealings with Glover before the Restoration. Glover acted as a consultant for Mitsubishi in various ways, playing a crucial role in the founding of what became the Kirin Brewery Company.

Demand for Coal surged as Steamships multiplied in Japanese Waters.  By the end of the 1860s, Glover was also operating Japan’s 1st Coal Mines and had built its 1st Dry Dock. Glover, in Partnership with the Hizen Clan, invested in developing the Takashima Coal Mine on an Island near Nagasaki in 1868. Their Mine was the 1st in Japan to employ Western methods of Mining. He went Bankrupt in 1870, and he was forced to sell his Stake, but this proved only a temporary setback, he stayed on as Manager of the Mine for several more years. (Mitsubishi acquired the Mine in 1881 in the Organisation’s 1st main diversification beyond Shipping.)

In 1870, Glover’s Nagasaki Trading Firm Glover & Co. went Bankrupt as a result of Debts incurred around the time of the Meiji Restoration, but the Scotsman stayed on in Japan and became involved with expanding Japanese Industries.  He left Nagasaki in 1877 to serve as a Consultant to the Mitsubishi Co in Tokyo.  In 1908, the Meiji Government recognised his contributions to Japan by awarding him the 2nd Class Order of the Rising Sun, an unprecedented decoration for a Foreigner.  Glover also built a miniature Railway Line on the Nagasaki Waterfront, showing Japanese people the possibilities of Steam Locomotion for the 1st time. Moreover, he laid Japan’s 1st Telephone Line between the Nagasaki Foreign Settlement & Takashima, enlisted a Scottish Engineer to build Japan’s 1st Lighthouses.
Richard Henry Brunton FRGS MICE (26th December 1841 – 24th April 1901) was the so-called “Father of Japanese Lighthouses“. Brunton was born in Muchalls, Kincardineshire.  He was employed by the Government of Meiji period Japan as a hired Foreign Advisor, primarily to build Lighthouses.  Over a period of 7½ years, he designed and supervised the building of 26 Japanese Lighthouses in the Western Style, which became known as Brunton’s “children“. To operate the Lighthouses he established a system of Lighthouse Keepers, based on the one used in Scotland.  He also helped found Japan’s 1st School of Civil Engineering.  In 1871, he was received by Emperor Meiji in recognition of his efforts.
Glover arranged for the purchase of Coin Minting Equipment from Hong Kong to produce the 1st “yen.”  Another important achievement of Thomas Glover was the assistance he provided to young Japanese in travelling to Britain and enrolling in Universities there. Among these young Japanese was Ito Hirobumi, who would go on to serve as Japan’s 1st Prime Minister and who would remain Glover’s lifelong friend.  In 1863, Glover helped the Choshu 5 get to London on Jardine Matheson Ships. He also helped send 15 Trainees from Satsuma under Godai Tomoatsu in 1865
Glover forged lasting friendships with Mitsubishi founder Yataro Iwasaki and with Yataro’s brother, Yanosuke, the Organisation’s 2nd President. The elder Iwasaki represented the Tosa Clan in Nagasaki. He was in the market for Ships & Armaments for his Clan.  Glover was the premier Broker of those items in Nagasaki.  Yataro turned frequently to his foreign friend for support and advice as Mitsubishi grew. Glover’s knowledge and understanding of International Business were invaluable to Mitsubishi, where he was an Advisor for 40 years.  Glover thus contributed immensely to the Industrialisation & Modernisation of Japan. Emperor Meiji recognised that contribution by naming the Scotsman to the Order of the Rising Sun in 1908. Some of the Industry that Glover fostered in Japan continues to quench the thirsts of grateful Beer drinkers. He joined a group of Investors, which also included Yanosuke Iwasaki, that took over the defunct Spring Valley Brewery in Yokohama in 1885.

They established Japan Brewery Company, which later became Kirin Brewery now a major player in the Asian Market.  Some have suggested that the facial hair of the fantastic creature that appears on Kirin Beer Labels is in memory of Glover and his own moustache.  He became a successful Merchant, Trading in Ships & Weapons in Japan during the 1860s and was responsible for Commissioning 3 Warships for the Japanese Navy from Aberdeen Shipyards. He later established his own Shipbuilding Business which later grew into the world-famous Mitsubishi Company.  Glover introduced a number of Innovations to his adopted Country including the Railways & Mechanised Coal Mining.

In 1868 Thomas Blake Glover was responsible for bringing the 1st steam locomotive, “Iron Duke“, to Japan, which he demonstrated on an 8-mile track in the Ōura District of Nagasaki.  The government of Japan decided to build a Railway using British Financing & 300 British & European Technical Advisors: Civil Engineers, General Managers, Locomotive Builders & Drivers.  On 12th September 1872, the 1st Railway, between Shimbashi (later Shiodome) & Yokohama (present Sakuragichō) opened.

The Birth of Shinzaburo
Thomas Glover fathered a Son (Shinzaburo) at 32 on 8th December1870. According to the Family Register preserved at Nagasaki City Hall, the mother was not Tsuru but a woman named Kaga Maki.  Nothing else is known about the link between Glover & Maki (Maki later married a man named Yoshida Jokichi and died in Nagasaki in 1903), but it is likely that Maki was a Courtesan with whom Glover engaged in a temporary relationship.  This sort of Liaison was by no means uncommon.  During the long period of National Isolation, Japanese Courtesans called Karayuki & Orandayuki were dispatched by Nagasaki Brothels to the Chinese Settlement & Dutch Trading Post on Deshima, respectively.   Even after the opening of Nagasaki as a Treaty Port in 1859, the Brothels continued to cater to the Foreign Seamen visiting the Port and often sent their inmates to serve as “Maids” for wealthy Foreigners visiting or residing here. The Custom had gained such fame among Seamen that French Author & Naval Officer Pierre Loti already knew about it when he came here in 1885.  Loti’s vivid descriptions of his 1-month sojourn with a young woman named Kane, published in the book Madame Chrysanthème in 1893, shocked & fascinated Europe and laid the foundation for an even more famous story on the same subject: ‘Madame Butterfly’.

In the 1870s Glover married Yamamura Tsuru, reputedly the former wife of a Samurai Warrior she had been obliged to divorce because of Political differences between her Family & his.  It is also claimed that his marriage to the daughter of a Samurai inspired Giacomo Puccini’s Opera – Madame Butterfly.

The Site of the Nagasaki Foreign Settlement at the mouth of the Oura River in 1859, before the reclamation of flat Land from the Harbour and the development of the Hillsides into Residential Districts.  The married couple settled at Glover House in Nagasaki, the house Glover had built and the oldest Western-style Building in Japan.  Glover House is known as Ipponmatsu (Single Pine Tree) from a drawing of 1863.  The Tree was chopped down in the early 20th century.

Glover arranged with the Japanese Master Carpenter Koyama Hidenoshin to build a house on the Minamiyamate Hillside, which only that year had been officially designated as part of the Foreign Settlement and divided into Lots. The basic construction of the House is Japanese, despite its Foreign Elements. It consists of traditional Japanese roof supports and post-&-beam frames set down on boulders.  The numerous Masonic symbols carved into the Stone Pillars in the Garden of his Nagasaki Residence may indicate that he was a Freemason.   After completion, the house stood on the Hillside like a new-age Castle, a symbol of the importance of Commercial Wealth & Foreign Trade as Japan changed from an isolated Feudal Country into a World Power.  As a Building designed for use by Foreigners but built by Japanese hands using Japanese materials, the House also symbolised the earliest meeting of European & Japanese Culture in a new age of Globalisation.

Minamiyamate – with its lone Pine

As opposed to Higashiyamate (East Hillside), this was the “South Hillside,” the Nagasaki Foreign Settlement’s other Residential Neighbourhood dotted with gracious Western-style Houses.  Myogyoji, the Buddhist Temple where the 1st British Consulate in Japan was Established the same year, is visible centre-left.  In 1863, British Merchant Thomas Glover would build his famous House beside the lone Pine seen here atop the Minamiyamate Hillside.  Divided into 35 Lots, priced at $12 per 100 tsubos, the District was often referred to as “British Hill” because of the many Residents from Great Britain who lived here. The most famous building here was the Residence of Thomas Blake Glover and his Family, today the oldest Western-style building in Japan and the centrepiece of the Glover Garden Theme Park.

Minamiyamata 1885

Nagasaki Harbour Image 1866
Together they raised his son (Thomas Albert or Tomisaburo) and had a daughter, Hana, though the son was actually by another Japanese woman, Kaga Maki, in circumstances that are unclear but pre-dated Glover’s Marital Relationship with Yamamura Tsuru.  In any event, Glover & Tsuru lived together until the latter’s death in 1899.

6 Glover Family Members – Tomi, Thomas Albert (Glover’s Brother), Martha (his Sister), Dughter Hana & Waka Tomi’s Wife

Tomi’s wife Waka was also of mixed race. The grave of Glover’s Sister  Martha Ann George (left) is in Nagasaki, where she had gone later to join Thomas and her other Brothers.  None of her children were buried there.  Martha Ann was born in Fraserburgh, Scotland in 1842.  She was the daughter of Thomas Berry Glover & Mary Findlay and the younger sister of Thomas Blake Glover.  In 1861, at the age of 18, she married James George in Aberdeen. James George also had a Registered Shipbrokers Office at 19 Marischal Street. Martha & James had 2 children who lived to adulthood, Charles & Annie.  Around 1870, James George died and Martha and the children moved in with her Parents.  Annie died in 1889 and Martha went to live with her brother Thomas in Tokyo not long after this.  Around 1895 she came to Nagasaki and lived with Thomas at Minamiyamate.  She died at the Glover House on 18th March 1903, at the age of 61 and was buried in Sakamoto International Cemetery.

Hana, was born in Nagasaki in 1876. Hana wed British Merchant Walter George Bennett who worked for Holmes Ringer Co, in 1897 and later moved with him to Korea, where she died in 1938. She had 4 children but only 1 grandchild, Ronald Bennett (born 1931) who is living today in the United States.

Glover’s House
Glover & Tsuru
Glover Wedding

Tsuru in Traditional Japanese Clothes
Tsuru had been obliged, at the age of 17, to Divorce her 1st husband, a Samurai, due to Political differences between her Family & his at the time of the Overthrow of the Tokugawa Shogunate, and was thus separated from her baby daughter, Sen.
Tsuru’s nickname was “Ochô-san“, from the Butterfly Motif on her kimono.

Mr Glover & Japanese Imperial Navy Admiral Heihachiro Togo at the Reception in 1905.  Togo Commanded at the Russo-Japanese War in 1905.  (Togo was wearing the Uniform in the centre of the photo, at the 3rd line, between Japanese women.)  Glover is silk-Hatted 2-rows back & centre.

Glover died in 1911 in Tokyo at the age of 73.  His Nagasaki Mansion, which local tradition identifies as the Setting of Madame Butterfly, is a Tourist attraction today. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries donated the Mansion to the City in 1957. In further homage, the Company acquired the Glover Family Home in Aberdeen and donated it to the Grampian-Japan Trust, a Natural & Historical Preservation Society.  He died in his palatial home in Shibakoen ParkTokyo, and was later buried at the Sakamoto International Cemetery in Nagasaki.

Nagasaki Glover Festival Amazing Grace – Japanese Style

Thomas Glover Family. Clockwise, Top-left: Tomisaburo, his son; Waka, Tomisaburo’s wife; Hana, Glover’s daughter; Glover holding Hana’s son; Flont-left Martha, Glover’s Scottish sister.

The year is 1857. Thomas Glover is a gutsy 19-year-old who grasps the chance of escape to Foreign Lands and takes a posting as a Trader in Japan. Within 10-yrs he amasses a great Fortune, learns the ways of the Samurai, and, on the other side of the Law, brings about the Overthrow of the Shogun. Yet beneath Glover’s astonishing success lies a man cut to the heart. His love affair with a Courtesan – a woman who, unknown to him, would bear him the son for which he had always longed – would form a tragedy so dramatic as to be immortalised in the stories behind Madame Butterfly. The Pure Land relives in fiction the Arc of Glover’s True-life Rise & Fall, and forges a 100-yr Saga that culminates in the Annihilation of Nagasaki in 1945.

Thomas Blake Glover’s Story
Aside the above Public profile, Thomas Blake Glover is the 1st recorded Flyfisher in Japan who fished heavily in the stream in Nikko. The Highland Lakes & Streams of Nikko didn’t hold any game fish due to the separation by a 100M high Waterfall, so Glover & Japanese Game Fishing enthusiasts migrated local Chars  Salmon, and imported Trout from the USA with the help of Harold George Parlett, and built a hatchery for sustaining the Fishing at Oku-Nikko. Lake ChuzenjiLake Yunoko Yukawa River which connects these 2 Lakes turned out to be Japan’s 1st Fly Fishing waters.  Inset – Glover with flat ‘bunnet‘ and Fishing Net with a goodly catch.
Thomas Blake Glover Trail

The Glover is a Series of pioneering Fusion Whiskies created to honour the achievements of a pioneering man, Thomas Blake Glover, and celebrate the historical relationship between Scotland & Japan. These Whiskies – a 22 year old, a 14 year old and 2 No. 18 year olds (2016 & 2017) – are each a fusion of Scotch & Whisky from the Legendary Hanyu Distillery in Japan. In 2015, Adelph was offered the chance to select a single refill ex-sherry Hogshead from one of the few remaining Casks from Hanyu Distillery with the view to creating a pioneering Fusion of Scotch & Japanese Malt Whisky.

For our pioneering Glover 22-yr-old, the Hanyu was disgorged & Shipped to England for marrying with a carefully determined volume of Scotch Whisky from 2 single casks: 35% from an American oak ex-sherry Hogshead distilled at Longmorn, and just a drop from a Spanish oak ex-sherry Butt distilled at Glen Garioch. 

The 2 previous Editions of The Glover were launched simultaneously on 26th October 2015, in Tokyo & Aberdeen, where Thomas Glover is celebrated with an Exhibition at the Maritime Museum, at an Event that was also attended by Hajime Kitaoka, Consul General of Japan and Lord Bruce, Honorary Patron of the Japan Society of Scotland & Councillor Jenny Laing, Leader of Aberdeen City Council.