Musgrave, James (DNB12)

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MUSGRAVE, Sir JAMES, first baronet (1826–1904), benefactor of Belfast, born at Lisburn, co. Antrim, on 30 Dec. 1826, was seventh of nine sons (and one of the twelve children) of Dr. Samuel Musgrave (1770–1836), a leading physician of Lisburn, by his wife Mary (d. 1862), daughter of William Riddel, Comber, co. Down. The Ulster branch of the Musgraves came thither from Cumberland in the seventeenth century. Musgrave's father, who sympathised with the United Irishmen, was arrested on 16 Sept. 1796 on a charge of high treason and imprisoned in 'The New Gaol,' Dublin (Belfast News-Letter, 19 Sept. 1796). Released in 1798, he resumed professional work in Lisburn; but in 1803 he was again arrested and imprisoned for a time on a similar charge.

After attending local schools and receiving private tuition, James began early a business career in Belfast, and ultimately, with two of his brothers, John Riddel and Robert, he established the important firm of Musgrave Brothers, iron founders and engineers. Soon, taking part in the public life of Belfast, he was in 1876 elected at the head of the poll one of the Belfast harbour commissioners, and was thenceforth regularly re-elected. From 1887 to 1903 he was chairman, in succession to Sir Edward J. Harland, M.P.; under his direction the harbour was greatly improved, and new docks, quays, and deep water channels constructed for the increasing trade, one of these being named the 'Musgrave Channel' in his honour. He resigned the chairmanship in 1903. In 1877 he was elected president of the Belfast chamber of commerce. He was the moving spirit in the establishment of the Belfast technical school, helped greatly in the erection of the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, in commemoration of the jubilee of Queen Victoria, and founded in 1901 the Musgrave chair of pathology in Queen's College, Belfast. Musgrave worked hard as a member of the 'Recess Committee' which was formed in 1895 by Sir Horace Plunkett to devise means for the amelioration of the agricultural and economic condition of Ireland, and whose proposals were embodied in 1899 in an act of parliament. In 1866 he and his brother John had purchased an estate of some 60,000 acres in Co. Donegal. During part of every year he resided on the estate at Carrick Lodge, Glencolumbkille, taking a deep interest in the welfare of the tenantry. He was appointed J.P. and D.L. of Co. Donegal, and served as high sheriff 1885-6. He was chairman of the Donegal railway company, in the establishment of which he had a large share. In 1897 he was created a baronet of the United Kingdom. Musgrave died unmarried at Drumglass House, his Belfast residence, on 22 Feb. 1904, and was buried in the cathedral churchyard, Lisburn. A stained-glass window to his memory, and to that of other members of the family, is in the First Lisburn presbyterian church, to which his ancestors belonged. A marble bust by A. M'F. Shannan, A.R.S.A., and an oil painting by Walter Frederic Osborne [q. v. Suppl. II], were placed in the Belfast Harbour Office in memory of his services.

[Personal knowledge; information kindly supplied by Mr. Henry Musgrave, D.L.; Belfast News-Letter, 23 Feb. 1904.]

T. H.