When I first took on responsibility for the Library some time ago, I found among many other papers, some pictures which include one of a ‘Dr Lapraik’. There was no clue as to who he was except that the picture appeared to be from a magazine or periodical, being headed, “The Baillie, Vol. LVII. No 1474, 16th January 1901”.
I subsequently found out that “The Baillie” was a Glasgow periodical in the late 19th early 20th centuries. It was published weekly and contained gossipy items of news including a regular feature under the title, “The man you know”. This was a series of articles featuring influential men in Glasgow and consisted of brief biographical notes accompanied by a print of a beautiful pencil, or perhaps charcoal drawing of the person featured. I also found reference in the Kirk Session Minutes to a “Lapraik” who was an Elder in the Cathedral.
A recent visit to the Mitchell Library and a look through the bound volumes of “The Baillie” to be found on the shelves of the Glasgow Room (and well worth thumbing through) helped to put some flesh on the bones, so to speak. Dr Lapraik was a Glasgow bred doctor with a large practice, and, apart from the duties of his profession, was renowned for his benevolent and charitable work He was a prominent member of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons, and held numerous voluntary official appointments therein. In addition to being an Elder of the Cathedral, he was Medical Officer to the Blind Asylum, still to be seen in Castle Street as a crumbling ruin overshadowed by the Royal Infirmary’s new multi-storeyed car park, a Director of the Maternity Hospital (Rotten Row presumably), and was an active member of the Western Infirmary Board. He was a man of remarkable activity, possessing a wonderful capacity for work. As a medical practitioner, he was happiest when his patients were well and it was said of him that even his presence was curative, for he seemed ‘to carry his chest of medicines in his face’. He was renowned as a useful and conscientious citizen, alive to the responsibilities of citizenship, and ever ready to bear his share of public duty. To his more intimate friends he was a delightful companion, and at his best when, on social occasions, he laid aside his professional manner.
He had for many years been a member of the Board of Management of Glasgow Athenaeum, where he held the post of Chairman of the Education Department before November, 2006 17 becoming Chairman of the Board of Directors. This took place at a critical time in that institutions existence and Dr Lapraik was credited with being the man principally responsible for rescuing it from possible extinction, the Athenaeum having suffered many vicissitudes from its beginning in 1847. Its main difficulties had been financial but with Dr Lapraik as its Chairman it was reconstituted as the Incorporated Athenaeum, a literary institution and commercial college existing solely for the benefit of its members, some hundred teachers and five thousand students, male and female, and went on to prosper and flourish.
The worthy Dr Lapraik surely deserves to be better known than he is.
Librarian and Archivist