Sir Alexander Grant

(Sir Alexander Grant of Forres)

1864 - 1937

Biscuit manufacturer, who is said to have invented the digestive biscuit in 1892. Born in Forres, the son of a guard on the Highland Railway, Grant was educated at Forres Academy. He was apprenticed to a local baker, but then moved to Edinburgh where he joined biscuit-maker Robert McVitie as his assistant. Grant transformed McVitie & Price by opening biscuit factories in Edinburgh, London and Manchester. As the original partners retired, Grant took over the business, becoming Chairman and Managing Director in 1911. He became a wealthy man but proved a generous benefactor. He bought Forres House and grounds for the town of Forres, which became Grant Park, and paid for improvements to the harbour at Nairn. Grant also encouraged the future King George VI to run his 'Duke of York Camps' for boys in the 1930s. He gave £200,000 to create the National Library of Scotland, £10,000 to buy banqueting silver for Holyrood Palace (which is still in use today) and £50,000 to the University of Edinburgh to support their new science campus at King's Buildings. One of the first buildings on that campus, the Grant Institute of Geology, was named in his honour and opened by his friend and fellow Moray-man Ramsay MacDonald (1866 - 1937).

Grant had supported MacDonald financially, because he was the first Prime Minister without a private income. This became controversial as the press linked this support to the award of a hereditary baronetcy in 1924. Grant was also recognised with the freedom of Edinburgh (1923), Forres and Nairn (1932).

He died in Edinburgh and lies buried in Forres. His portrait hangs in Forres Tolbooth.

In 1947, his son Robert McVitie Grant died a bachelor at only fifty-two and the business passed to his daughter's son, Hector Laing later Lord Laing of Dunphail (1923 - 2010). The following year, McVitie & Price merged with another Scottish family-run biscuit manufacturer, Macfarlane, Lang & Co. Ltd, to form the United Biscuits Group, led by Laing. In 1969 the Edinburgh factory closed and production transferred to England.

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