Sir John Cowan

1814 - 1900

Paper manufacturer, political organiser and philanthropist. Born in the Old Town of Edinburgh, where he was educated at the High School and University. He joined his family paper-making firm which operated Valleyfield Mill at Penicuik. However, Cowan is perhaps best known as the Chairman of the Midlothian Liberal Association, who invited William Ewart Gladstone (1809-98) to stand as prospective Member of Parliament. Cowan organised the remarkable Midlothian Campaign which resulted in Gladstone's election in 1880 and his re-election in 1885, 1886 and 1892. Cowan's loyalty was rewarded with a knighthood in 1894. He was an earnest Christian, a founding member of the Free Church of Scotland, and philanthropist, responsible for the Cowan Institute in Penicuik, in memory of his father Alexander Cowan (1775 - 1859), and other benefactions. He also funded the missionary work of his friend David Livingstone (1813-73).

He died at his home, Beeslack House, and lies buried in Old Glencorse kirkyard.

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