Biography of Kirkman Finlay of Castle Toward
The cotton merchant Kirkman Finlay of Castle Toward (1773-1842) studied briefly at the University and was elected Rector in 1819. He was Dean of Faculties, 1839 to 1840.
In 1790, following his father's death, Finlay became the principal of James Finlay & Co. In 1816 he became the first British merchant to trade directly with India following the end of the East India Company's monopoly on trade with the British possessions there, and he opened Glasgow's first tea warehouse following the end of the Company's monopoly of trade with China in 1833.
Finlay was active in Glasgow politics, becoming a magistrate in 1804 serving as Lord Provost from 1812 to 1815 and again in 1818. He was MP for the Clyde Burghs from 1812 to 1818.
By the early 19th century it had become customary for a rector to be re-elected for a second year. However, an unfounded rumour spread that he supported the professors in a plan to withdraw students' rights to vote at rectorial elections. Angry students nominated Francis Jeffrey to contest the election in 1820, and Finlay was defeated.