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As Gun Runner Tomi Glover Son Glover's Nagasaki

Thomas Blake Glover
Merchant, Industrialist and Entrepreneur - Balgownie to Nagasaki
Born in Fraserburgh and educated at the Chanonry School, Old Aberdeen, he travelled to Japan in 1859 and later imported the 1st steam locomotive. He helped to establish the Mitsubishi Nagasaki Shipyard and received the Order of the Rising Sun from the Emperor in 1908.
Thomas Blake Glover was destined to become one of Victorian Scotland's most successful and influential industrialists.  He was born at 15 Commerce Street, Fraserburgh on June 6, 1838 and spent his early childhood in the North East fishing town.

He was born at 15 Commerce Street, Fraserburgh on June 6, 1838 the 5th of 8 children to Thomas Berry Glover and Mary Findlay and spent his early childhood in the North East fishing town.  Glover was 13 years old when his father settled in Bridge of Don, as Chief Coastgaurd and the boy's name appears on the register of Chanonry House School (The Gymnasium), Old Aberdeen, for the year 1854.  It was there that he began working for a Trading Company and travelling the world.  Glover's family home in Scotland, Glover's House, 79 Balgownie Road, Bridge of Don, Aberdeen is now open to the public as a restored Victorian House, telling the Glover story. 

Braehead Cottage was built in 1850 and remodelled to form a Villa, known as Braehead House, in 1863. The house was given in trust by Mitsubishi in 1997 and has been restored to its 19th century appearance with many original details and features. A memorial plaque to Glover was unveiled on the front wall in 2006.  This house was even used to smuggle out Japanese rebellious youth to get educated in the UK, which includes their 1st Prime Minister Ito Hirobumi (1841 - 1909) and many more. Though the achievements of the Chief Coastguard's son are surprisingly little known in his native North East Scotland, in Japan, Glover is celebrated in Japan as a National Hero.  His house in Nagasaki is one Japan's most popular tourist attractions with nearly 2 Million visitors every year. In contrast, his birthplace didn't fare so well.  During World War II a bomb hit 15 Commerce Street Fraserburgh, and razed the old Glover family home to rubble.  He also had a residence in the Shibakoen Park area of Tokyo.

After he left school, Glover took up employment with the Trading Company, Jardine, Matheson & Co. He 1st visited Japan in 1857, aged 19, which at the time was widely viewed as a closed society where Business was both difficult and dangerous for outsiders. In 1859 the 21 year old Glover established a presence for Jardine  Matheson in Nagasaki, buying Japanese Green Tea. Two years later he set up his own company in Nagasaki, the Glover Trading Company (Guraba-Shokai) aged only 23.

Nagasaki Bay, Japan's only International port from 1639 to 1859 under the isolationist policies of the Tokugawa Shogunate, was a thriving entrepot. Glover soon built a bustling business there, largely in exporting Tea. A larger business opportunity emerged with rising tensions between the Shogunate and Rebellious Clans in southern Japan. Glover made a fortune selling Ships and Arms to the rival factions. 

1861 - Preoccupied at home with its own Civil War, the United States relinquishes its leading role in Japanese affairs to Great Britain, which, by 1864, controlled nearly 90% of Japan's Trade with Western nations.

The 1860s were a period of considerable success for Glover. He started by trading in Ships and Arms to a number of rebellious clans opposed to the established regime in Japan. In 1865 he introduced the 1st Steam Locomotive ever seen in Japan, the "Iron Duke", and by 1868 he was influential enough to play a part in the downfall of the Tokugawa Shogunate during the Meiji Restoration.

Glover Bros Co - James Lindley Glover & Charles Thomas Glover, Shipowners appear to be a local Aberdeen sourcing arrangement for Thomas Blake Glover with ships being exported to him in the understanding that he could sell them onwards in the far East for minimum sums.  The were joined by an elder brother Alexander Johnson and the eldest brother William was often Commander of the ships while in transit.  In fact 5 of the 6 Glover Brothers were involved with the firm.  Alfred the youngest brother born 1840 was still at the Gymnasium School in 1863
Glover Brothers, Shipbrokers, 19 Marischal Street, Aberdeen.
William (Eldest) James Linley, Charles Thomas, Alexander Johnson,  Jim, Thomas Blake, Alfred (Youngest 1850-1904), (7 Brothers) (Sister Martha Ann)

In 1868 Hall Russell’s Yard built a patent slip for raising ships at Nagasaki. The slip was owned by Glover Bros & Co., who at the same time ordered a Clipper Barque from A Hall & Co, 'Helen Black', which carried all the slip equipment to Nagasaki. The slip had a capacity of 1200 tons, and was powered by a 2 cylinder vertical engine.  The ship was lost in 1871 near Hong Kong

Demand for Coal surged as Steamships multiplied in Japanese Waters. By the end of the 1860s Glover was also operating Japan's 1st coal mines and had built its 1st dry dock. Glover, in partnership with the Hizen Clan, invested in developing the Takashima Coal Mine on an island near Nagasaki in 1868. Their Mine was the 1st in Japan to employ Western methods of mining. He went bankrupt in 1870, and he was forced to sell his stake, but this proved only a temporary setback, he stayed on as Manager of the Mine for several more years. (Mitsubishi acquired the Mine in 1881 in the organization's 1st main diversification beyond shipping.)

Ironically, Glover & Co. found it difficult to adjust to the changes in trade which occurred with the Meiji Restoration of 1868, including the economic decline of Nagasaki. Glover attempted to shift to entrepreneurial activities, constructing a patent slip dock and developing the Takashima coalmine. He also started branches in the newly opened Hyogo and Osaka, anticipating good trading prospects. However, he was seriously undercapitalized and his new ventures did not produce results quickly enough. The firm was declared bankrupt in August 1870 and the Netherland Trading Society acted as Trustees. This failure is attributable to a lack of Managerial ability, probably linked to his optimistic outlook on life, as well as to the disappearance of the circumstances which had earlier brought him prosperity. After the Bankruptcy he continued to work at the Takashima coalmine, which was eventually bought by Mitsubishi. Mitsubishi was founded by Yataro Iwasaki, a former Tosa Samurai, who had had business dealings with Glover before the restoration. Glover acted as a consultant for Mitsubishi in various ways, playing a crucial role in the founding of what became the Kirin Brewery Company.

In 1870, Glover's Nagasaki Trading Firm Glover & Co. went bankrupt as a result of debts incurred around the time of the Meiji Restoration, but the Scotsman stayed on in Japan and became involved with expanding Japanese industries. He left Nagasaki in 1877 to serve as a Consultant to the Mitsubishi Co. in Tokyo.  In 1908, the Meiji Government recognized his contributions to Japan by awarding him the 2nd Class Order of the Rising Sun, an unprecedented decoration for a foreigner.

Glover also built a miniature Railway Line on the Nagasaki waterfront, showing Japanese people the possibilities of steam locomotion for the 1st time. Moreover, he laid Japan's 1st Telephone Line between the Nagasaki foreign settlement and Takashima, enlisted a Scottish Engineer to build Japan's 1st Lighthouses, and arranged for the purchase of Minting Equipment from Hong Kong to produce the 1st "yen."  Another important achievement of Thomas Glover was the assistance he provided to young Japanese in travelling to Britain and enrolling in Universities there. Among these young Japanese was Ito Hirobumi, who would go on to serve as Japan's 1st Prime Minister and who would remain Glover's lifelong friend.  In 1863, Glover helped the Choshu 5 get to London on Jardine Matheson ships. He also helped send 15 trainees from Satsuma under Godai Tomoatsu in 1865

Glover forged lasting friendships with Mitsubishi founder Yataro Iwasaki and with Yataro's brother, Yanosuke, the Organization's 2nd President. The elder Iwasaki represented the Tosa Clan in Nagasaki. He was in the market for ships and armaments for his Clan.  Glover was the premier broker of those items in Nagasaki.  Yataro turned frequently to his foreign friend for support and advice as Mitsubishi grew. Glover's knowledge and understanding of international business was invaluable to Mitsubishi, where he was an advisor for 40 years.

Glover thus contributed immensely to the Industrialization and Modernisation of Japan. Emperor Meiji recognized that contribution by naming the Scotsman to the Order of the Rising Sun in 1908. Some of the industry that Glover fostered in Japan continues to quench the thirsts of grateful beer drinkers. He joined a group of investors, which also included Yanosuke Iwasaki, that took over the defunct Spring Valley Brewery in Yokohama in 1885. They established Japan Brewery Company, which later became Kirin Brewery now a major player in the Asian market Some have suggested that the facial hair of the fantastic creature that appears on Kirin Beer labels is in memory of Glover and his own moustache.  He became a successful merchant, trading in ships and weapons in Japan during the 1860's and was responsible for commissioning 3 warships for the Japanese navy from Aberdeen Shipyards. He later established his own shipbuilding business which later grew into the world famous Mitsubishi Company.  Glover introduced a number innovations to his adopted country including the Railways and mechanised Coal Mining.

The Birth of Shinzaburo
Thomas Glover fathered a son (Shinzaburo) on December 8, 1870. According to the family register preserved at Nagasaki City Hall, the mother was not Tsuru but a woman named Kaga Maki. Nothing else is known about the link between Glover and Maki (Maki later married a man named Yoshida Jokichi and died in Nagasaki in 1903), but it is likely that Maki was a courtesan with whom Glover engaged in an temporary relationship.  This sort of liaison was by no means uncommon. During the long period of national isolation, Japanese courtesans called Karayuki and Orandayuki were dispatched by Nagasaki brothels to the Chinese settlement and Dutch trading post on Deshima, respectively. Even after the opening of Nagasaki as a treaty port in 1859, the brothels continued to cater to the foreign seamen visiting the port and often sent their inmates to serve as "maids" for wealthy foreigners visiting or residing here. The custom had gained such fame among seamen that French author and naval officer Pierre Loti already knew about it when he came here in 1885. Loti's vivid descriptions of his 1-month sojourn with a young woman named Kane, published in the book Madame Chrysantheme in 1893, shocked and fascinated Europe and laid the foundation for an even more famous story on the same subject: Madame Butterfly

In the 1870s Glover married Yamamura Tsuru, reputedly the former wife of a samurai warrior she had been obliged to divorce because of political differences between her family and his.  It is also claimed that his marriage to the daughter of a Samurai inspired Giacomo Puccini's Opera - Madame Butterfly

The site of the Nagasaki Foreign Settlement at the mouth of the Oura River in 1859, before the reclamation of flat land from the harbour and the development of the hillsides into residential districts. Myogyoji, the Buddhist temple where the 1st British Consulate in Japan was established the same year, is visible centre-left. In 1863, British merchant Thomas Glover would build his famous house beside the lone pine seen here atop the Minamiyamate hillside.

The married couple settled at Glover House in Nagasaki, the house Glover had built and the oldest western-style building in Japan.  Glover House known as Ipponmatsu (Single Pine Tree) from a drawing of 1863. The tree was chopped down in the early 20th century

Glover arranged with the Japanese Master Carpenter Koyama Hidenoshin to build a house on the Minamiyamate hillside, which only that year had been officially designated as part of the Foreign Settlement and divided into lots. The basic construction of the house is Japanese, despite its foreign elements. It consists of traditional Japanese roof supports and post-and-beam frames set down on boulders.   The numerous masonic symbols carved into the stone pillars in the garden of his Nagasaki residence may indicate that he was a freemason.  After completion, the house stood on the hillside like a new-age castle, a symbol of the importance of commercial wealth and foreign trade as Japan changed from an isolated feudal country into a World Power. As a building designed for use by foreigners but built by Japanese hands using Japanese materials, the house also symbolized the earliest meeting of European and Japanese Culture in a new age of globalization.

Minamiyamate -
s opposed to Higashiyamate (East Hillside), this was the "South Hillside," the Nagasaki Foreign Settlement's other residential neighbourhood dotted with gracious Western-style houses.

Divided into 35 lots, priced at $12 per 100 tsubo, the District was often referred to as "British Hill" because of the many residents from Great Britain who lived here. The most famous building here was the residence of Thomas Blake Glover and his family, today the oldest Western-style building in Japan and the centrepiece of the Glover Garden theme park. 

Nagasaki Harbour Image 1866


Together they had a son (Thomas Albert or Tomisaburo) and a daughter Hana, though the son was actually by another Japanese woman, Kaga Maki, in circumstances that are unclear but predated Glover's marital relationship with Yamamura Tsuru. In any event, Glover and Tsuru lived together until the latter's death in 1899.

Glover with Tsuru centre, his son, Thomas Albert (Tomisaburo) possibly Daughter Hana or Tomi's wife Waka who was also of mixed race.  The grave of Glovers sister  Martha Ann is in Nagasaki Japan, where she had gone later to join Thomas and her other brothers. None of her children were buried there.

Martha Ann George was born in Fraserburgh, Scotland in 1842. She was the daughter of Thomas Berry Glover and Mary Findlay and the younger sister of Thomas Blake Glover. In 1861, at the age of 18, she married James George in Aberdeen. James George also had a registered Shipbrokers office at 19 Marischal Street. Martha and James had 2 children who lived to adulthood, Charles and Annie. Around 1870 James George died and Martha and the children moved in with her parents. Annie died in 1889 and Martha went to live were her brother Thomas in Tokyo not long after this. Around 1895 she came to Nagasaki and lived with Thomas at Minamiyamate. She died at the Glover House on March 18, 1903 at the age of 61 and was buried in Sakamoto International Cemetery.

Hana, was born in Nagasaki in 1876. Hana wed British Merchant Walter George Bennett who worked for Holmes Ringer Co., in 1897 and later moved with him to Korea, where she died in 1938. She had 4 children but only 1 grandchild, Ronald Bennett (born 1931) who is living today in the United States.

Inset - Tsuru in Traditional Japanese Clothes

Tsuru had been obliged, at the age of 17, to divorce her 1st husband, a Samurai, due to political differences between her family and his at the time of the overthrow of the Tokugawa Shogunate, and was thus separated from her baby daughter, Sen. 

Tsuru's nickname was "Ochô-san", from the butterfly motif on her kimono,

Mr. Glover and Japanese Imperial Navy Admiral Heihachiro Togo at the reception in 1905. Togo commanded at the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. (Togo was wearing black uniform man in the centre of the photo, at the 3rd line, between Japanese women.) Glover is 2 rows back and centre. 

Glover died in 1911 in Tokyo at the age of 73.  His Nagasaki Mansion, which local tradition identifies as the setting of Madame Butterfly, is a tourist attraction today. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries donated the Mansion to the City in 1957. In further homage, the Company acquired the Glover Family Home in Aberdeen and donated it to the Grampian-Japan Trust, a natural and historical preservation society.  He died in his palatial home in Shibakoen Park, Tokyo, and was later buried at the Sakamoto International Cemetery in Nagasaki.

Nagasaki Glover Festival Amazing Grace - Japanese Style

The year is 1858. Thomas Glover is a gutsy 18-year-old who grasps the chance of escape to foreign lands and takes a posting as a Trader in Japan. Within 10 years he amasses a great fortune, learns the ways of the Samurai, and, on the other side of the law, brings about the overthrow of the Shogun. Yet beneath Glover's astonishing success lies a man cut to the heart. His love affair with a courtesan - a woman who, unknown to him, would bear him the son for which he had always longed - would form a tragedy so dramatic as to be immortalised in the stories behind Madame Butterfly. The Pure Land relives in fiction the arc of Glover's true-life rise and fall, and forges a 100-year saga that culminates in the annihilation of Nagasaki in 1945.

Thomas Blake Glover's Story

Aside the above public profile, Thomas Blake Glover is the 1st recorded fly fisher in Japan who fished heavily in the stream in Nikko. The highland lakes and streams of Nikko didn’t hold any game fish due to the separation by 100 metres high waterfall, so Glover and Japanese game fishing enthusiasts migrated local Chars  Salmon, and imported Trout from the USA with the help of Harold George Parlett, and built a hatchery for sustaining the fishing at Oku-Nikko. Lake Chuzenji, Lake Yunoko, and Yukawa River which connects these 2 lakes turned out to be Japan’s 1st fly fishing waters.  Inset Glover with bonnet and fishing Net.

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Last modified: 01/09/2013