Maitland, James S

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Maitland, James S

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James Steel Maitland was born in Strone, Argyllshire, on 27 August 1887, to Kate Coats Steel, an adopted sister of thread magnate, George H Coats, and James Maitland, a successful master grocer. Educated at Kilblain Academy and Glasgow High School, the young Maitland had hoped to become an artist but, due to his parents' disapproval, opted instead to pursue architecture as a profession. He was articled to William Leiper in 1903, and the following year enrolled at The Glasgow School of Art, studying part-time under Eugène Bourdon and Alexander McGibbon until 1907 while serving his articles. His apprenticeship ended in 1909, when he left to London to find work. While there he was advised to apply for a vacancy in Brown & Vallance of Montreal, Canada – he emigrated later that year. In 1913 he left to travel in France, and the following year married the embroiderer Ellison J F Young.

On the outbreak of the First World War, Maitland went to New York to train as a pilot before returning to Britain to join the British Royal Naval Air Service. Specialising in seaplanes and flying boats, he worked chiefly on reconnaissance and submarine patrol over the English Channel. By the time he was demobilised he had reached the rank of flight commander and was decorated with the Air Force cross.

In 1920, Maitland joined the office of Paisley architect Thomas Graham Abercrombie as principal assistant. He became a partner in 1923 and, after Abercrombie's death in 1926, continued as sole partner. Maitland was admitted LRIBA in 1931 and FRIBA in 1932. In the 1930s he became the burgh architect of Renfrew, a position he held until his retirement in 1963. He died on 27 February 1982 in the home he had designed for himself in Paisley. As well as architecture, he had a passion for painting, wood-carving, costume designing and theatre scene painting, and had been a president of the Paisley Burns, Rotary and Bohemian Clubs as well as a committed Paisley conservationist.

Further information about James Steel Maitland is available at the University of Leeds Special Collections ( including a copy of drawings that he completed for a booklet called "The Education of a Quirk" and an in-depth interview where he talks about life during the First World War.

James S Maitland is commemorated on The Glasgow School of Art's World War One Roll of Honour.

If you have any more information, please get in touch.


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