William McEwan

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William McEwan
William McEwan.jpg
Personal details
Born(1827-07-16)16 July 1827
Alloa, Scotland
Died12 May 1913(1913-05-12) (aged 85)
Mayfair, London, England
Resting placeGreat Bookham, Surrey, England
Political partyLiberal
Spouse(s)Helen Anderson
ChildrenDame Margaret Greville
OccupationBrewer and politician

William McEwan (/məˈkjuːɪn/) (16 July 1827 – 12 May 1913) was a Scottish politician and brewer. He founded the Fountain Brewery in 1856, served as a member of parliament (MP) from 1886 to 1900, and funded the construction of the McEwan Hall at the University of Edinburgh.

Early life and brewing[edit]

Vanity Fair, 1902

McEwan was born in Alloa, Scotland in 1827, the third child of ship-owner John McEwan and his wife Anne Jeffrey. His older sister Janet married James Younger head of his local family brewing business in 1850. He was educated at Alloa Academy. He worked for the Alloa Coal Company and merchants Patersons.

He worked in Glasgow for a commission agent and then as a bookkeeper for a spinning firm in Yorkshire.[1]

From 1851 he received technical and management training from his uncles, John and David Jeffrey, proprietors of the Heriot brewery in Edinburgh. In 1856, he established the Fountain Brewery at Fountainbridge in Edinburgh with money from his mother and his uncle, Tom Jeffrey.[2] After growing sales in Scotland, his nephew William Younger of Alloa began an apprenticeship with him and eventually became managing director. Exports were made to Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and India, with McEwan's having 90% of sales in north-eastern England by the turn of the century.[2] The brewery became part of Scottish & Newcastle.


McEwan became a member of parliament for Edinburgh Central after the 1886 general election, representing the Liberal Party. He was returned unopposed in 1895 and continued to serve until 1900. He became a Privy Counsellor in 1907,[3] but declined a title.

Personal life[edit]

Polesden Lacey in Surrey was McEwan's final home and was bequeathed to the National Trust in his name.

He married Helen Anderson in 1885 and they had one daughter born out of wedlock, Margaret Helen (1863–1942). His elder sister Janet married James Younger, and their children included George, 1st Viscount Younger of Leckie (1851–1929), William (1857–1925),[4] and Robert, Baron Blanesburgh (1861–1946).

He funded the McEwan Hall at the University of Edinburgh,[5] to a cost of £115,000. It was opened in 1897, when McEwan was presented with an honorary doctorate and the freedom of the city of Edinburgh. He also presented paintings to the National Gallery of Scotland.

McEwan's final home was at Polesden Lacey in Surrey, which was purchased in 1906 for his daughter Margaret and her husband Ronald Greville. She bequeathed the house and estate to the National Trust in 1942 in memory of her father.[6] He died in 1913 in Mayfair and was buried in the village of Great Bookham in Surrey. His estate was valued at £1.5 million.


  1. ^ Monuments and Statues of Edinburgh, Michael T.R.B. Turnbull (Chambers) p.11
  2. ^ a b Murray, Sandy (17 February 2004). "Years of brewing history ending". BBC News Online. BBC News. Retrieved 27 February 2010.
  3. ^ "No. 28092". The London Gazette. 24 December 1907. p. 8966.
  4. ^ "George Younger". Gazetteer for Scotland. Retrieved 27 February 2010.
  5. ^ "McEwan Hall". University of Edinburgh. 16 December 2009. Retrieved 27 February 2010.
  6. ^ "History of Polesden Lacey". National Trust. Retrieved 27 February 2010.


External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
John Wilson
Member of Parliament for Edinburgh Central
Succeeded by
George Mackenzie Brown