Bishop William Turnbull

Founded Scotland's second University, in the dear green place

Of the universities of Britain, only three are older than Glasgow's; Oxford, Cambridge & St Andrews. Glasgow University was founded in 1451, with the granting of a papal bull by Pope Nicholas V on 7 January, this on the urging of King James II, and at the instance of Bishop William Turnbull. The preamble to this is interesting, as it includes many complimentary points about the city "where the air is mild, victuals are plentiful, and great store of other things pertaining to the use of man is found".

Turnbull was a man well educated in both the arts and law, and he had done many important practical services both to the Pope and to his own King. Perhaps some of his ambitions for a university were driven by the presence of the other one, over on the east of Scotland at St Andrews, but more important were his desires to defend the clergy with an important site of learning; in any case, many of its graduates would go on to serve in the clergy.

It was Turnbull who made the first constitution of the University, approximating it on the design at St Andrews, which itself was modelled on the Paris college. The Bishop became Chancellor, but the actual head of the University, the Rector, was to be chosen annually by the indirect vote of four nations, loosely representing the extent of the four western sees - Glasgow, Galloway, Argyll and the Isles.

The original home of the University was in the High Street, near to the Cathedral. After a shaky start it was re-established in 1577 and has continued to flourish ever since. The old University buildings were demolished in the 1870s, to make way for a railway goods station, with the University moving to its present site at Gilmorehill.