IT was in this week of 1836 that the only native Glaswegian to become Prime Minister of the UK was born in Kelvinside House in the city. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman is not much remembered now, not least because he was only PM for less than three years, but it is a pity that this great Scottish Liberal politician’s reputation has waned like his party.

He should also be remembered for being the first Prime Minister. That accolade is usually conferred on Sir Robert Walpole, but the actual title for decades was First Lord of the Treasury. The first man to be technically declared Prime Minister in the official Order of Preference was Campbell-Bannerman, just five days after he took office in 1905.

He was actually born Henry Campbell, and was the second son and youngest of six children of Sir James Campbell of Stracathro and his wife Janet, née Bannerman. Henry’s name would become hyphenated at the age of 35 when his uncle Henry insisted on the change as part of his will – he did leave his nephew and niece the estate of Hunton Lodge in Kent, however. It never bothered the future PM – he simply asked all his family and friends to call him CB, and I’ll do that too.

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His father was a merchant who founded the firm of J and W Campbell and who became Lord Provost of Glasgow from 1840 to 1843. CB’s elder brother James Alexander was a Conservative politician who inherited the 4000 acre Stracathro estate near Brechin from his father in 1876 before becoming MP for Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities in 1880.

By that time CB had been an MP for nearly 12 years. Having been educated at Glasgow High School, Glasgow University and at Trinity College, Cambridge, he joined the family firm and became a partner in 1860, the same year he married Sarah Charlotte Bruce. They would have a long and happy marriage but had no children. They both loved France and spoke French fluently – CB was also fluent in Italian and German – and they liked nothing better than to holiday on the Continent, and later maintained a Scottish home, Belmont Castle at Meigle in Strathmore.

Charlotte’s influence on her husband was very significant. Unlike his elder brother, CB was a Liberal from the outset, but he had very little political ambitions at first. Charlotte encouraged him to go into active politics which he did in 1868 when he contested a by-election in the Stirling Burghs constituency – he lost, but later in the year he won the seat in a general election and held it for 40 years until his death. Such was his reputation locally that several times he was returned unopposed.

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He was promoted quickly in Westminster, and became a junior minister after only three years as an MP. William Ewart Gladstone (above), gave him several ministerial posts before taking him into the Cabinet as Chief Secretary for Ireland – a hugely important job given the constant political controversy over Home Rule – in 1884.

Having once been a lieutenant and captain in the 53rd Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers – mostly employees of J and W Campbell – CB now found himself Secretary of State for War. Interestingly for all those pressing for a four-day week, it was Campbell-Bannerman who introduced an eight-hour day for munitions workers, and found there was no loss of production.

The achievement for which he earned a knighthood was persuading the Duke of Cambridge, cousin of Queen Victoria, to resign as commander-in-chief of the army after he opposed the reforms of the armed forces.

CB wanted to become Speaker of the House of Commons in 1895 but was persuaded to stay in the Liberals’ front bench team until in 1899 he became leader of the party and Leader of the Opposition.

His principled stance on the Second Boer War – he called the concentration camps “methods of barbarism” – exacerbated the split in the Liberals between the imperialist and pro-Boer camps, and the party duly heavily lost the general election.

Yet CB was nowhere near finished. He united the Liberals in their opposition to the 1902 Education Act and the protectionist policies of leading Tory Joseph Chamberlain, and it was the latter’s crusade for tariff reform which allowed CB to promote free trade. His policies gave the Liberals a landslide election victory in 1906, thus making him the last Liberal Prime Minister to win an overall majority. By 1907 he was the longest-serving MP, making him the only Prime Minister to be simultaneously Father of the House.

Though he personally lived in some style – he and his wife were noted for their dinners and both were obese – CB was also very aware of the plight of poor people.

He said in 1907: “What is all our wealth and learning and the fine flower of our civilisation and our Constitution and our political theories – what are all these but dust and ashes, if the men and women, on whose labour the whole social fabric is maintained, are doomed to live and die in darkness and misery in the recesses of our great cities? The sunshine must be allowed to stream in, the water and the food must be kept pure and unadulterated, the streets light and clean.”

CB was determined on reform policies and brought in the Workers Compensation Act and the Trades Dispute Act which greatly helped trades unions.

He lost his wife Charlotte in 1906 and was never the same afterwards. CB suffered a series of heart attacks and eventually his poor health forced him to resign on April 3, 1908.

He was unable to leave 10 Downing Street and died on April 22, the only PM to die there.

He is buried in the grounds of Meigle Parish Church and there is a memorial plaque to him on the kirk wall.