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Famous Scots. / Writings · 17 September 2022

Famous Scots. Alexander Grant.

Alexander Grant – founder of National Library of Scotland

  • Name  : Grant
  • Born  : 1864
  • Died  : 1937
  • Category  : Other
  • Finest Moment : Helping the formation of the National Library of Scotland, 1925

Born the son of a railway guard in Forres, 1864. Grant began working in an office, but the crucial event was being apprenticed to a local baker. Immersed in the heady aromas of yeast and rising dough, he moved to Edinburgh, gaining employment with Robert McVitie. Here he had found his niche, and his rapid rise saw him managing the new factory built in Gorgie Road then establishing another plant in London.


McVitie’s partner, Price retired, then McVitie himself died in 1910, Grant then acquiring control of the company. It grew to feed the urban population, hungry for variety and convenient snacks to take in the tea parlours springing up everywhere. With Grant as Chairman and Managing Director, McVitie & Price became a world leader.

Probably aware of his modest beginnings, Grant initiated charitable funding for many projects. A sum of £100,000 helped in no way found the National Library for Scotland for example. He was awarded a baronetcy in 1924. There were some awkward questions asked about this, as the newly-elected Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald, had been given a present from Grant of £30,000 worth of shares in the company and a new Daimler. Let it be known that the baronetcy had already been put in motion by the previous government. He also provided a further grant of £100,000 towards the new Library.

In the 1980s the company established the McVitie Prize for the Scottish Writer of the Year, Scotland’s foremost literary award. Alexander Grant died in 1937, the same year as his close friend Ramsay MacDonald.

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