Plans unveiled to save Aberdeen home of Mitsubishi founder

A TOP businessman has offered to help restore the home of a Scottish pioneer who became one of the most famous merchants in Japan.

Thomas Blake Glover was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun in recognition of the work he did to help transform the country. Picture: Contributed

Victorian industrialist Thomas Blake Glover was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun in recognition of the work he did to help transform the country during the Meiji Restoration.

He founded the Mitsubishi company, introduced the first trains to Japan and his colourful life with his wife is said to be the inspiration behind the original ‘Madame Butterfly’.

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His home in Aberdeen was bought by Mitsubishi 20 years ago then handed over to the Grampian-Japan Trust and converted into a museum.

But it has fallen into a state of disrepair and is in desperate need of restoration.

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Investment group Aberdeen Asset Management has now pledged to do whatever it takes to bring the property back to life and help preserve Fraserburgh-born Glover’s legacy.

Chief executive Martin Gilbert hopes that the work will create a lasting legacy and could boost further links between the Granite City and the Far East.

He said: “If anything can be done to restore Glover House we will be prepared to do it and we have made an offer to contribute to the house reopening in his memory.

“He was one of the founders of Mitsubishi which owns 18 per cent of Aberdeen Asset Management.

“Thomas Blake Glover is one of the reasons why they became a major shareholder, and there is a long history between Aberdeen and Japan. We will do whatever we can to get the house reopened.”

Mr Gilbert revealed the plans while at the Scottish Samurai Awards night at Aberdeen’s town house on Saturday night.

Scores of north-east residents and organisations were presented with honours, ranging from karate instructors to charity workers and councillors, all of who have excelled or made a substantial commitment to the area.

Mr Gilbert was among those who received recognition, picking up the Great Shogun - the highest possible award - for his services to commerce, Scotland and Japan.

Glover was born in 1838 and educated in Aberdeen.

He is widely accredited with the transformation of Japan during the Meiji restoration - the years when practical imperial rule was restored to Japan under Emperor Meiji.

In recognition of of his work he was later named the Scotsman to the Order of the Rising Sun in 1908 - three years before his death.

By that time he had been involved in the founding of the shipbuilding company which became Mitsubishi Corporation and also established the Japanese Brewery Company.

His family home in Aberdeen’s Bridge of Don area was bought by Mitsubishi in 1996 and was later given to the Grampian-Japan trust and converted into a museum.

It was closed in 2012 before being taken over by Aberdeen City Council two years later - with 25,000 pounds spent maintaining it during that period.

Last month the local authority asked officers to study the financial implications of turning the property into a 2million pounds research and development centre.

Under the plans, the building would be turned into an “ideas hub”, which could be used to strengthen business links with Japan - with a particular focus on the oil and gas industry.

Founder of the Thomas Blake Glover Foundation, Anne Malcolm, yesterday welcomed the proposed renovation work.

She said: “It is very important that the Glover House should be kept for posterity as it’s very important historically.

“Anything that anybody can do to preserve it would be excellent.

“It is important that we keep a record of famous Scots, what Thomas Blake Glover did in his long life was amazing.”