Collection MS 97 - James Ballantyne Hannay research papers and family records

Identity area

Reference code

MS 97


James Ballantyne Hannay research papers and family records


  • 1663-1987 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

1.10 linear metres

Context area

Name of creator

(17 June 1911-7 July 1999)

Biographical history

Robert Hugh Stannus Robertson FGS FRSE was a 20th-century Scottish chemist and authority on clay minerals.
He was born in Greenwich east of London, the son of Sir Robert Robertson and educated at Rugby School. He then studied Chemistry at Cambridge University graduating MA around 1930. On graduating he spent some time mapping Dicksonland in Spitzbergen where the glacier Robertsonbreen is named after him.
In 1933 he became the Chief Chemist at Fullers Earth Union Ltd in Surrey then in 1944 moved to Glasgow. In 1958 Robertson moved to Pitlochry where he lived for the rest of his life. His field work was varied and worldwide, including, field work in Iran (Kermanshah, Spain, Greece, and the US, and the United Kingdom.
In 1969 he founded the Robertson Resource Use Institute in Pitlochry and elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh a year later.

Archival history

The records were deposited by Robert H S Robertson in 1986

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Hannay biographica: correspondence, notes and miscellaneous papers relating to research work into diamonds and other minerals carried out by James Ballantyne Hannay, Sir Robert Robertson, KBE, FRS, and others; research into the life and work of James Ballantyne Hannay, mainly by Robert HS Robertson, Dr Einar P Flint and James Revie; publications of James Ballantyne Hannay; papers and correspondence relating to the Hannay divorce and to Mrs Caroline Johnston or Hannay's Trust; papers and correspondence relating to James Ballantyne Hannay's business and legal affairs; papers and correspondence relating to Alexander Hannay's Trust and to property owned by Alexander Hannay including the Prince of Wales Theatre rebuilt as the Grand Theatre Cowcaddens, Glasgow; miscellaneous papers and newspaper articles; photographs and plans 1663 and 1842-1987.


Not expected

System of arrangement

Records are arranged chronologically within series.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Open for consultation subject to preservation requirements. Access must also conform to the restrictions of the Data Protection Act (2018), General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR, 2018) and any other relevant legislation or restrictions. Clinical information is closed for 100 years.

Conditions governing reproduction

Reproduction is available subject to preservation requirements. Charges may be made for this service, and copyright and other restrictions may apply; please check with the Duty Archivist.

Language of material

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

The records are on paper and include photographs.

Finding aids

Descriptive list. Subject source lists and databases are also available.

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

MS 50 Papers of Sir Robert Robertson

Related descriptions

Notes area


James Ballantyne Hannay was born in Glasgow in 1855, the son of Alexander Hannay, who owned the Prince of Wales Theatre and the Grand Theatre in Cowcaddens, Glasgow. James Hannay became a chemist and a prolific innovator, publishing many scientific papers and taking out over seventy patents in Britain, Europe and the USA in addition to forming his own patents company in Glasgow. His best known and most controversial work concerns his claim, made in 1880, to have synthesised diamonds. This claim has been the subject of much subsequent debate and investigation, and findings remain inconclusive. In later years Hannay turned from scientific investigation to explore aspects of the origin and development of religion and he published a number of works critical of the Hebrew Scriptures. James Ballantyne Hannay died in 1931. Robert HS Robertson has carried out extensive research into the life and work of James Hannay and for many years he conducted detailed correspondence with Dr Einar P. Flint, of Alexandria, Virginia, U.S.A., and later also with James Revie, of East Kilbride, with the aim of producing an, as yet incomplete, biography of James Hannay. Robert H.S. Robertson, of Pitlochry, is the son of Sir Robert Robertson, KBE, FRS (1869-1949). Sir Robert was himself a renowned chemist and was the first person to establish that two types of natural diamond existed. He was acquainted with James Hannay's sister, Lady Dugald Clerk, and carried out his own researches into the validity of Hannay's claim to have synthesised diamonds.

Alternative identifier(s)

Access points

Subject access points

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Name access points

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Description control area

Description identifier

MS 97

Rules and/or conventions used

Description compiled in line with the following standards: International Council on Archives, ISAD(G) General International Standard Archival Description; International Council on Archives, ISAAR(CPF): International Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons, and Families; National Council on Archives, Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997



Dates of creation revision deletion


  • English



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