James Ramsay-Gibson-Maitland

Sir James Ramsay-Gibson-Maitland, 4th Baronet (29 March 1848 – 9 November 1897) was a Scottish aquaculturist who dedicated his life to experimenting on the practices of husbandry in fish. He gained recognition for his work by being awarded several diplomas.[1]

Sir James Ramsay-Gibson-Maitland, 4th Baronet
Born29 March 1848
Died9 November 1897
EducationUniversity of St Andrews Royal Military College, Sandhurst
Known forFather of Scientific Aquaculture
Notable work
The History of Howietoun Part I
Spouse(s)Fanny Lucy Fowke Ramsay-Gibson-Maitland
Children2 daughters

Mary Ramsay-Gibson-Maitland

Sybile Ramsay-Gibson-Maitland
RelativesBrother of

William Forbes Ramsay-Gibson-Maitland Keith Ramsay-Gibson-Maitland

and three sisters (names unknown)
AwardsSeveral diplomas in fish culture A gold medal in 1883 and 1885 from the International Fisheries Exhibition, Edinburgh

Early lifeEdit

James Maitland was born on 29 March 1848, his father was Sir Alexander Ramsay-Gibson-Maitland of Clifton Hall,[1] and his mother was Thomasina Maitland (née Hunt), and two brothers William and Keith.[2] Sir Anthony was a descendant of the Earl of Lauderdale; however, it was through his father's marriage to Susan Ramsay that he inherited the Ramsay title and lands, as all other male descendants were deceased.[1] Sir Anthony became the 3rd Baronet of Barnton, Sauchie and Bannockburn.[1]

James was educated at St Andrews University before leaving to attend the Royal Military College at Sandhurst; however, after joining the army and becoming a Captain in the Highland Borderers, he left after one year.[1] He married Fanny White, daughter of Sir Thomas Woollaston White, 2nd Baronet of Tuxford and Wallingwells in 1869, near Nottingham, and they moved to Craigend in 1873.[1] James and Fanny had two daughters.[2]

Howietoun FisheryEdit

Howietoun Fishery was established in 1873, Maitland had previously been experimenting in another site; however, the site was prone to flooding which meant that Maitland and a team of men had to try and recapture the escaped Swiss trout.[1] Howietoun was an ideal spot as it had a water supply from Lake Coulter and a steady supply of spring water also.[3]

Maitland believed that fish could be raised in a similar way as farm animals, in that animal husbandry could also be successful when applied to a fishery.[1] Maitland's approach to experimentation was a scientific one; he would only change one variable during an experiment and then would hypothesise how the outcome had happened.[1] This meant that he was able to work out that breeding young stock of fish gave a result of weak offspring; instead, he realised older stock must be used to gain strong offspring.[3] He worked out that the female fish must be stripped of their eggs and male milt collected in October; he then worked on hatching boxes for the live ova.[1] After the fry hatched, then they were transferred to rearing boxes before being transferred to plank ponds.[1] Maitland was meticulous in writing up his experiments; this means that every change that he made in the diet, transport and selective breeding of the fish was documented.[4] There are even pictures with measurements of the instruments Maitland was inventing to make rearing fish easier.[4]

Maitland also experimented on the diet of the trout and salmon at the fishery; he worked out that horse spleen when ingested by trout caused blindness and nutritional cataracts.[1] He worked on several options before concluding that the best option for feeding trout and salmon was horsemeat, shellfish and eggs.[1]

One of his most important experiments was finding ways to transport large quantities of live ova, at the time live ova were sent in crammed packages and when they arrived most did not survive, Maitland took three attempts to work out how to insulate the cargo to stop fluctuations in temperature.[1] Successful shipments were then sent to Wellington, Dunedin and Otago in the specially designed shipment boxes that Maitland had designed himself.[1]


The work of Maitland at Howietoun fishery meant that he was awarded several diplomas in fish culture and two gold medals in 1883 and 1885, at the International Fisheries Exhibitions, Edinburgh.[1]

Death and legacyEdit

Maitland died on 9 November 1897, his daughter Mary Steel-Maitland and her husband Arthur Steel-Maitland took over the running of Howietoun.[3] Howietoun Fishery was then amalgamated into the Northern Fisheries Company in 1914 before the Maitland family sold it in 1969.[3] It became a part of the University of Stirling Aquaculture Institute in 1979.[3]

The majority of brown trout re-stocking in Scotland is achieved through the stock of Howietoun Fishery.[1]

Further readingEdit

The History of Howietoun Part I by Sir James Maitland


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q The Story of Howietoun. University of Stirling. Institute of Aquaculture. Stirling: Institute of Aquaculture, University of Stirling. 1989. ISBN 090163686X. OCLC 25074894.CS1 maint: others (link)
  2. ^ a b "Sir James Ramsay-Gibson-Maitland, 4th Bt". geni_family_tree. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e Howietoun Fishery. University of Stirling Library: MKW Design Partnership. 1998. pp. 1–32.
  4. ^ a b Maitland, James (1887). History of Howietoun Part I. University of Stirling Archives: J. R. Guy, Secretary Howietoun Fishery, Stirling. pp. 1–278.

External linksEdit

Baronetage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Alexander Ramsay-Gibson-Maitland
of Clifton

Succeeded by
John Maitland