William Swan was born in Edinburgh in 1818 to David Swan, an engineer,and Janet Smith. When David Swan died in 1821, William became his mother’s chief focus and Janet Smith was acquainted with Thomas Carlyle the philosopher. William’s maternal uncle was Robert Stevenson, the lighthouse engineer.
William was educated privately in Edinburgh, became a science tutor, taught mathematics and physics in the Free Church Normal School in Edinburgh and taught those same subjects at the Scottish Naval and Military Academy in Edinburgh. He then was appointed Professor of Natural Philosophy at St Andrews University, before retiring due to ill health in 1880.
Professor Swan received honorary degrees from Edinburgh and St Andrews Universities and was a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
Professor Swan married Georgina Cullen in 1859 but they had no children.
Georgina died at Ardchapel in 1882:
Fifeshire Journal 13 April 1882
‘At Ardchapel, Dumbartonshire, on the 8th inst., Georgina Frances Downie Cullen, wife of William Swan, LLD, Emeritus Professor in the University of St Andrews’.
Professor Swan died at Ardchapel in 1894:
Dundee Courier 2 March 1894
‘Emeritus Professor Swan who held the Chair of Natural Philosophy in St Andrews University for twenty years, died yesterday after a short illness at his residence, Ardchapel, Shandon, Dunbartonshire’.
Ardchapel was advertised as for sale 2 months later:
The Scotsman 2 May 1894
‘Desirable coast residence for sale.
For sale by public roup, within the Faculty Hall, Saint George’s Place, Glasgow, on Wednesday 9th May 1894, at 2 o’clock afternoon (unless previously disposed of privately), Ardchapel, Shandon, the residence of the late Professor Swan, LLD, beautifully situated on the shores of the Gareloch. The buildings, which are substantial, and in good order, consist of (1) two storey villa, containing 3 public rooms, 5 bedrooms, 2 dressing-rooms, 2 bathrooms (hot and cold water), kitchen, scullery, servants’ room and other accommodation; (2) coachman’s house, 3-stalled stable, 2 coach-houses, harness-room, large hay loft, byre etc and washing-house and laundry (3) entrance lodge containing 2 rooms etc.
The grounds extend to about 5 1/2 acres, well laid out in ornamental plots and garden ground, with conservatory, vineries etc. There are also many valuable trees and shrubs in the gardens. Feu-duty £44. The whole property is in excellent order and forms a most desirable coast residence.
For further particulars and orders to view, apply to R & J M Hill, Brown & Co, Writers, 41 West George Street, Glasgow’.
Professor Swan and Georgina Cullen are buried in Warriston Cemetery in Edinburgh: