First Provost of Coatbridge Burgh
John Alexander, Provost of Coatbridge Burgh, has been connected with the coal trade all his life. In his early years he was employed by the Calderbank Company. He later moved to William Baird &Co, Gartsherrie, Iron and Coal merchants, in 1857. In the year 1879 he became a partner in the firm.Mr Alexander , showed his patriotic spirit when he joined the volunteer movement at its inception. He became a Captain of the Lanarkshire Rifles (Gartsherrie) and was promoted to Major in 1864. He continued as an officer until 1869.
John Alexander, although he took a lively interest in the affairs of the district, did not enter public life until 1879. In that year the chairman of the School Board died and Major Alexander was elected in his stead. He had been actively associated for many years in the Gartsherrie Ironworks with Alexander Whitelaw M.P. and David Wallace , the first chairman of the School board.. Thus he had gained considerable information regarding the Education Act.
It became well known that Gartsherrie was the pioneer of technical education in Lanarkshire. Before he left the School Board, Major Alexander's plan had grown into a firm proposal to erect a splendid Technical college (which has since been established by his successor).
Major Alexander was elected as the first Provost of Coatbridge on the 19th March 1885.
Prior to the Burgh Act being passed, Coatbridge had the unenviable notoriety of being the largest and dirtiest village in Scotland. As a village Coatbridge was indifferently paved and its principal streets were like country roads. There were no gas lamps. The sanitary arrangements were by no means perfect. But this feature has been removed. All these improvements were carried out. The sanitary affairs of the Burgh have been placed upon a most satisfactory footing, gas lamps have been set up over the greater part of the town.
Coatbridge has been transformed into an attractive, business-like and prosperous town with an earnest and public spirited Magistry and Council who have erected public buildings of a very high class wherin to discharge the many duties pertaining to the municipality of such a populous and rapidly increasing centre of the great iron industry.