Remembering Michael Moss

Michael photographed by John Hume in 1972 attending at the last ship launch in Clydebank


Professor Michael Stanley Moss (1947–2021), who died on 9 February 2021, began his archival career in Scotland in 1970 as Registrar of the Western Survey of the National Register of Archives (Scotland) at the University of Glasgow. His job was to locate, list and rescue historical records held by country houses, businesses, institutions, charities and individuals across the West of Scotland and ensure that important collections of archives were preserved. During the next 30 years during his time as University Archivist from 1974 to 2001 he was to create in Glasgow one of the UK’s largest collections of business archives.


Michael’s article in the 1990 edition of the BACS journal Scottish Industrial History reflected on his time as Western Registrar and his wider thoughts around Business Records in Scotland 1970-1990 (pp.338-346 of this pdf). It includes many of his memorable anecdotes on the hazards & unusual discoveries he encountered – including wartime utility underwear and quantities of pickled fish. In 2017 he shared his experiences as Surveying Officer with BACS for the 40th anniversary of the role. He commented that during this time it was not hard to find businesses to approach, they were closing at an alarming rate. Perhaps the most significant collection that I helped rescue were the records of the companies that made up Upper Clyde Shipbuilders (know colloquially as Unconditional Surrender) which collapsed in 1971. These included those of John Browns, Fairfields and the rump of Stephens. There were many others, such as the locomotive builders Andrew Barclays of Kilmarnock and the sugar machinery manufacturers A & W Smith. Finding space for them all was challenging. It was a privilege to be able to rescue collections from such well-known firms, but also profoundly depressing.


In April 2022, a conference entitled A Re-appraisal of Surveying: A Vital Archival Tool for Contemporary Collecting was organised jointly by BACS, the Business Archives Council and The National Archives, with the support of the British Records Association in memory of Michael on the subject of Surveying. The conference was held as an online event over two half-days (you can see a list of talks in the programme) and we hope some talks will appear as articles in a future edition of the British Records Association journal Archives. It considered the UK and Ireland’s extraordinary track record of successful archival surveying and looked at the many ways in which surveys can not only contribute to the collecting function of an archive but also ensure that the heritage of an organisation, region or nation is appropriately reflected in its archival collections.


As part of the conference, this short film was prepared in memory of Michael with contributions from just some of the colleagues that Michael worked with particularly in the early days but also right through to his work more recently with digital records and his continued enthusiasm for corporate histories. Michael’s contribution particularly to the Scottish business archives sector was hugely significant and he helped shape both the profession and its collections. Our thanks to the following people for sharing their memories of him – Alex Ritchie, Alison Turton, Alistair Tough, Anthony Slaven, Edwin Green, George MacKenzie,  John Hume, Karyn Williamson, Lesley Richmond, Peter Anderson and Tim Gollins.


We hope that if you were fortunate enough to have met Michael that it may chime with your own memories and if not it will give others a sense of the sort of man Michael was – kind, enthusiastic, determined and generous. 


Obituaries for Michael have been published by the Mariner’s Mirror and Archives and Records journal as well as the BAC newsletter. His University of Glasgow Story biography can be viewed here. An obituary will be published by the Business Archives Council of Scotland in our next journal.



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