William Burrell and Isabella Guthrie married in 1856[i] and had nine children, one of whom was to become Sir William Burrell (SWB), ship owner and art collector. There were three other sons and five daughters. Three of the daughters got married, one remained a spinster, and the fifth died at the age of six. But what of the brothers?
They were George Burrell, who joined with SWB in the Burrell & Son shipping business, Adam Guthrie Burrell, and Henry Stuart Burrell.
Note: to avoid confusion brothers George, Adam and Henry will always appear in bold. Sir William Burrell will always be referred to as SWB.
George Burrell was the first of the nine children, being born on the 19th November 1857 at 3 Scotia Street, Glasgow.[ii] In the 1871 census he and brothers Adam and SWB were recorded as attending school in Abbey Park, St Andrews.[iii]
He joined the family firm Burrell & Son in 1872, age fifteen[iv], being described as a forwarding agent’s clerk in the census of 1881[v] and was first listed in the Post Office Directories in 1884.[vi] George’s grandfather, also George, had started the business sometime in the early 1850s. From the time of his marriage in 1831 to 1855 he had been described as a clerk, in what business is not specified in any of the registration documents or censuses pertaining to him. However in his first entry in the P.O. Directory of 1856-57 he is described as a shipping agent,[vii] the following year’s directory containing the first entry of Burrell & Son, when son William (senior) joined him.[viii]
There is some evidence to suggest that grandfather George and William (senior) had been involved in the shipping business as early as 1851. In the census of that year a William Burrell is recorded as lodging with John McGregor, lock keeper on the Forth and Clyde Canal near Camelon. He was age 20, born in Glasgow, (William Burrell senior was born in January 1832 in Glasgow[ix]), and was a shipping agent, strong circumstantial evidence that this is George and SWB’s father William.[x] Additionally William senior’s brother Henry is recorded in the 1861 census as a ship agent in Grangemouth, providing the company with representation at both ends of the canal.[xi]
George married Anne Jane McKaig on the 19th December 1883 at the bride’s family home, 30 New Sneddons, Paisley. Her father was Thomas McKaig, a brick builder, her mother was Helen Hillcoat.[xii] George and Anne had five children, William, Thomas, Gladys, Isobel and Gordon, all born at Ravenswood House, Langbank between 1885 and 1895.[xiii]
His eldest son William was educated at Glasgow Academy and Uppingham, subsequently working for Burrell & Son. He was a keen rugby player and played with the West of Scotland Club. At the start of WW1 he joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) as a despatch carrier attached to the Motor Boat Service. Later that year on the 18th November, the boat he and three other officers were travelling in capsized on Loch Ewe and he and two of his fellow officers drowned.[xiv]
Thomas also played rugby and played a trial match for Scotland. He was perhaps better known as a golfer having won the Scottish Amateur Championship at Troon in 1923 and had played for Scotland against England in 1924.[xv] During the war he served with the Highland Light Infantry, attaining the rank of Captain.[xvi].
The youngest brother Gordon (middle name George but subsequently became Fitzgeorge), joined the RNVR in 1917 as a sub lieutenant, was assigned to various depot ships (Hermione, Egmont) heading for Port Said in Egypt, (not sure if he went there) and was demobbed as lieutenant in December 1918.[xvii]
Following his father’s death in 1885 George and SWB took over the running of the company business. It had been their father’s intention that his four sons would be involved in the company, and at least initially it seems all were.[xviii] However for a variety of reasons which will be examined later Adam was no longer with the company by 1892, and Henry left around 1897.
George was the technical man of the business whilst SWB took care of finance, their joint expertise significantly improving the company’s performance.
An interesting demonstration of their roles, and how they may be confused, occurred in a court case of 1897 when they sued the shipbuilder Russell and Co of Glasgow for £40,000. The case opened on the 24th June 1897 at the Court of Session, with Burrell & Son being represented by the Solicitor-General. It lasted almost 3 years, concluding with an appeal to the House of Lords.
In 1893/94 Burrell & Son contracted Russells to build four cargo ships. The contract specified straight keels, in the event the ships were built with cambered keels. The effect of this change was to increase carrying capacity, however it also increased draught, making docking of the ships problematic and dangerous, and in some cases impossible.
The shipbuilder’s position was that Burrell & Son had proposed or agreed the change to improve capacity. This resulted from conversations as to whether the shipbuilder’s initial planning and modelling of the ships would achieve the contracted cargo capacity. At a meeting with SWB (not George) they said that it would, SWB disagreed saying his expert (unnamed) indicated that there would be a capacity shortfall, that now was the time to increase the ships dimensions, and offered £4, a significant sum, for every ton the cargo capacity was increased.
The evidence given for the most part was very technical with both sides bringing forth expert witnesses. Additionally various Russell personnel stated that they had overheard cambering being discussed/instructed by both Burrells and their engineering superintendent James Stewart at various times and that as the ships were being built it was easy to see the cambering.
In the event judgement was given against the Burrells with the judge stating that they had presented a good case however he believed the shipbuilder’s employees evidence to be true as otherwise the managing partner Mr. Lithgow would have had to persuade a large number of people to lie and perjure themselves.
He went on to say that he believed SWB did not know of the cambering (thus ignoring SWB’s financial incentive which was not disputed) but George Burrell and his superintendent Mr Stewart did and that Russells acted in accordance with their instructions. Expenses were awarded to the shipbuilder.
Burrell & Son appealed, however on the 23rd December 1898 it was dismissed by a majority, one law lord dissenting. Burrell then appealed to the House of Lords and on the 2rd March 1900 judgement was finally given in their favour. One major reason given by the Lord Chancellor for the reversal was that he could not perceive any motive for Burrell and Son wanting to camber the ships keels and that the camber had been done by the shipbuilder because they had originally miscalculated. The Lords also chose to disbelieve some of Russell’s employees’ testimony, thus “removing the stain on Mr Stewart and George Burrell’s reputations”. Damages awarded were £16,000 with the defendants liable for all expenses.[xix]
In 1891 George and SWB applied to become members of the Merchants House of Glasgow. In the applications book there is a comment simply saying “Lord Dean to make enquiry”.[xx] In the event it appears neither became members. He did become a member of the Glasgow Art Club in 1891, remaining so until 1913. SWB joined the club in February 1893 but resigned in October of the same year.[xxi] He did however become an honorary member in 1946.[xxii]
George became a Justice of the Peace in 1896[xxiii] and by 1897 he and his family were resident at Gleniffer Lodge, Paisley, where he lived for the rest of his life.[xxiv] In 1899 the Glasgow Ship Owners and Ship Brokers Benevolent Association was formed which he joined later that year. Other Glasgow benefactors who were inaugural members were Leonard Gow and William McInnes.[xxv]
Like his brother he was also something of an art collector. He owned work by Degas, Crawhall and Melville, probably bought from Alexander Reid.[xxvi] He also supported the Paisley Art Institute annual exhibition held in Paisley museum. For the 1900 exhibition he loaned the Institute Melville’s ‘Dancing Girl’.[xxvii]
In 1925 the king approved his appointment as the new Austrian Consul in Glasgow, a post he held until he died.[xxviii]
George died on the 8th September 1927 at Ballycastle, County Antrim. His will dated 5th December 1921 named his wife Anne, sons Thomas and Gordon, and daughter Isobel, as his executors. His estate was valued at £253,475 13s 7d.[xxix]
Adam Guthrie Burrell
Adam was born on the 4th June 1859, also at 3 Scotia Street.[xxx] As previously indicated in 1871 he attended school in St Andrews with brothers George and SWB and by 1881 he was working as an engineer draughtsman[xxxi], presumably with the family shipping business.[xxxii] He appears not have been particularly interested in this kind of career which disappointed his father to the point he was left less than his brothers when his father died in 1885. The father’s will specified that once all other bequests had been satisfied the residue of the estate would be divided between the brothers with Adam getting £2,500 less than the other three brothers.[xxxiii] He clearly was not happy with this situation and brought an action against his father’s trustees (his mother and brothers George and SWB), to determine what amount he should have been left (or £5,500), the case being heard in the Court of Session on the 17th July 1886.
Adam gave evidence to the effect that the trustees (effectively his brothers George and SWB) had understated the value of the estate by £90,380 9s 10d resulting in the estate’s residue being less than it should have been. He added that he had successfully managed his father’s ship building yard at Dumbarton from 1882 until 1885 thereby adding to his father’s wealth. During this time he had taken a limited salary on the understanding that the business would ultimately be his. In the event the shipping business in total went to George and SWB, and he received £2,500 less of the estate residue than they did. He stated that he had approached the trustees to try and resolve the situation and get what he felt was his due, however their offer of £500 and a further £2,500 over two years was not acceptable. They also required him and any children of his to forego any possible future claim on the trustees.
The trustees’ response was to disagree with the value of the estate Adam had stated and to say that not only had he a generous salary when running the Dumbarton shipyard, his board and hotel bills were paid as were his holiday expenses. They also said that his running of the yard was poor (injudicious and extravagant) and that he had greatly annoyed and distressed his father which resulted in him taking over the running of the yard. They also believed that their offer to him was greater than his due. The case was settled at the end of evidence by Adam accepting a payment of £3,000 in full.[xxxiv]
Why did the family behave in such a way towards Adam? Was he a reluctant engineer or did he make a hash of running the ship yard? Either way he clearly annoyed his father, with his two trustee brothers perpetuating the situation after their father’s death. Their motives may of course have more to do with money than anything else, which by different means, were not too different when dealing with their younger brother Henry.
One other event which may have added to Adam’s difficulty with his family was his marriage to Clara or Clarissa Jane Scott during the first quarter of 1886 in Ballina, County Mayo in Ireland. It was a civil ceremony with the religious background of either party not being recorded.[xxxv] None of Adam’s family attended the marriage which suggests he was marrying ‘outwith his class’ (Clara’s family background has not been discovered) or perhaps there was a religious issue.
In 1891 he and his family were living at 1 Athole Gardens Terrace in Hillhead.[xxxvi] He is described as a marine engineer which is somewhat at odds with the fact that he had passed his first exam in 1888 at Glasgow University whilst studying to be a doctor[xxxvii]. In 1892 he graduated MB CM (Bachelor of Medicine, Master of Surgery) with his graduation record showing that he had an association with Port Elizabeth, South Africa.[xxxviii] .
In 1893 he and Clara with their family, two sons George, age 6 and Robert, age 3, and daughter Isabella age 5, emigrated to the United States arriving in New York on the 30th May, their expected final destination being Wyoming.[xxxix] One source has it that he did not stay very long in the States but moved on to South Africa, hence explaining the South Africa connection mentioned above.[xl] He and the family then moved to New Zealand, when is not clear however in 1902 he registered as a doctor in the city of Dunedin.[xli]
There is a suggestion that a son, William, was born in Wyoming around 1896. No firm evidence has been established which confirms that, however, if true, it means the family went to South Africa sometime after that date. That view is supported as on the 5th April 1899 son Adam Guthrie Burrell was born in Cape Town. No direct source has been identified for that date however his birth in South Africa is confirmed in his affidavit as one of his mother’s executors in 1945[xlii], and in a trip he made to the United States in April 1960.[xliii]
Adam remained registered as a doctor in Dunedin at least until July 1905.[xliv] Towards the end of that year he moved to the district of Selwyn (East Oxford) in Canterbury where another son, Roderick Scott Burrell was born during the last quarter of the year.[xlv] He continued to live there until his death on the 15th February 1907.[xlvi]
It appears he died rather suddenly as his will was written in hospital in Christchurch on the 13th February 1907. Probate was granted to his wife Clara on the 26th February who inherited entirely. In her affidavit to the court written on the 19th February she declared that the value of the estate did not exceed £100. Originally her affidavit had included the words “in New Zealand” after the value, however they were scored out and the change initialled by her lawyer.[xlvii] Interestingly there is a record of his death in the Cape Estates Death Index in Cape Town dated 1908. This index was used in the general administration of deceased estates.[xlviii] Adam was buried at Sydenham Cemetery, Canterbury.[xlix]
His widow Clara married William Alexander McCullough in 1911.[l] She died on the 28th November 1944, probate being granted to her sons Adam and Rodrick, both of whom were bank officials. Her estate was valued at under £3,300, with sons George and Ronald being left £300 each, and Adam and Roderick sharing the residue of the estate. There was no mention of daughter Isabella.[li]
Henry was born on the 1st April 1866 at 2 Auchentorlie Terrace in Bowling, Old Kilpatrick.[lii] As he never married for most of his life he stayed with his parents, firstly at Auchentorlie Terrace until c.1874[liii], Clydebank House, Yoker until 1879[liv], Elmbank, Bowling until 1891[lv] and thereafter at 4 Devonshire Gardens with his mother and various siblings until 1913. More of why he left Devonshire Gardens later.
As indicated previously his father died in 1885 and in his will he named four trustees, three of whom were Henry’s mother Isabella, SWB and George. William (senior) stipulated that if George and SWB bought Burrell & Son (at a price to be agreed by the Trustees) which they did, then they must employ their brother Henry in the business until he was 24. On reaching that age he was to be allowed to buy into the business.[lvi] That meant Henry had to be working for Burrells until 1890. In the event it seems he started after his father’s death in 1885[lvii], continuing until 1897-98[lviii], the last year he appeared in the Post Office Directory in the employ of William Burrell & Son.
What he did in the following two years is not known however between 1900 and 1907 he successfully submitted seven patents, all of which dealt with aspects of ship building.[lix] They were:
- 7 March 1900 – Improvements in the Construction of Cargo Steamers.
- 17 November 1900 – Improvements in Loading/Discharging Equipment of Cargo Steamers.
- 24 August 1901 – Improvements in Cargo Steamers.
- 31 December 1903 – Improvements in Ship’s Hatchway Covers.
- 11 February 1904 – Hopper Bunker for Steamers.
- 3 August 1905 – Improvements in Cranes for Cargo Steamers.
- 6 June 1907 – Improvements in the Construction of Ships
When submitting his patent applications he described himself as a ship owner. His place of business was initially given as Devonshire Gardens, after 1901 it was at 73 Robertson Street.[lx]
He was re-listed in the Post Office Directory in 1903-1904 at 73 Robertson Street,[lxi] no occupation given until 1909-1910 when he was described as a ship owner[lxii]. From 1911-1912 he was listed as manager of the Straight Back Steamship Company.[lxiii] There is no evidence that he had any connection with Burrell & Son after 1898. Between 1894 and 1898 he had held one or two shares, sold to him by SWB, in twelve single ship limited companies which he sold to Thomas Reid, ship agent, in 1896.[lxiv]
On the 1st February 1912 the brothers’ mother Isabella Guthrie Burrell died of heart failure.[lxv] She died testate with her trustees being George, SWB and Charles John Cleland, the husband of the brothers’ sister Janet Houston Burrell. She left £19036 0s 2d movable estate and in her will dated the 16th December 1901 she gave each of her children a specific bequest with the residue of the estate, being shared by George and SWB. In Henry’s case he was left £2,500. Son Adam was left an annuity based on a capital sum of £2,500, which would be paid for life to him or his wife on his death. In the event a codicil dated the 16th May 1905 changed that to a straightforward bequest to Adam of £2,500. She also empowered her trustees to sell off her heritable property as they decided.[lxvi] That in due course was to be the reason for Henry moving from Devonshire Gardens.
Initially following his mother’s death Henry continued to live at 4 Devonshire, apparently as ‘allowed’ by her trustees. However they subsequently decided that he should leave the house, presumably to sell it, which Henry refused to do saying that he had made a tenancy agreement with his mother prior to her death. The trustees (George and SWB) took the issue to court and won their case, Henry, in the Sheriff’s opinion, not proving he had tenancy of the house. In October 1913 he appealed to the Court of Session without success, the court issuing an order for his eviction.[lxvii]
Henry thereafter is recorded as living at 73 Robertson Street, his place of business.
He was to take his brothers (as trustees) to court one more time, on this occasion the issue was the sale of ship shares. He contended that as trustees they had sold shares to their respective wives on the grounds that they had really been purchased by his brothers or that the sales should be set aside because they were made by the wives of two trustees. He lost and appealed to the Court of Session during January 1915. He lost his appeal and was required to pay expenses. The Judge hearing the appeal said that in each case the price paid was an adequate and even a full one and that the transactions were exclusive of the husbands. He added that no absolute law existed which made it illegal for the wife of a trustee to purchase trust estate.[lxviii] Nothing was said about the morality of the sales.
When you consider how Henry and Adam were treated by George and SWB there appears to be very little brotherly affection at play. It seems their joint objective was always to maximise their personal wealth, fine in business but perhaps inappropriate, even objectionable, at the expense of other family members.
Henry lived at 73 Robertson Street for the rest of his life. He died at the Nordrach-on- Dee tuberculosis sanatorium, Banchory on the 15th July 1924, cause of death was pulmonary tuberculosis.[lxix]
He died intestate, leaving net estate valued at £732 0s 3d, SWB being confirmed as his executor dative in January 1925.[lxx]
As Henry left no will presumably all his siblings shared the estate equally.
If you wish to comment on the post please go to the section after the references below.
[iv] Cage, R.A. (1997) A Tramp Shipping Dynasty- Burrell & Son of Glasgow 1850 – 1939. London: Greenwood Press. p. 9.
[vi] Directories Scotland. (1884-85). Post Office annual Glasgow Directory: George Burrell. p. 164.
[vii] Directories Scotland. (1856-57). Post Office annual Glasgow Directory: George Burrell. p. 63.
[viii] Directories Scotland. (1857-58). Post Office annual Glasgow Directory: George and William Burrell. p. 66.
http://digital.nls.uk/directories/browse/archive/84142953 . There is an error in this entry as it lists William as Walter at 3 Scotia Street.
[ix] Births (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 23 January 1832. BURRELL, William. 644/01 0330 0272.
[xi] Census 1861 Scotland.
[xiii] Births (CR) Scotland. Erskine, Renfrewshire. 1885-1895 BURRELL 563/36, 563/27, 563/25, 563/23 and 563/17.
[xviii] Cage. op. cit. p.9.
[xix] Glasgow Herald. Court of Session 25 June 1897 p. 2e,f,g,h, Court of Session 26 June 1897 p.3g,h.Court of Session 1 July 1897 p. 10g,h, Court of Session 2 July 1897 p.9i, Court of Session 22 July 1897, p.2h, Action against Clyde Shipbuilders 1 November 1897 p.9e,f,g,h, Court of Session 24 December 1898 p.8a,b,c,d, House of Lords 27 March 1900. p.4e, f. The National Library of Scotland. http://www.nls.uk
[xx] Merchants House of Glasgow: Applications Book 8 May 1891. BURRELL, George and William.
[xxii] Glasgow Art Club Membership Book (1954) William Burrell. Mitchell Library Reference:
[xxiv] Directories Scotland. (1896-97). Post Office annual Glasgow Directory: George Burrell. p. 99.
[xxv] Glasgow Ship Owners and Ship Brokers Benevolent Association (1899) Minutes of meeting 5 May 1899 and 1899 year end Directors report January 1900, p.8.
[xxvi] Hamilton, Vivien. 2002 Millet to Matisse New Haven and London: Yale University Press. Appendix 3 p.199.
[xxix] Testamentary Records. Scotland. 11 November 1927. BURRELL, George. National Probate Index (Calendar of Confirmations and Inventories), 1876-1936. Volume 1927, p. B124. Mitchell library, Glasgow.
[xxxii] Cage. op. cit. p.9.
[xxxv] Marriages Index (CR) Ireland. 1st Qtr. 1886. BURRELL, Adam Guthrie and SCOTT, Clara Jane. Collection:
Ireland, Civil Registration Indexes 1845–1958. Vol.4, page 3. FHL film number 101255. https://search.ancestry.co.uk
[xxxviii] Addison, W. Innes (1898). A Roll of the Graduates of Glasgow University. Glasgow: James Maclehose & Sons. p. 80. https://archive.org/stream/rollofgraduateso00addiuoft#page/80/mode/2up
[xxxix] Passenger List for the S.S. State of California, departing Glasgow for New York. BURRELL, Adam Gl.
[xl] Marks, Richard (1983). Burrell – A Portrait of a Collector. Glasgow: Richard Drew Publishing. p.39, 40.
Collection: Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897. https://search.ancestry.co.uk
[xlii] Testamentary Records. New Zealand. Archives New Zealand, Probate Records, 1843-1998. Clara Jane McCullough 1945; Timaru Probate Files, 1871-1997, record number TU6272/1945. Family search digital folder 005514317. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KDTS-M94
[xliii] National Archives at Washington, D.C. Passenger Manifests of Airplanes Arriving at San Antonio, Texas, 1893-1963. Adam Guthrie Burrell 18 April 1960. American Airways, flight number 630. https://search.ancestry.co.uk
[xlv] Births Index. New Zealand. Oxford, Canterbury. 1905. BURRELL, Roderick Scott 1905/17306. https://www.bdmhistoricalrecords.dia.govt.nz and Testamentary Records. New Zealand. Archives New Zealand, Probate Records, 1843-1998. Clara Jane McCullough 1945; Timaru Probate Files, 1871-1997, record number TU6272/1945. Family search digital folder 005514317. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KDTS-M94
[xlvii] Testamentary Records. New Zealand. Archives New Zealand, Probate Records, 1843-1998. Adam Guthrie Burrell 1907; Christchurch Probate Files, 1855 -2003, record number CH5487/1907. Family search digital folder 100814253. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QSQ-G9P9-1CHP?i=220&cc=1865481
[xlviii] Cape Town and National Archives. Cape Province, South Africa, Estates Death Notice Index, 1834-1956. 1908. Adam Guthrie Burrell. Vol. 6/9/508, Reference 11. https://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?ti=5538&indiv=try&db=capeestatesdeath&h=279811
[li] Testamentary Records. New Zealand. Archives New Zealand, Probate Records, 1843-1998. Clara Jane McCullough 1945; Timaru Probate Files, 1871-1997, record number TU6272/1945. Family search digital folder 005514317. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KDTS-M94
[liii] Directories Scotland. (1874-75). Post Office annual Glasgow Directory: William Burrell. p. 118.
[liv] Directories Scotland. (1879-80). Post Office annual Glasgow Directory: William Burrell. p. 132.
[lv] Directories Scotland. (1891-92). Post Office annual Glasgow Directory: William Burrell. p. 167.
[lvii] Cage. op. cit. p.10.
[lviii] Directories Scotland. (1897-98). Post Office annual Glasgow Directory: Henry Burrell. p. 104.
[lix] European Patents Office. Henry Burrell. https://worldwide.espacenet.com/advancedSearch?locale=en_EP
[lxi] Directories Scotland. (1903-04). Post Office annual Glasgow Directory: Henry Burrell. p. 115.
[lxii] Directories Scotland. (1909-10). Post Office annual Glasgow Directory: Henry Burrell. p. 138.
[lxiii] Directories Scotland. (1910-11). Post Office annual Glasgow Directory: William Burrell. p. 642.
[lxiv] Cage. op. cit. p. 92 to 107.
The Scotsman. (1914) Three Scottish Officers Drowned. The Scotsman 20 November. p.5h. The National Library of Scotland. http://www.nls.uk