The Perrys: A distinguished Glasgow family

The Perry family was closely connected with the Arlington Baths Club, and were a distinguished family in the city of Glasgow.

May Perry (née Jane Mary Robertina Sim) married local physician Dr Robert Perry in 1872 when she was 21 and he was 42. Their wedding was at Claremont United Presbyterian Church on La Belle Place, though the Church is no longer there.

May and Robert lived all their married life in an elegant house with 10 rooms at 11 Queen’s Terrace – later 67 West Princes Street – very close to the Arlington Baths Club.

Robert had graduated with a medical degree from the University of Glasgow in 1851.

Portrait of Robert Perry 1783 -1848
Picture: courtesy of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow Collections. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA License.

His father, also called Robert (1783-1848), got his medical degree from the same university in 1808. He was a distinguished Glasgow physician who published an influential work in 1844 entitled Facts and Observations on the Sanitary State of Glasgow which demonstrated connections between poverty, disease and crime. There are more details about the book in this article on the University of Glasgow Special Collections website and you can see a copy in the Internet Archive. He was President of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons. Robert, in his will, left this portrait of his father to the Faculty.

The younger Robert Perry also wrote for his profession; in 1866 he published Observations on an Epidemic of Typhus Fever in the Glasgow Medical Journal and in 1868 On an epidemic of Typhoid Fever appeared in The Lancet. He was vice-president of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons in Glasgow from 1880 to 1883 and became president in 1889 until 1891.

In 1909, Dr Robert Perry, by now aged 81, made a brief appearance in the account of the brutal murder of elderly neighbour Miss Marion Gilchrist, who lived at 15 Queen’s Terrace.  Robert Perry was her doctor and at the scene of her murder shortly after it was discovered.  The case was notorious as Oscar Slater, a German Jew, was wrongly convicted of her murder. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was among those who took up his case, and Oscar Slater was eventually released from prison in 1927. You can read more about it and see a photograph of Queen’s Terrace at the time on the National Records of Scotland website.

May was born in Ireland but, at the time of her marriage, was resident in Garelochhead. Her father is described on their wedding certificate as a corn merchant and in a census return as a miller.

In the 1891 census May’s mother was living in The Lodge at Roseneath on the Gare Loch, and the house is mentioned in Robert’s will as part of his property.

May and Robert had five children:

 The family was very involved with the life of the Arlington Baths.

May Perry was the first woman Honorary Secretary of the Ladies Section of the Arlington Baths. She took over the role from Major F W Allen in 1890 and served until 1894.

The two daughters appear regularly in the reports of the Ladies’ swimming galas. In 1888 Ethel came second in the Clothes Race while in 1889 Hilda competed in the 140 yards Fast Swimming Invitation Race and in the Dive and Catch Cork competition, finishing in second place in both of them.

Ernest was also a member of the Baths both as a child and as an adult.

None of the three Perry sons became doctors like their father or grandfather; instead they all went on to study engineering.

Robert died on 4 January 1918 and is buried in Sighthill Cemetery. The Glasgow Herald on Saturday, January 5th 1918, published a death notice stating: “PERRY.- At 11, Queen’s Terrace, W., on the 4th. inst., Robert Perry, M.D., in his 91st year.- Funeral from St. Mary’s Cathedral to Sighthill on Monday at 2 o’clock; friends wishing to attend are requested to notify Messrs. Wylie & Lochhead; no flowers.”

In the 1918 electoral roll May was still living at the family home in West Princes Street (listed as Jane Perry) along with her daughters Mrs Hilda M Storer and Ethel Perry, who was marked as an absent voter because she was on war service with the V.A.D. (Voluntary Aid Detachment). All three were entitled to vote in parliamentary, town council, parish and school board elections.

Not long afterwards May moved to Swanage in Dorset. She died in 1931.

Additional sources used:

  • ancestry.co.uk
  • findmypast.co.uk
  • scotlandspeople.gov.uk
  • Arlington Baths Club archive in the Glasgow City Archives

If we find more information we shall update this page. If you have any more information please get in touch.

Researchers: Eunice Crook, Lucy Janes

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