Wemyss Orrok Bulley – East India merchant

Wemyss Orrok Bulley was a young merchant engaged in foreign trade when he joined the first Committee of Management of the Arlington Swimming Club.

There’s a story – rooted in his family’s history – behind his unusual name.

Wemyss Orrok Bulley was born in 1842 in Paisley, the fifth of six children of John Bulley, from Maybole, and his wife Elizabeth Grant, who was born in Dundee. His father was Cashier for the Western Bank.

Allan & Ferguson’s view (1843) of the Western Bank of Scotland in Miller Street. Full image on The Glasgow Story

In 1851 the family residence was at the Western Bank house in Miller Street, St David’s, Glasgow, although the Post Office Directories of the period also have John in the Western Bank in Paisley.

John was 53 and Elizabeth was 40 and the children were:

  • Euphemia, 13,
  • Maria, 12
  • Peter, 10
  • Wemyss, 9
  • Gershom, 7

Also there on the night of the census were Elizabeth’s sister Isabella and brother Gershom, both unmarried, and three servants.

The same year young Wemyss Orrok was recorded in the Glasgow Herald  as winning second prize for Arithmetic in the 13th class at Glasgow High School. But if he achieved any further academic distinctions they have not surfaced in research.

According to a history of the Western Bank on the Royal Bank of Scotland website, in 1850 it had 72 branches, which was far more than any other Scottish bank. But it 1857 it collapsed, losing millions of pounds.

John Bulley died in 1867, when living at 5 West Bank Terrace, Hillhead.

A life in foreign trade

Wemyss Bulley went into business and is described in the census records variously as an East Indian Merchant, a Foreign Merchant and a General Merchant.

For most – possibly all – of his working life he was employed at a Commission Merchants company called MacArthur and Farie. In the 1860 Post Office Directory the company had offices at 46 West George Street; in 1880 it was at 96 Buchanan Street.

In 1871 – the year the Arlington Baths Club opened – Wemyss Bulley was a 29-year-old bachelor living in lodgings at 377 Sauchiehall Street and described in the census as a Buyer in a Foreign Merchants office.

He does not seem to have been an active member of the Arlington Baths for very long at all but he did share an interest with fellow founder Major F W Allan. Like F W Allan, but a little bit his junior, Wemyss Bulley was a member of the 1st Lanarkshire Volunteers.

Volunteer Service Gazette, 26 Jan 1895

He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1878 and retired in 1895 as the Commanding Officer of the company having been awarded the Volunteer Officer’s Medal in 1893 when he was described as Captain and Ag Major. A “smoking concert” was held in the Clarendon Hotel to mark his retirement and he was presented with a “handsome fruit service”.

In the 1881 census he and his sister Maria were recorded at 24 Snowdon Place, Stirling, in the home of their widowed eldest sister, Euphemia Guthrie, and four of her children.

In 1891 he was living alone (except for one servant) at 4 Lynedoch Place. In 1901 at the same address he has been joined by his two Guthrie nieces and three nephews, aged 29 to 36 and all unmarried. In 1911 the Post Office directory still lists him at Lynedoch Crescent but at some time before 1918-19 they moved to 39 Kersland Street.

Even at an advanced age he seems to have retained connections abroad; there’s mention of him in the Sydney Morning Herald of 17 June 1919 where he is mentioned as one of two Glasgow merchants who are the executors of a will of a man called Thomas Prichard, a retired grazier who lived in Ingram, Queensland, Australia

Wemyss Bulley died in 1922, at the age of 80 at 39 Kersland Street. In his will he leaves his property to be divided between his two nieces, Elizabeth Grant Guthrie and Margaret Wilson Guthrie.

So back to the name. His father seems to have been the son of John Bulley whose tombstone is in Maybole cemetery. He is described there as having his origins in Essex and having been the tenant of Attaquin Farm in the parish.  So, the surname is of Essex origin.

But his Christian names are those of his uncle Wemyss Orrok of Orrok, (a minor estate in Fife) who married his mother’s sister, Euphemia Grant, in 1816. The two families seemed to be close. The 1841 census (the year before Wemyss was born) has Elizabeth Bulley and three of her children staying with Wemyss Orrok and his wife at 12 Danube Street, St Cuthbert’s, Midlothian while John Bulley and two-year-old Maria are with his sister and her husband, Peter McMaster, who is a minister at the Manse in Old Street, Girvan.

Although Wemyss Orrok appears in a number of directories in Port Glasgow and Edinburgh none of them give a profession. When he died in 1856 a Mr W (?) Bulley recorded his death.

There’s a bit more about the Orrok name in an 1863 book:

ORROK, a surname derived from lands in the parish of Burntisland, Fifeshire, long possessed by a family of that name, but subsequently the property of J. E. Drinkwater Bethune, Esq. of Balfour. Simon de Orrok is mentioned in the Ragman Roll. The name is supposed to have originated from the rocks on that part of the Fife count, where the lands lie.

The Orroks of that ilk, says Nisbet, for armorial bearings had sable, on a chevron, betwixt 3 mullets argent, as many chess rocks of the first. Crest, a falcon perching proper. Motto, “Solus Christus mea Rupes [Christ alone is my rock].”

The Scottish Nation Or the Surnames, Families, Literature, Honours and Biographical History of The People of Scotland by William Anderson, 1863

Researchers: Eunice Crook and Lucy Janes

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