Dumbarton Rock on the Clyde
Research by Anne Fielding
Sam Bough is one of the most celebrated and prolific British landscape painters of the
late 19th century. Bough was born in Carlisle and became a theatre scene painter in Manchester and Glasgow before moving to Edinburgh in 1855. On arrival in the city, Bough, a Bohemian character whom John Phillip depicted looking like a 'gypsy king or brigand chief' (S Gilpin, p99) declared, 'I found I couldn't stand Edinburgh, so at the end of the week I mizzled and went with Alick (Fraser Jr) to Cumberland and Westmorland.' (ibid p96) He affected a bluff, genial persona, drinking heavily and talking plainly. Bough was encouraged to take up landscape painting by Daniel McNee.
Previously Bough had lived in Hamilton and worked extensively in Cadzow Forest with Alexander Fraser and Horatio McCulloch, his great friend and rival, with whom he nursed a long-standing feud over a wager. He was wild and erratic but his work could be brilliant.
Bough settled in the capital, in Jordan Lane, and executed some of his most significant Edinburgh pictures circa 1862. His memory was legendary, particularly for cloud and atmospheric effects, and these are put to full use in the light summer sky, foliage and dappling sunlight. One of Bough’s great strengths and passions was the observation of weather and cloud formation. So excited was he by painting the weather that he would obtain reliable forecasts from one of the principal fishmongers of Edinburgh. Bough frequently painted the coast and it was as much the fisherfolk that drew him as the picturesque villages and boats. Bough’s contemporaries admired his paintings, finding them to be like the man himself, masculine and powerful but sometimes ‘common’.
Samuel Bough died in 1872 and was buried in Dean Cemetery, Edinburgh. R L Stevenson penned a glowing obituary of him. 'A painting by Bough was an act of dashing conduct like a capture of a fort in war.'
Two teams of horses ploughing, with the Clyde Estuary, Dumbarton Rock and the mountains in the background. This painting is a characteristic Bough work; its expressive sky and calm sea convey the grandeur of nature using a limited, grey-toned palette contrasting with the ochre and brown tones of the ploughman and the field.
Standing at 240 feet (73 metres) high, Dumbarton Rock is a volcanic plug of basalt which infilled the crater of a volcano that was active approximately 340 million years ago. From its twin peaks, White Tower Crag and the Beak there are breathtaking views over the Clyde, Loch Lomond and Argyll.
The recorded history of Dumbarton Castle, which stands on the rock, guarding the point where the River Leven joins the River Clyde, goes back 1500 years. At that time the place was known as Alt Clut (Rock of the Clyde). Later it became known by the Gaelic name, Dun Breatann (Fortress of the Britons), from which the name Dumbarton, the town on the north bank, is derived. A medieval castle was built in 1220 and in the later centuries it became a mighty garrison fortress, its defences packed with guns. It saw military action as recently as World War II.
Mary Laurie, born 1862, and William, born 1873, were siblings born to their Scottish parents, James Orr, 1832-1896, and his wife, Mary, nee Niven, 1832-1904, who had married in Irvine, North Ayrshire. Irvine is not far from Dumbarton Rock, the subject of the donated painting by Samuel Bough.
By 1861 James, a cotton manufacturer, had moved to Chorlton, Manchester, where he raised his family of eight children, all of whom were born in Chorlton, with the exception of Cuthbertson Orr, who was born in St Annes in 1875. In the 1871 census the family were living at Gambra Terrace, Rusholme, Chorlton but then moved to 4 Lowther Terrace, Lytham. When James died at West Bourne, North Promenade, St Annes on Sea, he left £106,722.
In 1901 Mary, then a widow, lived at 3 North Drive, St Annes with her children, Mary Laurie, Lilian Jane, Cuthbertson and William James, who was described as a "cotton spin manager".
In 1902 William married Kathleen Marguerite Leigh, 1881-1939, at Chorlton Registry Office. She was the daughter of Sir Joseph Leigh, 1841-1908, a prominent figure having been a millowner, magistrate, Liberal MP and Councillor. It is likely the couple met on the Fylde, as in 1901 she was living with her parents and eight servants at 26 North Promenade, St Annes on Sea. In 1911 the married couple were living at Friars Croft Park Drive, Hale, Cheshire, with their children, James Angus and Kathleen Mary, and servants.
William became Chairman of the Lancashire Cotton Corporation Ltd in 1932.
Kathleen died in 1939 and the register that year showed William living alone with his staff at Plovers Moss, Sandiway, Delamere, Northwich, Cheshire, his last address. When he died in 1963 he left £40,901 in his will.
In the 1911 census, Mary Laurie Orr was described as single and living on private means with her mother, her unmarried siblings, Cuthbertson and Lilian, and their servants at 4 St Georges Square, St Annes. The 1939 register showed her still living there with her servants. She died on 24 November 1943 at Kentdale Nursing Home, Kendal, Westmorland, leaving £9589. Probate was granted to her brother, William. Their brother, Cuthbertson died the same year on 4 October.
Gilpin, S, Sam Bough RSA, his life and works, pub London 1905
Municipal Art Gallery File No.1
Letter from William J Orr, 8 July 1944, donating the painting Dumbarton Rock on the Clyde in memory of his sister Mary