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David Bruce Esquire

David Bruce started as an agent for SS Narwhal, invested in all manner of cargo, whaling and sailing ships and ended up as a ship owner, also ship and insurance agent, with business interests in Dundee and London.

Subscription value in 1865:

£5

Relative to inflation up to 2018:

£500

Relative to income compared to 2018:

£4000

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Personal details and history

Full name

David Bruce

Date of birth

16-07-1837[1]

Place of birth

Dundee[1]

Gender

Male

Marital status

Married

Name of spouse

Margaret Scott[2]

Children

Isabell Crockatt Bruce b. 07-04-1865; Ann Kirkcaldy Bruce b.10-04-1866; Margaret Scott Bruce b. 4-03-1868; David Graham Bruce b. 18-07-1870; Ethel Beatrice Bruce b. 08-01-1874; Florence Muriel Bruce b. 1878; Mabel Constance Bruce b. 1878; Harold William Bruce b. 14-09-1881

Home address

7 George's Place
Dundee 1861-62[3]

1 Strawberry Bank
Dundee 1864-68[4][5]

4 Douglas Terrace
Broughty Ferry 1869-78 [6][7][8][9][10]

Ethelstone
Ellislea Road
Broughty Ferry 1879-97[11][12]

Age at death:

80 years[13]

Place of death:

Nursing home, London[13]

Date of death:

1917[13]

Buried:

Not known

Affiliations, clubs, offices and related subscribers

Religious affiliation

Married in Congregational Church, Logie[2]

Political affiliation

Not known

Clubs / societies

A member of the Harbour Trust and the local Marine Board[14]: Director of the Mars Training Ship[13]: Navigation School in Dundee - member of a local committee to ensure continuation of a navigation school in Dundee[15]: Agent of Scottish National Insurance Company[16]: Honorary Agent of Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariner's Royal Benevolent Society[17]: Board Member of Dundee Joint Stock Company[18]: Committee member of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution[19]: Member of management committee of Seamen's Friend Society[20]: Director of Chamber of Commerce[21]: Committee member of Union Iron Sailing Ship Insurance Association of Dundee[22]: Presided at Second Seaman's Festival[23]: A director of the Mars Training Ship[24]:

Public offices

Justice of the Peace[25]

Related subscribers

  • Subscriber 140 – James Machan – both Harbour Trustees for the Shipowners: agents for the Shipwrecked Fishermen & Mariners Royal Benevolent Society
  • Subscriber 258 – James Yeaman – joint manager with David Bruce of Dundee Seal and Whale Fishing Company
  • Subscriber   89 – Gourlay Brothers – who built ships for David Bruce & Co.
  • Subscriber   51 – Messrs Cox Brothers – who had a financial interest in The Clipper Line, of which David Bruce was the manager

Career and worklife

Occupation

Agent of the screw steamship 'Narwhal'[3]

Employment

Owner, self employed

Place of work

David Bruce

Work address

East Dock Street
Dundee 1861-75[26]

Royal Exchange Place
Dundee 1867-99[27]

2 Fenchurch Avenue
London 1880-99[28]

31 Albert Square
Dundee

&

10 & 11 Lime Street
London 1899-1906[29]

Career to date:

A young man in his twenties, David Bruce was engaged as a flax merchant / ship agent at the time of making a subscription towards the building of the Albert Institute.

More information

His Early Life

David Bruce was born to David Bruce and Ann Kirkcaldy on 16th July, 1837 in Dundee.[1] He was the eldest of four children: David; Helen Russell; Isabella and William Mark Kirkcaldy Bruce.

In 1841 his parents and family were living in Mid Road, Dundee with David’s father described as a journeyman mechanic.[30] By 1851 David was a scholar and his father was an engineer fitter with the family then living in Law’s Land, Hilltown.[31]

Life by 1858 seemed to be improving for the family as David’s father appeared in the Dundee Directories as a collector for the Dundee Gas Light Company and their home address was 8 Reform Street.

In the 1861 census the family were living at 7 George’s Place. David’s father still worked as a collector for the Dundee Gas Light Company and David was reported as being a flax merchant.[32] However, in the Dundee Directory for 1861 he is described as an agent for SS Narwhal, East Dock Street.[28]

Success beckons

David Bruce married Margaret Scott on the 15th June, 1864 in Logie, Perth.[2] Margaret and David Bruce started married life as tenants of a house at 1 Strawberry Bank.[4]

David Bruce seems to have been an energetic and ambitious man and, from being an agent for one ship, by 1867 he was joint manager of the Dundee Seal and Whale Fishing Co.[33]

In 1869 David, his wife Margaret and family moved to 4 Douglas Terrace, Broughty Ferry. His career seemed to be taking off and, from then on, David became involved in a variety of companies such as becoming the Manager of Anthony Gibb & Son,[34] Manager of Dundee Soap Company[35] and a Director of the East Coast Salvage Company Ltd.[36] He also joined numerous committees associated with the Port of Dundee and its trades, where David must have met some of the most influential and wealthy Dundonians of the time.

The Clipper Line and David Bruce & Co.

In 1874  David Bruce & Co. was founded by:

“a number of enterprising gentlemen interested in the prosperity of the port, have resolved to establish a Dundee Line of Clippers for the East Indian and Colonial Trades. Mr David Bruce, ship and commission agent, as managing owner, has just contracted for five iron ships, of about 1500 tons each, and of the highest class. Two are to built in Dundee by Messrs Alexander Stephen & Sons, and the remaining three by builders in the Clyde. These with the two ships now building at Dundee, will be the first of the new line of clippers.”[37]

Now David Bruce was not only the manager but owner of a shipping line. His brother, William Mark Bruce,[38] was part of the company and  the Cox family backed the venture.

The first ship built for the Clipper Line was the ‘Lochee[39] which was the largest sailing ship built on the Tay up to that time and so her launch was attended by an enormous crowd. The Dundee Evening Telegraph reported that:

“..her manager, David Bruce, put her on the berth to load for San Francisco for her maiden voyage – despite the pessimistic warning of Glasgow brokers that she wouldn’t get a cargo from Dundee. She sailed a full ship consisting of jute goods, linens and 300 tons of pig iron – the largest cargo to leave the Tay. It included what was reputed to be the first shipment of marmalade to the Pacific coast. The ‘Lochee’s’ next voyage was to Australia with emigrants, but after that she was employed mainly in the Indian trade.”[40]

In 1876 two barques were added to the fleet and in the following year another barque was launched. The Dundee Clippers had a good reputation, were well  built and:
“..capable of holding their own with anything afloat in point of speed, under equal conditions. Indeed, one of them the ‘Maulseden’ travelling from Glasgow to Maryborough in 1882 set a record  that was never afterwards equalled.”[41]
Effort and Prosperity

David Bruce worked hard and applied himself to becoming an integral part of the maritime community of Dundee. David’s business acumen resulted in him becoming a house owner in 1879; a two storey villa, “Ethelstone,” in Broughty Ferry, befitting a man of his business acumen and standing. In 1880, although he still had a business in Dundee,  he also opened offices in London. David was now a leading figure in Dundee and appears “to have had connections to the Gilroy, Cox and Baxter families and to other members of the city elite.”[42]

He was still an agent for several shipping lines but in 1889, with the whaling industry in decline, David Bruce also acted as liquidator of the Dundee Seal and Whale Fishing Company and the Dundee Arctic Fisheries Company, Limited. David  seems to have responded to this decline by looking to diversify into different types of shipping, becoming an agent for the Pacific Steam Navigation Company which sailed “Liverpool fortnightly and extra services to Brazil, River Plate, Valparaiso and west coast of South America.”[43]

During this period, the firm of David Bruce and Co was still flourishing, having changed its emphasis, amongst other things, to transporting emigrants to Australia and New Zealand.[44]

Justice of the Peace

Then in 1894 David must have been proud of how far he had come when he took the Oath Of Allegiance as a Justice of the Peace for the County of the City of Dundee and then also as a Justice of Peace connected with the Dundee District of the County of Forfar.

‘”I, David Bruce, Ethelstone, West Ferry do swear that I will well and truly serve our Sovereign Lady Queen Victoria in the Office of Justice of the Peace for the County of the City of Dundee, and I will do Right for all Manner of People after the Laws and Usage of this Realm, without Fear, or Favour, Affection or Illwill. So help me God.”[25]

The end of the Dundee Clipper Line.

However,  towards the end of the nineteenth century when the whaling industry was in decline, the Clipper Line was voluntarily wound up.

‘”NOTICE is hereby given that at an Extraordinary General Meeting of the above-named Company, held at No. 3 Royal. Exchange Place, Dundee on Tuesday the 10th day of June, 1897, the following Resolutions were duly passed; and at a subsequent Extraordinary General Meeting of the said Company, held at the same place on Friday the 2nd day of July 1897, the said Resolutions were duly confirmed, namely:

  • That the Company be wound up voluntarily under the provisions of the Companies Acts, 1862 to 1890.
  • That George Addison Cox, Merchant, Dundee; David Bruce, Shipowner, Dundee; Alexander Gilroy, Merchant, Dundee; James Cox Methven, Merchant, Dundee; and James Nicoll Smith, Merchant, Dundee, be, and they are hereby appointed, Liquidators for the purpose of such winding up, and that all the powers competent to the Liquidators may be exercised by their majority, which majority shall also have power to decide any questions as to which there may be difference of opinion amongst the Liquidators.

Dated this 3rd day of July 1897 ALEX. GILROY, Chairman.”[45]

Perhaps this prompted David Bruce to move to London as in 1897 David Bruce went to live and work there, although still retaining an office in Dundee. In 1898 he advertised his Dundee ships for sale, as suitable for the Antarctic, but was still a shipowner in 1901 when his address was Linden Gardens, Kensington. In 1911, after a long and full working life, he was living in Cranleigh and retired.

Death of Former Dundee Shipowner

In 1917, after a very successful life, David Bruce died and his obituary in the Dundee Courier stated:

“The death has occurred in a nursing home in London of Mr David Bruce who was at one time a well known shipowner and shipbroker in Dundee. Deceased, who was 80 years of age, was a native of Dundee, and was manager of the Dundee Seal Fishing Fleet and also of the Dundee Clipper Line for about 20 years. He was a member of the Harbour Trust and the local Marine Board, a director of the Mars Training Ship and also took an interest in the organisations for the benefit of sailors. Twenty years ago, Mr Bruce went to London, where he had business interests. Twelve years ago he disposed of his Dundee business to Messrs Robert Ritchie & Co, shipbuilders.”[13]

David Bruce’s Legacy

David Bruce was obviously ambitious and was the epitome of the old phrase ‘local lad done good.’ He not only had business acumen and energy but the desire to donate money to a substantial and civic legacy in the shape of the Albert Institute. He also has a personal lasting legacy in that there still exists, in 2018, a firm bearing the name David Bruce & Co.(Shipping) Ltd. in London.

Unfortunately, the original David Bruce & Co. were bombed in 1945 and all the records pertaining to the Dundee days were destroyed but a substantial amount of information still exists in a variety of sources because of the pivotal role he played in Dundee of the nineteenth century.

Sources

  1. 1837. Bruce, David. (Old Parish Registers, Dundee. Births. 16/07/1837. 282/180 118) ScotlandsPeople website.
  2. David Bruce, Margaret Scott (Statutory Registers. Logie, Perth. Marriages. 374/8) 1864. ScotlandsPeople website.
  3. [qq]Dundee Post Office Directory, 1861-62. p.120. Printed by Bowes Brothers. Dundee City Archives.
  4. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1864-65. p.101. Printed by James P. Matthew, Dundee, Dundee City Archives.
  5. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1867-68. p.104. Printed by James P. Matthew, Dundee. Dundee City Archives.
  6. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1869-70. Printed and Published by James Mathew and Co., Dundee. Dundee City Archives
  7. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1871-72. p.370. Printed and Published by James Mathew and Co., Dundee. Local History Centre, Dundee Central Library, via National Library of Scotland.
  8. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1874-75. p.447. Printed and Published by James Mathew and Co., Dundee. Dundee City Archives.
  9. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1876-77. p.464. Printed and Published by James Mathew and Co., Dundee. Local History Centre, Dundee Central Library.
  10. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1878-79. p.114. Printed and Published by James Mathew and Co., Dundee. Local History Centre, Dundee Central Library.
  11. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1879-80.  Printed by James Matthew and Co., Dundee. Dundee City Archives.
  12. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1896-97. p.684. Printed by James Matthew and Co., Dundee. Dundee City Archives.
  13. Dundee Courier. Wednesday 4th July 1917. p. 2. Local History. Dundee Central Library, Wellgate.
  14. Nine trades of Dundee, Mariners and Seamen. (1876-1900) p.5.
  15. Nine Trades of Dundee. Mariners and Seamen. December 1884. (1876-1900). p.8.
  16. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1871-72. p.558. Printed by James Matthew and Co., Dundee. Dundee City Archives.
  17. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1880-81. p.68. Printed by James Matthew and Co., Dundee. Dundee City Archives.
  18. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1874-75. p.41. Printed by James Matthew and Co., Dundee. Dundee City Archives.
  19. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1882-83. p.70. Printed by James Matthew and Co., Dundee. Dundee City Archives.
  20. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1882-83. p.53. Printed by James Matthew  and Co., Dundee. Dundee City Archives.
  21. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1876-77. p.22. Printed by James Matthew and Co., Dundee. Dundee City Archives.
  22. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1884-85. p.35. Printed by James Matthew and Co., Dundee. Dundee City Archives.
  23. Nine Trades of Dundee. Mariners and Seamen. December 1884. (1876-1900). p.5.
  24. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1884-85. p.54. Printed by James Matthew and Co., Dundee. Dundee City Archives.
  25. Justice of the Peace (Dundee) - Oath of Allegiance (JP 32/1/2). (1894). p.32. Dundee City Archives.
  26. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1867-68. p.21. Printed by James Matthew and Co., Dundee. Dundee City Archives.
  27. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1871-72. p.80. Printed by James Matthew and Co., Dundee. Dundee City Archives.
  28. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1880-81. p.114. Printed by James Matthew and Co., Dundee. Dundee City Archives.
  29. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1898-99. p.178. Printed and Published by James Mathew and Co., Dundee. Local History Centre, Dundee Central Library.
  30. 1841. Bruce, David. (Census 282/67/1). p.1. ScotlandsPeople website.
  31. 1851. Bruce, David. (Census 282/49/28). p.28. ScotlandsPeople website.
  32. 1861. Bruce, David. (Census 282/114/3). p.3. ScotlandsPeople website.
  33. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1867-68. p.105. Printed by James Matthew and Co., Dundee. Dundee City Archives.
  34. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1869-70. p.19. Printed by James Matthew and Co., Dundee. Dundee City Archives.
  35. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1869-70. p.125. Printed by James Matthew and Co., Dundee. Dundee City Archives.
  36. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1884-85. p.73. Printed by James Matthew and Co., Dundee. Dundee City Archives.
  37. Dundee Courier. Friday, 31 July 1874. p.2. Local History, Dundee Central Library, Wellgate.
  38. 1846. Bruce, William Mark. (Old Parish Registers,Dundee. Births. 11/12/1846. 282/190 281 ) ScotlandsPeople website.
  39. The Ingram Papers - Dundee Fleets. D31101. p.3. Local History, Dundee Central Library, Wellgate.
  40. The Ingram Papers - Dundee Shipbuilding. D31093. p.4. Local History, Dundee Central Library, Wellgate.
  41. The Courier - Mail (Brisbane). Saturday, 27 January 1934. p.18.
  42. Courier and Advertiser. (Perth and Perthshire Edition) 14 May 2016. p.3. British Newspaper Archive website.
  43. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1895-96. p.107. Printed by James Matthew and Co., Dundee. Dundee City Archives.
  44. The Ingram Papers -  Dundee Shipbuilding. D31093. p.62. Dundee Telegraph extract (Saturday 22 November, 1952) Local History, Dundee Central Library, Wellgate.
  45. Edinburgh Gazette. 6 July 1897, p.641. British Newspaper Archive website.

The information above about David Bruce has been collated from a range of digital and hard copy sources. To the best of our knowledge it is correct but if you are relying on any information from our website for the purpose of your own research we would advise you to follow up the sources to your own satisfaction. If you are aware of an inaccuracy in our text please do not hesitate to notify us through our Contact page.