Messrs Scott & Bell
The mercantile firm of 'Scott & Bell' proved to be a short-lived business, operating for only 10 years between 1858-68. Varying factors culminated in the firm's dissolution, with one partner immediately entering into another partnership, the other abandoning a business life altogether.
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Details and history
Subscriber 35 – W E Baxter – was a brother in law of Patrick Scott of ‘Scott & Bell,’ married to his sister Janet Home Scott
Subscriber 103 – Messrs Henry & Corrie – William Grant Pringle Henry was a brother in law of Patrick Scott of ‘Scott & Bell,’ married to his sister Alice Scott
Subscriber 153 – Robert MacKenzie – was a brother in law of Patrick Scott of ‘Scott & Bell,’ married to his sister Elizabeth Scott
Subscriber 216 – Mrs Captain Scott – was a cousin of the mother of Patrick Scott of ‘Scott & Bell’
The firm of ‘Scott & Bell’ first appeared in the Dundee Directory for years 1858-59, trading as merchants and commission agents from 23 Cowgate. Subsequent locations for the firm were 1 Royal Exchange Place and 10 Bain Square. The firm traded chiefly in linen although further trading in wines etc was also undertaken. The partnership of ‘Scott & Bell,’ merchants, Dundee was dissolved on 8 January 1869.
Patrick Scott, the son of John Home Scott, a writer, and Mary Jobson, was born in 1832. His father died when Patrick was only 2 years old, leaving his widow to raise a family of 5. The family connections within Dundee were numerous. His second cousins, Ann and Mary Thoms married William Bell and Henry Boase, respectively. In 1847, when Patrick was 17 years of age, his older sister, Janet Home Scott, married William Edward Baxter. Although no confirmatory evidence has been found, doubtless Patrick may have gained mercantile experiences from the offices and works of ‘Messrs Baxter Brothers.’
It was surely convenient that Patrick Scott was a beneficiary to the tune of £200 from the estate of Captain Patrick Scott (160 Nethergate, Dundee) in 1856, prior to undertaking his business partnership with Robert Bell.
Little of Patrick Scott’s life has been reported. Being the youngest of the family, he lived with his mother, at 40 Magdalen Yard Road, Dundee for a considerable number of years. After the death of Mrs Captain Scott, Patrick and his mother took up residence in her property at 160 Nethergate. By that time, the firm of ‘Scott & Bell’ had been dissolved. Once again, it was fortuitous for Patrick that he had been made a beneficiary, this time to the tune of £3,000, from the estate of Mrs Captain Scott.
This promised inheritance enabled Patrick Scott to form a new partnership with William Benjamin Simpson, under the style of ‘Scott & Simpson.’ The firm came into existence in March 1869 but its commencement was, by the contract, declared to date from December 1868. Once again, the trading of this firm proved to be short-lived, reports of its bankruptcy being recorded in 1871. The firm had been on unsure footing from the outset, caused by the firm’s defaulting on payments and by Patrick Scott making unilateral arrangements unbeknown to his then partner, William Simpson.
‘Patrick Scott, merchant there, presently residing in Blairgowrie, a partner of said company and a partner of the dissolved firm of ‘Scott & Bell,’ merchants, Dundee, presently in liquidation as such, and as an individual and William Benjamin Simpson, merchant, Dundee, the only other partner of said company of ‘Scott & Simpson,’ as such and as an individual.’
Undeterred, Patrick Scott continued to trade as a merchant and commission agent, on his own account, until his death, aged 48, in 1881, as too did his erstwhile partner, William Benjamin Simpson.
Robert Bell Jnr, the son of Robert Bell, Postmaster in Dundee and Janet Cochrane, was born in 1830. The year after his father’s death in 1857, Robert entered into an unlikely partnership as a linen merchant, together with Patrick Scott, in the firm of ‘Scott & Bell.’ Already in his later 20s, Robert Bell would appear to have had a change of mind and direction towards his working life.
Before entering into business Robert Bell had studied at Edinburgh and St Andrews, with a view to the profession of the ministry. While studying at Edinburgh, it was reported that ‘his mind received a powerful impulse towards philosophy from the great Sir W Hamilton; but his theological course was never completed.’ It also appeared that Robert Bell did not enjoy the best of health. It was declared that;
For several years (1858-68) he lived the life of a business man in this town (Dundee) but the state of his health, along with a strong taste for country life and for literary pursuits, led him to retire from business at an early age on an income no more than sufficient for very modest requirements.’
Robert Bell continued to live at 3 Airlie Place, Dundee during the 1860s, together with 2 spinster sisters, Ann and Jessie, after the deaths of his father and mother in 1857 and 1859. The 3 siblings moved to Barham Cottage near Cupar, Fife after the dissolution of ‘Scott & Bell.’ During the years he spent at the small country house in the Cupar neighbourhood, he read largely in literature and philosophy, both in English and in other languages, and wrote numerous reviews and papers for the daily and weekly press, as well as essays of more importance for magazines.
In the mid 1870s, Robert Bell returned to Dundee after the death of his sister, Ann. His well known interest in education led to his being appointed a Director of the High School. He then became instrumental in the reform of the curriculum within that establishment.
Having studied the education systems of various countries, ‘he sketched the curriculum through which it was desirable that the pupils of the school should pass. After an infinite amount of trouble, the old anomalous and absurd system, under which it was left to the parents to select each year the classes their children should attend, was at last put aside and the curriculum introduced under which the School has of late years made such wonderful growth.’
It could be considered that Robert Bell’s foray into a business life within ‘Scott & Bell’ was a contradiction of his natural proclivities.
In 1881, Robert Bell married Agnes Paterson but poor health forced Robert, his wife and sister, Jessie, to move south to Devon, to a climate more favourable for him. He died at Sidmouth, Devon on 23 October 1885.
The reports of his death were elegiac in tone, declaring;
While thoroughly emancipated from traditional bonds, his mind tended to conservatism both in the world of politics and in that of thought. He was reverent, religious, full of sympathy, thoroughly Christian in the best sense in his views, as well as in his acts. So pure and star-like a soul we shall not readily meet again, so heroic a conflict with difficulties it is rare to witness. There are those to whom the world will be poorer for his having left it.
- Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee, 1861-62. p.202. National Library of Scotland website.
- Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee, 1864-65. p.180. National Library of Scotland website.
- Dundee Courier. 30 January 1869. p.3 British Newspaper Archive website.
- Scottish Post Office Directory. Dundee, 1858-59. p.183. National Library of Scotland website.
- Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee, 1867-68. p.191. National Library of Scotland website.
- Legal Records. Wills and Testaments.Dundee Sheriff Court. (1856). SC45/ 31/ 12. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee, 1869-70. p.205. National Library of Scotland website.
- Legal Records. Wills and Testaments. Dundee Sheriff Court. (1867). SC45/ 31/ 21. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Dundee Courier. 25 August 1871. p.4. British Newspaper Archive website.
- Falkirk Herald. 27 July 1871. p.7. British Newspaper Archive website.
- Statutory Registers. Dundee. Deaths. (1881). 282/1 451. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee, 1880-81. pp.272 and 277. National Library of Scotland website.
- Old Parish Registers. Dundee. Births. (1830). 282/ 160 278. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Dundee Courier. 24 June 1857. p.3. British Newspaper Archive website.
- Dundee Courier. 30 October 1885. p.2. British Newspaper Archive website.
- Census Returns. Dundee (1861). 282/2 15. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Census Returns. Monimail. (1871). 448/ 1 10. ScotlandsPeople website.
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