Basic Biographical Details

Name: James Guthrie Orchar
Designation: Engineer
Born: 1825
Died: 14 May 1898
Bio Notes: James Guthrie Orchar was born at Craigie, near Dundee in 1825 the son of Alexander Orchar, master joiner and wheelwright, and his wife Agnes Kidd: his grandparents farmed at West Ferry on land on which Orchar was subsequently to build his house. At that date the family was United Presbyterian.

Orchar was apprenticed to his father as a joiner but quickly turned to engineering, seeking experience with Kinmond Hutton & Steele at Wallace Foundry in Dundee. While there he took classes at the Watt Institute, becoming a fine draughtsman and watercolourist for a time teaching this himself on a voluntary basis. In the early 1850s he secured a post in the drawing office at Portsmouth Dockyard, returning to Dundee in 1854 or early 1855 as draughtsman to ___ Steele who had set up on his own at Lilybank Foundry, the partnership of Kinmond Hutton & Steele having been dissolved.

In 1856 Orchar formed a partnership with William Robertson, a leading draughtsman under Peter Carmichael in the Engineering Department of Baxter Brothers's Dens Works. They took over the recently-built Wallace Foundry of Orchar's former employer, the now dissolved partnership of Kinmond Hutton & Steele, and were immediately successful. In the following year they were commissioned to design and build J & A D Grimond's Bowbridge Works and John Smieton's Panmure Works at Carnoustie; and in 1859 D Thomson's spinning mill and weaving-shed at Seafield Works, quickly followed by other major complexes at Brechin, Perth and Kirkcaldy. The partners also excelled in the design and manufacture of textile machinery, patents forming a significant part of their income. After about ten years in business both partners were able to build large houses, Orchar's being Angus Lodge, West Ferry which he probably designed himself in association with his lifelong friend Thomas Saunders Robertson of Edward & Robertson.

Early in life Orchar left the UP Church and joined the established Church, becoming a member of the congregation of Monifieth Parish Church rather than any of the Broughty Ferry Established churches. Conservative in politics, he avoided municipal affairs preferring to leave that field clear for his partner Robertson who was provost of Dundee 1875-78. But he was a member of the Harbour Board where his engineering experience brought him election as Convener of Works. In 1886 he was unanimously elected chief magistrate of Broughty Ferry, a title which became provost in 1887. In that year he turned Reres Hill into a public park, entered by three jubilee archways designed by T S Robertson which he paid for and a few years later he similarly paid for the enclosure of a further park, the Orchar Park, on the south side of Monifieth Road.

Orchar was a major force in Dundee cultural life. He was a good violinist and owned two Stradivarius's, one by Guarnerius and one by Amati: these brought visits to Angus Lodge by Joseph Joachim and others distinguished violinists. From quite early in his career he began assembling a major art collection, specialising in the work of the Scott Lauder group and the etchings of James McNeil Whistler and Sir Francis Seymour Haden. At the time of his death he was reported as owning paintings by Whistler, but these appear to have been sold by his executors. Orchar was also the driving force behind the formation of Dundee Art Gallery, for which an addition was made to the Albert Institute in 1873, presenting it with its first picture; and between 1881 and 1890 he gifted at least one major picture each year. In 1877 together with a managing committee he inaugurated annual three-months long selling exhibitions at the galleries which continued until 1896, the sales of £5,000 to £7,000 p.a. attracting contributions by leading London artists as well as Scottish ones.

Orchar married Catherine McNicol. They had one son, James Steel Orchar, who appears to have taken his middle name from Orchar's former employer although the final 'e' was dropped. James Steel Orchar died early without family, leaving a widow Mary Laird, who appears to have been provided for at the time of his death. Some earlier provision may also have been made for his wife's nephew, David Douglas, the son of Catherine Orcharís sister Margaret who had married David Douglas of Scone. David Douglas junior took over the family's interest in Wallace Foundry on Orchar's retirement in 1896 and was charged with the care and development of Orchar's art collection. Davidís sister, Miss Ann M Douglas, lived with the Orchars as a companion to Mrs Orchar and cared for them in their later years.

Orchar died on 14 May 1898 leaving moveable estate of £43,209 16s 10d of which £12,756 consisted of pictures, books and his four violins. A will made in 1891 together with codicils of 1893 and 1896 provided for an art gallery to house his own collection, for which he and T S Robertson had made a sketch design intended for Orchar Park; an Established Church in Broughty Ferry, for which Robertson had also made designs; an endowment for Broughty Ferry's Beach Mission Church; a cottage hospital for Broughty Ferry; and scholarships at University College Dundee in memory of his son. All these were subject to the life rent of his estate to his widow who died on 23 February 1916. At that date the residue of his estate amounted to about £32,000 and the trustees reported that it was not possible to implement his will in full because of the increase in building costs; Beach House was acquired as a temporary home for his collection in 1919, and it remained there until depletion of the endowment brought about its closure in 1982. Since 1986 the collection has been held by Dundee Art Gallery. No personal papers descended to the Trustees but some of his business papers are held in Leeds archives.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this engineer:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 2Wallace Foundry, Dundee, ScotlandBusiness   
Item 2 of 2Angus Lodge, West Ferry, Dundee, ScotlandPrivatec. 1873  

Employment and Training


The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this engineer (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 1Robertson & Orchar  Partner 

Buildings and Designs

This engineer was involved with the following buildings or structures from the date specified (click on an item to view details):
 Date startedBuilding nameTown, district or villageIslandCity or countyCountryNotes
Item 1 of 351856Wallace Foundry  DundeeScotlandAlterations and extensive additions, including turning shop, 1871 and kilns and pattern shop 1882
Item 2 of 351857Bowbridge Works  DundeeScotlandNew buildings as detailed in 'events'
Item 3 of 351857Panmure WorksCarnoustie AngusScotland 
Item 4 of 351860s(?)Albany Works, linen factoryDunfermline FifeScotlandOriginal factory
Item 5 of 351860sCanmore WorksDunfermline FifeScotland 
Item 6 of 351860s(?)Castlebrae WorksDunfermline FifeScotland 
Item 7 of 351860s(?)Pilmuir Linen WorksDunfermline FifeScotlandParts of the works
Item 8 of 35c. 1860 or c. 1870Linen WorksForfar AngusScotlandPossibly
Item 9 of 351861Seafield Works  DundeeScotland 
Item 10 of 351863Johnstone's FactoryEast Wemyss FifeScotland 
Item 11 of 351864Den Burn WorksBrechin AngusScotland 
Item 12 of 351864South Street worksForfar AngusScotland 
Item 13 of 35c. 1864Eden Valley Linen WorksFreuchie FifeScotland'Probably' (HS)
Item 14 of 351865Larchfield Works  DundeeScotland'Probably' (HS)
Item 15 of 351865Pleasance WorksFalkland FifeScotland 
Item 16 of 351867Canmore WorksForfar AngusScotlandAttribution by Mark Watson
Item 17 of 351867Marywell Brae WorksKirriemuir AngusScotland 
Item 18 of 351868Wallace WorksPerth PerthshireScotland 
Item 19 of 351869Gairie Linen WorksKirriemuir AngusScotland 
Item 20 of 351870St Margaret's WorksDunfermline FifeScotland 
Item 21 of 351872Caldrum Works  DundeeScotlandSpinning mill and factory
Item 22 of 351872Dundee Flour Mills  DundeeScotlandOffice and dwelling house
Item 23 of 351874The Victoria Road Calender  DundeeScotland 
Item 24 of 351874 or 1885Camperdown, Calender  DundeeScotlandDesigned the Calender machine (originally in Bowbridge Works) but mioved to Camperdown.
Item 25 of 351876Victoria Works (Castleblair Ltd)Dunfermline FifeScotland 
Item 26 of 351879Trades Lane Calender  DundeeScotlandAddition
Item 27 of 351882Caldrum Works  DundeeScotlandSheds extended to Main Street frontage. Bag factory and mechanics shop
Item 28 of 351883Jamaica Street powerloom factory  DundeeScotland 
Item 29 of 351886Trades Lane Calender  DundeeScotlandAdditions
Item 30 of 351887Caldrum Works  DundeeScotlandSheds extended to Main Street frontage
Item 31 of 351891New Established Church, Broughty FerryBroughty Ferry DundeeScotlandAssisted Thomas Saunders Robertson in design
Item 32 of 351891Orchar GalleryBarnhill DundeeScotlandAssisted Thomas Saunders Robertson in design
Item 33 of 351894Mid Wynd Works  DundeeScotlandCloth warehouses in Hawkhill
Item 34 of 351895Mid Wynd Works  DundeeScotlandFour powerloom sheds
Item 35 of 35Before 1898Unspecified worksKirkcaldy FifeScotland 


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this engineer:
Item 1 of 3Dundee Yearbook1898    
Item 2 of 3Scotlands People Website Wills & Testaments  Dundee Sheriff Court SC45/31/50, 51, 52, 53
Item 3 of 3Scruton, David1988James Guthrie Orchar and the Orchar Collection University of St Andrews 

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this engineer:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 1Journal of the Scottish Society of Art Historybetween 2011 and 2012  Article by William Rough: 'A Cluster of Butterflies: James Guthrie Orchar abd his collection of Whistler etchings and drypoints', pp16-22