Bruntons In History

I have collected here some of the more prominent Bruntons that have left their mark on history in one form or another. This information is displayed for interests sakes only and does not constitute a comprehensive list of well known Bruntons, rather those that I am aware of.

Also, a little information about the Brunton family name for those that are interested. The name originates from a quiet little place in Scotland also named Brunton, which is in the county of Fife. The name itself comes from a combination of two words, firstly a corruption of the old Gaelic word burna (stream) and the Saxon word tun (community).

The Brunton motto is "Lux et Salus" meaning Light and Safety as shown in the Family Achievement :

Brunton Family Achievement


Ann Brunton (1769-1808)

A London born actress, Ann grew up there and in Norwich, where her father later managed the Theatre Royal. She made her stage debut in Bath in "The Grecian Daughter" of 1785. Subsequent highly successful performances there and in Bristol led to her London debut in "The Roman Father" in 1785. In 1791 she married Robert Merry, leader of the Della Cruscan group of minor English writers. In 1792 she retired from the stage, but by 1796 her husband's extravagance necessitated her acceptance of an offer from a Philadelphia theatre. Moving to the USA, Ann made her American debut in "Romeo and Juliet" at Philadelphia's Chestnut Street Theatre. Her New York debut followed in 1797. The simple grace, gentleness and loveliness of her voice won her much attention in her career and established her as the reigning female tragedy actor on the American stage. Robert Merry died in 1798 and Ann married Thomas Wignell, the manager of the Chestnut Street company in 1803. He died a few weeks later leaving Ann to manage the company with his partner Alexander Reinagle. Ann married one last time in 1806 to fellow actor William Warren. She eventually died during a Southern tour in Alexandria, Virginia on June 28, 1808.


Thomas Brunton (1774-1833)

Thomas Brunton invented studded-link marine chain cable which replace hempen cables and is still in use today. The studs prevented cables from kinking in use as other types did. His idea was patented in 1813 after which he and his Brother William established a factory in Stepney. Thomas gained much support from ship owners in England and from the French navy. He was killed by a runaway horse.


William Brunton (1777-1851)

William was the eldest son of Robert Brunton, a watch and clock maker of Dalkeith. William was an engineer and inventor who constructed a remarkable locomotive at the Butterley ironworks near Alfreston, Derbyshire, in 1813. William fitted his loco with a pair of mechanical feet which gripped the rails at the rear of the engine and so pushed it forward with a jerky, shuffling gait. Hence it became known as the "mechanical traveller" or "steam horse". Far from being a complete failure, as many writers assert, the mechanical traveller was transported to the Newbattle Colliery, County Durham and during the year 1814 it was employed hauling loads up a 1 in 36 gradient. After functioning successfully through the winter of 1814, William Brunton’s mechanical traveller came suddenly to a disastrous end. Owing to some carelessness on the part of the driver the wrought iron boiler exploded. Apparently some sort of demonstration was being given, for a number of interested spectators were present at the time, and of these, 13 were killed and several others were injured by the fragments of flying metal. Brunton at once dropped his interest in his mechanical traveller and legged locomotives were never again constructed. William went on to make some of the original steamship engines which were used in vessels on the Humber and the Trent. He also constructed the steam engine which powered the first Liverpool ferry. Ten years later, whilst a partner in the Eagle Foundry, Birmingham, he designed and constructed a marine engine for the "Sir Francis Drake", which vessel he fitted at Plymouth.


Mary Brunton (1778-1818)

A Scottish novelist, Mary Balfour was born on the island of Varra, Orkney. She married Alexander Brunton the minister of Bolton in Haddingstonshire and later professor of oriental languages at Edinburgh. Mary authored two novels, popular in their day; "Self Control" in 1810 and "Discipline" in 1814. A posthumous fragment, "Emmeline" was published in 1819.


Richard Henry Brunton (1841-1901)

Born in the Coastguard House at Muchalls (a village just south of Aberdeen in Scotland) on the 26th December, Richard was the son of a retired Naval Officer who, at the time, was the Chief Coastguard Officer and a writer of sea stories. Richard graduated from public a school and began his career as a senior assistant Civil Engineer for a railroad company. In February 1868 Richard was elected an Associate of the Institute of Civil Engineers who recommended him to the Board of Trade who in turn, only two months later, appointed him Chief Engineer to the Lighthouse Department of the Japanese Government. The Japanese required assistance with lighthouse design and construction in order to introduce a lighthouse system into Japan to be modelled on the Scottish one. By 1876 Richard had established two lightships, thirteen buoys, three beacons and over 50 lighthouses. His efforts and achievements in the creation of the Japan lighthouse and lifeboat service were outstanding and of great importance for the safety of life at sea and navigation in Japanese waters. He also established training schools and systems based on the Northern Lighthouse Board of Scotland. The building techniques were adapted to account for the earthquake prone country by using stabilising bars and in a few cases even constructing the entire lighthouse in metal. On his return to Britain, in 1876, Richard had been made a Fellow of the Geological Society and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. He spent three years as manager of Young’s Paraffin Oil Company in Glasgow followed by fifteen years as an architect and engineer in London where he died and was buried.


Sir Thomas Lauder Brunton (1844-1916)

Eminent Physician and Pharmacologist of Hiltonshill, Rox-burgshire. Sir Thomas identified the relationship between high blood pressure and angina pectoris, further discovering that amyl nitrate relieved the angina. He was the first to suggest use of operations for the treatment of Mitral stenosis being a narrowing of the outflow path from the heart's left ventricle.


Robert F Brunton (1848-1898)

LORD BRUNTON DEAD A Well Known Theatrical Man Expires in Chicago.

Robert F. Brunton, known in theatrical circles as "Lord Brunton", is dead. He came to Chicago on Sunday with Hanlon's "Superba'' Company and was taken ill soon after his arrival. His body will be sent to London, England. Mr. Brunton was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1848. His first work in a theatre was as a designer of theatrical properties, which was the trade of his father. Early in his career he went to London and while there assisted in making many of the greatest productions of his day. He did work for Sir Henry Irving, Wilson Barrett, Sarah Bernhardt, Mary Anderson and Sir Augustus Harris. His last work in London was in connection with Kiralfy's production of "Constantinople." Since 1891 he had been associated with Hanlon Brothers.

Published in the New York Times on 18th March 1898


David William Brunton (1849-1927)

Born in Ayr, Ontario, Canada, David was a mine manager when he took the initiative to design a hand held surveying compass. Frustrated at hauling heavy surveying equipment into the field day after day, he recognized the need for something simpler and smaller. He desired an item that would fit in his vest pocket but would also be as rugged as the country that he worked in. David designed the pocket transit, a hand held surveying compass that could also measure horizontal angles. After making several dozen prototypes, David sketched a design and contracted with William Ainsworth, a respected watchmaker, to build it. David died of bladder cancer at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota on December 20th 1927. However, a company bearing his name continues to produce quality instruments of various types to this day.


James Simpson Brunton (1864-1935)

James was the son of John Brunton master gardener at Gilmerton House near Haddington. James worked as an apprentice gardener at Broxmouth Park and then at the Botanical Gardens Sheffield. James opened his own seed and plant shop and then progressed to becoming the editor and then managing director of a horticultural printing firm (Hortus Printing Co.) in Burnley. He became amongst other things Founder of the British Carnation Society and Chairman of the Sweet Pea Society, and President of the Federation of Master Printers’ Alliance of Great Britain and Ireland. James was called upon to judge at flower Shows in England, Holland, France, Belgium and America. James instituted the FTDS (Interflora) in Britain in 1923 and was the founder secretary. During WW1 he helped Belgian refugees in Burnley and was presented with Les Palmes en d’or by King Albert of Belgium. He was awarded a diploma of the RHS for valuable services as advisor and lecturer in food production during the war. He was also one of the founders and first president of the Burnley and District Caledonian Society.


Sir William Brunton (1867-1938)

Businessman and Lord Mayor Sir William Brunton was born on 1 February 1867 at Carlton, Victoria in Australia. The son of David, a mason, and his wife Margaret, William was born into the Scottish heritage of his family along with the Presbyterian religion that often went hand in hand with traditional Scots families. He was educated at Princes Hill State School and, after his father died, was apprenticed in 1880 as a carpenter and joiner. Seven years later William was invited to join his uncle's business, Currie & Richards, manufacturers of galvanized spouting and ironware. William eventually became a partner and in 1918 became a managing director. In January 1913 William entered the Melbourne City Council for Victoria Ward. In October 1923 he was elected Lord Mayor and served three successive terms, voluntarily relinquishing the office in 1926. As chairman of the National War Memorial of Victoria Committee he worked toward the creation of the Shrine of Remembrance. He developed the Lord Mayor's Fund for Metropolitan Hospitals and Charities and in 1926 helped to raise £200,000 for victims of bushfires in Gippsland. William was knighted in 1926 and elected alderman in 1929. Having been a member of the committee of management of the Royal Melbourne Hospital for fourteen years, he resigned as vice-president in December 1936 after a disagreement over the site for its new building. During William's mayoralty, metropolitan growth and the increasing number of motor vehicles presented new problems; while city planning and public works were gravely hindered by the division of authority into some two dozen municipalities and other bodies with limited powers. In 1925, on the suggestion of the minister for public works, the Melbourne City Council convened a conference on the subject of a Greater Melbourne council, with William as chairman. On 14 February 1894 Brunton had married Jessie Wray of Carlton, who became noted for her philanthropy; she died in 1927. On 16 November 1932 in Sydney he married a lifelong friend, Christine Martha McFadden. Brunton had no children but took a great interest in child welfare, particularly the playgrounds movement. As a Presbyterian and a prominent Freemason he was also a keen supporter of the Carlton cricket and football clubs along with the Victorian Bowling Association. William died of cancer on 13 April 1938 at his home, Selkirk, Malvern, predeceased by his second wife. He was buried in Melbourne general cemetery and his estate, valued for probate at £184,367, was largely left to charities. Brunton Avenue, Melbourne, is named after him.


Guy Brunton (1878-1948)

Guy was a British born Egyptologist and Archaeologist who excavated with Sir Flinders Petrie at Lahun as well as at Qau, Badari and Deir Tasa before taking up a post as Assistant Keeper of the Cairo Museum in 1931. After his retirement he relocated to South Africa, the birthplace of his wife, where he died without having completed his work on button seals.


Violet Brunton (1878-1951)

Having been educated at the School of Art in Liverpool, Violet studied woodcarving, miniature painting and book illustration. She won the County Palatine Scholarship which earned her placement in the Royal College of Art in London. The Victoria & Albert Museum houses some of her work including an a collection of the world’s best fairy tales. An exhibition of her work was displayed in the Arlington Gallery in 1933.


Winifred Mabel Brunton (1880-1959)

Winifred was the South African born wife of noted British Egyptologist Guy Brunton. Winifred illustrated many of the objects in her husband's excavation reports, including items from the tomb of Tutankhamen. Her work was carried out in the early part of the 20th century and published as illustrations in two volumes comprising "Kings and Queens of Ancient Egypt" in 1926 and "Great Ones of Ancient Egypt" in 1929. Her work was exceptionally detailed, very beautiful and even haunting in many ways despite the inaccuracies that they contained. However, they were portrayed with the information on hand in her day and could not be faulted in this respect.


Paul Brunton (1898-1981)

A British philosopher, mystic and traveller, Paul left a successful journalistic career to live among yogis, mystics and holy men. He studied a wide variety of Eastern and Western esoteric teachings. Paul always believed he should communicate his experiences with others and in this endeavour he became the first person to write accounts of what he learned in the East from a Western perspective. His writings had a key role in the spread of Eastern mysticism into the West.


Alan M Brunton (1946-2002)

Alan was a prolific poet, accomplished scriptwriter and powerful performer. Having been born in Christchurch in the South Island of New Zealand, he moved to the North Island for his education at Hamilton Boy's High School and the University of Auckland where he gained a BA in 1967. Further education at Victoria University resulted in an MA in English in 1968. Alan spent three years in Europe and Asia, publishing his first book "Messengers in Blackface" in 1973 in London. Having returned to New Zealand, he and his partner Sally Rodwell founded the experimental theatre group Red Mole, for whom he wrote and performed approximately forty-five scripts between 1975 and 1995. Alan spent most of his time from 1978 to 1988 in New York, New Mexico, London and Amsterdam where he died suddenly on June 27th 2002.