The Case of the Case

Kirk Lubbes on the trail of a Dougall gun case.

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Guns & Gunmakers|September 2020

I like to have my vintage guns cased in vintage cases with the appropriate vintage labels. I was interested in acquiring a Dougall gun case that was offered on e-bay in England. The case was in rough shape but the Dougall label appeared to be in relatively good shape.

I was fortunate to win the auction (of course paying too much). When the case arrived it was, as advertised …, in rough shape. My good friend, shooting buddy, and restorer of vintage gun cases, Vern Brinkerhoff, looked the case over and pronounced the case really wasn’t worth restoring. Oh well, at least I had the Dougall case label and a Dougall charge card.

This is the point where the story gets intriguing. We removed the labels from the case and began soaking them to separate the old cloth lining from the labels. Unfortunately, the case label was in two pieces. It had been sewn through when a former owner needed to cover the original leather embossed name and address on the case. We discovered that what appeared to be a single Dougall charge card for gun 3518, was actually three Dougall charge cards overlaid one on top of another. The additional two charge cards were for guns numbered 3127 and 2822. The owner of this case had apparently owned three Dougall shotguns, reusing the case and updating the charge cards. [See Figure 1.]

Figure 1

Only the original embossed name and address remained on the case when I acquired it. [See Figure 2]. Would it be possible to find out who James Bulloch was? I turned to Internet to see if I could answer this question. First query: “James Bulloch Esq. London.” I found only one reference [1] to James Bulloch that could be the right James Bulloch. It is a quote from James Bulloch, Esq. of London stating that the Bulloch name is rare in England and that the family is originally from Glasgow. Dougall’s shop is in Glasgow. But what was more important for our inquiry was the paragraph above Mr. Bulloch’s quote.

It read: “The arms of James Bulloch of London are: Ardent, on a chevron guies, three hearts argent, in chief two eagles with wings displayed, and in base a galley proper. Crest: On a mural crown a spread eagle with a cross crosslet in its beak.”
Our Dougall gun case has a brass medallion on the top engraved with an eagle holding a cross in its beak. [See Figure 2.] We are onto to something now.

The second query: “James Bulloch, Esq.” The results, a one-liner in the Gentleman’s Magazine, July to December 1859 [2], quote:
“At Glasgow, James Bulloch, esq., merchant, Akyab, to Hannah, dau. of Peter Clouston, esq. November 15, 1859. This is more evidence that our James Bulloch of London was, in fact, originally from Glasgow, the location of J. D. Dougall’s shop. In the earlier quote, remember he states that his family is from Glasgow. But what is this word “Akyab”? Further research showed that Akyab is the name used by the British for Sittwe, a port city in Burma. Burma? What does “Burma” have to do with our case?

The third query: “James Bulloch.” Now the going gets tough. Unlike the previous two queries which had qualifiers like Esq. or London, the name “James Bulloch” is likely to have a large number of responses that are not our James Bulloch. After mining though a lot of websites, I found a James Bulloch whose dates appear consistent with our James Bulloch and he is from Glasgow. The quote: “James Bulloch, born November 9, 1829. He went to Burmah to the firm of Halliday, MacMillan, & Company, at Akyab, in which he soon became a partner. Halliday and MacMillan retired…, [and the company] became Bulloch Brothers & Company. Bulloch Brothers opened a London branch (J. and G. Bulloch & Co.) in 1866.

Figure 2.

James retired partially in 1874 and completely in 1878. Both firms (Bulloch Brothers and J. & G. Bulloch) have since been united into one firm as Bulloch Brothers & Company, Ltd. There are no Bullochs in the business now. James Bulloch died March 10, 1900. He married, November, 1859, Hannah, third daughter of Peter Clouston, Provost of Glasgow, and had a son born August,1863; died April 28, 1864.” [3]

This is our James Bulloch Esqr. Retired. He was a merchant in Burma. He is living in London in the 1870’s. We can also be fairly sure that the Dougall gun case dates from at least 1878 and possibly as early as 1874. These dates are consistent with the serial numbers on the three guns referenced in the charge cards, as well.

It turns out that our James Bulloch is an important 19th century industrialist, as the further investigation into our case will show.
Bulloch Brothers were the leading rice importing firm in all of Europe [4]. They also owned the Bay Shipping Line which sailed from London to Rangoon, and traded in the Far East [5], providing them with the means to transport rice. In addition, they owned the Bulloch Brothers Engineering and Boiler Maker firm. This latter firm likely provided steam engines to the shipping line as well as engines to support rice processing. They were even contracting with the Glasgow Pottery to produce spongeware pottery with their name on the backstamp [6], probably to sell to Europeans living in the Far East.

Figure 3.

James Bulloch is the archetypical Edwardian gentleman sportsman. He is wealthy and has leisure time, having retired at the age of 45. He can afford the finest guns. It is interesting that he owns three Dougall shotguns over a period of roughly nine years according to the serial numbers on the charge cards (1868 to 1877) [7]. The early guns were likely Dougall Lockfasts. By the mid-to-late 1870’s, Dougall was producing guns with side levers and top levers, although many of these may have been trade guns with the Dougall name. During the 1870’s a great number of improvements were made in the English shotguns. The purchase of three guns from the same maker, over such a short time, may reflect James Bulloch’s desire to have the latest and greatest gun available at any given time. He certainly could afford it.
This ends my tale of the Case of the Case. It illustrates how modern technology, the Internet, can support research into the history of the guns and equipment that we acquire.

After a great deal of work, I was able to restore the case. It is pictured below. It now houses Dougall top-lever, back-action, sidelock, hammer gun, serial # 2045. [See Figure 3.]

Kirk Lubbes

[1] A History and Genealogy of the Families of Bellinger and De Veaux and Other Families by J. G. Bulloch, M.D. Savannah GA 1895, page 73
[2] The Gentleman’s magazine, Volume 207 July to December 1859, page 642
[3] Scottish Notes and Queries edited by John Bulloch, Second Series, Vol. VI July 1904 to June 1905, page 137
[4] From Competition to Constraint: The International Rice Trade in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries by A. J. H. Latham, University of Wales, Swansea
[5] Glasgow, Volume II, 1830 to 1912, edited by W. Harmish Fraser and Irene Maver, page 282
[6] Chapter XVIII— The Litigation following John Bell’s Death.
[7] British Gunmakers: Historical Data on the Birmingham, Scottish and Regional Gun Trade in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries by Nigel Brown, page 106.

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