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1839 The Blairgowrie Boys


Sons and Daughters


"In the mind of every artist there is a masterpiece" - Kai Green

Naming a street after a person is a universally recognised way of publicly honouring that person's achievements.

Have you ever wondered about the people after whom these streets just off Coupar Angus Road, Blairgowrie, are named?

David Farquharson Road

William Geddes Place

George Murray Close

William Dickson Drive

These four Blairgowrie men belonged to a group of artists, mostly self-taught, who achieved fame as artists and whose paintings may be seen in art galleries including Perth and Kinross Museum and Art Gallery.  Some of their highly prized paintings are in private collections, and, from time to time, some appear in auction house sales.

In 2007 Perth Museum and Art Gallery held an exhibition of the work of this group of artists, who would, most likely, have been astonished and proud to find themselves billed as "The Blairgowrie Boys".

Our Heritage staged an unmanned Pop Up exhibition in Blairgowrie Library, Leslie Street, of copies of some of their paintings in September 2018 as part of the Leslie Street Art Trail.  Their work also featured in Our Heritage's Pop Up "Our Famous Sons and Daughters" in November 2019.

With its picturesque surroundings, it is easy to see why Blairgowrie became a favourite place for artists in the second half of the 19th and early 20th centuries.  Many visited the area to paint and several chose to settle here.

So how did it all begin?

Interestingly, it started with another type of painting - house painting and decorating.  George Milne Dickson (1821-1879), father of the artist William Dickson, had a house painting business in Blairgowrie High Street. He encouraged his apprentices including William Geddes, David Farquharson and his own son to paint pictures and to become artists.


David Farquharson was born at Lochside, Blairgowrie, on 17 November 1839.  His parents were Alexander Farquharson, a crofter and market gardener, and Susan Clark.

The 1851 Census records David, aged 14, living with his family at Browns Place, Blairgowrie, and working as an apprentice painter, but, in 1851 David would have been aged 12.

David went on to enjoy great success as a landscape artist, but his personal life was a troubled one.

In 1862, aged 23, David married Mary Irving in Rerrick, Kirkcudbrightshire.  It was there that his daughter Jessie was born in 1864.  The family returned to Blairgowrie, where their son John was born in 1866. Another child, born in 1868, died shortly after birth, and, sadly, Mary Irving died in May 1868, aged 25. Jessie aged 6 and John aged 4 are shown on the 1871 Census living with their maternal grandmother in Rerrick, Kirkcudbrightshire.

By 1881 David and his two children were living in Newington, Edinburgh.  In 1886 the family moved to London and this was followed by a move to Sennen Cove, Cornwall, in 1894.

David Farquharson was elected as an associate of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1882, having first exhibited there in 1868.  From 1877 he exhibited at the Royal Academy and was elected as an Associate in 1905.

David Farquharson died at Balmore, Birnam, Perthshire, on the 12 July 1907 aged 67, and was buried in Little Dunkeld.

He painted landscapes in many locations, and many of his paintings show his love for Scotland and the Blairgowrie area.

For more information visit

To see some of his paintings visit

WILLIAM GEDDES (1840-1884)

William Geddes was born in Blairgowrie, lived all his life in the town, died here and is buried with his parents and other family members in the Hill Kirkyard.

Like David Farquharson, William Geddes worked as an apprentice painter and decorator for George Milne Dickson.  He became well known as an artist who painted scenes from Scottish life as well as being highly regarded for his still life paintings, particularly those of fish.

William Geddes married Margaret Ewan in 1864 and they went on to have eleven children including the artists Ewan Geddes (1865-1935) and Robert Smith Geddes (1883-1951).  In 1874 the family moved to Gowanbrae Cottage, Perth Street, Blairgowrie, where William converted outbuildings into a studio.  He became the central figure of the group of artists who lived locally and those who visited the town, hosting gatherings at Gowanbrae Cottage.

William Geddes frequently exhibited at Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow and was awarded a bronze medal at a Fisheries Exhibition in London for his painting of a group of salmon and trout.

The illness which led to his death in 1884 at the age of 43 was brought on by sitting in the cold and damp while painting a large picture on the banks of the Lornty Burn.

Read more in 'Blairgowrie, Stormont and Strathmore Worthies' by Henry Dryerre.

For more details and a list of his paintings etc in Perth Museum and Art Gallery go to

GEORGE MURRAY (1875 -1933)

George Murray was born on 24 October 1875 in Portsoy, Banffshire, the eldest son of William A.M. Murray, a master cabinet maker, and Marjory Grant.

By 1891 the family had moved to 9 George Street, Blairgowrie.  On completing his education at Blairgowrie High School George was given a bursary to continue his art studies at the Royal Institution School of Art, Edinburgh, where he gained another scholarship to the Royal College of Art, London.

He painted landscapes in Scotland, Italy and Spain, as well as portraits.  Two of his paintings 'Trees at Blairgowrie' and 'The Ericht at Blairgowrie' are in Perth Museum and Art Gallery.

George Murray specialised in mural decoration and mosaic work.  Among his commissions were mosaic domes at Giggleswick Church, the Ashton Memorial at Lancaster and the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank in Shanghai as well as other well known buildings in London.

George Murray died on 5 February 1933 aged 57 at his London home at 10 Girdlers Road, Brook Green, Hammersmith.

To view some of his paintings visit


William Dickson was born on 7 October 1845 in Dundee.  His parents were George Milne Dickson, house painter and decorator, and Isabella Connel.  The family moved to Blairgowrie when William was a small boy. The 1861 Census shows William aged 15, still at school, and living with his family at Bridge Lane, Blairgowrie.  Shortly afterwards he started serving his apprenticeship as a painter and decorator in his father's business.

Encouraged by his father, he developed his skill in painting pictures and became a highly regarded landscape and still life artist.

In 1880, aged 34, he married Mary Ann Killar and they began their married life living at 56 High Street, Blairgowrie, which was their home until Mary Ann's death in 1916.

When William Dickson died on 27 December 1927 aged 82 at Hillside Home, Kinnoull, Perth, his usual residence was recorded as Viewbank, Blairgowrie.  The inscription on his Headstone in Section A Blairgowrie Cemetery, Perth Road, reads: "In Loving Memory of Mary Ann Killar beloved wife of William Dickson, Artist, died 16 July 1916 aged 67 years.  The above William Dickson died 27 December 1927 aged 82 years".

Read more and view copies of 5 of William Dickson's paintings in 'Muirton of Ardblair - the Lost Village and the Artists who keep the Memory Alive' by Margaret Laing.

For details of these and other local artists visit

This website notes those artists who appear in Peter J.M. McEwan's 'Dictionary of Scottish Art and Architecture'.

For details of these and other artists whose work featured in the 2006/2007 exhibition at Perth Museum and Art Gallery visit

Read more about these artists and others who, more recently, have made Blairgowrie their home, in 'A Social History of Blairgowrie and Rattray' edited and compiled by Margaret Laing.

All images in this article provided by Perth Museum and Art Gallery, used with kind permisison.


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