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Collectors & Explorers

Dr Thomas Boyle Grierson

Dr Grierson's Museum, Thornhill


Thomas Boyle Grierson was born in Dumfries in 1818.  After attending Dumfries Academy, he studied medicine at Edinburgh University.  In 1842 he set up a practice in Thornhill, purchasing a house in Drumlanrig Street.  It was in a ground floor room of this house that his museum began to take shape.  After receiving a grant of land from the Duke of Buccleuch a new museum building was constructed to house his extensive collection.  It opened to the public in 1872.


Dr Grierson used his museum as a teaching centre for young people, particularly farm hands and apprentices.  Joseph Thompson, the future explorer of East Africa, had his interests nurtured as a member of this group.  School visits were frequent and museum displays followed particular themes, ranging from building and textiles to printing and even the making of false teeth!


He produced a manuscript catalogue of his collections, beautifully illustrated with his own drawings of some of the objects.  He numbered his objects, recording when he acquired them, and who gave them to him.  It shows how he deliberately collected things that he believed would be important in the future.  He often took small items of interest from his patients instead of a fee, and thus saved for future generations things which would have otherwise been lost.


The museum was financed through Dr Grierson's medical skill and personal frugality, and on his death in 1889 the museum building and his collections were left to a trust.  Sadly the trust had been left with inadequate funds and in 1965 its collections were dispersed.  Fortunately, much of the local material was brought to Dumfries Museum by Alfred Truckell.

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