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The Brunton Grouse Wand

November 2020
The Brunton Grouse Wand

The history and stories behind the guns built by John Dickson and Son are a very important part of our heritage and the majority of Dickson guns have a great story behind them. These stories are sometimes uncovered through the name of the original purchaser in the Dickson ledgers, the name on a gun case or a tale recounted to us by a current owner.

The Brunton Wire Works of East Lothian played an important roll in the development and production of wire cable and rope from the first bi-planes and airships to cables of the Forth Road Bridge. The family were keen shots and good customers of Dickson's and we now present one of the Brunton guns to help us tell the story.

We are very humbled to be able to offer one of the Dickson Round-Action guns made for the Brunton Family of Inveresk, East Lothian, Scotland.

Established in 1876, Bruntons became Britain's leading producer of steel wires and ropes.  The firm was at the forefront of technological advance for a century, being responsible for the introduction of many advances that became industry standards. It was a major employer in Musselburgh until the last quarter of the 20th century.

In 1909, John Dixon Brunton introduced the first streamline bracing wire, based on the companies leading developments in piano wire, and offered it to the War Office. Bruntons would be the pioneers in the development of wire used in the early biplanes. In June 1919, the first aeroplane (Vickers Vimy) to cross the Atlantic by direct flight was fitted throughout with wires made by Brunton.

The first aircraft (R.34 airship) to make the return flight across the Atlantic, was braced with Bruntons wires. The airship lifted off from East Fortune, Scotland to cross the Atlantic on 2nd July 1919 with a crew of 30, crossing the Nova Scotia coast in 59 hours. Then on to New York before the return journey taking 75 hours to become the first airship in history to complete the double crossing of the Atlantic. The R.34 was constructed in William Beardmore's gigantic airship works at Inchinnan outside Glasgow, and transported to East Fortune. East fortune only being 15 miles from the Musselburgh works of Bruntons.

'Mrs. Brunton' was Helen Edwards Brunton, the wife of John Dixon Brunton, the managing director and son of the founder of Bruntons (Musselburgh) Limited. Judging by the orders for guns from the Brunton family, Mrs. Brunton was a keen shot, as was her husband and his brother, William Brunton,  

Built as a late 63 Princes Street gun, No. 7133 was delivered on the 24th October 1927 to Mrs Brunton. The order omits a few interesting observations of the gun such as a Dickson-Morrison patent single-trigger, a locking pin in the top of the breach pin and swept thumb piece on the top-lever. Not seen by the common eye is that the action has been filed up to be a truly lightweight gun, slightly narrower and rounder than a conventional 12 bore Round-Action. With the help of a relatively short stock the finished gun was 5lb 13oz. Mrs. Brunton would also take delivery of another lightweight gun in the form of a 2in chambered Anson & Deeley 12 bore single-trigger gun weighing only 5lb 3 1/2oz in 1938.  

During the Second World War, Brunton's Wire Mill worked three shifts round the clock. It designed and manufactured an impressive number of cutting edge wires for the war effort, including aircraft valve springs, bomb slings, aero cable fittings, balloon barrage and aircraft catapult ropes and anti-torpedo nets. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother even came to visit the factory in Musselburgh in the war years, to thank the people for their efforts. 

The Brunton's had purchased Inveresk Lodge in 1911 as their home and during World War II would use the gardens to grow vegetables in support of the war effort. In 1958, Mrs. Helen Brunton left the house and gardens to the National Trust for Scotland, the Lodge now let by the Trust for private occupation but visitors can enjoy the terraced garden. In the same year, Brunton Wire Works also provided the cable for the Forth Road Bridge in Edinburgh, at the time, the largest suspension bridge in the world outside the USA.

John Dixon Brunton had died in 1951 leaving a bequest of £700,000 to the people of Musselburgh. He specifically stated that the money be used to provide halls for the use of the community. The Town Council decided to add money of their own so that they could group their administrative offices within the building. Several enthusiastic amateur drama and operatic societies performed in Musselburgh at this time, and so at an early stage it was decided that the Brunton Hall complex should include a fully equipped theatre. Brunton Hall was opened by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in 1971. Designed by Rowand Anderson, Kinimouth and Paul, the building is an example of late 1960’s civic architecture. Mrs Brunton survived her husband but did not live to see the commissioning of the Brunton Hall.

This picture is one of a pair that once hung in the company headquarters in Musselburgh. This oil portrait of the standing HELEN EDWARDS BRUNTON 1876-1964 is unsigned but likely the work by David Allison, who was responsible for a portrait of the sitter's husband.

The Dickson Round-Action was designed as a fast-handling, lightweight grouse gun so we recently allowed this gun to grace the grouse moors again, this time in the very capable hands of Simon Reinhold , a good friend of Dickson's and a Round-Action evangelist. The gun was used to its full potential on the day, much to the irritation of fellow sportsmen, and he returned the gun now christened 'The Grouse Wand'. Simply wave it at the Grouse and they magically fall out of the sky...  

This gun is now offered for sale here and for this unique opportunity to become the new custodian of the Brunton Grouse Wand, please contact us here.