WHEN Glasgow mother Jeannie Warnock heard a little boy called Edward sing in his orphanage choir, it set in motion a remarkable chain of events.

The story of Edward Tull-Warnock and his brother Walter, whose grandparents were plantation slaves, is a little-known part of Glasgow history which will finally be given an airing thanks to a new book.

The Life and Histories of Edward Tull-Warnock is published this week by Rymour Books.

Glasgow Times: Edward and his familyEdward and his family (Image: Tull family)

Jeannie grew up in the Kirkintilloch Poorhouse after her mother died in 1866. She later married dentist James Warnock, and the couple had a daughter, Lizzie.

A keen singer, it seems Jeannie was especially touched when she saw young Edward Tull sing. When Edward was 11 he and his younger brother, Walter, were orphaned and sent to live in an orphanage.

Author Phil Vasili writes: “Watching and hearing Edward sing for the orphanage choir she may have felt empathy with this brown-skinned boy in a sea of White faces.

“She knew what it was like to feel an outsider and shared a love of music. Listening to his melodic voice made an irrepressible impression.”

Jeannie and James, who lived in a ground floor tenement at 465 St Vincent Street, adopted Edward, enrolled him in the prestigious fee-paying Allan Glen’s School, and gave him the chance to learn James’s trade.

As a result, Edward became a skilled dental surgeon, and a member of the Royal Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons in Glasgow. He was also a talented sportsman – a champion golfer, who also played football for various teams including Ayr Parkhouse.

He encouraged Glasgow Rangers to sign his brother Walter Tull, who was also one of the first Black footballers to play in the top division of the Football League with Tottenham Hotspur.  

Glasgow Times: The book reveals the fascinating story of Edward and his brotherThe book reveals the fascinating story of Edward and his brother (Image: Tull family)

Walter had remained in the orphanage and would visit his brother when possible. Sadly, he was killed in action in March 1918 during World War I. Edward was protective of his brother Walter’s historical legacy, writing to the Glasgow Evening Times when Harold Moody of the League of Coloured People claimed his son was Britain’s first Black army officer.

Edward continued to sing, too, becoming a renowned singer of Negro Spirituals, and a he was a life-long campaigner for a national health service, recognising poverty as the primary cause of ill-health.

Phil explains: “He was a member of the Socialist Medical Association (SMA). Formed in 1930 after a meeting at the National Labour Club, the annual conference of May, 1936, agreed a constitutional change allowing dentists and other health professionals, such as nurses and midwives, to join.

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“Later that year a meeting organised in Glasgow discussed ‘the possibilities of a complete state medical service’.  Four years later a branch was officially established in the city.

“The association encapsulated Edward’s outlook, fighting for medical reform through the prism of socialist politics.”

The new book tells Edward’s story from the life of his grandparents on the sugar plantations of Barbados through his childhood and career in Glasgow.

At school, Edward made life-long friends of Rangers and Scotland footballer James Bowie, and naval designer and engineer James McNeill. He proved himself an “outstanding student” and won prizes.

Phil, who is an acclaimed writer and football scout, was researching his book about Walter Tull (the first player of African descent to sign for Rangers when he joined the club in 1917, and the British Army’s first Black officer) when he discovered Edward’s story.

“Edward was a man of colour that embodied twenty-first century (BLM) demands of respect and equality; who enjoyed each day and improved the lives of others because of that; but was burdened by a predominant narrative that attempted to diminish him and people of similar pigmentation,” writes Phil.

“He never knew what was around the corner, whether he should duck and weave or respond with a smile. Often, he did both.”