The burying ground of William Mutrie, character wig maker, Edinburgh. Sacred to the memory of John S. Mutrie, died 13 November 1867, aged 4 years and 10 months; William Mutrie, died 8 December 1893, aged 75; Eleanora Law Mutrie, died 16 Nov 1895, She was faithful unto death; Christina Kay, wife of William Mutrie, died Lanark, 16 January 1899, aged 74
William Mutrie was a hairdresser who became a well-known theatrical wigmaker. He was born in Lanark c. 1819, the elder son of William Mutrie, a cotton handloom weaver, and his wife Elizabeth Law. A letter William wrote to a cousin in Canada in 1888 reveals that he had been sent to London at the age of 15 to learn his trade as a hairdresser before returning to Lanark where he was working in the 1841 census.
William married his first wife Mary Mullender in Lanark in February 1841, and they had two children born in Lanark: Fanny Elizabeth Mutrie (baptised 23 January 1841, married twice, died 1921) and William Bruce Mutrie (b. 5 January 1844, d. 26 July 1901). William moved to Edinburgh in 1845 and set up in business there in Blair Street. Sadly Mary died of influenza only two years later, on 26 November 1847, aged 28, and was followed to the grave a fortnight later by her infant daughter Jane Law Mutrie.
In December 1852 William married his second wife, Christina Kay, who was living in the Lawnmarket at the time but was the daughter of William Kay, a handloom weaver in Lanark, and his wife Elizabeth Henderson. William and Christina had five children – three sons and two daughters. Their younger daughter and youngest son died as children and their elder daughter, Eleanora (1854-95), died unmarried, but their two surviving sons, Charles Jenkins Mutrie (1857-1933) and Henry Baxter Mutrie (1860-1924) followed their father into what became the family business of William Mutrie and Son.
William Bruce Mutrie also became a hairdresser but it is not clear if he was ever in business with his father. He spent some time in Newcastle where he married Sarah Ann Vawer in 1868, but returned to Edinburgh in the early 1870s and was in business on his own account in Montrose Terrace from the late 1880s. His father left his children by his first marriage £20 each in his will while his share in the family business was divided between his two sons by his second marriage.
William Mutrie died on 8 December 1893 at 10 Montague Street Edinburgh, aged 74, of “Debility from age” and Bronchitis. His widow, Christina, survived him, and was living in Lanark when she died in 1899.
Charles and Henry Mutrie carried on the family business but after Henry’s death in 1924 it was taken over by Fraser Neal, an impresario who ran repertory companies, and produced pantomimes and summer shows. Neal kept the name of William Mutrie & Son and expanded the business to cover the hire of theatrical costumes. The company survived despite a serious fire which destroyed its then premises in the Dean Village in 1957. Fraser Neal died in 1959 but the business was carried on by his sister, Ella Neal, until it was sold to STV in 1977.
William Mutrie’s younger brother, John Mutrie (c.1825-1892) joined the army and served in the 42nd Foot (Royal Highlanders). He was awarded the Crimean medal with clasps for the battles of Alma, Balaklava & Sebastopol and in 1860 was recommended for the Army Long Service & Good Conduct award with a gratuity of £5, meaning he had served for at least 18 years with an unblemished record. He retired on pension at the end of May 1861 and settled in Glasgow where he worked as a warder at the North Prison. In 1865 he was one of the witnesses to the confession of Dr Pritchard who poisoned his wife, Mary Taylor, and her mother. Mary and Jane Taylor are buried in the Grange Cemetery – see Some Notables, No. 11, Michael Taylor.
The Scotsman, 6 November 1933, p. 9, obituary of Charles Mutrie