The Young Artists – James Robert Wallace Orr (1907-1992)

James Robert Wallace Orr (1907-1992) was a well-known Scottish artist who trained at the Glasgow School of Art, 1929-33.
Apart from war service with the RAF, he earned his living as an artist, working in Glasgow, Kirkcudbright, Helensburgh and Prestwick. He spent the last ten years of his life at Moorgait, Kippen.

‘The Young Artists’ is from this period of his life. For many years it hung in Gargunnock Primary School, and it is a recent gift to the Stirling Smith collections. Can any Observer reader identify who the young artists are, and what they are doing now?

Although the Stirling Smith has a good collection of local portraits, they are of older people. Not many commissioned portraits of children have come into the collection, and this painting is a welcome addition.

J. R.W. Orr was also a skilled engraver. His work is represented in the City of London, the Guildhall Gallery, City Hall, Aylesbury, the Hunterian, Glasgow and the University of Stirling, as well as in the Smith.


  1. REPLY
    George Hawthorn says

    JR was teacher of art at Glasgow Academy at which I was a pupil, after the German war. He was a gentile person, much loved and respected and encouraged many of us towards the arts. His portrait of the Connoisseur is of a fellow teacher at the Academy, Peter (surname forgotten). Peter too was much loved and respected but he died tragically young one summer holiday. JR finished the portrait of Peter just before he died. JR also served in the fire service during the London Blitz and he then produced some striking engracings

    JR finished the portrait just before he died.

  2. REPLY
    Margaret McLean says

    Could this be a Kippen family? Mr D Campbell and Dr M Campbell .. Children names Catherine, Fiona and John. My sister and myself also have portraits painted during the 60 s by Wallace Orr in our homes.

    • REPLY
      Margaret Mclean says

      Sorry I was wrong about the three children in the painting.
      So interesting to read about Wallace Orrs life. He was a real gentleman

  3. REPLY
    David Orr says

    I am the son of Wallace Orr. Although it was many years ago, I vaguely remember the portrait being painted. I think the family’s name was Pelly, but I can’t be sure. I have no idea, I’m afraid, of what happened to them, or how the painting came to be in Gargunnock school.
    Your summary of my Father’s career is incorrect in one important respect. because he made his living as the art master at Glasgow Academy. Money he earned from paintings was only an incidental part of his income.
    During the Second World War he was a rear gunner in Lancaster bombers, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

    • REPLY
      Ron Long says

      David, Thank you for the biographical details. I am a collector of WWII “Blitz” Art – particularly works by serving AFS/NFS Firefighters (also compiling a work on the subject) I have always understood that your father served, for at least a little time, in the AFS (Auxiliary Fire Service) in London during the Blitz – is this not the case ? Thanks for any clarity you might be able to provide.

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      Laura says

      My Grandfather was head of English at Glasgow Academy. We have one of his works hanging up in our house and given to my grandfather. Its dated 1944 and would love to know more about where it is. It’s of a large boat and houses. I love the image.

      • REPLY
        Robert Sweet says

        Head of Art not English. I was in his class.

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      Robert Sweet says

      I was a pupil at Glasgow Academy in the ‘60s and remember your father quite well. But have you any comments about the fact that his successor was a Mr Grey or perhaps Gray from Gargunnock and the fact that your Dad’s work is in Gargunnock Primary School? Coincidence? Mr Grey’s son was in my year at Glasgow Academy.

  4. REPLY
    David Orr says

    I am the son of Wallace Orr. Although it is many years ago, I vaguely remember this painting being done. I think the family’s surname was Pelly, although I can’t be sure, and I’ve no idea what happened to them. I’m very puzzled how the painting went to Gargunnock school.
    Your summary of my Father’s career is innaccurate one respect. He made a living as the art master in Glasgow Academy . The money he received from selling pictures was purely incidental.
    During the Second World War he served as a rear gunner in Lancaster bombers. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

    • REPLY
      Robert Sweet says

      There could be another connection with Gargunnock which may explain why your Dad’s painting ended up there. Wallace Orr’s successor at Glasgow Academy was a Mr Grey (or Gray). His son was in my class there. They were from Gargunnock!

    • REPLY
      Carolyn Henderson says

      I was telling my son about the three portraits we have of me, my brother and my sister were done as a thank you for sitting for him for this picture. He looked it up and found all these replies to identifying us. Which nobody did. Your father did a few art classes at Gargunnock primary 1971 and taught my brother, sister and myself. He was quite taken by us and asked my parents if we would sit for him.
      Obviously we did.
      I remember him as such a kind man who was very encouraging of us and our artistic ability.
      Our 3 portraits are very much admired and on the wall in her care home right now.
      Please contact me if you would like to see pictures of them.
      Our family name was Fildes at the time and we stayed just outside Gargunnock. Your father lived in a most amazing house in the woods near Kippen.

  5. REPLY
    David Orr says

    My Father started the Second World War as a Conscientious Objecter, so he joined the London Fire Brigade. His experiences during the Blitz made him decide to fight. He therefore joined the RAF and became a rear gunner in Lancaster bombers.

  6. REPLY
    Robert Sweet says

    Wallace Orr was not head of English but was the Art teacher at Glasgow Academy. I was one of his pupils during the sixties – he was inspirational.

  7. REPLY
    Robert Sweet says

    There seems to be more of a connection with Gargunnock than one of Mr Orr’s paintings in the school there. Wallace Orr’s successor at the Glasgow Academy was a Mr Grey or Gray. His son was in my class. They were from Gargunnock. Coincidence perhaps?

  8. REPLY
    Alan Braddock says

    I know exactly who the children are. I am their uncle. Only the girls survive. Their mother, my sister stays in a home on Inverness and sadly has dementia.

  9. REPLY
    Ian Braddock says

    These are definitely my 3 Cousins – Carolyn, Simon and Jenny Fildes. All lived in Gargunnock in the 1970 ‘s

  10. REPLY
    Robin Paterson says

    I remember Wallace Orr well: double art on a Friday afternoon! He made modern European Architecture so interesting. He gave us fascinating insights into his self-build house at Kippen. He once said that ten minutes with poster paint replicating a Glasgow Standard tram at sunset was the best thing I’d done! He was a superb teacher and told us that despite surviving air battles he suffered a severe eye injury playing cricket three days after the war

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