Sydney Albert Wharton Gammell



Sydney Albert Wharton Gammell (known as Bertie) was born in Jamaica on 20 February 1864 and was the only child of Albert Gammell and Agnes Close. It is said that he failed to get on with his stepfather after his mother's remarriage and whether this was in fact so or not, we do know that at the age of eight or nine he was sent home to England to be educated. It is believed that he only saw his mother once again after that date.


There is no firm evidence about his early education, but it is almost certain that on his arrival in England he was taken under the wing of his uncle The Rev. James S. Gammell, and educated by him, together with his own son Sydney James, at his vicarage at Outwood, near Leeds in Yorkshire.


In 1880 Bertie was sent as a maritime apprentice to the firm of Donald Currie & Co. in London, serving a four-year apprenticeship in the 'Tantallon Castle' and 'Pembroke Castle', which he completed on 18 June 1884. He received a 2nd Mate’s certificate the following year, a 1st Mate’s ticket in 1891, a Master’s Certificate in 1896 and an Extra Master’s Certificate in 1902. During these years he had served in various shipping lines including The Union Steamship Co. of New Zealand, the White Star Line and The British India Steam Navigation Co.


Bertie's uncles and Great uncle were very generous to him; Andrew Gammell of Drumtochty left him £3,000, The Rev. J.S. Gammell £5,000, and he was sole executor and residual legatee under the will of his uncle John H.H. Gammell of Lethendy, so by about 1903 or 1904 his financial position was such that he was able to abandon his career as a Merchant Navy Officer and concentrate on his etching and painting for which he had great love and ability. He enrolled in the Liverpool School of Art and in 1913 was elected a member of The Royal Society of Painters, Etchers and Engravers. In 1922/3 he painted tiny pictures for Queen Mary's Dolls House. He was also the winner of Gold and Silver medals for his paintings and etchings in the years 1911/12.


On 18 October 1905 Bertie married Annie Cowx daughter of John Cowx of Liverpool at St. James' Church, West Derby, Lancs. She was also a talented painter. They settled in Liverpool in a house called Lethendy in Huyton, and there their only child Sheila Marion Gammell was born. Bertie, prior to his marriage spent a part of each year at Drumtochty the home of his cousin Sydney Gammell, with whom he had grown up, and many of his paintings are of scenes of the country around Drumtochty. His visits were less frequent after his marriage, but he and his wife visited Scotland quite regularly, and often stayed at Countesswells.


In the 1914/18 War, Bertie served throughout as a Lieutenant in the R.N.R. on HMS ‘Eagle’ and HMS 'President III', both shore-based stations.  His job was arming merchant vessels with defensive guns.  After the war was over, he returned to his home in Huyton, where he continued his artistic career until Bertie died on 29 January 1946 at the age of 82. His wife Annie who was nearly 20 years his junior, continued to live in the family home, and eventually died there on 22 November 1966.


Sydney A W Gammell and his wife Annie, and (bottom) painting of Drumtochty by Sydney (all from F Gourlay) 


To see more paintings of Drumtochty by Sydney click here