The following pages formed part of an exhibition depicting the lives of men of Kelso who had improved the living standards and welfare of the residents of Kelso, and JAMES BRUNLEES is one of these men.

 The name BRUNLEES is a form of BROWNLEES

 1567 Isobell Brounlies was tenant of lands of Kelso Abbey.


 Father: John Brunlees, Gardener and Steward at Broomlands.  Mother: Margaret Rutherford.

 Born in Kelso on 5th of January, 1816, James Brunlees attended the Parish School before transferring to Mr. Scott’s private School, where he excelled in arithmetic and basic measuring. James left school at the age of 12 to become an apprentice landscape gardener at Floors gardens, following in his Father’s profession. John Brunlees (1792-1854) was a gardener working at Broomlands, occupied by Mr. Innes, agent to the Duke of Roxburghe, and so well respected that he was delegated responsibilities not normally within the remit of that calling. James continued to study during his apprenticeship and afterwards attended classes in Edinburgh. He became acquainted with Alexander Adie, who was employed to survey and improve the estate at Floors. Mr Adie took James as an assistant and presented him with a theodolite, which the boy used to survey Broomlands farm. This he did with such success that he was instructed to make a survey of the Duke’s property in 1838. Mr. Adie employed James Brunlees in the construction of the Bolton and Preston railway, and he then moved on to join the staff of Messrs Locke and Errington, who constructed a section of the Caledonian Railway from Beattock to Carstairs. Under Sir John Hawkshaw, he became acting engineer for the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, remaining with them for six active and strenuous years. During this time, on the 6th of August 1845, James Brunlees married Elizabeth Kirkman of Bolton, and set up home in Manchester. Their first daughter, Mary Jane was born a year later, followed by three more children- Margaret Ann (1848), John (1850) and James Kirkman (1852). In 1850, Brunlees was engineer for the construction of 36 miles of railway between Londonderry and Coleraine, involving a difficult stretch of embankment on the shore of Loch Foyle. Sea embankments were also required at Morecambe Bay, on the Ulverston and Lancaster Railway, and Brunlees introduced a novel form of pile, based on the shape of a camel’s foot, to give a solid foundation in quicksand. By now, Brunlee’s reputation was universal, and Baron de Maua, principal concessionaire in Brazil, engaged him in 1857 in the survey and subsequent construction of the Sao Paulo Railway. This involved 88 miles of line, running up the precipitous sides of the Serra do Mar to a minimum height of 2,500 feet above sea level. The budget available could not stretch to fund a conventional railway on these steep inclines, so four stationary engines of 80 H.P. were situated at equidistant points, the carriages being fitted with toothed wheels to work in toothed rails. On completion of this work, the Emperor of Brazil presented James Brunlees with the “Order of the Rose”. Despite his international fame and untiring energy, James Brunlees was a quiet and reserved man, steadfast in his friendships and never forgot his native soil. He frequently returned to Kelso for holidays, to fish and shoot. A skilful and successful angler, he had an outstanding record for catching salmon at Sprouston and Hempseedford. He was often  accompanied by friends, including the Rt. Hon. John Bright, Mr. Bidder, Q.C. and Mr Bayliss, when the quartet was known as the “4 B’s”. In 1854, the year that his father died, the Police Commissioners asked James Brunlees to design new sewerage and water systems for the town of Kelso, and this he did for the cost of the outlay on plans and specifications, declining payment for overseeing much of the work. The first drains were laid from Horsemarket along Shedden Park Road to the Tweed. The drains consisted of egg-shaped brick culverts, lying an average of 11ft. below the surface, with a depth of 24ft. in Roxburgh Street where the ground rises. The sewerage system cost around £4,000 and the water system £3,000, both still in existence today. For many years James Brunlees was President of Kelso’s Mechanic’s Institute, and took a keen interest in it, giving frequent donations of books, and on occasion, sums of money to be awarded as prizes for essays. The Channel Tunnel Railway Company was incorporated in 1872, and Brunlees once again worked with Sir John Hawkshaw, planning a railway to link England with France. The Company folded in 1886, a full hundred years before the tunnel became a reality. The Mersey tunnel connecting Liverpool and Birkenhead was a more successful venture. With Douglas Fox, who had been resident engineer on the Sao Paulo project, Brunlees constructed a tunnel 3,820 yards long, starting work from either side and meeting in the middle almost exactly in line, the deviation being no more than a few inches. James Brunlees had been elected a member of the Institute of Civil Engineers on 7th of December 1852, became a Council member in 1865, Vice-President in 1878, and President in 1882-3. In recognition of his achievements on the completion of the Mersey Tunnel Railway in 1886, Queen Victoria conferred a Knighthood. Sir James Brunlees became too infirm to pay his annual visit to Kelso, and died at his home, Argyle Lodge, Wimbledon, on the 2nd of June 1892. Mary Jane Brunlees married Alexander McKerrow and they had one Son, Ronald Brunlees McKerrow. John Brunlees married Winifred Deas and they had issue: James, Oswald, Basil and Annie.  Basil married and had three children: Dorothy, Kathleen and Frank. My wife Nancy and I attended the funeral of Frank Brunlees as he was the partner of our niece Patricia Reid.



1838     Bolton and Preston Railway
Messrs. Locke & Errington Caledonian Railway Beattock-Carstairs
1844    Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Co. Stalybridge branch.
1850    Londonderry & Coleraine Railway.
1851 Ulverston & Lancaster Railway.
1857 Sao Paulo Railway, Brazil.
1865 Mont Cenis Summit Railway, Savoy-Piedmont.
Mersey Tunnel Liverpool- Birkenhead.
Lynn & Sutton Railway.
Spalding & Bourne
Solway Junction Railway.
Cleveland Extension Line.
Clifton Extension Railway.
Bangor & Caernarvon.
Southport & Cheshire Lines Extension.
1871 West Lancashire Railway.
1872 Channel Tunnel Railway Co.
Liverpool, Southport & Preston Junction.
Minas & Rio, Brazil.
Porto Allegre Railway, Brazil.
Bolivar Railway, Venezuala.
Inner Circle Line, London.
Central Uruguay & Hygueritas Railway.

DOCKS                                                 PIERS

Avonmouth Dock, Bristol                 Llandudno, New Brighton.
Whitehaven Dock Works                  Mersey, New Ferry,Mersey.
Lynn Docks, King’s Lynn                 Southend, Southport.


Forth Railway Bridge, Consulting Engineer.
St. Lawrence, Quebec.
Morecambe—across the estuaries of Kent & Leven.
Solway Firth, 1 ¼ miles, and Skelton Beck, Cleveland Line.


 1855 The construction of sea embankments in Morecambe Bay.
1858 Proposed Ship-Railway across the Isthmus of Suez.
1862 Railway accidents- their causes and means of prevention.
1870 Proposed Wet Docks at Whitehaven.
1871 Report on proposed site for Docks at Bristol.