Remarkable Tale of Edward Tull-Warnock: From Plantation Roots to Glasgow High Society
In a poignant exploration of historical significance, a forthcoming biography unveils the extraordinary journey of Edward Tull-Warnock, a Glasgow dentist with roots tracing back to plantation slavery. The narrative also sheds light on the tragic fate of his brother, Walter, whose ambition to become the first black player for Rangers was curtailed by the harrowing realities of World War I.
Edward’s story commences in Folkestone, Kent, during the height of the empire, where he was born to Barbadian parents who had endured the shackles of plantation slavery. Orphaned at the tender age of 11 along with his younger brother Walter, their lives took an unexpected turn when a Glasgow couple, James and Jean Warnock, captivated by Edward’s singing, adopted him. The Warnocks defied 19th-century norms, enrolling Edward at Allan Glen’s School, marking a significant step in racial integration during the era.
Walter, despite remaining in the orphanage, would go on to become the British Army’s first black officer and harbored aspirations of being the pioneer black player for Rangers. Edward, on the other hand, formed connections that transcended societal norms, befriending James Bowie, who later became the president of Rangers, and engaging in golf at Turnberry in Ayrshire.
Walter’s journey with Rangers, however, was cut short by the exigencies of World War I. Commissioned as an army officer, he was deployed to the Italian front and later the Western front, ultimately falling victim to machine gun fire near Beugny on March 25, 1918. Walter’s sacrifice is commemorated among the 34,785 soldiers with no known grave at Arras, with Northampton Town, his former club, erecting a memorial in his honor.
Phil Vasili, the biographer, emphasized the multifaceted nature of Edward’s life, marked by a commitment to left-wing politics, free dental services for the underprivileged in Glasgow and Girvan, and association with the Socialist Medical Association. Despite mingling with the upper echelons, Edward remained devoted to his principles and was an unwavering supporter of singer-activist Paul Robeson.
Vasili, reflecting on Edward’s identity, remarked, “He saw himself as a black Scot or just a Scot. He was proud of being a Glaswegian and he loved Glasgow.” The biography, titled The Life and Histories of Edward Tull-Warnock, is set to be released on December 4 by Rymour Books, with a launch event scheduled at the Royal College of Physicians & Surgeons of Glasgow. The narrative invites readers into a captivating journey through time, illustrating the resilience and triumphs of a black Atlantic family, leaving an indelible mark on the tapestry of Scottish high society.