...... is a surname that has it's origins in Scotland. And, following the plantation of Scots by the English to the North of Ireland in the mid-1600s, the surname has a strong prominence in what is today Northern Ireland. While there's an interest in all ORRs, this particular site grapples principally with the study of the origins, relations, and descendants of Thomas ORR (died 1901) and his wife Mary DUNLOP (died 1868) of Belfast, Ireland.

A Photographic Image


Thomas Orr

Grocer & Publican of Belfast, Ireland



The photograph.... 

The photograph shown below is the only verifiable likeness of Thomas Orr and his son Edward that is known. The original is a tiny 'carte-de-visite' style photograph.

The photograph boasts an impeccable provenance through family lines, and it shows signs of considerable wear on both front and back.


 orr thomas ex falconer 100dpi front


The subjects....

Thomas ORR was born somewhere in Antrim County, Ireland, in about 1817. Details about his year and place of birth are known only from an 1851 Census of Ireland Census Extract (found in his daughter Mrs. Jane McCutcheon's Irish Pension Application file); from the 1901 Census of Ireland schedule where details about him were recorded; and from his 1901 Irish death registration record.

There are tantalizing hints from autosomal DNA results, that Thomas was the son of a couple named William & Mary Orr, but nothing is known about them other than their names. A sister of Thomas is also suggested by DNA results, named Elizabeth (born possibly around 1815), who is known to have married Stewart Richmond [unquestionably before 1 April 1845], and moved from Larne, Antrim County, to New Zealand, around 1863.

Thomas was married to Mary DUNLOP, probably in 1844 - we say probably, because their oldest known child, Elizabeth, was born on 10 August 1845. Civil registration of Protestant marriages began in Ireland on 1 April 1845, and because no record of Thomas & Mary's marriage can be found in the civil records, we can only assume that the ceremony took place before this start date. It presently seems most likely that Mary Dunlop was from the Antrim County area around Portrush. Records from the Presbyterian church where it's thought Mary Dunlop was born and lived, were destroyed in a fire at the minister's home in the 1860s.

Thomas Orr operated a very successful spirits dealership enterprise on the Malone Road at what is known as Clink Hill in south-east Belfast. He was initially a roadmaster in Malone, Antrim County, and moved to his place of business in 1858. He retired and sold his enterprise in 1885, and lived out most of his remaining days in Belfast. The ghost of Thomas' enterprise continues today in the same building he operated from (albeit with significant renovations), known as the 'Botanic Inn'.

Mary [nee Dunlop] Orr died in Belfast in 1868, and only one son is known to have survived to adulthood - a boy named Edward, born in about 1860. This photograph was undoubtedly taken within just a few years of Mary [nee Dunlop] Orr's death, otherwise, we might expect that she would have been included.


The photographer....

Thomas Plimmer was a commercial photographer who worked from studios at various addresses in Belfast in the latter half of the 19th century. See more about him below.


When was the photograph taken?

An examination of the possible exposure dates for the photograph follows the fundamental suggestions found in Stephen Gill's exceptional work "Dating by Design, 1840-1915". The author of this article has no commercial interest or association with Mr. Gill, but his suggestions are solid. Find out more about him and his work through <https://www.photo-consult.co.uk/>.

The photo showing above was a small photographic set known popularly as a 'carte-de-visite'. This type of image was first patented in Paris, France, in 1854, by André Adolphe Eugène Disdéri. The original photographic image here, about 2.125 inches by about 3.5 inches, was printed on photographic card stock measuring about 2.5 inches by about 4.125 inches. All four of the card stock corners are square. The photographer's name and address printed on the front are plain, in a single colour (red). Gill suggests that this type of stock was offered to photographers by suppliers between about 1855 and 1870, but the rather plain, single colour border and text showing the photographer's name and location suggests a style consistent with usage closer to 1870, than 1855, in the general usage period. Indeed, Gill suggests a usage period for this kind of lettering from the 1860-1875 period. These types of photographs were exceptionally low cost to produce - carte-de-visites were advertised for sale on Yonge Street in Toronto, Canada, in the 1890s for 10 cents each.

The reverse of this photograph (not shown here) has only an elaborate 'P' over block text in the same ink colour as the frame and text on the front side. The basic text shows the photographer's name and address - T Plimmer, 19 High Street, with an offer to reproduce any image by enlargement or coloured with oil or water paints. Gill again suggests that this is consistent with a product that was available to photographers in the 1855 - 1870 period (although some allowance must be made for it to have come from closer to 1870 than 1855, because of the more embellished 'P'). There are no card-stock printer markings on the back of the card, so Gill suggests that this example certainly came before about 1882.

The photograph was clearly taken within a studio setting. We see that Thomas is leaning on a box, which was placed on a table, allowing him a place to brace himself for a longer exposure photograph. Edward seems to have been propped up against the chair behind him. Earlier photographic processes required a sitter to be perfectly still for many seconds, as the image was fixed in the medium. As photographic processes improved, the necessity to maintain stillness decreased, but here we see all of the props from an earlier era around Thomas and Edward.

Thomas' shoes are 'square-toed', rather than pointed. Gill suggests that this was a style popular in London, England, until about 1865, and we can imagine that the latest London styles might not have reached Belfast until closer to 1870. And, as an older gentleman, we can expect that Thomas might not have worn through perfectly good pairs of shoes until well past their 'best before fashionable' date. Edward's shoes are likewise more 'square-toed' than pointed, suggesting again an 1865 - 1870 era setting.

Neither Thomas' nor Edward's trousers show a pressed crease down the middle, which suggests a style popular between about 1850 and 1890.

The fabric of Thomas's waistcoat seems to match the fabric of both his jacket and his trousers, which Gill suggests is a style that rose about 1870. His waistcoat is not square-cut at the bottom, again suggesting a newer style from around 1870. But Thomas's jacket is swept back at the bottom, with very wide lapels, and very large buttons and button holes, most of which seem principally decorative. This suggests styles popular in the mid to late 1860s.

Edward's jacket is square-cut at the bottom in the front, with narrower lapels, and appears 'double-breasted', which suggests a slightly newer style than Thomas'. And the fabric of his waistcoat again seems to match the fabric of both his jacket and his trousers. These again suggest, for a young gentleman perhaps just off to school, a newer style closer to or just after 1870, rather than before.

Thomas has a small key displayed prominently in the opening of his jacket, over his waistcoat, strung on a possibly leather or stoutly woven refined 'twine'. Edward appears to have a brass (or, perhaps, silver) chain which may or may not attach to a pocket watch.

Thomas' neck piece is more of a narrow cravat, than a modern neck-tie, which suggests, according to Gill, a style from the 1860 - 1870 period. Edward's neck piece is more of a 'bow tie', than a cravat, and again suggests a transitional style from the early 1870s.

The collar behind Thomas' cravat is difficult to discern, but it does not appear to be the high type common in the 1850s and early 1860s. Edward's collar is low, with a strong curve at the front sides, suggestive of newer styling becoming popular around 1870, or so.

Thomas is sporting 'mutton-chop' side whiskers, rather than being either clean-shaven or fully bearded. He also sports no moustache. This style of facial hair was most popular in the 1860s, but was still fashionable on older gentlemen around 1870. Otherwise, both Thomas and Edward have similar hair lines and styles, more reflective of circa 1870 styles, than earlier.

Neither Thomas nor Edward show any visible display of mourning accessories.

Right. So much for the subjects of the photographs. What can we learn about the photographer?

Thomas H Plimmer operated as a photographer from 1859, until about 1895. Sometimes he was identified with an S Plimmer, other times his name appears singly. Once or twice he advertised as T Plimmer & Sons. Then, later in the 1890s, his son Thomas S Plimmer appears, and Thomas himself disappears.

On the 8th of January, 1859, it was mentioned on Page 3 in the Meath Herald and Cavan Advertiser, that 'Messers T & S Plimmer, photographic artists, are about removing from this town to Trim, in a few days'. At that time, they were in Kells, County Meath, Ireland, and there they remained, opening their studio for short periods of time, as advertised, until May. But by the end of June, they were in Cavan, and an advert in the Cavan Observer on 30 June (Page 1) stated that they were 'from London', and that they had 'set up their portable studio in the Market Square'. They extended their stay in Cavan, but by the 23rd of June, 1862, according to a notice published in the Belfast Morning News (Page 1) they had set up a permanent studio at No. 10, Bridge Street in Belfast. Carte-de-Visites were their advertised specialty. Then, on the 6th of April, 1865, they began advertising that as T Plimmer & Son they had moved their studio, and set up at No. 21, High Street [Belfast News-Letter, Page 2]. Carte-de-Visites were more prominently displayed as their speciality at this time. Business at this location must have improved immeasurably, because no further advertisements seem to have been published in the Belfast papers, until 11 May 1898, when an advert in the Belfast News-Letter that day (Page 1) declared that the business was about to be sold - lock, stock, and barrel! The studio premises at 19 High Street were put up for rent in July.

Belfast city directories help fill in some of the gap between 1865 and 1898, although their publication was rather sporadic. These directories are accessible through the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) in Belfast. The details from respective directories are as follows:

  • 1863 - Thomas H Plimmer, 10 Bridge Street
  • 1866 - Plimmer & Sons, 21 High Street
  • 1870 - T Plimmer, The Ulster Photographic Institute (2nd Floor), 19 High Street
  • 1877 - T Plimmer, 19 High Street
  • 1880 - return to 21 High Street
  • 1884 - return to 19 High Street, 2nd Floor
  • 1887 - T Plimmer & Son, 19 High Street
  • 1892 - T S Plimmer, 19 High Street (2nd Floor)
  • 1897 - T S Plimmer, 19 High Street.

So, some time after 1866, and before 1870, Plimmer & Sons became simply 'T Plimmer'. And the studio moved from 21 High Street to 19 High Street, during that same period. Thomas Plimmer himself remained at 19 High Street until some time prior to 1880, when he returned to 21 High Street. Then, by 1884, he had gone back again to 19 High Street, where he began to advertise as T Plimmer & Son. T S Plimmer took over from Thomas some time between 1887 and 1892. The last listing for the business was in the 1897 directory.

What does all of this mean? Thomas Plimmer could have produced the photograph at the top of this article any time after 1866, and any time before 1880, or after 1884. This doesn't really help us to narrow down when the photograph was in fact made, although everything points to it not having been made after 1884.

Based on Edward's appearance, and the fact that he had been born in about 1861, the style of the carte-de-visite itself, and the various clothing styles, let's hazard a guess that this photograph was probably taken in the 1870 - 1872 range. Does this seem reasonable to you?


Contact Bruce D. Murduck   concerning any matter at all.

Are you aware of any [other ?] facts or photographs concerning

Thomas Orr, his wife Mary Dunlop, or any of their children?

We would love to learn about them, and add them to this collection. Thank you for your help! 

Edward Orr

of Belfast, Ireland

1861 - 1906

 Publican & Barman

[and possible 'Saloonkeeper']


Edward ORR was born in Belfast, Ireland, around 1861, before the establishment of civil registration in Ireland in 1864. He was the son of Thomas & Mary [nee DUNLOP] Orr. No baptismal record has so far been found.

One photograph with a likeness of Edward is known to exist - a small 'carte-de-visite' photograph, made by Plimmer of Belfast around 1870. This shows Edward as aged about 9 years.

Edward was married to Nellie [Martinson ?] O'Connor in St Anne's, in the Parish of Belfast, Diocese of Connor, on 9 November 1885 (Entry No. 151). At that time, Edward was said to be 25 years old (so born perhaps in 1860). Edward and his father Thomas were both said to be 'publican's. Nellie was said at the time to be a 19 year old spinster (so born perhaps in 1866). Her father was identified as Samuel O'Connor, a contractor. Witnesses to the ceremony were James Martin [GEOFF ?] and Eliza Ann MARTIN. Nothing further has been discovered about them.

Both Edward and Nellie were said to have been living on Gaffikin Street in Belfast, at the time of their marriage - he at No. 18, with no number given for Nellie. No evidence of their residence there has been found in the 1884 Directory of Belfast [published in March, 1884; the next Directory was published on 24 February, 1887, and there are no obvious references to them this year, either]. The 1884 Directory shows that William Hemphill was a 'publican' located at 18 Gaffikin Street in Belfast, at the corner of Gaffikin and Blondin Streets. Hemphill was again shown to be a 'spirit dealer' at this address when the 1887 Directory was published. It seems plausible that Edward was working as a 'barman' in Hemphill's establishment, and that Nellie may have been a 'server' or a 'barmaid' there. Google maps and street view suggest that nothing in that location today appears as it would have in 1886.

No obvious traces of Samuel O'Connor or his daughter Nellie have been found prior to the date of her marriage, in records from either Ireland, England, Canada or the United States, and no solid traces of either Edward or Nellie have been found after 1885.

An 1892 State of New York (USA) census record from the 29th Election District of the 18th Ward of Brooklyn, Kings County, New York [accessible through <www.ancestry.com>], offers what may be a very hazy hint that Edward and Nellie moved to the United States after they were married. Page 8 of the set, toward the bottom of the right-hand column of names, lists Edward Orr, 31 years of age (so born in late 1860 or very early 1861), a native of Ireland, a 'saloonkeeper'; his wife Nellie, 24 years (so born in about 1867 or 1868), an American native; and a daughter named May M Orr, born in the United States in about 1890. Both Nellie and May were noted to be American C[itizens], according to this census schedule. A notation at the top of the page suggests that Edward and his small family were living on Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn on 16 February 1892, the date specified as 'enumeration day'.

Records and schedules from the 1890 Federal US census have not survived, unfortunately. And Directories from Brooklyn for 1889 [accessible through <www.archive.org>] and 1894 [Lain's 1894 Brooklyn Directory, for the year ending May 17, accessible through <www.ancestry.com>] show no listings for this man named Edward Orr [Lain's 1894 edition shows listings for 2 men named Edward Orr - a 'news'paperman, and a 'slateroofer'. It's presumed that neither of these two is 'our man']. No plausible civil record of a circa 1889-1892 birth of a girl named May M Orr has been discovered. Nor have any plausible pointers to death records for either Nellie or young May M Orr turned up in the area before 1906.

Edward was named in his father Thomas' Last Will and Testament, which Thomas wrote at Barrow-in-Furness, Lancashire, on 7 October 1897. To one daughter, Thomas bequeathed £400; to another, £300; to his third surviving daughter, £200. And to Edward, Thomas also bequeathed £200. Thomas died in Belfast at the home of his daughter Jane McCUTCHEON, on 22 April 1901. It's more than likely that Edward received his bequest after his father's Will was proven in the Principal Probate Registry of England and Wales on 3 August 1901, but the surviving Probate record provides no insight as to where, and under what circumstances, Edward might have been living in 1897, or where he might have been if he ever in fact received his due. There is no mention in Thomas Orr's Will of Edward's wife or possible child.

No details concerning Edward or Nellie have been found in surviving enumeration schedules, from any place, that were created during the 1900 Federal US census; the 1901 Census of Ireland; the 1901 Census of England and Wales; the 1901 Census of Scotland; or the 1901 Census of Canada.

And no obvious or plausible details from ship's passenger manifests have turned up which might help determine whether Edward and Nellie had departed from the United Kingdom, and travelled to either Canada or the United States after their marriage in 1885, or returned prior to Edward's death in 1906.

Edward Orr died in Belfast, on 17 February 1906 [cause = pulmonary tuberculosis, at No. 62 Melrose St (Entry No. 18, Page 224]. This address was where Edward's older sister Jane McCutcheon lived, and it was Edward's nephew, Thomas McCutcheon, who advised the District Registrar about Edward's demise. 62 Melrose Street is today at the south-east corner of Melrose and Lorne Streets, in Belfast, but it's not known whether the street has seen house renumbering since 1906, or not.

Thomas McCutcheon reported that Edward Orr had been working as a 'barman', and that he had been suffering with pulmonary tuberculosis for about '4 months' prior to his death, as Certified.

A search of the Will Calendars through the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland's website shows that Edward did not leave a Will that was proved in the courts in Belfast at any time after he died. Similarly, there is no evidence of a Will proven in Edward's name, or of a Grant of Administration governing any Estate he may have died possessed of, in records associated with the Principal Probate Registry of England and Wales.

No death notice or obituary appears to have been published in Belfast or other Northern Ireland newspapers, after Edward died.

When he reported about Edward's death, Thomas McCutcheon also affirmed that his uncle Edward was married. Thomas McCutcheon did not state that Edward was a 'widower', so Nellie must still have been living. Neither did Thomas McCutcheon indicate that Edward had been separated of divorced. But no obvious traces have been found which would lead us to believe that Nellie possibly travelled to Ireland with her husband, remained there after Edward died, re-married there, or [perhaps ?] returned to the United States.

Edward Orr is memorialized along with his father Thomas, who died five years earlier, on a grave site monument found in the Balmoral Cemetery in south-east Belfast in 2005. Officials at the Belfast City Office who are responsible for such things have advised that no burial or interment records from Balmoral Cemetery are known to have survived.


orr thomas memorial stone malone burial ground belfast 38928f64 4575 4cf6 8549 0abcdacdf492


Contact Bruce D. Murduck   concerning any matter at all.

Are you aware of any [other ?] facts or photographs which provide information about

Edward or Nellie Orr, Edward's father Thomas Orr, Edward's mother wife Mary, or any other relative?

We would love to learn about them, and add them to this collection. Thank you for your help!

Thomas Orr

Grocer of Belfast, Ireland

His Will, Proven in 1901


Written in 1897


Thomas ORR is believed to have been born somewhere within County Antrim, Ireland, around 1817. He was married in about 1843 or 1844 to Mary DUNLOP, and several children followed (and died) until her death in Belfast in 1868. Thomas found work in the late 1840s and early 1850s as a 'road master' or 'road overseer' in Malone, just south of Belfast, and during this period he and Mary were associated with the Balmoral Presbyterian Church in Malone. By at least 1858, and until he sold his business and retired in the late 1880s, Thomas ran a grocery and spirit dealer's enterprise on the Malone Road opposite the Botanic Gardens on Clink Hill.

Thomas ORR wrote his Last Will and Testament1 on the 7th of October 1897. At that time he was living within the household of his son-in-law and daughter, Hugh and Margaret LEDGERWOOD, at 239 Dalton Road, Barrow in Furness, Lancashire, England. Hugh Ledgerwood, himself also a grocer, was appointed as the sole Executor and Trustee of the Estate. Witnesses to Thomas's signature on the Will were Frank W Taylor and Arthur E Nicholson, both clerks to Frank Taylor, solicitor of Barrow in Furness.

The Family of Thomas ORR & Mary DUNLOP

of Belfast, Ireland


Renowned Grocer & Spirit Dealer at Clink Hill


Thomas ORR and Mary DUNLOP were married somewhere in Northern Ireland (perhaps near Londonderry?), probably in the 1840-1845 period. By the time of the 1851 Census of Ireland enumeration, they were living just south-west of Belfast, County Antrim, in what is now Northern Ireland. From about 1856, Thomas was a spirit dealer / grocer whose establishment was at Clink Hill in Malone, now a suburb of Belfast (where today's 'Botanic Inn' is located). Mary [nee Dunlop] Orr died in Belfast in 1868. Thomas Orr died in Belfast in 1901, at his daughter Jane McCUTCHEON's home, having for a few years prior to his death lived in Lancashire, England, with his daughter Margaret LEDGERWOOD. Several sons and daughters are known to have predeceased Mary [nee Dunlop] Orr as youngsters. Four daughters and one son (Edward - read about him here) are known to have survived Mary, and lived in to adulthood. One of the daughters - Elizabeth, married to John JOHNSTON in Belfast in 1864, died in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, in 1889 (read about John & Elizabeth here).

An extract of part of an 1851 Census of Ireland schedule pertaining to Thomas & Mary's daughter Jane suggests that Thomas was born in Antrim County in about 1815. The same 1851 Census extract suggests that Mary was also born in Antrim County, in about 1825. Detailed research suggests that Mary Dunlop may have been the daughter of Thomas Dunlop and perhaps his wife named Elizabeth. Thomas Dunlop is known to have lived and farmed in the Townland of Cloghorr, Parish of Ballywillin, Antrim County (near Portrush), and it's suspected that his wife / Mary's mother died some time before 1851.

Autosomal DNA evidence suggests fairly strongly that Thomas Orr may have been the son of a couple named William and Mary Orr. There is also a strong DNA suggestion that Thomas may have also had a sister named Elizabeth who married Stewart RICHMOND, and then moved to New Zealand in the 1860s.

A remarkable 'carte-de-visite' style photograph exists, dating from about 1870 or so, which shows Thomas Orr and his son Edward.

Contact Bruce D. Murduck   concerning any matter at all.

Are you aware of any [other ?] photographs which show images of

Thomas Orr, his wife Mary, or any other relative?

We would love to learn about them, and add them to this collection. Thank you for your help!

- A Collection of Photographs -

Thomas & Mary [nee Dunlop] Orr



The photographs which will be contained within this collection pertain to the descendants of Thomas ORR and his wife Mary DUNLOP. Thomas Orr and Mary Dunlop were married somewhere in Northern Ireland (probably in County Antrim, perhaps near Portrush), probably in the late 1843-1844 period (their first known child - Elizabeth, was born in early 1845). By the time of the 1851 Census of Ireland enumeration, they were living in south-west Belfast, County Antrim, in what is now Northern Ireland.

The photographs that will appear in this collection have been acquired from various sources. Amanda Orr HEATHER provided one. But most have been found on various sites on the internet, downloaded and saved. In all cases, wherever it's been possible, attempts have been made to ascertain each photo's point of origin prior to obtaining the copy. A 'code' has been added to each photo's filename, representing the name of the person who posted it prior copying/downloading to the filename.

One photograph in particular is presented individually - a remarkable, small 'carte-de-visite', which shows Thomas Orr and his son Edward, in about 1870, or so

Contact Bruce D. Murduck   concerning any matter at all.