Sir John Tobin

WAG 4190


This artwork has been identified as having links to a person connected with transatlantic slavery. This research is part of the Walker Art Gallery’s ongoing work to be more transparent about the collection’s relationship to Britain's colonial past. John Tobin (1763 - 1851), the son of Patrick Tobin of the Isle of Man (dates unknown), was a Liverpool sea captain and owner of enslaved African people. In 1793 he was the captain of the privateer 'Gipsy', and later captain of the privateer and slave ship 'Molly' in 1797. As a Liverpool merchant he was also engaged in the palm oil trade and privateering, in which a government-authorised, privately owned vessel was able to attack and capture enemy ships during wartime. He later owned steamships (for example, the PS Liverpool, 1851). Tobin was co-owner of the plantation Cold Spring in Jamaica with his brother-in-law Peter Whitfield Brancker (1750 - 1836). He became Chairman of the Liverpool Underwriters' Association in 1816 and Lord Mayor of Liverpool in 1820. Tobin also promoted the development of docks on the Cheshire side of the River Mersey. The sculptor of this bust is unknown. Its previous owner, and the man who presented it to the Walker in the Gallery’s opening year, was probably the Scots-born warehouse owner William Taylor (about 1798 – 1881), who started out in business in Tobin’s employment. Under his encouragement, in partnership with Thomas Green (dates unknown), he developed Green and Taylor, the largest warehouse concern of its kind in Liverpool in its day.