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THE LATE MR PETER DRON.


Death is rapidly thinning the ranks of our aged citizens. It is not long ago since we chronicled the deaths of Dr Crichton, ex-Provost Kay, and Dr Greig, and to-day we have to announce the demise of ex-Convener Dron. Mr Dron was a townsman, well known and much esteemed in the community. For a lengthened period he took a leading part in the public business of the burgh, and was an intelligent and influential member of the liberal party, both in local and general politics. Mr Dron was a fair public speaker. He easily grappled both with the general principles and the details of any public question, and could express his views in a sensible and intelligent
manner. He was affable and courteous in his demeanour, and occasionally gave expression to a sly joke and piece of pleasantry. Mr Dron was son of Mr Robert Dron, shoe- maker, a native of Crail, who came to Dundee
during the last century, and carried on business as a master shoemaker. The elder Mr Dron lived to an advanced age; and being for some years previous to his death rather infirm, his son, who had been bred to the business, assisted him in conducting it, and succeeded to it after his death.
Mr Dron was one of the oldest members of the shoemaker trade, and consequently a member of the Nine Incorporated Trades. He was repeatedly elected to the office of Deacon of the shoemakers was subsequently elected Convener of the Nine Trades at a time when that office was much coveted, the convener being a. member of the self-elected Town Council of those days. Mr Dron took great interest in the business of the Nine Trades, and was a leading member of the Incorporation, and a frequent speaker at its meetings. In those days, local politics caused greater interest and excitement than they do in the present day. Public opinion was loudly ex-
pressed against the close self-elected servants of the burgh, and the all but total exclusion from the Town Council of citizens professing Liberal opinions, however respectable their station in society. The deacons of the Nine Trades were at that period extraordinary members of Council.
The members of those Incorporations, in order to infuse a little Liberalism into the self-elected Town Council, sometimes admitted to the freedom of the trades, and afterwards elected as deacons citizens of influence and talent belonging to the Liberal party. Among those so honoured we may name Ex-Provost Lindsay, Mr James
Sunders, writer, Mr Roberts, banker, &c. To become a successful candidate for the convener-ship could, in general, only be attained after a keen contest, and involved the expenditure of a considerable sum of money in
treating the members of the Incorporation in inns and public-houses. Party spirit in many instances ran high at such elections.
Reporters not being admitted to the meetings of the Town Council in those days, the late Mr Rintoul, then editor of the Dundee Advertiser, and afterwards editor of the Spectator, a man of staunch Liberal principles, knowing that Convener Dron was an out-and-out Reformer, and an intelligent man, applied to him to furnish short reports of the Council's proceedings for the columns of the Advertiser, a service to the press and the Liberal party which he cheerfully and successfully rendered.
The burgh having been disfranchised previous to the passing of the Reform Bill, Mr Dron was elected by the burgesses one of the members of the Town Council, under what was technically termed the poll warrant, and
was appointed to the office Of Hospital Master. He held that office during the first outbreak of the cholera in Dundee, and as that dreadful disease continued for a considerable time to make speedy and sad havoc amongst the citizens, it became a difficult task in the considerably crowded state of the Howff to obtain ground for interments. Mr Dron displayed great skill and energy in regard to this matter, and many will yet remember the time and attention he gave both by night and by day to this work, often persevering in it at times when he had few Councillors or assistants to aid him in the task. The people, in many cases, became alarmed at the fearful ravages of the disease; but Mr Dron, who was blessed with strong nerves and a sound constitution, was through the kindness of Providence enabled to fro through the work without being seized by disease, and has been preserved to nearly the four score of the Psalmist.
Mr Dron continued as Hospital-Master for a considerable period, and suggested a plan for the improvement of the laying out of the Old Howff, which, at that time, was in a truly wretched condition. This plan he successfully carried out in the face of obloquy and opposition. Those who remember the Howff as it then was, and contrast it with its improved condition are best able to appreciate the value of his services. They were handsomely acknowledged at the time by a suitable public testimonial. This testimonial consisted of a valuable gold watch
and appendages, and, if we recollect aright, of a purse of money besides. The presentation was made at a public dinner in the Royal Hotel, at which not a few of the leading inhabitants of the burgh were present.
Mr Dron took an active part in the Parliamentary contests for the representation of the burgh, He was a keen supporter, in the first election under the Reform Act in 1832, of the late Mr George Kinloch, of Kinloch, the first member for Dundee, against Mr Charles Guthrie, a London merchant, his opponent.
Mr Dron was also an active and zealous sup-porter of the late Sir Henry Parnell, Barn, against his opponent, the late Mr Wm. Gladstone of Fasque, at the contest of 1837 ; and, in 1841, of Mr George Duncan, against Mr J. B. Smith of Manchester, the President of the Anti-Corn Law League. Mr Dron was a keen advocate of the movement for bringing in a supply of water to Dundee by assessment, and acted out and out with his colleagues in the Town Council in opposing the Joint Stock Company in their endeavour to obtain an Act he deeming an assessment by far the best mode for the inhabitants ; and he was the author of, or had a hand in, numerous articles which appeared in the Dundee Advertiser and Dundee Courier of the day in opposition to those of the Dundee Chronicle, the organ of the party for sup- plying the town with water by a Joint Stock Company. Mr Peter Brown, who then conducted the Advertiser, kept up to the time of his death, a few years ago, a friendly correspondence with Mr Dron, and gave substantial expressions of his esteem and regard-Mr Dron rendered good service to the Town as well as to the Hospital during the time he was in the Council. Amongst other things, being convinced from investigations he then instituted that the ground at the top of the east side of Reform Street, part of which was called the Little Meadows, belonged to the Hospital, he moved a resolution in the Council that the matter should be referred to arbitration. He succeeded in getting it submitted to the late Mr Cobb, writer, as sole arbiter, who, after sundry steps of procedure, found that the ground belonged to the Hospital, by which a considerable sum yearly was got for that fund. Mr Dron continued assiduously to prosecute the shoemaking trade until nearly seventeen years ago, when he fell into ill health ; and, acting on the advice of his friends and Well-Wishers, left Dundee and went to live in the country. After a short residence at the American Muir, he re-moved to Downfield, where he lived up to the time of his death. Mr Dron was a life member of the Dundee Library from the origin of the Watt Institution, and was from that quarter well supplied with mental aliment, of which he zealously availed himself. Until within a year or two of his death he paid one or two visits weekly to Dundee, in order to see his old friends, and, when necessary, to get a supply of books from the library.
On account of his pecuniary circumstances, Mr Dron received aid from the Hospital Fund, which he was well entitled to, and for which he ever ex- pressed his gratitude ; but in consequence of the Stipend case, the allowances to Mr Dron and many other deserving needy citizens were stopt (sic) some years ago. Had it not been through the kindness of many gentlemen in town who knew Mr Dron`s services, and contributed to his support, he would have been very ill off. These subscriptions were raised and applied through the instrumentality of a kind-hearted and much-respected citizen.
Mr Dron was persuaded by certain parties to allow his name to be used in the action of Baird and others against the Town Council. His name was also used, but without, in his belief, his authority having been obtained, in the
second action regarding the Hospital fund. Mr Dron made repeated efforts, but without suc- cess, to have his name withdrawn from these actions.
Mr Dron was a member of the Mains Established Church, and as long as his health permitted was a regular attender. He was much attached to the Rev. Dr Robertson, now minister of the High Church, Glasgow, and equally so to the present minister of Mains, Mr M‘Murtrie, who, along with the Rev. Mr M‘Gillivray, of the Free
Church, have been very attentive to him. Mr Dron was an enlightened and intelligent sup-porter of the Established Church, while at the same time his opinions on ecclesiastical questions were liberal and tolerant, and he entertained amicable views and feelings towards all classes of evangelical dissenters. He was the reverse of a bigot in his religious views. Mr Dron was what might be termed a self-taught man. Little education for tradesmen was deemed necessary in his younger days, and hence he got but a moderate share of schooling. He had, however, a most retentive memory, and was possessed of a large amount of information, so as to be well able to converse on any subject. When the late Dr Chalmers was at Kilmany, and at the time the Doctor’s great powers as a. divine were just beginning to be known, Mr Dron made several visits to that small rural church to hear him, and often repeated that he would never forget the bursts of eloquence which proceeded from the lips of that distinguished pulpit orator and theologian.
Mr Dron was always ready to act as an amanuensis to the poor and needy, and also to advocate their cause. We have no doubt that the consideration of the benefits he himself received from the friendship and sympathy of
others, as well as his native kindly disposition, operated powerfully in inducing him to persevere in this expression of sympathy for the poor. This, and his unobtrusive and exemplary walk and conversation, endeared him to the country people generally, and made him to be much respected in the parish of Mains and Strathmartine.

The Dundee Courier & Argus 26-8-1862.

 

 

Reproduced courtesy of the Lamb Collection, copyright Dundee Central Library