to the memory of EUPHEMIA DACRES
mother of the under mentioned THOMAS MORGAN
aged 75 years
ROBERT MORGAN HELEN MORGAN
and JANET MORGAN
children of the said THOMAS MORGAN
and JANET CRAMOND
this monument was erected by
second and only surviving son of the above
named THOMAS MORGAN and JANET CRAMOND
1st September 1817
1817 by John Morgan, Coates Crescent, Edinburgh
Source:Register of Tombs and Monuments in Dundee Burial Ground, 1832
JOHN MORGAN is a name that will long be remembered in Dundee, as that of one through whose beneficence one of the noblest institutions of the town was reared, and is being maintained. The history of the noble founder of the Morgan Hospital, and of his family antecedents, was well told in a paper read at the opening ceremony of that institution by Mr P. H. Thorns—a gentleman to whom, along with a few others, the community of Dundee are greatly indebted for having the generous donor's bequest secured to the town, when it was threatened with appropriation in other and private channels. An abridgement of this interesting paper is here submitted.
Our story commences a few years after the middle of the last century, and the scene of it is laid in the royal burgh of Dundee. At this period, the town contained some 10,000 or 12,000 inhabitants, and the march of improvement had scarcely begun in it. The ancient Cross stood on an elevated platform on the High Street. The Town House and spire, from a design by the elder Adam, had been finished only a few years before. The Old Kirk occupied the site of the present East Church ; but, excepting it, and the Tower or Old Steeple, together with a portion of the transept which formed the South Church, the magnificent pile of buildings which is said to have been erected by the Earl of Huntingdon about the beginning of the thirteenth century, lay in ruins. The Kirk Yard, or space around the churches, was unenclosed. On the east side of this space was a range of houses, to one of which more particular allusion will presently be made. On taking his morning walk towards the Shore—for so the Harbour, or all that could be called the Harbour, was designated—the indweller of Argyll-gate (now known as the Overgate) has to pass through the Kirk Yard ; and as he brushes along, lie is hailed by a stout, fair-complexioned man, who leans over a ' ben-door '—that is, a half-door—with shirtsleeves rolled up, having a comfortable woollen night-cap on his head, and a voluminous apron wrapped round his waist, and who invites him, according to a custom then prevalent, to take draught of ale.
The brewer whom we have now before us is Thomas Morgan. The house which he occupied, after undergoing various changes, has latterly been converted into the elegant restaurant known as the Cafe Royal, in Tally Street. About two years previous to this, Thomas had begun business, and already had acquired the reputation of being a thriving maltman. To share in his prosperity, and add to his comfort, he had a few months before taken unto himself a wife. He was married on Dec. 1, 1757, to Janet Cramond, who is reputed to have been a woman of strong good sense, and greatly devoted to the care of her family and household. If talent be hereditary, that possessed by the Morgans was doubtless a heritage of their mother.
John Morgan, the father of Thomas Morgan, was married to Euphan, or Euphemia, Dakers, or Dacres, whilst he was tenant of Mains of Gardyne, in the parish of Kirkden, about 1703. He removed from this farm to Seaton, parish of St Vigeans, about 1712 ; from which he removed to Ravensby, in the parish of Barry, about 1726 ; and he is found residing in Wallace Craigie, Dundee, in 1728. John died a few years afterwards ; and his widow took
possession of a cottage in the parish of Carmyllie, which was destroyed by fire on May 20, 1737. Thomas himself, it is believed, was born at Ravensby, about 1724, but the precise date of his birth has not been ascertained. Thomas Morgan was respected by his neighbours, and in the evenings his tap or public room was
usually filled by the more respectable townspeople, who repaired thither after the booths were closed, to speculate on the news of the day, and talk over anything remarkable that had occurred in the town or neighbourhood. The exploits of the year 1745 were comparatively recent, and generally formed the staple of conversation when other topics failed. Many anecdotes were preserved of the hair-breadth escapes of Prince Charles, and of the unswerving fidelity of the chieftains who supported his cause. It is even said that occasionally at these meetings, when the mirth waxed loud, 'toasts were drunk to ' him that's far awa',' and songs sung in praise of ' the lad we daurna name.' Newspapers were at this period almost unknown in Dundee. A stray number of the
Caledonian Mercury or Evening Courant, published in Edinburgh, occasionally found its way to Dundee, and supplied food for conversation to the quidnunes of the town. It was usually deposited in the shop of James Stark, the bookseller—for Dundee had only one bookseller—whose stock-in-trade included not only Bible3, catechisms, school-books, and stationery, but also an assortment of wax dolls, hand balls, and Dutch toys ; and, as James was on very friendly terms with Thomas Morgan, the newspaper generally found its way, in the course of a few days, to the tap-room in the Kirk Yard. On such occasions, the burgh schoolmaster, who lived hard
by, was usually called upon to read the tiny sheet, and came in for I a round of invitations to tea—tea was then a luxury—that he might retail the news which he had gleaned from the columns of the Edinburgh newspaper.
As already mentioned, Thomas Morgan was looked upon as a thriving man. His family increased. Three of his children—two 'sons and one daughter—died early ; but he had two sons and three daughters who grew up, remarkable for their great stature, and for the energy of character which distinguished them. John Morgan, the second son—the eldest died in infancy—was born on Feb. 28, 1760. Thomas, a younger brother, was born on March 18, 1764. ' At this period, Dundee presented little scope for commercial enterprise, and there was slight inducement for young men, who had nothing to rely upon but their own talents and industry, to settle in the town, Thomas Morgan gave his sons the best education which the Burgh and Grammar Schools could afford, and they were distinguished among the youth of the place by the staidness of their conduct, and a desire to improve their position, as well as by a certain measure of reserve, which their companions attributed to pride and self-importance. John, having completed a six years' course of attendance at the Grammar School, was sent to a writer's office, where he sharpened his pens and his wits at the same time. Here he acquired a smattering of law, which may have proved useful to him on some occasions, but which probably furnished the real cause of that lengthened litigation which terminated in the greater part of his fortune, in virtue of certain writings executed by him, being appropriated to the erection of the Morgan Hospital in Dundee.
Thomas Morgan, the second surviving son, was articled as an apprentice to a doctor—that is, one who combined the practice of physic and surgery with the dispensing and sale of medicines. In the year 1779, his name is entered as a matriculated student of 'anatomy and surgery in the University of Edinburgh. At this particular time, India was regarded as the Hesperides, or the land of golden promise ; and to that inviting land both of these young townsmen turned their longing eyes. Thomas succeeded in obtaining the appointment of assistant surgeon in the service of the East India Company ; and John obtained licence from the Directors to proceed to Bengal as a free merchant. About the year 1780, accordingly, the two youths quitted their native place to push their fortunes in India.
We now lose sight of them for a number of years, and return to the honest maltman in the Kirk Wynd, whose circumstances soon underwent a change for the worse. After for some time striving in vain to keep his head above water, he became greatly embarrassed, was evicted from his brew-seat, and, after struggling for some years, was necessitated to execute a trust deed, conveying his effects in favour of certain parties for behoof of his creditors.
Thomas shifted his residence, but he continued to retail malt liquors, assuming for his new house the sign of the ' Royal Oak.' Here his trade did not prosper, and he sunk into poverty, and died in the year 1799. His grave, in the Old Burying Ground, is marked by a tombstone erected to his memory in the year 1817, by his son John, after his return from India.
Whilst the two sons of Thomas Morgan wrere pursuing their respective callings in India, the daughters were very industriously employed at home. They carried on business as milliners and dressmakers, and were employed not only to earn a livelihood for themselves, but to contribute towards the support of their parents. Some entries in the books of the Maltmen Fraternity show that Thomas Morgan received donations from their funds. These donations
cannot be regarded in the light of charities, because Thomas contributed towards the funds of the Incorporation, and thereby purchased a right to relief from them when the cold hand of poverty came down upon him. He had at this period three daughters ; one of them died about the beginning of the present century. The survivors—Matilda and Agnes—strove honourably and successfully to maintain their position. They wrought with their hands, but they kept up their hearts; and they would sometimes excite the wonder of their friends by telling them about their brothers, when at long intervals, letters came from them with tidings of their success. These letters by and by contained substantial proofs of their continued concern for the members of their family whom they had left behind them. Remittances -were sent home by the absent brothers—small at first, but subsequently of greater amount—to provide for the comfort of the old people, and to aid the sisters in their honourable exertions to maintain their position ; and in the end, the two sisters were enabled to relinquish business, being supplied with ample means of subsistence for themselves and their aged mother by their absent brothers.
Regarding the brothers themselves, it appeared that John, after spending some years in mercantile life in Calcutta, went into the interior, and became an indigo planter, and as such was very successful. His brother Thomas, after some time forsook the medical profession, and joined his brother in the cultivation and sale of indigo. There appears, indeed, to have existed a strong attachment between the two brothers ; and their fortunes and history were from this time united until they were ultimately separated by the death of Thomas.
In June 1812, the two brothers reappeared in Dundee, having realised considerable wealth during their sojourn in the East. The mansion of Balgay had been engaged for them, and there they resided, with their mother and two surviving sisters, for nearly three years. Many of the old friends of their father's family repaired to Balgay to express their good wishes, and to offer to the Messieurs Morgan congratulations on their return to the place of their nativity under circumstances so auspicious. These visits, however, were not generally well received ; and on the elevation which they had attained, they seemed willing to forget the humble level from which they had raised themselves. It may be that the artificial state of society in which they had so long moved, and the habit of reserve which they had acquired, induced them to keep aloof from intercourse with the inhabitants of Dundee ; but this was felt by their mother and sisters to be a great deprivation, and was probably the cause of their removal to Edinburgh, where their wealth would enable them to obtain admission to circles more congenial to their taste. There is, in truth, little worthy of remark in connection with the residence of the Morgans at Balgay. Their attention was at that period much occupied with the realising of their property in India, and the remitting of the proceeds to this country. Even at this time, however, it is said, on the authority of Miss Agnes. Morgan, that her brothers, as they walked amongst the grounds of Balgay, spoke of the difficulties attending their own early progress in life, and their desire to do something which should at once perpetuate the name of their family, an 1 smooth the ascent of their youthful townsmen to respectability and honour. - After transferring their residence to Edinburgh—where, it was alleged, the family did not all at once meet the attention which they expected—the Morgans removed to the neighbourhood of Haddington. They returned, however, after a short time, to Edinburgh, and there passed the remainder of their lives.
It may here be mentioned that Thomas Morgan (the younger) died in Aug. 1815 ; that the mother of the Morgans died in Oct 1819; that Miss Matilda Morgan died in March 1827 ; that Miss Agnes Morgan died on Jan. ]5, 1848; and that John Morgan— who must be considered the leading subject of this sketch—died on Aug. 25, 1850, in the 91st year of his age. The merits of John and Thomas Morgan were of no ordinary kind. They could boast of no advantage of birth or connections. They fought the battle of life bravely and well. No whisper was breathed to their discredit in regard to their dealings in a land where, in former times, men were not remarkably scrupulous in matters of business or morality. Their deep-seated attachment to their parents and sisters formed a distinguishing and estimable trait of their characters. Doubtless they had their failings ; and of these, the most remarkable in men of such vigorous minds, was a desire, by all means, to connect themselves with some family of distinction, and, like the butterfly in the sunbeam, to forget the condition from which they had emerged. Some amusing instances of this infirmity are preserved. In Jan. 1818, Mr John Morgan wrote to M. Morgan, Procureur-general at Amiens, in the following terms :—
Permit me to request the favour of you to examine the enclosed armorial bearings, which I presume to do in consequence of the similarity of name. At same time, will you have the goodness to endeavour to obtain an explanation of the inscription on these armorial bearings, which belonged to a General William Morgan, who was in the French service during the years 1745-6.
And further :
About the month of August last, I had the armorial bearings transmitted i to Messrs Vassal & Co., or Paris, to procure an explanation, as well as to obtain information respecting General William Morgan and Dr William
Morgan ; but I have not yet received any satisfactory account of either, when is the cause of my presuming to trouble you.
This letter led to no satisfactory result ; and at a subsequent period Mr Morgan thus addressed Sir William Houston : I have been many years employed in a similar search, and found all the records sadly mutilated, from the rebellions in 1715 and 1745, and the parochial registers carelessly kept. My object was to trace back my descent from the Morgans of Glenesk, in Forfarshire, who swore fealty to Edward the First, when he overran Scotland in 1296. The thought of connecting himself with his native town by some permanent memorial seems to have been suppressed for a season ; but it again from time to time revived. In the year 1830, Mr Morgan transmitted to the Convener of the Nine Incorporated Trades of Dundee a donation of £100, to be applied for the benefit of their poor members. The Trades, as in duty bound, acknowledged this handsome gift, and created Mr Morgan an honorary member of their Incorporation, with which compliment he appears to have felt greatly flattered. Baffled in his attempts to identify his family with the French General Morgan, or the Morgans of
Glenesk, another idea now took possession of the mind of John Morgan, lie resolved to be the founder of a family which was to throw the Morgans of France, Germany, and Glenesk into the shade. His fortune was to accumulate until it reached the sum of one million sterling, and then it was to be invested in the purchase of land in the counties of Forfar or the Lothians. The estates were to assume the name of John Morgan, and Mr Morgan actually selected a gentleman of his acquaintance, on whom and his descendants these benefits were destined to alight. One cannot help smiling as he reads the document containing these extraordinary conditions. It bears date Jan. 4, 1838.
A change, however, came over the spirit of his dream. The will to which allusion has just been made was carefully obliterated by Mr Morgan—so much so, that it is difficult to decipher its contents; and by a writing subjoined to it, he specially annuls all its provisions. The last-mentioned writing, which bears date Oct. 10, 1842, declares his wish to establish, in the town of Dundee, an Hospital, after the model of George Heriot's Hospital, in Edinburgh, in its size and in the management of the interior. On reflection, however, he had come to think that his fortune, which had been impaired by losses through the failure of his agents in London and Calcutta, would be inadequate to the building and support of an institution projected on so large a scale as Heriot's Hospital ; and by a subsequent writing, dated Oct. 20, 1842, he restricted the Hospital to such a size as shall accommodate only 100, instead of 180 boys. These two last writings, which are much altered and obliterated, formed the ground-work of the litigation which subsisted for some years, and issued in their being declared, by a judgment of the House of Lords, to constitute ' a good and valid bequest of the fortunes of John Morgan, or so much thereof as
shall be sufficient for the purpose of building and endowing an Hospital for the education and maintenance of 100 boys in the town of Dundee.' As already intimated, this noble bequest was almost, at the eleventh hour, lost to the town. The case having been thrown out in the Court of Session, was appealed to the House of Lords. The London agents telegraphed to Mr D. Rollo, solicitor (afterwards Provost), who acted as local agent throughout in the case, that the appeal was to be heard on the following day, but that the expenses would have to be guaranteed before the case could be entered. There being no time to lose, Mr Rollo at once gave his personal guarantee for these expenses—Mr David Hume, Convener of the Nine Trades, joining him verbally in it. Had it
not been for the promptitude of these gentlemen, the appeal would have been dismissed. The sum ultimately fixed by the Court, and payable free of expenses for that purpose, was ,£73,000. The history of that litigation is instructive, in so far as it shows that the liberality of the friends of education has succeeded in securing for the town the greatest educational boon, so far as money is concerned, which it has yet enjoyed.