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Robert Prain Esquire

Born to Robert Prain and Edith Anderson[wol], innkeepers, brewers and vintners of Thorter Row[thor] and became an accountant. However, his death certificate states he was a "woollen cloth merchant".

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Personal details and history

Full name

Robert Prain

Date of birth


Place of birth

Thorter Row, Dundee



Marital status


Name of spouse

Ann Paterson Scott, c.1834-1895[3]


Jessie Colville b. 1860,[4] Edith Anderson b. 1861,[5] Anne Scott b.1863,[6] b. Robina Scott 1866.[7]

Home address

3 Westfield Lane[8]
18 Airlie Place[9]

Age at death:

Place of death:


Date of death:



Western Cemetery, Dundee, Lair number 10[11]

Affiliations, clubs, offices and related subscribers

Religious affiliation


Political affiliation


Clubs / societies


Public offices

Not applicable.

Related subscribers

Subscribers no.184 and 185 were distant cousins on paternal side James Prain junior and James Prain senior.

Career and worklife


accountant[12]/ woollen cloth merchant[10]



Place of work


Work address

49 Meadowside East[13]
51 Cowgate, 1871-1872[14]

Career to date:

Occupation and Addresses. Born in a city centre inn, Prain became an accountant and woollen cloth merchant. Robert Prain seems to have led a rather quiet and uneventful life. He was born in Dundee, worked in Dundee and died young. His will states that the total value of his estate was £215 at death[15] and he was a tenant, not the owner, of his home[16]. However, Westfield Place where he was a tenant was described as a pleasant address: "Extending from Perth Road to Magdalen Yard Road A narrow, paved roadway extending Southward from the Perth Road to Magdalen Yard Road There are some good dwelling houses in this thoroughfare some, built as Detach'd Villas with gardens attached & others in the Cottage style. They are principally occupied by retired Bankers, Writers & others.[17]" Airlie Place, the street where he lived at the time of his death, was: "A short wide street extending north from Perth Road and terminating near Airlie Lodge. Along its east side is a range of handsome houses, three storeys high, & built of freestone with railed in arrears in front & small plots in the rear. Tenanted by respectable families.[18]" These are the addresses of a man aspiring to the middle classes and genteel living, so it is perhaps not surprising that he gave money to a cause such as the Albert Buildings. He was not someone who joined the endless societies and charitable gatherings who listed their evenings, donations and meetings in the newspapers, but it would appear he felt that the Albert Institute was a worthwhile cause.

More information

Death and Legacy.

Perhaps it is worthy of note that it is stated Robert Prain owned £123 15s in household goods at the time of his death[15], implying he owned some reasonably valuable possessions. But perhaps he foresaw his early death, he had not one, but two life policies[15].

Robert Prain called himself an “accountant[12]” but at the time of his early death, his brother gave his occupation for his death certificate as “woollen cloth merchant[10]“. His will registered at Dundee Sheriff Court refers to him as an accountant. He may well have been an accountant and wool merchant, or he may simply have changed occupations as opportunities arose. His brother James, who had notified the authorities of Robert’s untimely death of bronchitis[10], was a Gutta Percha merchant in Carnoustie[19] and one can only assume supplied the materials for the making of early golf balls[20], the family were seizing opportunities as they arose. His wife, Ann, lived on in Dundee until 1895, dying aged 61.[3] An archetypal Victorian death, of a disease easily cured in the 20th century, ended Robert Prain’s life too early for him to have left much of a mark on the world, but his legacy lives on because of his commitment to Dundee’s new art gallery and museum.



  1. Old Parish Records. Dundee. Baptism. 26 January 1831. 282/170 5. ScotlandsPeople website.
  2. Statutory Registers. Dundee First District. Marriage. 1859. 282/1 182. ScotlandsPeople website.
  3. Statutory Registers. Dundee, St. Peter. Death. 1895. 282/1 543. ScotlandsPeople website.
  4. Statutory Registers. Dundee Second District. Birth. 1860. 282/2 590. ScotlandsPeople website.
  5. Statutory Registers. Dundee Second District. Birth. 1861. 282/2 1126. ScotlandsPeople website.
  6. Statutory Registers. Dundee Second District. Birth. 1863. 282/2 639. ScotlandsPeople website.
  7. Statutory Registers. Dundee Second District. Birth. 1866. 282/2 1411. ScotlandsPeople website.
  8. Dundee Directory, 1869-70, p.317. Local History Centre, Dundee Central Library.
  9. Dundee Directory, 1874-75, p.220. Local History Centre, Dundee Central Library
  10. Statutory Registers. Dundee First District. Death. 25 April 1874. 282/1 217. ScotlandsPeople website.
  11. Cemetery Records. Lair purchased by Mrs Anne Paterson Scott, his wife's maiden name. Reg. Vol. 6, 2259, Comp. 1, Lair 10. Friends of Dundee City Archives website.
  12. Dundee Advertiser, Friday, 18 December 1863, p.1. British Newspaper Archive 
  13. Dundee Directory, 1869-70, p.279. Local History Centre, Dundee Central Library.
  14. Dundee Directory, 1871-72, p.352. Local History Centre, Dundee Central Library.
  15. Wills and testaments. Dundee Sheriff Court. 14 July 1874. SC45/31/25. ScotlandsPeople website.
  16. Valuation Roll, Dundee Burgh, 1865. VR009800015-/116. ScotlandsPeople website.
  17. Ordnance Survey Name Books Forfarshire (Angus) OS Name Books, 1857-1861 Forfar (Angus) volume 33 OS1/14/33/53. Scotlandsplaces website.
  18. Ordnance Survey Name Books Forfarshire (Angus) OS Name Books, 1857-1861 Forfar (Angus) volume 34 OS1/14/34/34. Scotlandsplaces website.
  19. Statutory registers. Carnoustie. Death. 316/19. Scotlandspeople website.
  20. The Gutty Ball. Golf Ball Museum website.

The information above about Robert Prain has been collated from a range of digital and hard copy sources. To the best of our knowledge it is correct but if you are relying on any information from our website for the purpose of your own research we would advise you to follow up the sources to your own satisfaction. If you are aware of an inaccuracy in our text please do not hesitate to notify us through our Contact page.