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William Collier Esquire

William Collier was a Dundee flax and timber merchant. He was related to both the Baxter and Small families.

Subscription value in 1865:

£100

Relative to inflation up to 2018:

£10000

Relative to income compared to 2018:

£80000

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Personal details and history

Full name

William Collier

Date of birth

circa 1812

Place of birth

Panlathy, Angus

Gender

Male

Marital status

Married

Name of spouse

Margaret Small[1]

Children

Thomas b. 1845; Charlotte Isabella b. 1847; William Henry b. 1848; Francis b. 1850; Margaret b. 1852

Home address

Roodyards
Dundee[2]

Eden Cottage
Dundee[2]

Eden Lodge
Dundee[3]

Hatton
East Haven[4]

Age at death:

59 years[5]

Place of death:

Dundee[5]

Date of death:

22-02-1870[5]

Buried:

Western Cemetery, Dundee[6]

Affiliations, clubs, offices and related subscribers

Religious affiliation

Unknown

Political affiliation

Earlier association with the Anti Corn Law Movement might suggest he was a Liberal[7]

Clubs / societies

Dundee Branch of the National Lifeboat Association[8]: Member of Dundee Chamber of Commerce by 1836[9]: Founder member and one time Captain of the Panmure Golf Club[10]: Committee of Management of the Institute for the Deaf and Dumb[11]: Model Lodging House Association-1849[12]: Dundee and Arbroath Railway director[13]: Dundee Floral and Horticultural Society[14]: Local Marine Board[15]: Dundee Trade Report Association[16]: Eye Institution[17]:

Public offices

Vice Consul for Brazil[18] Member of Dundee Chamber of Commerce (at the Baltic Coffee House)[19]

Related subscribers

William, David and Robert Small, were his direct cousins and brothers of Margaret Collier née Small, William Collier’s wife.

A cousin, a daughter of Edward Baxter, was married to George Armistead and other cousins Miss Baxter of Balgavies and Miss M. A. Baxter were also subscribers.

His next door neighbour was Peter Carmichael.

He was a friend of Dr. Robert Cocks and he signed William Collier’s death certificate.

His business was situated directly across the road from Lipman and Co..

 

Career and worklife

Occupation

Merchant and Shipowner[20] and Brazilian Consul[21]

Employment

Self employed

Place of work

Cowgate

Work address

Baxter's Court
Dundee[22]

East Cowgate
Dundee[23]

Kirkcaldy's Court
Dock Street
Dundee[24]

1 Bain's Square
Dundee[25]

2 Panmure Street
Dundee[2]

Career to date:

William Collier transformed himself from country lad to established businessman and foreign consul within a couple of decades.

More information

Early years

William Collier was born the son of Thomas Collier, factor for Lord Panmure, who made himself a comfortable fortune from shares in the Dundee to Arbroath railway[13]. His mother was Isabella Baxter, daughter of John Baxter, merchant of Dundee[22] and a relative of the well known manufacturers of textiles, the Baxter Brothers.

Lord Panmure, his father’s employer, was an advocate for education and so the schooling he was able to gain locally was substantially better than might have been expected at this period.

Through his connections in the town, together with his education, William Collier had every opportunity to be a success. By 1834 William Collier was in business in Dundee’s Cowgate as a merchant, aged 23.[26]

Career

Along with several other Albert Institute subscribers, such as Lord Kinnaird, Collier was an advocate of the Anti Corn Law movement of the 1840s.[7] Within the group of Dundee merchants who so contested the Corn Laws, it was not that they were struck that the notion was unfair in general, but they thought it unfair to them, in particular, the increase in timber import duties.[27] Collier built his business on importing a number of different things but from three main sources, Archangel, Rio de Janeiro and Valparaiso. Baltic timber imports would have been an important part of his livelihood.

A close family

William Collier married Margaret Small in Dundee on 27th August 1844.[1] The couple were first cousins: Margaret’s mother, Charlotte,[28] was William’s aunt.

Margaret’s brothers, William, David and Robert, were also merchants in Dundee and after Collier’s marriage, the families lived close to each other, at Edenbank and Eden Lodge, along with Mrs Small senior. Their next door neighbour was Peter Carmichael, of Baxter Brothers, at Springhill, whose garden was laid out for him by Thomas Collier, brother of William.[29] Carmichael had built one of the first houses on the outskirts of Dundee, an attempt to escape from the dangers of city living,[30] a feeling which must have been strongly felt by the Small and Collier families, since William Small senior, town clerk,  had died of typhus in 1822, leaving Charlotte, a young widow, to bring up her children alone.[31] By the 1870s, the town had crept out to meet them and they lived in the shadow of mills and works on the nearby Victoria Road. Neither Edenbank nor Eden Lodge survives today but Springhill is still there, in a somewhat dilapidated state.

In November 1860, tragedy struck the families, when William and Margaret’s youngest daughter, Margaret aged eight, fell from her pony and struck her head on the gate pillars. She died later of her injuries.[32]

Building of the business

Collier was not a man who missed an opportunity. When the 184 tonne Dundee ship the ‘Hero‘ went down off Fraserburgh, it was Collier who sold its rescued cargo of flax on behalf of the underwriters.[33][34][35]

On a later occasion, it was his own ship, the ‘Ruthenia[36] that was lost during a hurricane, this time much further afield. The ‘Ruthenia’ had been built by the shipyard of John Brown in only 1850,[37]  so this must have been a severe loss to his business. In 1861, whilst the ship was travelling between Peru and Mauritius (although the ship had been built “for the Baltic trade”[37]) and was homeward bound with a cargo of guano, when the ship hit rocks off Saint-Denis, Réunion Island.[38] On this occasion, three men were lost, but they were not from Dundee and so local newspapers did not feel the need to name them. Obviously, the cargo was not one which could be saved.

He had had a second ship built for him, in 1854, this time by Calman and Martin in Dundee. called the ‘British Merchant,’  “full wire rigged barque of 373 tonnes.[39] The import lists in the Dundee papers document the comings and goings of these merchant ships in some detail, showing round trips of around two months to either South America or Latvia.

Consul for Brazil and leisure interests

Like many of the subscribers to the Albert Institute, Collier was involved in many other charitable causes in the town. He was heavily involved in a campaign to build a public hall for Dundee in 1856[40] and a School of Navigation in the same year.[41]

He was also involved in the Dundee Floral and Horticultural Society, like George Newall and James Horsburgh. Although they were members, it was their gardeners who won prizes for their flowers, particularly green edged auriculas.[14]

Notably, William Collier was also Consul for Brazil to Dundee (or Vice Consul, depending on which directory you happen to read.[42]) This may seem extraordinary in our modern times, that Dundee had its own consul, now that we take communication so for granted. But, considering his connections in the trade with South America, he could probably get news to and from the Continent faster than most.

A long time interest of Collier’s was the Model Lodging House Association, described in the Dundee Postal Directory:

“The object of this Association is to improve the lodging-houses for the labouring classes in Dundee by establishing Model Lodging Houses throughout the town.[12]

Reading this, it seems a positive step towards housing the workforce of the town. However, this movement had earned the less than impressive and rather cynical nickname “the five percent philanthropists”[43] as it also meant they were controlling and profiting out of their workforce by way of rent. To some extent, Collier is less guilty of this term than some of his fellow members, such as his cousin W.E. Baxter, since he had no need for a substantial number of employees.

Legacy

On 14th August, 1863, William Collier’s father died. At this point, he inherited his home at Hatton, a substantial country house, near Carnoustie.

Soon Thomas became part of the family firm at 20 Panmure Street.[44] By 1871 Thomas was running his own firm, Thomas Collier and Co., from Panmure Street. The other sons were also in business in the town. One was in business as a commission agent in his own right from 10 Shore Terrace and Francis, known as Frank, was running his uncle’s firm of R. Small and Co.[45]

Given William Collier’s close connections with Dundee’s establishment, it is not difficult to judge why he subscribed a significant amount to the building of the Albert Institute. His business was not likely to gain from the subscription, nor had he any close connections with education. But, since his cousin and neighbour William Small and his Baxter relatives were so much involved in the various committees relating to the building and founding of the Albert Institute, avoiding a pledge would probably have seemed an impossibility.[46][47]

Sources

  1. Old Parish Registers. Dundee. Marriages. (1844). 282/ 230 132. ScotlandsPeople website.
  2. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1845. p.20. Local History Centre, Dundee Central Library.
  3. The Post Office Dundee Directory, 1867-68. p.241. National Library of Scotland website.
  4. The Post Office Dundee Directory, 1869-70. p.113. National Library of Scotland website.
  5. Statutory Registers. Dundee. Deaths. (1870). 282/ 4 172. ScotlandsPeople website
  6. Western Cemetery Burial Lair Records. Dundee. Vol. No. 2 Reg. No. 680 Compartment 11 Lair numbers: 6a,b,c,31,32 ,33,34,35 Friends of Dundee City Archives website.
  7. Dundee Courier. Tuesday, 23 January 1844. 'Great Anti Corn Law Soiree.' p.3. British Library Board. British Newspapers Archive website.
  8. Dundee Lifeboat Association. Dundee Advertiser. Thursday ,05 February 1863. p.4. British Library Board. British Newspapers Archive website.
  9. Bennett, Professor Robert. Dundee (and Forfarshire) chamber of commerce, Members 1819 and 1836. www.geog.cam.ac.uk.
  10. Dundee Courier. Monday, 30 April 1866. 'Panmure Golf Club.' p.2. British Library Board. British Newspapers Archive website.
  11. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1850. p.35. Local History Centre, Dundee Central  Library.
  12. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1856. p.34. National Library of Scotland website.
  13. Dundee Courier. Wednesday, 14 June 1854. 'Dundee and Arbroath Railway.' p.3. British Library Board. British Newspapers Archive website.
  14. Dundee Floral and Horticultural Society. Dundee, Perth, and Cupar Advertiser. Friday, 07 May 1847. p.2. British Library Board. British Newspaper Archive website.
  15. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1856. p.11, National Library of Scotland website.
  16. The Post Office Dundee Directory, 1856. p.10. National Library of Scotland website.
  17. The Post Office Dundee Directory, 1861-62. p.40. National Library of Scotland website.
  18. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1850. p.10. Local History Centre, Dundee Central Library.
  19. Chamber of Commerce. Northern Warder and General Advertiser for the Counties of Fife, Perth and Forfar. Thursday, 14 May 1846. p.5. British Library via British Newspaper Archive website.
  20. The Post Office Dundee Directory, 1858-59. p.116. National Library of Scotland website.
  21. The Post Office Dundee Directory, 1861-62. p.126. National Library of Scotland website.
  22. Advert. Dundee, Perth, and Cupar Advertiser. Friday, 28 May 1847. p.3, British Library Board. British Newspapers Archive website,
  23. The Dundee Directory and General Register, 1834. p.10. Local History Centre, Dundee Central Library. Natonal Library of Scotland website.
  24. Dundee, Perth, and Cupar Advertiser. Tuesday, 01 January 1850. 'Extensive Sale.' p.4. British Library Board. British Newspapers Archive website.
  25. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1837. p.18. Local History Centre, Dundee Central Library.
  26. Dundee Post Office Directory and General Register, 1834. p.11. Local History Centre, Dundee Central Library.
  27. Corn Laws. Meeting of the merchants and manufacturers. Northern Warder and General Advertiser for the Counties of Fife, Perth and Forfar. Tuesday, 25 May 1841. p.3. British Library Board. British Newspaper Archive website.
  28. 26/06/1809 (Old Parish Registers. Marriages. 282/ 140 105. Dundee) p.105 of 316. ScotlandsPeople website.
  29. Gauldie, Enid. (1969). Dundee Textile Industry 1790-1885. Edinburgh. T.A. Constable Ltd. p.205.
  30. Gauldie, Enid. (1969). Dundee Textile Industry 1790-1885. Edinburgh. T.A. Constable Ltd. xxxix.
  31. 12/08/1822 (Old Parish Registers. Deaths 282/ 250 188 Dundee) p.188 of 345, ScotlandsPeople website.
  32. Dundee People's Journal, Saturday. 10 November 1860. 'Melancholy Occurrence.' p.3. British Library Board. British Newspapers Archive website.
  33. Hero. 19th century Dundee ships. Friends of Dundee City Archive website.
  34. Shipwreck. Dundee Courier. Tuesday, 11 November 1845. p.2. British Library Board. British Newspaper Archive website.
  35. Advert. Dundee Courier. Tuesday, 18 November 1845. p. 4. British Library Board. British Newspaper Archive website.
  36. Dundee Directory for 1850, Page 219, http://www.archive.org/stream/dundeedirectory1850prin#page/218/mode/2up/search/collier
  37. Launch, Dundee, Perth, and Cupar Advertiser. Tuesday, 19 March 1850. p.3. British Library Board. British Newspaper Archive website.
  38. Loss of the Ruthenia. Dundee, Perth, and Cupar Advertiser. Tuesday, 09 April 1861. p.2. British Library Board. British Newspapers Archive website.
  39. Dundee, Perth and Cupar Advertiser. 'Launches.' Friday, 11 January 1856. p.2. British Newspaper Archive website.
  40. Dundee, Perth and Cupar Advertiser. Tuesday, 12 February 1856. 'Proposed Public Hall in Dundee.' p.3. British Library Board. British Newspaper Archive website.
  41. School of Navigation. Dundee Courier. Wednesday, 06 August 1856. p.3. British Library Board. British Newspapers Archive website.
  42. The Post Office Dundee Directory, 1864-65. p.108. Local History Centre, Dundee Central Library.
  43. Higginbottom, Peter. The Workhouse. www.workhouses.org.uk
  44. The Post Office Dundee Directory, 1869-70. p.352. National Library of Scotland website.
  45. The Post Office Dundee Directory, 1871-72. p.88. Local History Centre, Dundee Central Library.
  46. Norrie, William. (1878). Dundee Celebrities. Dundee. William Norrie. p.360.
  47. Dundee Courier. Thursday, 12 December 1867. p.3, British Library Board, British Newspapers Archive website.

The information above about William Collier 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.