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William Harris Esquire

A baker turned corn merchant who made a number of beneficent gifts to his home town. He is commemorated by Harris Academy, which he funded for the School Board in order to protect the independence of Dundee High School.

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Personal details and history

Full name

William Harris

Date of birth


Place of birth




Marital status


Name of spouse




Home address

10 Shore Terrace, c.1850-1854.[3]
Taybank, Ferry Road, Dundee, c.1856-1857.[4]
Bellfield House, 106 Ferry Road, Dundee, c.1858-1879.[5]
Fernbank, 14 Dudhope Terrace, Dundee, c.1880-1883.[6][7]

Age at death:


Place of death:


Date of death:




Affiliations, clubs, offices and related subscribers

Religious affiliation

Church of Scotland - served as Kirk Master while on Dundee Town Council.[9]

Political affiliation


Clubs / societies

Harbour Trustee for Nine Trades, c.1846-1847.[9] Harbour Trustee for Guildry Incorporation, 1851-1854[2][10] and 1861-1862.[2][11] Assessor, Guildry Incorporation, c.1853-1857.[12] Ordinary director, Forfarshire & Perthshire Fire Insurance Co./Northern Assurance Co., c.1856-1865.[13] Trustee, Caledonian Property Investment Co., 1858-1865.[14] Extraordinary director, Dundee Banking Co., c.1861-1862.[11] Director, Dundee Gas-Light Co., c.1861-1868.[15] Committee, Exchange Coffee Room, c.1864-1865.[16] Vice President, Dundee Royal Infirmary, c.1880-1883.[17]

Public offices

Police Commissioner, Dundee, 1836.[2] Dundee Town Councillor, 1842-1851.[2] Kirk Master, 1843-1847.[2][9] Second Bailie, 1847-1851.[2][18] Justice of the Peace associated with the Dundee District of Forfarshire, c.1876-1883.[19]

Related subscribers

Career and worklife


Corn Merchant[11]



Place of work

Work address

10 Shore Terrace, Dundee, c.1850-1870.[20]

Career to date:

William Harris was the son of William Harris, baker, burgess of Dundee.[2] He was educated at Dundee High School.[2] His father died in 1822 when he was still young and he served his apprenticeship as a baker and moved to London for some years to pursue that trade.[2] He returned to Dundee and, in addition to being a baker, he became a miller and a corn merchant.[2] He was made a burgess of Dundee in 1831.[2] He was in partnership with John Melville for a while,[12] but was an independent corn merchant for most of his career. He was a Police Commissioner and a Town Councillor, rising to become Second Bailie on the Town Council.[2]

More information

William Harris was born in 1806, the son of William Harris, baker and Helen Gibson.[1]

William seems to have given up business as a corn merchant in the late 1860s and after this time turned his attention to stocks and shares.[2] He must have been successful because in later life he looked at ways of spending his money on various benefactions in his home town.[2] He founded the William Harris Institution in 1874 for persons in necessitous circumstances[21] (people who had been in menial occupations were excluded).[17] After the passing of the Education (Scotland) Act, 1872 the newly-formed Dundee School Board attempted to take over Dundee High School. In 1880 it claimed the fabric and endowments of the school. This led to a long-running legal battle and the High School was aided in its action by Harris, who had always taken a deep interest in the affairs of his alma mater.[2] In the end he gave £20.000 to Dundee High School and a further £10,000 to Dundee School Board, as long as it dropped its claims and built a secondary school which would be under its control.[2] Shortly after his death it was reported that “an institution to perpetuate the memory of one of Dundee’s noblest citizens is making progress in Park Place.”[22] Harris Academy, as it was named, eventually moved to Perth Road in the 1920s and a new school of that name still exists there.

Harris did not marry and shared his home with two sisters, one of whom followed his example and gave £16,000 for the creation of accommodation for girls at Dundee High School.[2]


  1. Old Parish Records. Dundee. Baptism. 282/90 215. ScotlandsPeople website.
  2. Roll of Eminent Burgesses of Dundee. Friends of Dundee City Archives website.
  3. Dundee Directories, 1850-1854. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  4. Dundee Directory, 1856-57. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  5. Dundee Directories, 1858-1879. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  6. Dundee Directory, 1880-81. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  7. Wills and Testaments. Dundee Sheriff Court. 19 June 1883. SC45/31/33. ScotlandsPeople website.
  8. Statutory Registers. St. Mary, Dundee. Deaths. 282/2 217. ScotlandsPeople website.
  9. Dundee Directory, 1846-47. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  10. Dundee Directory, 1853-54. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  11. Dundee Directory, 1861-62. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  12. Dundee Directories, 1853-1857. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  13. Dundee Directories, 1856-1865. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  14. Dundee Directories, 1858-1865. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  15. Dundee Directories, 1861-1868. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  16. Dundee Directory, 1864-65. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  17. Dundee Directory, 1880-81. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  18. Dundee Directory, 1850. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  19. Dundee Directories, 1876-1881. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  20. Dundee Directories, 1850-1870. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  21. Dundee Directory, 1876-77. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  22. Dundee Directory, 1884-85. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.

The information above about William Harris 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.