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Kirkintilloch Town and Parish
William Dunn of Duntocher


Irving, in his “Book of Dumbartonshire,” says:—

"In 1808 William Dunn, eldest son of William Dunn, proprietor of Gartclash, parish of Kirkintilloch, acquired the mill at Duntocher, then idle, and which had previously been used only for spinning wool and cotton yarn. Having succeeded to the Gartclash property on the death of his father, Mr. Dunn, even at the time spoken of, had made a  fair start with those machine-works in Glasgow, which afterwards became so famous throughout Britain. He fitted up the Duntocher mill with his own machinery, and succeeded so well that in a few years he purchased the neighbouring Faifley mill from the Faifley Spinning Company. These mills he continued to enlarge and improve till his business reached a point far beyond their powers of production. He was then compelled not only to extend the old but to erect entirely new works. About 1813 he acquired from Messrs. Dennistoun the Dalnotter ironworks, used principally for slitting and rolling iron, and, eight years afterwards, erected upon their site the Milton mill, unfortunately destroyed by fire in 1846. The Hardgate mill, contiguous to his other works, and erected in 1831, was destroyed by fire in 1851, but immediately afterwards rebuilt, on a different site, by Alexander Dunn, Esq., on a far larger scale. It was to the enterprise of Mr. William Dunn that Duntocher owed its origin in a great measure, and certainly years of prosperity. In addition to the properties connected with his various mills, Mr. Dunn acquired, by large and successive purchases, a very considerable extent of landed property in the parish, comprehending the lands of Duntocher, Milton, Kilbowie, Balquhauran, Dalmuir, Duntiglennan, Auchentoshan, Loch Humphrey, and others. The sole architect of his large fortune, William Dunn was a man of indomitable perseverance, great self-reliance, and unsullied integrity. He managed his extensive concerns with care and talent, and was much esteemed amongst the population connected with his various establishments, amounting to several thousands. Charitable, yet unostentatious, and uniting to a strict sense of honour and rigid truthfulness, a liberal spirit in all his dealings, he was in every way worthy of the high position which, by his vigour and ability, he had attained amongst the merchants and landowners of the west of Scotland.

In private life he was beloved as a gentleman of unassuming manners and kindly disposition: and although he did not aspire to any official situation of distinction, he at all times liberally contributed to every object calculated to promote the public good. He was born at Gartclash in 1770, and died at Mountblow 13th March, 1849, leaving the bulk of his large property to his sole surviving brother, Alexander Dunn, with the exception of a sum of £3,000, allocated for various charitable purposes. Mr. Dunn was a deputy-lieutenant of Dumbartonshire.

Mr. Peter Mackenzie writes of him in his “ Old Reminiscences of Glasgow,” and we give extracts which may interest our readers, being written in the quaint and racy style of the author.

Mr. Dunn grew up from a state of poverty in early life, to be a man of vast wealth. He gave the best of dinners, with the most delicious wines he could procure, in place of the porridge and sour milk to which he had been previously accustomed in a rural district of the country not very far distant.....In his mature years Mr. Dunn, thus living in luxury and driving in his carriage, became captivated with the beautiful Miss Logan, daughter of Walter Logan, Esq, of Fingalstone, an esteemed merchant of the city. Mr. Dunn had almost made up his mind to offer his hand to that lovely creature in marriage, with a goodly jointure; and it was thought she might and would have taken him, for they were often in company together, and he ever paid her the greatest possible attention, making no secret of his regard. Whether it was mutual or not, is a question which we, of course, cannot solve, nor perhaps can anyone else; but certain it is that Lord John Campbell from Ardincapel, stepped into the field, and before Mr. Dunn had popped the question, his lordship wooed and won Miss Logan’s hand, and she was regarded by all the city as the future Duchess of Argyle. The story has been already told that Lord John, after flirting with Miss Logan, married another lady, who brought him no inconsiderable fortune. Miss Logan had little or none, except her own beauty and accomplishments; but Lord John paid her ;£ 10,000 as damages at first, and ,£10,000 when he became Duke in 1839. We shall repeat the observation that, without a doubt, she was one of the greatest beauties that ever shone in Glasgow during the last half century.....We can best show how lovely she was from the fact, which we witnessed with our own eyes oftener than once, that whenever she appeared, as she did many times, with a select circle in some of the front boxes of the splendid Theatre Royal, then in Queen Street, the enrapt audience would no sooner get their eyes upon her than, as if by a spell of enchantment, they sprang from their seats, and cheered, and loudly cheered to the echo, from the pit to the boxes, three tiers of them, and from the boxes to the first gallery, yea, to the second and third; for it was a most capacious and magnificent house, never eclipsed by any since in Glasgow.

. . . . We quietly return to the thread of our discourse about Mr. Dunn .... We have given him nearly all the credit he deserves; but he had his own peculiar tastes and distastes. One of them was an excessive liking for law pleas, and so he was constantly in the Court of Session with his neighbours, particularly the late Lord Blantyre and Mr. Hamilton of Cochno, either about some mill-dam or other, or the straightening of some march-dyke, or the breadth and depth and purity of some flowing water from the Cochno glen, at or near his possessions at Duntocher. He threw both these individuals into great expense, some alleged, about the merest trifles; and he had this peculiar feature about him, that whilst he was strict and parsimonious in regard to many other things, he was exceedingly liberal to every orte of his many law agents, and paid them every plack and penny of their accounts, whenever rendered, without the least grudge. He made the rather sensible remark on this score, that if a man wanted to be successful in his law plea, even though it should run down his opponent, it was best to keep the wheels of the agent-well greased for the work.

Late in life he was laid up in his Glasgow house in St. Vincent Street for the first time by severe indisposition, and his life was despaired of. More than one or two ministers of the city paid the most marked attention to him in their oft-repeated visits—we shall not upbraid them by the other text, viz., that where the carcase is there the eagles fly. But one fine morning, when in bed, Mr. Dunn received an agreeable letter from his law agents, informing him that he had gained one of his cases with Lord Blantyre: so, when one of the clergymen in a few minutes afterwards entered the bedroom of the sick man, the latter stretched forth his hands to him, and said “Come away, reverend sir; I am glad to see you, for I have at last conquered my greatest enemy.” The clergyman concluded that he had conquered “ the prince of the power of the air,” as the arch-enemy of the human race has frequently been designated ; and he put up a suitable prayer in consequence. In going out and accosting some other friends of Mr. Dunn on the streets, he told them he had just left him in a most composed and agreeable state of mind for his great approaching change, in that he had affectionately assured him he had conquered his greatest enemy. “His greatest enemy,” quoth the civilian; “he has conquered Lord Blantyre and the Duntocher dam.” This was a settler to our friend the reverend divine for his next visit.

Mr. Dunn, as we have said, had many good qualities ; and in subscriptions for charitable purposes he was rarely behind any of his neighbours. If the genial fit was upon him, he would give more liberally perhaps than any other man within call; but if any stubborn or ill-natured fit was upon him, it was quite needless to say a word to him. . .  One day he was waited on by a douce deputation, who, after making their profound bow, handed him the subscription paper. He signed his name for two guineas. “Two guineas, Mr. Dunn, only two guineas for such a noble philanthropic purpose.” They beseeched him to double or treble it. One of the deputation said that he ought to sign for at least fifty guineas. “Not another penny, gentlemen, not another penny.” One of them, more rude probably than he should have been, quoted the text . . . that it was “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven;” and he expounded it pretty strongly by saying that he, Mr. Dunn, ought to give some of his means liberally while he was yet spared upon the earth, as he would take none of his money with him to the other world. “I know that perfectly well,” replied Mr. Dunn; “it is the only thing I am vexed about” He bowed them out of his apartment.”


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