From the Book of Eminent Burgesses of Dundee 1513 to 1885.

William Harris, (Junior) Bailie - 6th September 1831



WILLIAM HARRIS, senior, was admitted Burgess on 11th January, 1819, through the privilege of his father (also called WILLIAM), who appears to have settled as a master baker in Dundee in the precedingyear. WILLIAM HARRIS, junior, whose name is entered here, was born in Dundee in 1806, and educated at the Grammar School; but the death of his father in 1822 compelled him to adopt a trade for his own support, and he chose the craft of baker, which had been followed by his father and grandfather. Having completed his apprenticeship he went to London, where he was employed for several years; and he returned to his native town to begin business on his own account. To the trade of baker he added the occupations of miller and corn merchant, and by diligence and discretion he was soon in possession of a competence. In 1836 he was elected a Police Commissioner for the Third Ward; and in 1842 he represented the Nine Trades at the Harbour Board, and entered the Town Council. He was appointed Kirk master in the following year, and in 1847 was chosen Second Bailie. In this position he remained till 1851, when he retired from the Council.

He was sent as representative of the Guildry to the Harbour Board in 1852, and again in 1861; but after that date took no part in public affairs. About this time he retired from active business, and devoted the whole of his attention to operations in stocks and shares, by which he amassed the large fortune that he afterwards bestowed upon his fellow townsmen. His first benefaction to Dundee was the setting aside by a deed of trust, dated 13th March, 1874. certain bonds and annuities amounting to £10,000, the interest from which was to be applied by trustees to the relief of distressed persons in the burgh. Mr HARRIS had always taken a deep interest in the welfare of the High School, where he had been educated, and saw with regret that its identity was likely to be effaced if it were transformed under the Education Act into a mere School Board Seminary. A claim was made by the Dundee School Board in 1880 to the fabric and endowments of this Institution, which the Directors of the High School felt themselves justified in resisting as unwarranted by law; and a long litigation upon this matter seemed imminent.

At this crisis Mr HARRIS came forward, and after protracted negotiations he presented the Directors of the High School with £20,000 to enable them to extend the usefulness of that establishment, and gave £10,000 to the School Board of Dundee on condition that they would relinquish all claims upon the High School, and build a secondary school to be entirely under the control of the Board. A special Act of Parliament, entitled the "William. Harris Endowment and Dundee Education Bill" was passed on 19th June, 1882, and resulted in the erection of the Board School known as the "Harris Academy." Shortly afterwards Mr HARRIS made a further donation of £1,500 to the High School to assist in defraying the cost of the introduction of heating apparatus. ASi a recognition of these and other munificent gifts which Mr HARRis had made to Dundee, he was presented on 3rd October 1881, with his portrait, painted by JOHN PETTIE, R.A., which was handed over by him to the town, and is now placed in the permanent collection of pictures in the Albert Institute.

Mr HARRIS died on 17th March, 1883, having attained his seventy seventh year. He was never married, but resided with his two sisters, one of whom survives him, and has emulated the munificence of her brother by granting £16,000 to the High School for the purpose of erecting a Girls' School in connection with that institution, a portion of which has already been completed and partly occupied.

Iain D. McIntosh, Friends of Dundee City Archives