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 John Mitchell Keiller

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John Mitchell Keiller

Birth
Dundee City, Scotland
Death 2 Jan 1899 (aged 48)
At Sea
Burial Dundee, Dundee City, Scotland
Memorial ID 184736380 View Source

Son Alexander Keiller (1889-1955)

The late Mr John M Keiller
The intimation of the death of Mr John M Keiller, of the firm of Messrs James Keiller & Son, Limited, preserve manufacturers, Dundee, has caused widespread regret throughout the city and district. Deceased was a comparatively young man, being still in the prime of manhood, and although his health of late has necessitated frequent periods of rest, it was hoped his retiral from active work was only temporary. Since leaving Dundee Mr Keiller has resided chiefly in London, but took frequent voyages on board his yacht the Erl King for health purposes. A short time ago he left this country for Madeira, and towards the end of the year he sailed for the West Indies. He died on Monday - the day after the anniversary of his birthday - at sea, but no details as to the sad event have yet been received.
Though only in his 49th year, deceased has had a fairly long and active career. Through the death of his father, when the son was 26 years of age, he was unexpectedly called upon to conduct a business which was the largest of its kind in the country. Born in 1851 in Dundee on New Year's Day he, like most young Dundonians who have occupied prominent positions in the mercantile life of the community, was sent to the High School, where he received his early training. He then went to Edinburgh University, and afterwards spent two years on the Continent for the purpose of perfecting his knowledge of the French and German languages. It is worthy of note that he did this at a time when foreign languages were not held in the esteem they are nowadays, but he evidently could appreciate the advantage familiarity with these tongues would be to him in the development of the Continental part of the business. Returning to Dundee, he entered his father's office, and set himself with commendable industry, to master the details of the business. The knowledge thus gained was not long in being put to the test, and when he was called upon to take full charge of the affairs of the firm he soon showed that the ability which the concern had never wanted during the whole of its existence would not be lacking now. The firm, it may be said, was founded in 1797 by James Keiller, the grandfather of deceased, to whom the public owe the famous Dundee marmalade. At first the business was purely local, but a larger public was not long in appreciating the virtues of the new delicacy. The demand rapidly increased and additions to the capacity for producing marmalade had to be made from time to time. The principal difficulty in the early days had reference to the Sugar Import Duties, which, by keeping up the price of that indispensable ingredient of preserves, prevented the expansion of the trade which the abolition of the duties eventually allowed. In order to meet Continental competition under these disadvantageous circumstances, Messrs Keiller established a branch of their work in the island of Guernsey, where, on account of the fiscal arrangements between Great Britain and the Channel Islands, sugar was received free of import duties. The manufacture there of an article superior to the Continental make enabled the firm to successfully compete in the foreign markets. With the repeal of the sugar duties the necessity of keeping up an establishment in Guernsey disappeared, and the present works at Silvertown, London, were secured, the majority of the workpeople at Guernsey being transferred to the metropolis.
Though a prominent citizen of Dundee, Mr Keiller cannot be said to have been a public man in the usual acceptation of the term. For a short time he was a member of the Harbour Trust, and was also a past President of the Chamber of Commerce. He had no inclination for competitive elections, and did not seek admission to the Town Council or any of the other public Boards; but to took a warm interest in his native city, and by means of his private munificence and valuable counsel many an Insstitution was enabled to extend its work. Since 1895, however, when the firm was converted into a limited liability Company, Mr Keiller has not been seen much in Dundee. He gave up his town residence at Binrock and went to live in London, but he has spent the most of his life since then at sea. He was perhaps best known to Dundonians as a lover of the fine arts and a warm supporter of the Art Gallery. He contributed £1000 towards the building fund of the Institution, and in commemoration of the Queen's Jubilee he handed over a sum of £10,500 for the purpose of clearing off the debt of the Albert Institute and erecting an Art Gallery. He by this means put the Free Library Committee in possession of funds which enabled them to do much to extend the usefulness of that institution. New books were secured for the Reference Library, and in other ways his liberality found suitable expression. He was an extensive purchaser of pictures for himself, and his house at Binrock was the home of a fine collection of works of leading artists. He made more than one artistic gift to the public galleries, including the two-thirds life-size marble statue of Hamlet, the work of Senor Weisenberg, and the picture of "The Swineherd", by W.E. Lockhart, R.S.A. - two works which are familiar to all frequenters of the Art Galleries. Among his other benefactions to the city may be mentioned a challenge cup and medal to encourage gymnastics, and a donation of £2000 to the Infirmary. In 1886 he purchased the Morven and Gairnside portion of the Marquis of Huntly's Aboyne estates, on which he built a mansionhouse close to Ballater. He married the eldest daughter of the late Dr Greig, and is survived by a widow and son nine years of age. He was a Conservative in politics, and a supporter of the Church of Scotland.

Adapted from The Evening Telegraph Friday January 6, 1899


Inscription

In loving memory
Of
John Mitchell Keiller
Of Morven Aberdeenshire
And
13 Hyde Park Gardens London
Born 1st January 1851
Died 2nd January 1899
And his wife
Mary Sime Greig
Born 13th April 1862
Died at Nice 22nd January 1907
And interred there


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