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John Dunning

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John Dunning (1826-1885)

1885 Obituary [1]

JOHN DUNNING, the youngest of a family of seven children, was the son of a farmer of Fadmoor, near Kirby Moorside, the members of the family having for several generations lived and died on the Feversham Estate.

He was born in the year 1826, and his father dying soon afterwards, the widow sold her farm and migrated with her family to the city of York, where John Dunning spent his early childhood. In his tenth year he was sent to the Quaker school at Ackworth, near Pontefract.

When John Dunning was sixteen or seventeen years of age, a brother took the Thorpe Corn Mills, four miles from Stockton; and this brought to Tees-side the man who was destined to become one of the leading spirits in guiding the destinies of the new and rising town of Middlesbrough. He remained at the Thorpe Mills till the year 1845, when he entered the office of the owners of the Middlesbrough Estate, and was placed under Mr. Isaac Sharpe, the well-known Friends' missionary, who was at that time the principal agent of the Middlesbrough Estate.

It was to the late Mr. Joseph Pease - who was ever on the look-out for energy and ability in a young man - that he owed the latter position. He passed a period of initiation in Darlington, after which he was sent back to Middlesbrough to act as check-clerk, or auditor, over the accounts at the brickyards and wharves. Here he plodded on year by year, receiving further promotion and larger emolument as time went on. He was remarkably active, not only in his business, but in the political and social sphere, and was well known throughout the district for his ardent advocacy of the temperance cause. In time he became agent of the Middlesbrough Owners, in the place of Mr. Sharpe, and he was also, in 1847, appointed to the secretaryship of the Middlesbrough Gas Company, then a private concern. He was appointed borough surveyor of Middlesbrough in 1855, an office which he held for fourteen years.

In 1868 the firm of Jones, Dunning, and Co., whose works are known as the Normanby Ironworks at Cargo Fleet, was started, the subject of this notice being one of the partners.

On ceasing to be the Borough Surveyor Mr. Dunning became a candidate for the Town Council, and after several severe contests was elected in 1872 for the Middle Ward. From the time of entering the Council, Mr. Dunning, who, from his somewhat stubborn and unyielding temperament, had enemies, had to fight his way upwards against considerable opposition. In time, however, he made himself felt in the municipal councils, and in 1875 he was elected to fill the civic chair, his predecessor having been Mr. T. Hugh Bell. In 1877 he was promoted to the aldermanic bench, where he continued to hold his seat until his death.

Mr. Dunning was a man of strong opinions, which he tenaciously maintained, and his life was consequently one long battle. One who knew him well writes, that "any one contending with John Dunning found in him a strong and bitter, but still a frank and open enemy, ready after a contest to shake hands with his opponent. In spite of apparent arrogance and self-will, no man, could be more true and tender towards those who sought any favour at his hands, and his kind and thoughtful charities were distributed with no niggardly hand." As an instance of the kindliness of his disposition may be mentioned his connection with the "War-Victims Fund," provided at the end of the great struggle of 1870-71 to provide relief for the sufferers who had taken no part in the war.

Mr. Dunning and his associates were, after the battles around Metz, much impressed with the conviction that the best thing they could do to help to restore the desolated district was to send out a steam plough, and to sow the land with English seed-corn. For some time there was considerable difficulty in finding anyone willing to undertake the mission, when at last Mr. Dunning was induced to take charge of the work.

He went out in December, 1870, and spent Christmas in France, along with Mr. Thomas Snowdon (late of the firm of Snowdon and Hopkins, Middlesbrough), and Mr. Joseph, of Louth, Lincolnshire. In the result the operations of this kind were extended till July of the following year, and were instrumental in averting much misery, which must have resulted from the inability of the tillers. of the soil to sow their corn. Mr. Dunning died on the 5th of March, 1885, in his fifty-ninth year. He was a man of healthy and robust appearance, and, previous to the illness which terminated fatally, might have been supposed to have many years of life before him.

He was elected an Associate of the Institution on the 6th of December, 1865.

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