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John Adam Whyte (1830-1906)


He started as an apprentice in his father’s Forfar law office. But his life changed when he inherited (at 19) the family tanning business (from his uncle Thomas) in 1849.  His father and uncle had planned this carefully, after the emigration of his brother William to Australia. His father and uncle both died in the same year. He was given his Forfar Burgess ticket in 1852, and married in 1856 (he 26 and she 21). Within a few years he had demolished the old tan works and replaced it with large and spacious premises in Castle Street.  During his life he witnessed the dramatic impact of the introduction of ready-made boots & shoes on his local leather & hand-made boot business. 


                             In hindsight, although he provided decisive early leadership to the family business, he totally missed the major                                      economic shifts in the leather industry and the country (industrialization) that led to the collapse of local                                                shoemaking and the Whyte business by the late 1800’s. This may have, in part, been caused by the very                                              considerable time he spent on Forfar civic duties and the lack of a strong son to follow him in the business. 


                             During his life he became an important leader in the Forfar community. He was a Councillor on the Town Council in                              1862 and stayed for 31 years.  He was elected Lord Provost (Chief Magistrate) several times in succession: 1866,                                1869, 1872 and 1874 (9 years in total).  During this time, he was responsible for taking control of its gas and water                                supplies, and for the start of the Reid Hall and other prominent buildings.  He was a Freemason and from 1880 a                                  member of the Elijah Royal Arch Chapter No 12 (Forfar chapter) and the Forfar Kilwinning Lodge No. 90 (Lodge                                    Master at one time).  He joined the vestry of St John’s Episcopal Church, Forfar in 1853 as secretary – succeeding                              his brother and his father in this role. He was also a member of the local detachment of the Volunteer Review                                        (1850/60’s) and a keen bowler and curler. 


                            He died at age of 76 – two years after a serious internal illness and an Edinburgh operation, that rendered him very                             weak and bed-ridden in his house (St Anne’s, St James Road).  

His Wife

Catherine Rose Steele (1833–1911).  She survived him by 5 years to live to 76. 




Their children:

William (Will) Patrick (1857), John (Jack) (1859), Helen (Nell) (1860), Robert Thomas (1863), Margaret (Meg) (1864), Ada (Aggie) (1870), Catherine (Kate) (1872)

His siblings

Left to right: Jack, Nell, Mrs & Mr Whyte, Ada, Meg, Robert, Will & Kate

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