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The Alexander Martin Memorial Fountain
The Forgotten Man
The most obvious and most visited Dunning icon is of course St. Serf's Church. This is closely followed by the Thorn Tree. There is a third icon which seems to be completely overlooked by locals and visitors alike even though it is right in the public eye in the centre of the village and is often used as a meeting point. It is perhaps even more obvious during the hours of darkness, when it is floodlit. I refer to the Alexander Martin Memorial Fountain in Tron Square.
The fountain bears the date 1874 (which is two years after the village got its first piped water). The marble plaque on it says: Erected as a gift to his native village by Alexander Martin Esquire. St. John's New Brunswick.
Our Society has recently started to try to find out more about this man and it seems he has faded from memory and from local records. The plaque suggests he was born here and it's likely he grew up here, yet our parish census records from the first in 1841 up to 1871 do not list anyone of that name, so it seems he left Dunning before 1841. A small description of the inauguration in The Perthshire Advertiser 20th August 1874 says the water was put on by a niece of Mr Martin so perhaps he never returned to Scotland. Indeed it is possible he died before the construction of the fountain commenced.
Thus at present we can only guess at his date of birth and death. We have identified one possible match, born in 1802 or 3 who might be 'our' Alexander Martin, listed as a 68 year old widower in the 1871 Canadian census.
In New Brunswick there is an Alexander Martin listed in architect John Munro's commissions; i.e, PRINCE WILLIAM STREET, commercial block for Alexander Martin, 1863 (Weekly Telegraph [Saint John], 19 Nov. 1863, 1) Most of Prince William Street was destroyed by fire in 1877 which presumably included this building. Perhaps he lost his fortune with the fire.
We have not yet confirmed a link between the two above records, or that either refers to 'our' man, but the dates fit.
Incidently there is a small puzzle regarding the place name on the fountain, because St. John's is in Newfoundland and the place in New Brunswick is Saint John. However, it wasn't till 1925 that these spellings became properly defined so we're happy to assume that the New Brunswick town is the correct one.
According to the Perthshire Advertiser, part of the inauguration speech referred to the donor's warm interest in the welfare of his native village, and thanked him for this the latest outcome of his benevolence. I wonder what other signs of his benevolence might still remain.
The Society has still to follow up a couple of Mr Martin's appearances in other family trees as well as other on-line sources which might shed further light on his Dunning connections. Meantime we'd be very pleased to hear from anyone who might have any information at all about him.Please do contact us at :-
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