John Barr (1796-1884)

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Businessman and Provost of Ardrossan

John Barr's interests included;

  • the firm of John Barr; proprietor of Coneypark Oil Works
  • Barr & McJannet, - partner - proprietors of Doura coal, shale and fireclay works
  • possible involvement in oil intrests in Ayrshire
  • diverse business interests including railway construction, coal, fireclay, shipbuilding, newspapers.

Most of John Barr's business interests were based in North Ayrshire, and Ardrossan in particular, however he was also owner of Coneypark colliery and the associated oil works for a considerable period.


Death of Provost Barr of Ardrossan

With feelings of deep regret we are called upon to record the death of Provost Barr, which took place on Tuesday night shortly before six o'clock. Like many eminent Scotchmen Provost Barr rose from the ranks, and was never ashamed to own his humble origin. He was the son of a Lochwinnoch weaver, and was born in that village in 1796. Following the occupation of his father at a period when handloom weaving was a remunerative occupation he was able to earn 3s. per day when only 11 years old.

Later he became a contractor, and rapidly rose to an important position. In 1828 he came to Ardrossan, and took an important part in contributing to the railway improvement there and in the erection of the harbour. From that date till the period of his demise his fortunes have been bound up with Ardrossan, and the town is largely indebted to him for its prosperity.

As principal partner in the well-known firm of Barr & Shearer, shipbuilders, he has for many years employed a large number of men, while taking an intelligent interest in this business he found time to engage himself as a a coalmaster, shipowner, contractor, and engineer. He built the majority of the buildings in the town, and owned at least a fourth of all the house property it contains.

In politics he was a Conservative though in early life be was pronounced a Radical. In 1859 he started the Ayrshire Weekly News, and lived to see it a very prosperous newspaper. When the town was formed into a burgh by a special Act of Parliament in 1846 he was chosen to be chief magistrate, and enjoyed that distinction uninterruptedly ever since. In 1878 the Provost was presented with his portrait, which now adorns the Town Hall, while a half- length copy was presented to Mrs Barr. When School Boards came into existence he was created a member of the first Ardrossan Board, and was chosen chairman - a position he held up to his death. Provost Barr's wife predeceased his some years ago, and he leaves no family.

The Glasgow Herald 3rd April 1884