Story of a Photograph: John Tindall

This photograph is part of a collection of four deposited at Dundee City Archives in 1977 (Ref: GD/X20). They were given to us by a descendant of John Tindall. That is him in the picture, on the left, along with his assistant. According to the information given to us by the depositor, the picture was taken around 1925. Another picture in the collection shows the shop front after a refurbishment. This one was therefore taken to commemorate the old look of the shop. You might notice that in the picture above, the letters J and I are missing from John Tindall. But who was John Tindall?

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1 Arbroath Road after refurbishment (Ref: GD/X20/4; above is GD/X20/3)

The Dundee directories confirm that his shop was at 1 Arbroath Road. The Tindall family had a shop on these premises going back to 1871 when John Tindall senior started the business. We know from newspaper articles that John senior used to work for William Lindsay, a grocer based at 26 Wellgate. (Lindsay went into business with a Mr James Low to create Lindsay & Low, James’ brother William took over the retail part of the business, creating Wm Low.) A lavish party was thrown by Mr Lindsay to send his former employee off and wish him luck in his new venture.

1874 Directory - Tindall
1874 Dundee Directory

John Tindall senior was born in Arbirlot in 1847 and grew up in Barry and Arbroath. His father was a ploughman and moved around a bit to find work on farms. John moved to Dundee in the late 1860s after his father’s death in 1863 from Scarlet Fever. In his teens he had worked on farms, just like his father, but obviously decided to do something different with his life. As the eldest of seven children perhaps he needed to move to Dundee to provide for his mother and younger siblings. We don’t know how he got involved in Grocers work or how long he was employed by Mr Lindsay, but he was obviously good at his job.

1871 was a big year for John. He set up his own shop and in June he married Ann Watt Lindsay (as far as I can tell she was no relation to his former boss). The couple had six children: Jane (or Jeannie), Henry, John, George, Francis (or Frank) and Annie. In January 1874 the Courier reported on Mr Tindall throwing his staff an annual entertainment. He treated his employees and some friends to supper followed by dancing in his warehouse. It is said that the dancing continued for several hours with “unflagging zeal”. John was a fully paid up member of the Licensed Grocers Association of Dundee, Lochee and Broughty Ferry and had joined days after its creation in 1877. In 1880 he was listed as an authorised supplier of Lindsay & Low bread (not surprising considering his past connections), and he was also importing large amounts of tea and whisky via the port of Dundee.

List of Members of the Dundee & Lochee Licensed Grocers Association 1879-1880 (Ref: GD/Mus/5/1)

His business at 1 Arbroath Road seems to have done very well. In the summer of 1882 he advertised for an apprentice, message boy and junior assistant. At the age of 35 John was married with six children and had a successful business. Unfortunately disaster struck the following year when he contracted Phthisis Pulmonalis – TB. After a year of suffering John senior died on 18th February 1884.

What was Ann to do? She had six children aged between 3 and 12, and no husband to support her. John’s younger brother William had been working for the business as a vanman. Could he take over the business? John’s will asked his trustees to either continue his business or sell it, either way all profits were to go to Ann. The directories show that Ann decided to take on the business herself. Two weeks after John’s death she applied for the Grocer’s licence for 1 Arbroath Road to be transferred over to her. As John had been ill for over a year, the family would have had time to prepare for what would happen on his death. Ann ran the shop for almost 30 years.

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Licensed Grocers Association picnic, c.1909. Mrs Ann Tindall is the lady in black, ninth from the left in the back row. John Tindall junior is seated fifth from the right with his daughter on his knee. (Ref: GD/X20/2)

What happened to their children? Thanks to the FDCA school indexes, we know that Henry attended Dundee High School and Frank, George and Ann went to Morgan Academy. Henry became a clerk at a Brassfounders and Frank is listed as a Farmers Apprentice in the 1901 census. Henry died in 1896 at the age of 21, and Francis died in 1902 at the age of 22 – both died of Phthsis Pulmonalis, the same disease as their father. Henry had the disease for 6 months but Francis had suffered it for 5 years. Jeannie married James Batchelor and emigrated to Canada with her two children. George went to sea and joined the Merchant Navy, rising to the rank of Chief Officer. He died in 1905, aged just 27, when his ship the ‘Bavaria’ went down off Belle Isle in the Bay of Biscay. He left behind a wife and at least one child. Annie married William Livingstone in 1911, but we don’t know what happened to her after that.

John took over the license for the Grocers shop from his mother in 1913, but he had worked in the shop since at least 1901, being listed as a Grocer Shop Manager in the census. He married Isabella Winton in 1903 and they had two children. He ran the shop until 1940 when he retired at the age of 64. He died 11 years later in 1951.

John Tindall, left on the back row, in an unknown cricket team, c. 1895 ((Ref: GD/X20/1)

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