The death in London yesterday, after a very brief illness, of Sir john Barran, Bart., at the advanced age of eighty-four, closes a very notable and honourable career. He had long outlived the generations amongst who he spent the most strenuous part of his career as a citizen of Leeds, but had never wholly severed himself from public work. To the last he had taken a very active interest in the development of the Yorkshire University, which recognised his services to the Yorkshire College by making him one of the first recipients of its honorary degree.
Sir John Barran must be classed amongst the makers of Leeds. In the first instacne, he was the architect of his own fortune. He came to Leeds, like the first Edward Baines, with nothing but his own native grit and shrewdness to aid him in the battle of life. But step by step he made headway. He knew how "to take occasion by the hand," and so to improve his business position thats when Leeds became one of the centres of the ready-made clothing trade, the firm Messrs. John Barran and Sons gained a commanding lead in what has become one of the most important industries of the industrial capital of the West Riding. Sir John Barran was undoubtedly a foreseeing man, but the business he built up from his retail shop has attained dimensions probably beyond the dreams of the founder.
But whilst Sir John Barran was one of the most successful business men in a century that produced in Leeds many men who rose from obscure beginnings to be leaders in the industrial world, his claim to public honour rests not only on the fact he built up a great commerical undertaking, but upon long and conspicuous public service. It seems "a far cry" to the year in which Mr. Barran was first elected a member of the Council, and it even sounds like ancient history to recall the purchase and operating of Roundhay Park during the two years of ho Mayoralty. It was the fashion for many years to Regard Roundhay Park as "a white elephant," owing to its distance from the population, and the consequent cost of getting there. But what happended was that Mr. Barran saw a great deal farther than most of those about him, and had the courage to act upon his convictions and await the public verdict. He has lived long enough to see one of the most notable events of his Mayoralty regarded as one of the most signal boons ever conferred upon a great and constantly growing industrial population. It was thought Roundhay Park would always be "out in the wilderness," but electric tramways have brought it into close tough with the poorest of the population, and made it the centre of a new and fortunate suburb. It was once proposed to erect a statue in Mr. Barran's honour. The possession of Roundhay Park will do more to preserve his name upon the roll of those who have done great things for Leeds.
It speaks volumes for the civic life of a great industrial city like Leeds that it has produced citizens like Sir John Barran, who from the humblest beginnings have built up a great commercial house, and at the same time have performed very notable public service. There can only be a few such men in every generation. But there will surely be something strangely lacking in the commerical and business life of Leeds when such men fail to come to the front and place their energy and their ability at the service of the community. Sit John Barran had not the advantage of the education that is now easily within the reach of the poorest, and it is all the more to his honour that he did so much to promote it in every direction, and to encourage the calss from which he sprang to take the utmost advantage of their splendid privileges.