Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Drummond, Peter Robert

DRUMMOND, PETER ROBERT (1802–1879), biographer, the son of a small farmer, was born and educated in the parish of Madderty, Perthshire, and in early life worked as a carpenter. He attained skill as a maker of picture-frames, and in this way was brought a good deal into the society of picture-dealers and gained some knowledge of art. In after years he became an enthusiastic collector of pictures and engravings. While at Glasgow as assistant in the shop of an uncle, a provision merchant, his love of literature first developed itself. Towards the close of 1832 he opened a circulating library at 15 High Street, Perth. This supplied a want much felt at the time in the town. During the same year he made the acquaintance of Robert Nicoll, the poet [q. v.], then apprenticed to Mrs. Robertson, a grocer, on the opposite side of the street. By Drummond's advice Nicoll gave up grocery and started a bookselling business in Dundee. A few years later Drummond was able to move to larger premises at 32 High Street, where, relinquishing to a large extent his circulating library, he entered fully into the bookselling trade. He was here the means of introducing Jenny Lind, Grisi, and other famous singers to Perth audiences. From 32 High Street Drummond removed to 46 George Street, and there commenced the erection of what is now the Exchange Hotel. He intended to use the premises as a printing office, and perhaps to start a newspaper. He resolved, however, to turn farmer, and completing the building as an hotel, he made over his bookselling business to his cousin John, and took the holding of Balmblair, in the parish of Redgorton, Perthshire, from Lord Mansfield. About 1859 he exhibited his collection of pictures in the Exchange Hall. By 1873 he had retired from farming, and henceforth devoted himself to the preparation of his books. He died suddenly at his house, Ellengowen, Almond Bank, about three miles to the north-west of Perth, on 4 Sept. 1879, in his seventy-seventh year, and was buried at Wellshill cemetery, Perth, on the 9th. A few days after appeared his ‘Perthshire in Bygone Days: one hundred Biographical Essays,’ 8vo, London, 1879. Another work, ‘The Life of Robert Nicoll, poet, with some hitherto uncollected Pieces,’ 8vo, Paisley (printed) and London, 1884, was edited by his son, James Drummond. His intention was to have issued with it a complete edition of Nicoll's poems when the copyright in the old edition had expired. Both books contain many amusing stories, and are creditable specimens of local literature. Drummond wrote several pamphlets on political and agricultural subjects, and frequently contributed to the ‘Scotsman’ and the Perth press. In 1850 he published a pamphlet entitled ‘The Tenants and Landlords versus the Free Traders, by Powdavie,’ the aim of which was not the advocacy of a protective system, but of justice to the agricultural interest. An ingenious mechanic, Drummond gained a medal at the exhibition of 1851 for a churn; he also invented an agricultural rake which received honourable mention at the exhibition of 1862.

[Information from Mr. James Drummond; Perthshire Constitutional, 8 Sept. 1879, p. 2, col. 3, p. 3, col. 2; Perthshire Advertiser, 5 Sept. 1879, p. 2, col. 6, and 11 Sept., p. 2, col. 8; Perthshire Courier, 9 Sept. 1879, p. 3, col. 2.]

G. G.