JOHN GALLETLY, for a number of years editor of the Dundee Advertiser, took a large share in the political movements of his day. From the period of his connection with that journal —upon the retirement of Mr R. S. Rintoul—to 1832, the events, national and local, which occurred, were of the most important and
spirit-stirring kind. Energies of no ordinary kind were called into requisition, and were not awanting. In the locality, irresponsible power had to be wrested from the hands of the few who monopolised it, and who clung to it with a tenacity worthy of a higher motive. On a larger scale, the same object had to be accomplished
as regarded the representation in Parliament. Mr Galletly was closely identified with the movement in Dundee which preceded and helped to bring about the passing of the first Reform Bill.
Following the example of Birmingham, a Political Union was formed—Mr George Kinloch, Mr Saunders, Mr Christie, and other influential Reformers taking the lead, and Mr Galletly acting as Secretary and Treasurer ; and, at a sacrifice of a business, as a writer, which talents of a high order could not fail to render profitable, he devoted himself to advancing the movement. When the movement had succeeded in convincing the opponents of Reform that it was in vain to contend with the demand for improved representation, and a Bill had been brought in for Scotland, the Political Union discovered that a large interest had been excluded—namely, that of persons who, although not occupying houses of £10 of yearly rent, were proprietors of property to a large extent. At very great trouble, lists of such proprietors were made up, their property valued, and Mr Galletly drew up a representation on the subject, which had the effect of rousing attention, and ultimately led to the introduction of clauses conferring the franchise on the owners of such descriptions of property. By this means, a class of voters, the least likely to be operated upon by foul influences, was thrown into the electoral scale. Another object in which the Union took a deep interest, was the shortening of the hours of labour in factories. The evil effects
upon the mental and physical condition of the young, from excessive labour, had become alarmingly apparent ; but a very strong case indeed had to be
made out ere the attention of Government could be seriously directed towards a remedy. The Union, however, undertook to supply details. The number and ages of young people employed in the mills in Dundee and the neighbouring district were ascertained. Lists were made up by Mr Galletly, and an appeal was made in behalf of the helpless young, against the rapacity of parents and employers, so powerful, so touching, and convincing, that the metropolitan journals took up the question, and joined in the call for inquiry. Inquiries of various kinds, under the auspices of Government, were made ; and the result was a limitation of the hours of working, and precautions calculated, amongst other things, to promote the education of the young. The successful return of Mr Kinloch, as the first Parliamentary representative of Dundee, in the face of a keen and protracted opposition, and subsequently the return of Sir Henry Parnell, were public occurrences in which Mr Galletly took an active hand. In connection with these matters, also, as editor of the Advertiser, Mr Galletly gave, by his writing, a powerful impetus to the furtherance of the reforms to which, in his private capacity, he lent such able and effective assistance. His political principles were of the Benthamite school ; and the vigour of his understanding, the deep sympathy he felt for the masses, his abhorrence of injustice, his disregard of the ' trappings ' of style, gave poignancy and character to his disquisitions. To those who by accident came in contact with him in private life—who witnessed, his mild, inoffensive, and playful bearing—no conception could have been formed of the fire and vigour which he infused into his writings. In consequence of declining health, Mr Galletly had retired from public life for several years before his death. This took place at Elcho, near Perth, on Thursday, July 4, 1839, in the 47th year of his age.
Norrie, W. (1873) Dundee Celebrities of the Nineteenth Century. PP.61-63