DEARIN, JOHN JOSEPH, druggist and politician; b. probably in 1818 at St John’s, Nfld, son of William Dearin and Elizabeth King, and baptized 15 May 1819; d. 25 July 1890 at St. John’s.
After serving an apprenticeship to a pharmacist in St John’s, John Joseph Dearin worked as a druggist-clerk in Harbour Grace before returning to the city in the late 1840s. In partnership with his brother George, he opened an apothecary shop on Water Street and soon gained a reputation as an excellent counter-prescriber. Like many others in his trade, Dearin adopted the title “doctor,” by which he was always known. His business appears to have flourished; he was, for instance, the sole agent in Newfoundland for J. C. Ayer and Company of Lowell, Mass., a large firm manufacturing patent medicines. Dearin occasionally practised dentistry as well as dispensing medicines, and was also interested in daguerreotype. He became well known in the east end of St John’s as “an original character very free in his speech.”
Dearin’s political attitudes were typical of those held by most Roman Catholic tradesmen in St John’s. In the 1850s he supported the campaign for responsible government, contributing letters to Robert John Parsons’ Patriot, and in the 1860s he opposed confederation, as he was to do all his life. Dearin did not enter public life until the 1870s, however, probably for personal reasons. His first wife, Catherine, had died in 1864. He had married on 4 June 1866 Bessie Josephine Stanislaus Furlong, but she died in 1868, and in 1869 a daughter by his first marriage also died. Only a son by his second marriage was left.
In 1873 Dearin was first elected for St John’s East as a member of the victorious anti-confederate party led by Charles James Fox Bennett. The party disintegrated soon after the election, however, and Dearin found himself a member of the Liberal opposition. With confederation no longer an issue, the Liberals were prepared to support the government of Frederic Bowker Terrington Carter* in any progressive legislation it might propose. Dearin, for example, encouraged the Conservatives to press forward with the building of a railway from St John’s to Carbonear, which he saw as the first stage of the trans-island line they were cautiously considering. “Build this road,” he said, “and a glorious future will dawn on the country.” In the 1876 session Dearin chaired a select committee whose report endorsing the project was accepted by the assembly, and he continued to speak enthusiastically about the government’s proposal for a trans-island railway in the 1877 and 1878 sessions. Although Dearin was a hard-working member both inside and outside the assembly, he was defeated in the 1878 election by Robert John Parsons Jr, whose father had once held the seat. Construction of a railway to Harbour Grace was started in 1881, when Dearin was out of the assembly. He helped perpetuate an impression that he was the railway’s progenitor, but credit in fact should have gone to Premier Sir William Vallance Whiteway*. Dearin’s role was solely that of an effective propagandist; nevertheless, as the Evening Telegram remarked, his voluble advocacy of a controversial scheme certainly “had the effect of breaking the ground” for its eventual acceptance.
Dearin was re-elected in 1882 in support of Whiteway’s Conservative government, which had fought the election in a pro-railway alliance with the Liberals against the “New Party.” In the complicated sectarian manœuvrings of the mid 1880s, however, Dearin seems to have become estranged from the Catholic political hierarchy led by Sir Ambrose Shea*, and he was defeated in the election of 1885. Four years later, with Shea out of politics, Dearin was adopted as a candidate by the revived Whiteway party which was committed to completing the trans-island railway. He was re-elected for St John’s East in 1889. The campaign was too much for him, however, and he died less than a year later.
Nfld., House of Assembly, Journal, 1876. Colonist (St John’s), 2 Aug. 1890. Evening Mercury, 2 Nov. 1885, 9 Nov. 1889. Evening Telegram (St John’s), 26 July 1890. Harbour Grace Standard (Harbour Grace, Nfld.), 10 March 1877. Newfoundlander, 6 June 1864, 4 June 1866, 9 June 1868, 24 Feb. 1869, 8 Nov. 1878, 7 Nov. 1882. Patriot (St John’s), 7 Jan. 1854, 15 Nov. 1873. Public Ledger, 14 March, 14 May 1878. Times and General Commercial Gazette (St John’s), 30 July 1890. Frank Cramm, “The construction of the Newfoundland railway, 1875–1898” (ma thesis, Memorial Univ. of Newfoundland, St John’s, 1961). Devine, Ye olde St. John’s.