James Burnett was a grocer and a Salford Councillor.
He was born in Staffordshire in 1817. His father was a small farmer. On leaving school he came to Manchester and was apprenticed to a family friend, Mr Deaville, an old established grocer in Deansgate.
In 1835, he branched out on his own, opening a grocer's shop in Broad Street, Salford. It was the first shop in the district to have a plate glass window and was known as "The Big Shop". His establishment gained some renown for the superiority of the Irish butter he sold. This was due to the prizes he offered to the Irish merchants for the best butter that he received during that year. His great anxiety, as he often was heard to say was "to secure for his customers, a butter free from turnips"! He was regarded as a great authority on butter, being frequently asked to judge at the provincial exhibitions in the north of Ireland. In his free time, James Burnett was a whist player and one of the best in the north west.
On retiring from his business James Burnett was elected as Liberal Councillor for Seedley Ward. He rarely spoke at Council meetings, but he was an active member of Pendleton Finance Committee, (of which for many years he was Deputy Chair), Pendleton Highways Ctee, General Watch Ctee and the General Finance Ctee. His special function was the purchase of provender (dry food for livestock), for the Pendleton District and it was his boast that the horses of Pendleton were fed and stabled at a much lower cost than horses belonging to Salford and Broughton.
Towards the end of his life, James Burnett suffered from diabetes. On Friday 7th October 1887 he was heard at the Town Hall to complain of a tight chest and the next day, he died suddenly at his home on Park Road, off Eccles Old Road, Pendleton. He was 70 years old.
The funeral was held on Wednesday, 12th October 1887. The cortege left the family residence in Park Road at 11.30 am and proceeded to the Dissenters Chapel at Weaste Cemetery. The service was conducted by Rev Edwin Walker of Pendleton Congregational Church. The organist, Mr Bellringer, played "O Rest in the Lord" and "the Dead March". The principal mourners were James's three sons and relatives, Sir James Farmer (Mayor), Mr Henry Lightbown, Mr Benjamin Armitage (of Sorrel Bank) and a number of Aldermen and Councillors.