A CANADIAN gunned down in Toronto seems to have little to do with Alloa, but this was George Brown, journalist, newspaper magnate and politician who had been born in the town in November 1818.

When Brown was 19, the family emigrated to New York where they began publishing newspapers.

During those first few years Brown visited Canada on several occasions and in 1843 he was invited to move there by fellow Presbyterians.

He began work with the Toronto Banner, a weekly paper that promoted Free Presbyterianism. This was the same year that Scotland's Disruption occurred when the Free Church split from the Established Church.

A year later, Brown's father launched The Globe, much of which was filled with political and religious articles, and became the mouthpiece for liberal reform in Canada.

In 1848, Brown was appointed to a Royal Commission to assess the penitentiary at Kingston where he catalogued the poor conditions and numerous abuses which led to the dismissal of warden Henry Smith.

Never afraid to speak his mind, Brown founded the Anti-Slavery Society of Canada which helped escaped slaves from neighbouring America reach the safety of Canada using the Underground Railroad, a series of secret routes and safe houses established by abolitionists in the States.

This led to black support in his later political life. On the other hand he denounced the Catholic church and its priests and nuns which through the publication of articles in the newspaper led to mob violence in Montreal in 1853, leaving nine dead.

He was elected to the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada in 1851, reorganised the Liberal Party in 1857 and fought for the separation of church and state.

He also advocated a fairer electoral system with districts divided so they were roughly equal in population. Very briefly, in 1858, he became de-facto premier of Canada.

In 1867 he tried again to become premier but did not win a seat despite the fact he was one of the Fathers of Confederation when Canada united with New Brusnwick and Nova Scotia that year.

Brown returned to The Globe following his defeat at the elections.

On March 25, 1880, while in his offices, George Bennett, a disgruntled former employee dismissed by a foreman, shot him when he refused to give him a reference.

There was a scuffle and Brown was hit in the thigh. The injury turned gangrenous and seven weeks later Brown died on May 9. He was buried at the Toronto Necropolis.