Monday, 6 September 2010

More about James Kennedy, mechanical engineer extraordinary

The website of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers has an obituary of James Kennedy, who was one of their founding members and their President in 1860, and it can be found here:- Biography of James Kennedy

I have traced the ancestry of this illustrious Kennedy and he was not related to our ancestors, unless very remotely. He was born in Liberton on 13 January 1797 to James Kennady, a wright, and Anne Hamilton, his parents having married in Edinburgh on 16 October 1795. This James was born in Gilmerton on 10 December 1765 to another James and his wife Ainsley Hume, who were married in Liberton on 28 September 1765 (oops!). This last James was born on 24 January 1726 in Nether Liberton to John Kennedy and Margaret Meggat.

It can thus be seen that these Kennedys were well established in the Edinburgh area when our direct ancestors were still in the Great Glen.

This history throws some light on the social turbulence that resulted from the Industrial Revolution. The pioneers of mechanical engineering obviously had no access to university courses in subjects that they themselves were just inventing, but were often without the benefits of any other form of higher education. That a man who left a village school at thirteen could end up as a master of complicated technology and president of an important institution would be unthinkable today. It says a lot not just for James Kennedy but also for George Stephenson, who had the intuition to select him as the head of his most important workshop.

In general it is clear that the rapid industrial development and associated growth of cities in the early Eighteenth Century gave rise not only to the enormous poverty and overcrowding that we all know about but also to huge opportunities for social mobility. Technological innovation requires radical free-thinking, which may have been easier for those not hidebound by a higher educational system which had only recently abandoned Latin as the means of instruction in many subjects (e.g. Adam Smith was, I believe, the first professor to deliver lectures in English at Glasgow University).

Also the enormous financial risks involved in any type of new enterprise were perhaps easier to contemplate for those who came from a background where they had very little worldly wealth originally. The Industrial Revolution started in the British Isles and the subsequent decline of industry there in the Twentieth Century was at least in part due to the fact that many of the major engineering businesses had passed by inheritance into the ownership of persons who were no longer innovative and only sought to preserve their personal wealth. This was especially true of Scottish shipbuilding, which eventually collapsed due to a complete failure to modernise in the good times, coupled with a state of war between blinkered family owners and powerful intransigent unions.

One has to hope that with the emergence of new technologies talented people are coming forward, regardless of social status. There are signs that this is beginning to happen.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Alexander Fergusson Kennedy

Alexander Fergusson Kennedy was born at 9 Whitehill Street, Dennistoun on 31 March 1877.

By 1891 he was a pupil at Woodside Public School, which had opened its doors in 1882 and was given a prize in standard eight for “three specific and science subjects.”

He married Amelia Monteith Thomson at the United Free Church on 7 March 1907 and their children were Stewart, William, Margaret, Thomas and James.

This photograph was taken at the West End Studios at 127 Sauchiehall Street, probably sometime between 1893 and 1897. It shows the following people. The lady seated on the left is Margaret Thomson, Amelia Monteith Thomson’s mother, with her little son Ralph on her knee. He was to die in childhood. Amelia Monteith is the young lady standing in the centre and on her left is Margaret. Seated on the right of the picture is Mary and on her right is the youngest sister, Nancy.

Margaret is Great-aunt Maggie, who went to South Africa to make hats there and met General Smuts. She later returned to Glasgow and took up religion in quite a big way. It was she who sang to the whale that surfaced near Port Bannatyne and threatened to overturn the whole family in their rowing boat. She renounced alcohol but considered cider innocuous. She held the cinema to be evil.

Amelia Monteith Thomson was named after a distant relative Lady Amelia Monteith, who was said to have eloped with a coachman.

The 1891 Census shows the Thomson family living at 20 Bath Street, Glasgow. The head is James Thomson, in employment as a skinner aged 65 and his wife Maggie is 51. Also in the house were Helen, a clerk aged 24, William, a chemists assistant aged 22, Maggie, a milliner aged 21, Amelia Monteith, a scholar aged 16, Mary a scholar aged 11 and John, a scholar aged 7. Adding Nancy and little Ralph means there were at least eight Thomson children. They had a lodger too.

Alexander died at 5 Broomhill Terrace, Glasgow on 27 January 1946. He is described as a house factors clerk, having taken over his son James’ work at Hendry & Steel when the latter went off to War. He had previously lost his bank job and pension rights as a result of allowing some tradesman customers to have unsecured overdrafts at the time of the Great Depression.

Amelia Monteith Kennedy died on 24 June 1953, her address being 4 Roxburgh Street, Glasgow.

The picture of Alexander, above, is probably from the 1920s.

I am not going to detail the generations from now on, as there is no risk of the records being lost.

Illness and Tragedy

I thought it would be interesting to look for any descendants of James Kennedy, in case I could trace any second or third cousins. The story I discovered was quite tragic.

James married Mary Dawson, an Englishwoman and neighbour in Raglan Street, on 18 June 1878. He described himself as “consulting engineer.” By 1881 he has gone blind and is living with Mary in one room behind a sweet shop at 36 Dumbarton Road with their children Ruth Farrel aged two and Dewar Onrust aged nine months. In the Census James describes himself as “civil engineer and architect.”

By 1891 family fortunes had improved. They are living in a seven room flat at 26 Charing Cross Mansions and James is now a confectioner. There is a new child Irene, aged four and they have one servant.

By 1901 the family is at 25 Elmbank Street, but Irene is no more. Ruth is working as a clerk to her father and Dewar has become an apprentice painter.

James died shortly after, but I did not find his details. Dewar died on 5 November 1905 of Phthsis (tuberculosis), unmarried and without having completed his apprenticeship.

Ruth never married and worked to support her mother. She was latterly in the Glasgow Corporation Electricity Department and died in her corporation house at 162 Kirkton Avenue, Knightswood on 13 July 1939.

Out of curiosity I researched William McIlwraith, who went into partnership with Thomas and James.

He was born on 9 August 1847 at 31 Cadogan Street to William McIlwraith a foreman and Margaret King, who had come from Ayrshire. His parents were thus neighbours and contemporaries of Angus Kennedy and family. It is very likely that he was offered an apprenticeship by Angus, who was always looking for staff.

The 1881 Census shows William, unmarried and an architect, living with his parents at 80 Maxwell Road East.

William is thought to have gone to Greenock, possibly with Thomas and family, but he does not appear in the 1891, nor the 1901 Census. This could be explained if he had been locked up in an asylum before 1891.

William died on 6 February 1909 at Woodilee Mental Asylum, his usual residence having been the Gartloch Asylum. He is described as “architect, unmarried” and the Asylum did not know his parents.

Postscript to the above, added 26 November 2011

I have found that the confectionery business operated as Crown Confectionery Company from 1890 to 1894 at 26 Charing Cross Mansions, which is in fact a shop. Following her father's death Ruth F Kennedy continued the business, latterly with a partner and in 1913 the following notice appeared in the Edinburgh Gazette:-

"NOTICE is hereby given that the Business of the
carried on by the undersigned Ruth F. Kennedy and
J. Howard MacKellar at 25 Elmbank Street, Glasgow,
has been transferred, as at 26th May 1913, to the
undersigned Alexander C. Meyer, who will continue
the Business on his own account under the Firm name
The said Ruth F. Kennedy and J. Howard MacKellar
will collect all sums due to, and pay all sums due by,
the said Business up to the said date of transfer, from
which date their connection with and interest in said
Business will cease.
Glasgow, 30th May 1913.
Street, Witness.
M. LINNEGAN, Clerkess, Witness, 25
Elmbank Street."

Thomas Kennedy

Thomas Kennedy was the third child of Angus and Isabella, born 24 August 1846 at 35 Cadogan Street, Glasgow.

The 1871 Census shows the family living at 99 Bath Street, a house of eleven rooms. Isabella, the widow of Angus is described as “proprietress” and Head of House. Thomas is described as “wright and joiner” and the other family member is the nineteen year old Isabella. This shows that Thomas had not been trained as an architect, which is how he described himself when he married Marion Millar Fergusson on 17 September 1871.

By this time his brother James had left home and had a flat at 42 Raglan Street, near St Georges Cross. James was an architect, presumably trained by his father and had been in partnership with him. From probably 1871, but certainly by 1873 Thomas was working with James at 65 West Regent Street. In 1875 they went into business with William McIlwraith and Robert Brown, the firm being named McIlwraith, Kennedy & Brown and the office was at 227 West George Street. The firm went downhill, because James went blind and William McIlwraith had mental problems, and by 1881 Thomas had moved to Greenock. The 1881 Census shows him living at 25 West Stewart Street, West Greenock with Marion and their surviving children Amelia, aged 7 and Alexander aged 5. Their first child Angus had died of tuberculosis aged 7 in 1879.

Thomas was based at 2 George Square, Greenock until about 1887, then at 37 West Blackhall Street there. By the time of the 1891 Census the family was living at 13 Willowbank Crescent Glasgow and he was described as a Clerk of Works. This suggests that he had been unable to make it as an architect in Greenock and taken employment back in Glasgow. By 1891 they had two more children, Isabella aged 7 and Marion aged 4.

Isabella Kennedy died on 28 December 1899 at 58 South Woodside Road, Glasgow.
On 16 February 1893 she had written a letter to her son-in-law Mr David Lamb of 219 Byres Road, Glasgow, (husband of her daughter Isabella) to be handed to her executors after her death, instructing them to ensure that any balance of a loan of £30 made by a Mr Fullerton to Thomas was repaid from his inheritance. This was duly handed over after she died, so clearly some or all of the loan had not been repaid.

Isabella left just over £700, mainly in investments (but no shareholding in the Barrow Shipbuilding Company). Her estate included a debt of £250 due by A McCracken & Co of St Vincent Place and one of £30 by David Lamb

The 1901 Census shows the family living at 18 Willowbank Street and Thomas is described as an architect and employer, so he was back in business. This is confirmed by the Dictionary of Scottish Architects, which states that a Thomas Kennedy was working in 1904 at 147 West Regent Street.

Thomas died at 235 West Regent Street, Glasgow on 5 January 1913 aged 66.

Angus Kennedy, Part III

Angus Kennedy obtained a number of other significant commissions as an architect. They included:-

In 1862 the Clyde Grain Mills at 14 Commercial Street, for John Arthur, long since demolished. The same year he entered a competition to design the Liverpool exchange, but didn’t win. Mr Arthur was a friend and eventually one of his executors.

In 1864 the Shandon Free Church Manse.

In 1866 the Fauldhouse Church at Whitburn.

The same year the Ibrox UP Church.

In 1868 David Rowat’s engineering works in Elliot Street, also demolished.

In 1870 the Westbourne Villa in Paisley Road West.

During the late 1850s and early 1860s Angus was also operating as a commercial estate agent, marketing numerous properties, development sites and so on.

The Glasgow Herald archives contain numerous advertisements for the sale of commercial properties, industrial land for development and so on. In 1862 he was the consultant engineer in charge of the new water reservoir for the Burgh of Whitburn.

Apart from working Angus was keen on joining societies. The Glasgow Herald records show that he was a member of the Glasgow Architectural Society, the Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts, the Glasgow Geological Society and the Philosophical Society of Glasgow. All of these offered the opportunity of learning, social improvement and good business contacts.

Angus died at home on 27 November 1870 of long term phlebitis. The practice was continued after his death by his son James, later joined by Thomas.

Here is a copy of the inventory of Angus’s estate:-

The list of items of moveable estate is interesting.

The loan of £50 to his son Thomas, secured by a document of debt repayable on one day’s notice, sticks out. Thomas was 24 when this was advanced.

The book debts due by clients contain a number of law firms and there is evidence that he was in demand as an expert witness.

The debt estimated by John Elder shows he was still doing work for the shipyard.

Most interesting is the loan of £200 to the Barrow Shipbuilding Company. This was an enormous investment, being nearly a third of his estate if we leave his furniture to one side. The company was set up by James Ramsden as the Iron Shipbuilding Company in 1871, so presumably Angus lent this money in the last year of his life to help with the start up. The yard eventually became Vickers, but I have been unable to trace if it paid off. When his widow Isabella died at the end of 1899 there was certainly no Vickers shareholding.

Ramsden had served his apprenticeship in the Liverpool firm of Bury, Curtis & Kennedy, who were builders of locomotive engines in Liverpool. But who was this Kennedy?

So far I have been unable to trace his parents, but found that he was born in Gilmerton, Edinburgh on 13 January 1797 and at the age of 13 started training as a millwright before going to England. He came to the notice of the famous George Stephenson, who appointed him his shop manager. He became the President of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers in 1860 and died at Garston, Liverpool on 25 September 1886. It seems possible that he was related to Angus in some way and this led to the investment.

Angus Kennedy, Part II

Angus Kennedy was a very energetic man and typical of an early Victorian yuppy, who kept re-inventing himself in different professions. Having started out as a cabinetmaker he became an iron turner, then a mechanical draughtsman and finally an architect and civil engineer.

By 1855 he was a partner in the firm of Hoey, Kennedy & McGregor, who were millwrights and engineers in Cook Street, Tradeston. The firm dissolved in October of that year when Mr McGregor left and I don’t think Mr Hoey stayed much longer.

On 17 October 1856 James Thom, powerloom manufacturer and Angus Kennedy, Civil Engineer registered a patent for “improvements in looms for weaving.”

By this time Angus would have been thinking about another change of career, which would lead him to put the letters “I.A. and C.E.” after his name, meaning Industrial Architect and Civil Engineer, although there is no sign that he was ever formally trained by anyone. Tradeston at that time was a hotbed of new enterprises of all sorts and there would have been great opportunities for self-confident and intelligent men with practical skills. I believe that Angus was persuaded to establish himself as a civil engineer and architect by his friend Charles Randolph.

Charles Randolph was born on 26 June 1809, a few months before Angus, and died on 11 November 1878. His father was a printer and stationer in Stirling. (His grandfather had been a surgeon who was imprisoned at Carlisle after the 1745.) He was educated in Stirling initially, then at Glasgow Grammar School (High School?), then studied classics at Glasgow University. He didn’t enjoy this and transferred to Andersons Institution to study science. He served an apprenticeship as a millwright with David Napier at Camlachie, then started his own business as a millwright at Tradeston Street, now Centre Street, Tradeston, in 1834, being joined by John Elliott from 1837 to 1841. In 1852 he was joined by John Elder and the firm became Randolph & Elder. After that the firm branched out from mill machinery into marine engines.

John Elder, born on 8 March 1824, was the son of the legendary David Elder, who was really the father of marine engineering on the Clyde. David was brought up in Kinross-shire and observed water mills in his youth. A mathematical genius, he came to Glasgow in 1817 at the age of 32 to work as a millwright and engineer. By 1821 he was the manager of Robert Napier’s works at Camlachie and the following year designed his first steam-ship engine, for the Leven, which plied between Glasgow and Dumbarton. His son John was educated at the High School and briefly at Glasgow University before being apprenticed to his father and Robert Napier. By the time of his death at 45 on 17 September 1869 he would have produced 111 marine engine sets and numerous patents.

The principle of the compound engine was discovered about 1781 by one Jonathan Hornblower. It reused steam by exhausting it from the first high-pressure cylinder into the second, larger, low-pressure one. The low initial steam pressures from the early boilers meant that it was unsuccessful. In 1811 an English inventor called Wolff had produced a better design, which John Elder developed as a an nadvanced two-cylinder compound engine. In 1856 Randolph & Elder took out a patent for a version of this that put the cylinders in a “V” formation, saving space in the engine room. Further versions had two sets of high and low pressure cylinders, opposed to each other. Later, John Elder developed the triple expansion engine, which carried the principle further.

It seems that the first ship engined by Randolph & Elder was the Brandon, launched in 1854 from a site that I haven’t yet identified, but probably at Napiers. She was equipped with Wolff-type engines designed by Elder and built in Tradeston. The Brandon became part of the fleet that worked in South America. It was a very successful design and led immediately to orders from the Pacific Steam Navigation Company for sister ships, the Inca and Valparaiso. Because of the efficiency of the engines these ships were able to travel vast distances with minimal coal consumption.

We have already seen that Angus was a partner in a firm of millwrights at Cook Street, round the corner from Randolph & Elder, in 1855. When the latter took over a site in Govan just up-river from Napier’s yard in 1858 they gave Angus Kennedy his first major commission, to design their new engineering works at 13 to 23 Tradeston Street. This building stood until 1969.

Randolph & Elder went on to become a major force on the upper Clyde. Both men became extremely wealthy, partly as a result of building at least five extremely fast blockade runners for the Confederate rebels during the American Civil War, the Condor, Evelyn, Falcon, Flamingo and Ptarmigan. It’s fascinating that these devoutly religious entrepreneurs were not averse to taking part in what the US government regarded as a form of piracy and doing business with people who they knew were supporters of slavery. The UK government turned a blind eye, partly because in typical fashion the USA had refused to sign the international treaty banning piracy at the end of the Napoleonic Wars. When Abraham Lincoln decided that his government should after all sign it and outlaw the British ships he was told that he was rather late. Ultimately both principals left fortunes to good causes, Randolph endowing inter alia the Randolph Hall at Glasgow University and Elder the park named after him in Govan.

In 1864 Randolph & Elder moved to the Fairfield Farm at Govan, when they renamed their business Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company. They commissioned Angus Kennedy to design their new engine shop, which appears to be his greatest project, currently Grade A listed. This was completed in 1868. The address is 1048 Govan Road.

It is a great tribute to Angus Kennedy that he got this commission, as I’m sure Randolph & Elder wouldn’t have entrusted such an important project to someone they didn’t respect. In those days ships were built in the open and only the engines indoors, so the shop would have been the most important building on site. Twenty years later the firm went to Honeyman & Keppie, an absolutely leading firm, to design their offices.

Angus Kennedy, Part I

As we have seen Angus Kennedy was born in Edinburgh in November 1809. He married Isabella Dewar on 28 August 1838 in the United Secessionist Chapel in Wellington Street, Glasgow. Her father was a baker.

The United Secessionist Church was formed in 1820 by the union of a number of smaller churches which had seceded from the Church of Scotland from 1733 onwards, because of the latter church’s authoritarian behaviour and support for the Establishment. It existed until 1847, when it joined the Relief Church and became the United Presbyterian Church. This continued until it merged with the Free Church in 1900, becoming the United Free Church, which in turn merged into the Church of Scotland in 1929.

Throughout the period of this history the English-speaking population of the Lowlands were predominantly Protestant. Because of the questioning nature of that branch of Christianity its adherents (certainly the Scottish ones) were notoriously disputational and prone to fallings-out. This had the corresponding benefit that adherents were also open to new ideas and to experimentation. This was tremendously helpful at a time of rapid industrial innovation and expansion. It is no surprise, then, that most of the new industries that grew up in the West of Scotland were established by Presbyterians of one sort or another. (Of course they could not have succeeded without the efforts of the Gaelic-speaking incomers from Ireland, who were largely Catholic and from the Highlands, who were partially so, and I absolutely would not belittle their efforts. In the modern age their descendants have more or less achieved economic parity, according to authorities such as Professor Tom Devine.) I suggest that our ancestors’ belonging to an argumentative sect would have benefited Angus when he sought to form business connections in his adopted city.

Angus was originally a cabinetmaker, but in 1846, when he registered his son’s birth he described himself as an iron turner and as we shall see he was later a civil engineer and architect. I have not yet found out if he was a student anywhere and it seems that at that time there was no formal training for either profession. His life was so busy that it seems unlikely he took time out to be articled to anyone, especially with a growing family to support.

The 1851 Census has him living at 5 Gloucester Street, Tradeston with Isabella and Mary, aged 11, Margaret aged 10, Thomas aged 4 and James aged 2. He described himself then as a mechanical draughtsman. By 1858 the family were living at 26 Houston Street, Tradeston, but it seems they moved shortly thereafter to what was then the edge of the West End, as the 1861 Census has Isabella described as the head of the house and living at 15 Hill Street, Glasgow with Margaret, aged 20, milliner, Thomas aged 14 and Isabella aged 9. Angus was accordingly out of the house when the Census was done and he does not appear elsewhere in the 1861 Census for Scotland,so may have been in England on business.

15 Hill Street still stands and in fact is opposite the Art School workshop where I have been learning to make stained glass. It is a substantial four storey tenement and contains large flats, now used as student bedsits. In 1861 it was virtually brand new and would have been a first class address, looking out over open fields, where St Aloysius Church and School now stand. It was always best for your health to live at the extreme West, upwind, end of a dirty city like Glasgow, which at that time had some of the worst living conditions in the world for ordinary citizens.

The career and active business life of Angus will be described in subsequent posts.