John Macgregor (1802–1858) was a Scottish shipbuilder.
Birth and Early Life
John Macgregor was christened on 24 August 1802 at Fintry, Stirlingshire. He was the third son of James Macgregor, a clockmaker, and Annie McNicol. He also had one elder sister, two younger sisters, and two younger brothers. His father qualified as a clockmaker and he moved through Balfron, Fintry, and Comrie with his family working all the time as an engineer in the cotton mills that were developing in these parts of the Highlands.
The family were incomers to Fintry, having moved from Balfron. They remained there for about 14 years, before moving on to Comrie in Perthshire, where the last two of their eight children were born. The stay in Comrie must have been short, although John received a rudimentary education there. When John was 16, the whole family moved to Glasgow.
John began his apprenticeship as an engineer under David Napier at Camlachie. Macgregor went to Lancefield Foundry with the others in 1821 and was a sea-going engineer on the Belfast – which had Napier machinery – while still in his early twenties. The Belfast plied between Liverpool and Dublin, and was one of the earliest steamers to cross the Irish Sea.
At David Napier’s he made the acquaintance of Mr David Tod. Together, they ran the engineering department for a while. They gained considerable managerial experience during this period. They probably also acted as guarantee engineers from time to time.
Tod and Macgregor
In 1833, Macgregor and his friend David Tod formed a partnership to build steam engines themselves. The partnership, Tod and Macgregor, was initially based at Carrick Street, Glasgow in 1834. The business grew quickly and moved to a larger property in Worroch Street, where they added boiler making to their engineering activities.
Towards the end of 1836, Tod and Macgregor opened a shipbuilding yard on the south bank of the Clyde at Mavisbank. Finally, in 1845, the firm moved to a new purpose built yard at Meadowside in the Borough of Partick. Tod and Macgregor were described as "the fathers of iron shipbuilding on the Clyde", building famous ships such as the City of Glasgow and the City of Paris.
In about 1830, he is assumed to have married Margaret Fleming (born 23 March 1809), the daughter of James Fleming and Margaret Biggar. Together, they had seven children, of whom two boys and three girls survived.
In 1834, John was to be found at 90 Carrick Street, but by 1841 had moved to Clydebank with Margaret and the family, who were found there at the time of the 1841 census. In 1845, he gave his address as Rutland Place, which may have been the same as Clydebank. The family must have moved as the shipyard went to Meadowside in 1846 as John was registered as living at Meadowside House, Partick in 1848.
On 18 September 1848, Margaret Fleming died, the cause is not known; she was only 39. Two and a half years later, on 9 March 1851, John married Margaret York (born 20 April 1823), the daughter of William York and Janet Masterton, at Barony, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland.
At the time of the 1851 census, Margaret York, and the children from John's first marriage, were found at Meadowside House in Partick. John had two further children with Margaret York, William York Macgregor (born Finnart House, Loch Long, Dunbartonshire, 14 October 1855; died Oban, 28 September 1923) and Peter Macgregor (born 21 February 1857 at Partick; died Hove, Sussex 22 April 1901).
In around 1874, after the deaths of both David Tod and John Macgregor, the shipbuilding business was sold and renamed as D. and W. Henderson and Company.
Death and Obituaries
Macgregor died on 16 September 1858 from constipation, a treatable problem today. When his funeral took place, at North Street, Anderston, the shops in Partick were closed, the route was lined with thousands of spectators with 'grieved countenances', the bells of the city churches were tolled from 2- to 3 o'clock’, and the flags in the harbour and on the shipping were at half-mast. His obituary states: "At the comparatively early age of 57, in the full flush and vigour of his mature manhood, after an illness of only three days, of constipation of the bowels, Mr Macgregor departed this life, at half past eleven o'clock on Thursday night, at his town residence, Meadowside House, Partick.