James Gilchrist (1847-1917), chairman of Barclay, Curle and Co
son of Archibald Gilchrist, Senior
Father of Archibald Gilchrist
JAMES GILCHRIST, ENGINEER, MESSRS. BARCLAY, CURLE & Co.
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Originally only a shipbuilding firm, Messrs. Barclay. Curie Co, were content for nearly forty years to take their engines from outside, but in 1857, Mr. Archibald Gilchrist father of Mr. James Gilchrist, gave them the benefit of his engineering skill, and built their first engine-shop. From that time onward they have undertaken to design. build, and fully equip vessels of every kind with remarkable success. During those years the firm has sent from the slips luxurious yachts and common cargo traders, small coasters and Royal marl steamers for the Cape and elsewhere, river paddle steamers and ocean-going vessels with twin and single screws . . . . .
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. . . . approved pattern fur dealing with steel and iron abound in the shops, every facility and encouragement being given the men to turn out honest, efficient, and well-finished work.
Mr. Gilchrist is proud to own himself a native of Glasgow. Receiving the greater part of his education at Partick Academy, after leaving school he entered the employment of Messrs. Barclay, Curle & Co. as an apprentice engineer. He had special advantages, it is obvious, but also special aptitude and application.
The son of an able engineer, familiar from boyhood with the technics of engineering, he yet entered himself a student in the evening classes of the Mechanics' Institute, the humble progenitor of our Technical College. We are not surprised, therefore, to learn that while still a young man he was placed in charge of the drawing office. In this department he laboured for eight years, taking a keen and lively interest in his work. Having thus acquired a sound knowledge of engineering, both practical and theoretic, he was well equipped for the task of undertaking the duties of manager when his father retired from the position. The young manager at once took firm hold of his function, and in a very few years was offered and accepted a partnership in Messrs. Barclay, Curle & Co.
The engineering department of Messrs. Barclay, Curie & Co. has kept abreast the rapid developments which have made marine engines perhaps the most efficient and certainly the most powerful of all steam utilisers. From a simple machine, working at a pressure of 20 lb. to the square inch, the marine engine has evolved into compound, triple-expansion, and quadruple-expansion engines, with a possible pressure as high as 300 lb. to the square inch. Though modestly disclaiming originality, Mr. Gilchrist has adopted each successive improvement in a clear-headed and business-like way, and shown himself a master of his craft. On the walls of the manager's room are hung a series of diagrams showing the structure of each successive type of marine engine, all constructed under Mr. Gilchrist's own supervision, forming an illustrated epitome of the engine's history and development.
Mr. Gilchrist's business, however, is not wholly with engines. As a large employer of skilled labour, he requires to exercise ability of more than a mechanical order. He must understand the management of men. In no duty does he take greater interest, and in none has he won better success. Like every other successful commander, he begins with respect and regard for the men under his control. To him they are not mere pieces id more or less erratic mechanism or figures on a time-board, but fellow-men, with brains t think and feelings to be considered. Grievances and dispute?, in the engineering department of Messrs..13arcla.y, Curie Co. are adjusted by a frank exchange of opinion between the men's representatives and the manager. The consequence is that disputes are rare, and always end in amicable settlement.
Mr. Gilchrist loves his work, but he has not forgotten, in the joy of his own success, the sufferings and sorrows of the less fortunate. To him, along with a few others similarly benevolent, the St. Andrew Ambulance Association owes its noble usefulness and efficiency. With unwearied assiduity, he has devoted his mechanical skill to designing and constructing the well-known ambulance waggons, occupying for some years the position of convener of the Waggon Committee. For a long time the Ambulance Association laboured on an insecure footing; but in 1899 it was incorporated by Royal Charter, and thus stands on a firm basis, equal with the infirmaries and other great benevolent institutions.
In 1886 Mr. Gilchrist was chosen Deacon of the Incorporation of Hammermen, and on state occasions wears the small replica of the Deacon's medal, which is the reward and badge of ex-Deacon. He has been six years in the Trades' House, giving to that central council of Glasgow benevolence the benefit of his experienced sagacity and knowledge of life. He is also a member of the Merchants' House of Glasgow. For over twenty years a member in that influential and growing society, the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland, he has been elected a vice-president, and represented the association on Lloyds' Technical Committee. This committee, composed as it is of six representative engineers and six shipbuilders, affords Lloyds the highest expert skill for devising rules for the construction and equipment of all shipping craft.
He is also a member of the Institution of Naval Architects whose headquarters are in London. Various circumstances caused Mr. Gilchrist to have his home in the country, otherwise he would have figured largely in Glasgow public life. An active, sagacious man, of sanguine temperament and kindly disposition, he possesses those qualities which would have made him of great service in civic life had the city's fortune been so good as to have him at call. But he serves Glasgow in more substantial though in less showy style, and the city may well be grateful and glad of her son.
Sources of Information
- Captains of Industry by William S. Murphy. Published 1901.