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William McWhirter

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William McWhirter (1851-1933)

1933 Obituary.[1]

WILLIAM McWHIRTER, one of the pioneers of the electrical industry in this country, died in his 82nd year at Glasgow on the 6th March, 1933.

He was born at Ayr in 1851 and was apprenticed to his uncle in the bakery and confectionery business, but spent all his leisure time on electrical experiments. He was the inventor of the first indicating voltmeter and ammeter, patented in 1882, and among his other inventions were electrical water-level indicators and recorders, and magnetic-shielded voltmeters and ammeters.

Soon after his apprenticeship was finished, he joined the telegraph department of the Glasgow and South Western Railway and attained the position of divisional inspector. He then went to the Barrow and Furness Railway as a telegraph superintendent. In association with the firm of Messrs. Norman and Sons (later Messrs. Claud Hamilton and Co.) he was responsible for one of the earliest installations of dock-lighting by means of arc lamps at Barrow.

In 1882 he returned to Glasgow to open a branch establishment for Messrs. Norman and Sons, and was responsible for the first electric lighting installation at the Central Station. There was no public electricity supply, and a power station had therefore to be built under the Argyle-street railway arches. From this plant, power was also supplied to one of the large adjacent stores.

Some two years later, the firm of McWhirter and Co. was started, and, later on, the Faraday Electrical Engineering Works were opened in Govan where, during this period, some outstanding improvements were made in the dynamo.

In 1897, the present firm of Wm. McWhirter and Sons, Ltd., was founded. Other pioneering installation work included the lighting of the Western and Victoria Infirmaries, Glasgow, the Great North of Scotland railway station and offices, and the Palace Hotel, Aberdeen; and the equipment of numerous collieries with electric haulage and pumping. In 1899 he undertook a special mission to India, and introduced improved methods of railway telegraph signalling.

He was elected an Associate of the Institution in 1880, and a Member in 1883, and was Chairman of the Scottish Centre in 1912-13. A man of many interests, he was a member of the British Association, the Astronomical Society, the Philosophical Society, and other learned bodies, and was also one of the founders of the Electrical Contractors' Association of Scotland.

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