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British Industrial History

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Andrew Brown

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Andrew Brown (1825-1907) of William Simons and Co

1907 Obituary [1]

ANDREW BROWN, who died at Renfrew on the 6th May, 1907, at the advanced age of 82, was managing director of the well-known dredging-machinery and shipbuilding firm of William Simons and Company, of Renfrew, and was the oldest shipbuilder on the Clyde.

Born in Glasgow on the 8th October, 1825, Mr. Brown’s engineering career began at the age of fourteen, when he was apprenticed to Mr. John Neilson, Oakbank Foundry, Glasgow.

After having successively served with Messrs. William Craig and Company, Messrs. Tod and Macgregor, and with the Caledonian Railway Company at St. Rollox, in 1850 he was appointed engineering manager to Messrs. A. and J. Inglis, Whitehall Foundry, Glasgow, where he was engaged in the design and construction of various types of marine engines.

In 1860 he joined the late Mr. William Simons as partner in the well-known dredger-building yard and engineering business at Renfrew. There he devoted himself to the study of problems relating to steam-dredgers and dredging-plant, the fruits of which have given his own name and the name of the firm with which he has been so long identified a world-wide reputation. He was the inventor of the "hopper" type of dredger, now extensively used, combining the properties of a dredger and barge in one hull. Although giving much time and study to the design and construction of many different types of dredger-plant, Mr. Brown never entirely confined himself to this particular branch of engineering. Thus, in 1861, he designed and constructed the Clyde passenger paddle-steamer "Rothesay Castle," which obtained the then exceptional speed of 20t miles per hour, and which 40 years later, under a different name, was still in employment on the Canadian lakes.

In the years 1867-8 he built and engined the Anchor liner "India," the first steamer on the North Atlantic route fitted with four-cylinder compound surface-condensing engines. He also achieved considerable success in the design of ferry-steamers, of which he built several for service on the Clyde and the Mersey. He embodied his experience of these vessels in a Paper which was read and discussed at The Institution in 1894. It was chiefly, however, in connection with the design and introduction of dredgers and dredging-plant that Mr. Brown’s ingenuity, experience, and skill were exercised.

Mr. William Simons retired from active participation in the Renfrew business in 1880, and died in October, 1902.

In July, 1895, the business was converted into a private limited company, and in 1900 it was constituted a limited-liability company, Mr. Brown becoming managing director.

Notwithstanding his close preoccupation with business affairs, Mr. Brown found many opportunities of identifying himself with the public life of the community of which he was so long a prominent member. As a large employer of labour, he was naturally brought into close relations with the inhabitants of Renfrew, who learned to appreciate his sterling personal qualities. For 35 years he served on the Town Council, and during 15 years of that period he was Provost of the burgh, being elected to that office no less than five times.

In 1903 he presented to the town the Brown Institute to be used as a public library, recreation-rooms and Volunteer head-quarters. He also manifested in other ways his keen interest in local institutions ; and by members of all classes of the community his death was felt as a personal loss.

Mr. Brown was elected a Member of The Institution on the 4th February, 1890.

1907 Obituary [2]

. . . Mr. Andrew Brown, the principal of the dredger building firm of William Simons and Co, of Renfrew. Mr. Brown, who was in his eighty-second year, . . . born in Gorbals district of Glasgow, in October, 1825. At the age of fourteen he was placed as an apprentice with Mr. John Neilson, with whom be served five years, afterwards becoming assistant draughtsman and foreman pattern-maker to William Craig and Co. After holding this position for two years be spent two years with Tod and McGregor, where he assisted in the construction of engines for steamers. He was then for a year at the St. Rollox Works of the Caledonian Railway company. . . in 1850 he was made engineering manager to A. and J. Inglis, a position which he occupied for some ten years, . . . In 1860 Mr. Brown joined Mr. William Simons . . . Mr. William Simons retired in 1880. The business was made into a private limited company in 1895, and was made into a public company in 1900. . . [more]

1907 Obituary [3]

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