John Macgregor was christened on the 24th August 1802 at Fintry,
Stirlingshire. He was the third son of James Macgregor a clockmaker and
Annie McNicol. He also had one elder and 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
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 came 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
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.
In 1833 he 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
In about 1830 he is assumed to have married Margaret Fleming (born 23rd
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 the 18th September 1848 Margaret Fleming died, the cause is not known,
she was only 39.
On the 9th of March 1851 John married Margaret York (born 20th 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 (WY) Macgregor born Finnart, Dunbartonshire, 14th October
1855; died Oban, 28th September 1923
Peter Macgregor born 21st February 1857 at Partick; Died Hove, Sussex 22nd
His life was cut short though, unfortunately what killed him might be a
treatable problem today. He died on the 16th September 1858 after a very
short illness. 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. Glasgow Citizen, Sept. 25th 1858
This is the obituary from the Dumbarton Herald 23rd September 1858: “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.”