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Significant Scots
John Macgregor

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 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 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 Channel.


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 of Paris”.


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 April 1901


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.”

Our thanks to N. Gregor Macgregor at for sending us this article.

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