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British Industrial History

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Alexander Govan

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Alexander Govan (1869-1907) of Argyll Motors

Alexander was born in 1869 in very humble circumstances and when the family moved to Bridgeton a suburb of Glasgow, he grew up in the tenement slums of the area. His father was a "Tenter" a cloth stretcher at a Blantyre Mill near Glasgow. When he was old enough Alex started work in a Mill there. At night, however, he studied at the West of Scotland Technical College, where he excelled and gained distinction

In 1893 at the age of 24, he went into partnership with his brother-in-law John Worton, manufacturing a bicycle called the "Worvan". This however was a critical time for the cycle industry in general, for within a year many cycle manufacturers had gone bankrupt by over estimating the market demand.

In consequence, Govan closed down the "Worvan" works and moved to Redditch in Worcestershire to work for the Eadie Manufacturing Co, a light engineering works making various components and industrial machines.

In May 1897, The Eadie Mfg Co. imported three cars from the Continent, namely a Vallee, a Mors and a Benz, all of which were subsequently taken apart, from which the Eadie Co. built their own car in which Alex Govan was principally involved.

In Spring 1899 Alex decided to return home to Scotland and took a job as the Sales Representative of Charles Churchill and Co, the Machine Tool manufacturers

In August of the same year, the Scottish Manufacturing Co making components for the cycle manufacturers and headed by a William A. Smith was wound up and they were looking for a suitable manager to reconstruct the firm, and Alex Govan was the man they chose.

In March 1900 the new company became Limited, with a Capital of £15,000. Alex Govan was appointed Manager for 5 years at a salary of £360 plus 10% of the profits until his salary reached £500 and 5% of the profits thereafter.

1904 GOVAN, Alex. Is managing director of the Hozier Engineering Co., Ltd., Glasgow. Car: 10-h.p. Argyll. Fosters motoring because it contains fascinating mechanical problems, and because it is the 'best sport on earth' [1]

On May 17th 1907 Govan took some business colleagues to lunch at the Grosvenor' Restaurant in Gordon Street, Glasgow, and whilst there he fell ill. He went home and in Helensburgh ten days later he died of cerebral hemorrhage. He was buried on 29th May.


Obituary 1907 [2]

THE death took place at Helensburgh on the 27th inst. from ptomaine poisoning, and after a fortnight's illness, of Mr. Alexander Govan, managing director of Argyll Motors Limited, Alexandria, N. B., who was only in his thirty-eighth year.

Mr. Govan was a native of Glasgow, his father having been engaged in power loom manufacture. After the usual rudimentary schooling he was apprenticed to the trade of mechanic in Bridgeton, acquiring a knowledge of science and theory in the evenings at the Glasgow Technical College.

When the cycle boom began to make itself felt he worked for a time at cycle manufacture, and afterwards he, with others, started a cycle making concern, which he afterwards gave up. To familiarise himself intimately and practically with the developments in this branch of engineering, he served for a time in a cycle factory at Redditch.

Returning to Glasgow, he secured a position in the cycle factory of the Scottish Manufacturing Company. Hozier-street, Bridgeton, which, however, proved unsuccessful, owing to the cycle slump then experienced. The company's factory, however, had been well equipped with labour-saving tools, and as these were then a drug to the market, Mr. Govan and his financial associate, Mr. W. A. Smith - now the chairman of Argyll Motors, Limited - agreed to start a motor car repair works rather than leave the factory idle.

From repairing the work developed into manufacture, and there was thus evolved the concern known ns the Hozier Engineering Company, which ultimately developed into the factory of the Argyll Motors, Limited, at Alexandria.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. Motoring Annual and Motorist’s Year Book 1904
  2. The Engineer 1907/05/24
  • [1] Scotia Web
  • Motoring Annual and Motorist’s Year Book 1903