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Andrew Murray

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Andrew Murray (1813-1872), Chief engineer of Portsmouth Dockyard.

1838 Andrew Murray of Millwall, became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.[1]

Brief obituary in The Engineer 1872/10/18 page 264.


1873 Obituary [2]

MR. ANDREW MURRAY was the second son of the late Andrew Murray, of Murrayshall, Perthshire. He was horn in Edinburgh on the 19th of August, 1813, and was educated at the High School and Edinburgh Academy.

He subsequently attended classes at the Edinburgh University under Professors Hope, Leslie, and others, and also studied mathematics under a private tutor. It was at first intended that, he should go to Addiscombe, and, if possible, obtain a commission in the East India Company’s Engineers ; but the nomination from Sir Charles Forbes came just too late, he being then past the age for admission to that college. A commission in the Line was offered but declined, and he was thus again left to select a profession.

His studies for Addiscombe, however, had developed a taste for mechanics, and civil engineering being then considered a rising profession, he turned his thoughts in that direction. He was perhaps somewhat confirmed in his selection by a trip made round the coast of Scotland with the late Mr. R. Stevenson, M. Inst. CB., the Engineer of the Northern Lights Commissioners, of whom his father, as sheriff of Aberdeenshire, was one.

In 1832 he was apprenticed to Mr. (now Sir) William Fairbairn, M. Inst. C.E., and went to Manchester, where he remained for nearly five years. Mr. Fairbairn having determined upon the starting of a branch establishment at Millwall, a partnership for these works was agreed upon with Mr. Murray, on the understanding that Mr. Murray was to be the managing partner of that branch. He conducted these works for seven years, and during that time built several ships for the Russian, Prussian, and Danish governments, and also executed several contracts for the British Government.

The Millwall establishment, however, not answering expectations in the first instance, and the failure of the bank at Manchester rendering some reduction expedient, a dissolution of partnership was agreed upon, and a vacancy occurring in the government service by the death of Mr. Ewart, at Woolwich, Mr. Murray was appointed Assistant Chief Engineer of that dockyard in 1843.

Whilst at Woolwich he was ordered to make a report on the smitheries in all the Government dockyards, and also to arrange and lay out the plans, in conjunction with the late Sir William Denison, R.E., and Sir Henry James, R.E., for the steam factories to be erected at Portsmouth, both of which he did.

In May, 1846, he was appointed Chief Engineer of Portsmouth Dockyard, and it being at that time important, in consequence of foreign relations, to bring the factory there into operation as speedily as possible, his previous experience enabled him to accomplish this to the satisfaction of the Board of Admiralty.

In 1853 he was appointed a member of a committee on the keeping of manufacturing accounts in Her Majesty’s dockyards, and received the thanks of the Board for his services thereon; and in 1858 he was made a member of the Committee on Dockyard Economy, of which Admiral, now Sir Robert Smart, was the chairman.

During his service at Portsmouth many important changes were made at his suggestion, among which may be mentioned the system of keeping the accounts of the factory at Portsmouth in the manner of a private manufactory, which system was mentioned in an official report to the Treasury in the following favourable terms: “The success of the experiment reflects much credit on Mr. Murray, the Chief Engineer of the Portsmouth Factory.”

Another important change suggested by him was the admission of an entirely new class of men into the naval service under the name of “Engine-room artificers,” by which the previously required number of engineer officers was reduced, and the means of executing small repairs on board was supplied.

It was during his stay at Portsmouth, as Chief Engineer, that the first three-decker, the ‘Duke of Wellington,’ was fitted with the screw propeller in 1853; the first turret-ship, the ‘Royal Sovereign,’ was also fitted with her armour plating, without the erection of special machinery, and the revolving gear for her turrets was rendered both simple and effective under his supervision.

The application of steam to ships’ capstans, and of the twin screw machinery to ships’ launches, was also the work of Mr. Murray, as well as the carrying out of the hydraulic propeller principle in Her Majesty’s ship ‘Waterwitch.’ He was at Portsmouth, too, during the Crimean war, when the energies and abilities of all the dockyard officers were taxed to the uttermost.

In 1869, after nearly twenty-three years’ service at that place, he was removed from Portsmouth, and made “Inspector of Factories and Consulting Engineer to the Admiralty at Whitehall;” but on the reconstruction of the Board in the following year, his retirement was decided upon, and he left the Government service in April, 1870.

Shortly before his death he made a trip to Canada as Director of a Company for utilizing the immense stores of titanic ore in that country. It was on his return that the symptoms of the fatal malady, which terminated his life, showed themselves, though no serious apprehensions were entertained till within a few weeks of his death, on the 13th of October, 1872. It may be mentioned that, on his return from Canada, he entered into an agreement with Mr. E. J. Reed, C.B., M. Inst. C.E., the late Chief Constructor of the Navy, for the survey of the engines of ships being built by that gentleman for foreign governments.

His time was too fully occupied throughout his life to allow of much literary work. He was, however, able to re-write the article on ship-building, in the later editions of the “Encyclopaedia Britannica,” an undertaking for which he was especially qualified, as he was present and rendered assistance in a long series of experiments on iron ship-building, conducted in Manchester during his apprenticeship in 1832 ; and he was the first to apply the results of these experiments, in conjunction with Mr. Fairbairn, at the Millwall establishment, on the Thames.

He also wrote various professional papers on such subjects as the “Turbine Propeller,” &c.

Whilst in London in the earlier part of his life, he was a constant attendant at the Institution, and was elected an Associate on the 20th of March, 1838. In 1844, he contributed a Paper “On the Construction and Proper proportions of Boilers for the Generation of Steam,” for which he was awarded a Telford Medal; and in the following year he served as Associate of Council. He was transferred to the class of Member on the 2nd of February, 1847, but his incessant occupation at Portsmouth prevented the continuance of these frequent visits, and it was not till he returned to London in 1869 that he was enabled to resume them with regularity. He was also a Member of the Society of Arts, and of the Institution of Naval Architects.

During his long stay at Portsmouth, and, in fact, throughout the whole of his life, he made many sincere friends, and it is not too much to say, that he was as much beloved for his genial and courteous manners as he was respected for his steady Christian principle, great professional knowledge, and sound judgment by all with whom he was associated, whether in Her Majesty’s Service or among private individuals. He gave the most ungrudging labour, sparing neither time nor thought when he could, either directly or indirectly, further the interests of the Service, his opinion and advice being always honestly and fearlessly given.

That his abilities were highly valued, he had the satisfaction of feeling from the kind letters he received at the time of his retirement from many of the most distinguished officers of the Service, and also from the highly gratifying terms in which his name was mentioned by Mr. Corry, the late First Lord of the admiralty, in a debate in the House of Commons, on April the 30th, 1870, on the reorganization of the Admiralty. As a mark of distinction, he was made a Civil Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1869, shortly after his removal to Whitehall.


1872 Obituary [3]



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