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British Industrial History

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David Greig

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1856. Fowler and Grieg's improvements in ploughing.

David Greig (1827-1891), partner in John Fowler and Co.

1827 October 27th. Born

1861 Living at 6 Wordhorne Hill, Hunslet, Leeds (age 33 born Kincardineshire), Manager of Steam Cuthrals(?). With wife Isabella (age 29 born Kincardineshire) and children Arthur (age 6 born Kincardineshire), Alfred (age 5 born Essex), James (age 3 born Essex), Albert (age 2 born Leeds) and David (age 2 months born Leeds). Also one servant. [1]

1865 David Grieg, Steam Plough Works, Leeds.[2]

1865 Patent. '1104. To David Greig, of the Steam Plough Works, Leeds, in the county of York, Engineer, for the invention of "improvements in machinery for cultivating land." — The result partly of a communication from abroad from Max Eyth, a person resident at Shubra, Egypt, and partly of invention of his own.'[3]

1870 Patent. '2725. To David Greig and Max Eyth, both of the Steam Plough Works, Leeds, in the county of York, for the invention of "improvements in apparatus for ploughing, harrowing, and sowing land when steam power is employed."'[4]

1871 Patent. '980. To David Greig and Max Eyth, both of the Steam Plough Works, Leeds, in the county of York, for the invention of "improvements in traction engines to travel on ordinary roads."'[5]

1871 Living at 16 De Grey Road, Leeds (age 43 born Scotland), Engineer. With wife Isabella (age 39 born Scotland) and children David (age 13 born Ilford), Albert (New Cross, Kent), James (age 10 born Leeds), Isabella (age 2 born Leeds). Also Elizabeth Grieg (age 25 born Scotland), a visitor. Plus two servants and another visitor. [6]

1872 Patent. '1104. David Greig, of the Steam Plough Works, Leeds, in the county of York, Engineer, for an invention of "improvements in machinery for cultivating land." — That the same is the result partly of a communication from abroad from Max Eyth, a person resident at Shubra, Egypt, and partly of invention of his own.'[7]

1874 Patent. '527. And to David Greig and Max Eyth, both of the Steam Plough Works, Leeds, in the county of York, for the invention of "improvements in machinery for towing by fixed ropes."'[8]

1874 Patent. '1265. And to David Greig and Max Eyth, both of the Steam Plough Works, Leeds, in the county of York, for the invention of "improvements in steam cultivating apparatus."'[9]

1875 Patent. '663. To David Greig and Max Eyth, both of the Steam Plough Works, Leeds, in the county of York, for the invention of "improvements in steam ploughing, traction, mining, portable, and other engines."'[10]

1876 Patent. '902. And to David Greig and Max Eyth, both of Leeds, in the county of York, for the invention of "improvements in machinery for moving land." - The result partly of communication from abroad made to them by Peter Waite, of Adelaide, Australia, and partly of invention and discovery made by themselves.'[11]

1876 Patent. '2633. To David Greig and Max Eyth, both of the Steam Plough Works, Leeds, in the county of York, for the invention of "improvements in air condensers for steam engines."'[12]

1891 March 28th. Died.[13]


1891 Obituary [14]

DAVID GREIG was born at Harvioston, near Stonehaven, Kincardineshire, on 27th October 1827.

In early life he assisted his father in farming in the north of Scotland; and it is somewhat remarkable that a man without any previous mechanical training should have been able to grasp the numerous branches of mechanics with which he afterwards associated himself.

When quite a young man he undertook the management of a large estate in Ireland; and while superintending operations in Hainault Forest in 1858 he was engaged by Mr. John Fowler to assist him in overcoming the difficulties connected with the construction of the steam plough, the idea of which had occurred to Mr. Fowler in connection with his own draining plough and Mr. Fisken's plough driven by water power.

About this time Mr. Greig introduced his well-known and valuable improvement upon the "balance plough," which is now in every-day use: the original balance plough had two straight wooden beam extending the whole length of the implement, between which the balance plough worked; and his improvement consisted in making the present form of iron balance plough-frame, which did away with the old wooden frames entirely.

The Steam Plough Works having been started about 1860 at Hunslet, Leeds, by Messrs. John Fowler and Co., he then acted as outside manager and travelled to secure orders, and ill this capacity he made the steam plough a commercial success. The works originally gave employment to only about one hundred men, and wore limited to the production of ploughs, anchors, and engines; they now cover 8.5 acres and employ about 1,600 men.

During the American civil war in 1862-3 the cultivation of cotton in Egypt was carried on upon a large scale; and for the speedy preparation of the lands for this purpose the stem plough became a necessity. Mr. Greig went to Egypt, where he remitted for some time; and the numerous orders received from that country contributed largely to build up the works to their present size.

On the death of Mr. Fowler in 1864 (Proceedings 1865, page 14), he became a partner; and while the improvement of the steam plough and its adaptation to various kinds of work continued to receive his closest care, he also turned his attention to the manufacture of locomotives, and found uses to which the steam ploughing engine with slight modifications could be adapted; and the employment of portable and semi-portable engines for all sorts of mining purposes was to a great extent the result.

As an instance, on his advice an ordinary ploughing engine was used by Messrs. Bell Brothers of Middlesbrough for a new pit they were then sinking at the Cliff Mines near Saltburn; and it is believed this lifted many hundred thousand tons of ironstone at a cheaper rate per ton than any other engine had ever done. The introduction of this class of machinery naturally resulted in his attention being directed to all other descriptions of machinery required for mining operations, and the firm entered largely into the manufacture of all classes of mining machinery; he took the principal part in the design and manufacture of some of the largest winding engines working in this country. The success of the compound principle for marine engines led him to consider its adaptability to agricultural and stationary machinery. At the Steam Plough Works he constructed the first compound semi-portable engine; and as the experiments made with it proved successful, the manufacture of compound ploughing and traction engines soon followed. The first of the compound traction engines was exhibited at the Royal Agricultural Society's meeting held at Derby in 1881, since which date nearly all the principal agricultural firms have commenced their manufacture.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1865, a Member of Council in 1878, and a Vice-President in 1886. In 1865, in conjunction with Mr. John Fowler, he contributed a paper on the application of steam power to the cultivation of land; and in 1879, in conjunction with Mr. Max Eyth, he gave another on the use of iron and steel in high pressure boilers. He also read numerous papers on agricultural subjects before various Chambers of Commerce and other societies in different parts of the country. He took an active part in the Iron Trades Employers' Association, of which he was the president for two years, 1881-89 and 1882-83. He was a life governor of the Yorkshire College, and a member of its Council; and was one of the representatives of the engineering trade on the Council of the Leeds Chamber of Commerce. he was also a justice of the peace for the borough of Leeds, and for many years took a keen interest in local affairs.

He died at his residence, Leeds, on 20th March 1891, at the age of sixty-three, after a lingering illness.


1891 Obituary [15]

"... the death of Mr. David Greig, which took place on the 20th inst., at his residence, Headingley Hill, Leeds. For a considerable time Mr. Greig's health has been failing. As many of our readers are aware, he was one of the partners in the extensive engineering concern of Messrs. John Fowler and Co., Hunslet, known throughout the world as the Leeds Steam Plough Works. Mr. Greig was in many respects a. remarkable man. He possessed indomitable energy, keen business aptitude, and rare perception, as well as considerable mechanical ingenuity.

In bringing the steam plough to its present state of perfection Mr. Greig played a notable part. The history of that great engine of cultivation is one of considerable interest. The invention originated with several men, amongst others being a Scotch gentleman named Fiskin. The implement he invented resembled a joiner's bench on wheels, with a plough on each side. The mechanism was so arranged that whilst one plough was at work the other was raised out of the ground. When the end of the furrow had been reached, the raised plough was let down and the other raised so that the implement might travel in the opposite direction. Thus the ploughs worked alternately. The propulsion was effected by water-power. The late Mr. |John Fowler was then a young man practising as an engineer in London,..."[More]


1891 Obituary [16]



See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1861 Census
  2. 1865 Institution of Mechanical Engineers
  3. [1] Gazette Issue 22975 published on the 2 June 1865. Page 9 of 54
  4. [2] Gazette Issue 23672 published on the 28 October 1870. Page 22 of 48
  5. [3] Gazette Issue 23732 published on the 28 April 1871. Page 19 of 52
  6. 1871 Census
  7. [4] Gazette Issue 23852 published on the 26 April 1872. Page 23 of 50
  8. [5] Gazette Issue 24067 published on the 20 February 1874. Page 12 of 42
  9. [6] Gazette Issue 24089 published on the 24 April 1874. Page 12 of 46
  10. [7] Gazette Issue 24187 published on the 5 March 1875. Page 11 of 48
  11. [8] Gazette Issue 24312 published on the 7 April 1876. Page 12 of 52
  12. [9] Gazette Issue 24343 published on the 7 July 1876. Page 24 of 62
  13. The Leeds Mercury, Wednesday, March 25, 1891
  14. 1891 Institution of Mechanical Engineers: Obituaries
  15. The Engineer 1891/03/27
  16. Engineering 1891 Jan-Jun: Index: General Index