Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 134,033 pages of information and 213,123 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Edmund Bruce Ball

From Graces Guide

Jump to: navigation, search

Edmund Bruce Ball (1873-1944), Managing Director with Glenfield and Kennedy

1873 Born in Norfolk.

He showed an early talent for engineering, apprenticing at Charles Burrell and Sons in Thetford. This talent was rewarded with two science scholarships, a Whitworth Exhibition and the Queen’s Prizeman for Science. The scholarships ensured he was able to complete his technical training at the Manchester School of Technology.

Practical engineering experience followed as a draughtsman with Benjamin Goodfellow. He soon progressed to the position of works manager with Reavell and Co and then Clarkson. His specialist subject was hydraulic engineering, in particular the storage and distribution of water.

Ball’s experience took him overseas to Italy and then China. On his return he took the position of works manager at D. Napier and Son, Acton.

His last position was as Managing Director with Glenfield and Kennedy, which also gave him management of British Pitometer and Hydrautomat.

He was President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1939, and was also made an Honorary Life Member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

He died in 1944.

1944 Obituary [1]

HYDRAULIC engineers in all parts of the world will have learned with deep regret of the death, recorded briefly in our last week's issue, of Mr. Edmund Bruce Ball, who for more than a quarter of a century was the managing director of Glenfield and Kennedy, Ltd., of Kilmarnock.

On Friday, June 16th, Mr. Bruce Ball was at business as usual and attended a luncheon given in Kilmarnock to the Secretary of State for Scotland, and the same evening he was present at a public dinner in Ayr. For some time past he had been suffering from heart trouble, and his death was very sudden on Saturday, June 17th, at his home, Eldo House, Monkton, Prestwick. He was seventy-one years of age.

Mr. Bruce Ball was born at Thetford, Norfolk, and received his early education in that town, where also he served a five years' apprenticeship with Charles Burrell and Sons, Ltd. Whilst there he gained two science scholarships, and became Queen's Prizeman for Science. He then spent two years at the Manchester College of Technology, where he gained a Whitworth Exhibition and Medal. On leaving college he accepted a post as chief designer with Benjamin Goodfellow and Sons, of Hyde, near Manchester, where he was engaged on the design of mill engines, refrigerating plant, and other engineering specialities.

He left Manchester in order to take up the position of works manager to William Reavell and Co., Ltd., of Ipswich, where for five years he worked on the production of high-speed steam engines and air compressors. He then accepted the position of manager to the steam car works of Clarkson, Ltd., of Chelmsford.

On relinquishing the Chelmsford post Mr. Bruce Ball went to Italy as technical director to the San Giorgio Company, of Genoa, where he spent three years. During that time he was responsible for the design and lay-out of the company's new works for the building of oil engines and motor-cars, and for work carried out under Napier and Yarrow patents. He also effected an important amalgamation of Italian interests between the "Lauranti" submarine works at Spezia and the "Fiat" engine works at Turin.

On the completion of his Italian engagement Mr. Bruce Ball accepted a post in the Far East as engineer and commercial agent to the firm of Samuel McGregor and Co., Ltd., of Shanghai, in which capacity he represented many important British engineering firms in China, Manchuria, and Siberia, for waterworks, mining, railway, and other engineering plant.

On his return to this country he joined the firm of D. Napier and Sons, Ltd., of Acton, where, as general works manager, he greatly developed the manufacturing side of the business.

In May, 1918, Glenfield and Kennedy, Ltd., of Kilmarnock, invited Mr. Ball to become managing director. Then followed years of development and extension. In 1919 the firm decided to concentrate upon the design and manufacture of large sluice gates and the hydraulic control of hydro-electrical power plants, and suitable shops and machine tools were laid down. Further extensions and reconstruction included a new metallurgical laboratory, the mechanisation of the foundry, and the laying down of an entirely new wood-working machinery plant in the pattern shop.

Mr. Bruce Ball took the greatest possible interest in the workmen and staff, and the company's welfare association was formed at an early date after he joined the firm. He fostered technical education, both in the town of Kilmarnock and in the West of Scotland generally, and afforded ready facilities for all Glenfield apprentices to attend advanced day and night classes. He travelled widely for his firm, and additional directorships he held included those of the Pitometer Company, Ltd., of London, and Hydroautomat (1931), Ltd., of London, of which he was the chairman.

For many years he was an active and valued member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, served on many of its committees, and was a Past-President. Last year he was, we may recall, made an Honorary Life Member of the Institution. He was also an Honorary Life Member of the American Society of Engineers. Before settling in Scotland he was a member of the London County Council Engineering Advisory Committee on Education, and for some years Vice-President of the London District Association of Engineering Employers and the Chairman of the Committee of Aircraft Manufacturers of that body. He was a Past President of the Whitworth Society and a Vice-President of the British Engineers' Association. His Scottish interests were many and for some years past he was Chairman of the Engineering and Allied Employers' Kilmarnock and District Association. He was a Director of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce and a valued Governor of the Royal Technical College, Glasgow.

It will be seen from this brief account of his career that it was extensive and varied. It is difficult to say whether we should ascribe his undoubted eminence as an engineer and organiser to the wealth of experience he gained in his young days, or whether we should say that the variety of the occupations which he filled resulted from the appreciation of his employers that he was a young man with exceptional qualifications and merits. That he proved his worth in all the vocations which he followed is shown by the increasing responsibilities that fell upon him, but to most of us he will always be recalled for his twenty-six years' association with Glenfield and Kennedy, Ltd.; and to those who knew him well the memory of his charm of character and ever-buoyant disposition will outlive that of his achievements as a great mechanical engineer.

1946 Obituary [2]

EDMUND BRUCE BALL, Wh.Ex., F.R.S.E., whose death occurred suddenly at Monkton, Ayrshire, on 17th June 1944, made valuable contributions to the industrial side of engineering in many widely different branches. A seventh son and youngest of a family of twelve, he was born on 21st May 1873 at Thetford, Norfolk, where his father was in business as a master baker.

At an early age Bruce Ball had determined the career he intended to follow, and while he was serving his apprenticeship with Charles Burrell and Son, Ltd., Thetford, his ability was recognized by the award of the first Science Scholarship offered by Norfolk County Council. This enabled him to study at Owens College, Manchester, for two years, and while there he won a Whitworth Exhibition, and became Prizeman for AS Science. He also gained a School of Mines Scholarship, but his interests being practical rather than academic, he relinquished this award, and at twenty-two years of age entered industry. His first position was as a draughtsman with Benjamin Goodfellow and Company, of Hyde, near Manchester, designers and manufacturers of mill and winding engines and refrigerators.

After two years he was appointed chief draughtsman, but in the following year accepted a similar position with William Reavell and Company, Ltd., Ipswich, and was shortly afterwards promoted to be works manager. During his five years in Ipswich he gained considerable experience in the design and construction of air compressors and high-speed steam engines, his period there coinciding with a rapid extension of the works. At this time, attracted by the possibilities then developing in mechanically propelled road vehicles, he joined the Clarkson Steam Car Company, as works manager in 1903, and was responsible for the production of omnibus and private cars.

The limitations of the steam drive imposed by the frequent necessity to refill the boiler—although even at that time its advantages as a prime mover were very evident—soon showed that the steam car could not hold its own against the rapidly growing application of internal combustion engines. This realization induced Bruce Ball to identify himself with motor cars in the form we know them to-day; and in 1905 he was appointed technical director of the San Giorgio Company of Genoa, Italy, where he supervised the construction of the company's new works and produced marine internal combustion engines and automobiles under the Napier and Yarrow patents. His desire to increase his experience, particularly abroad, led him, on the completion of his agreement in Italy, to accept the position of engineer, and later director, of Samuel and Company, Ltd., of Shanghai, representing the interests of many well-known British manufacturers of waterworks, mining and railway plant in China, Manchuria, and Siberia, with the responsibility of supervising installations and setting them to work.

In 1913, on his return to this country, he was appointed general works manager of Messrs. D. Napier and Son, Ltd., London, where he reorganized the works and during the First World War organized the production of motor lorries, aircraft and aero-engines, including the famous Lion, and the development of its successor the Cub, which was probably the first aero-engine to develop 1,000 h.p.

On being released by the Ministry of Munitions in 1918, Bruce Ball became managing director of Glenfield and Kennedy, Ltd., Kilmarnock, the directors of which had approached him two years previously, and had kept the position open for him. The company had gained a very high reputation in all parts of the world for its waterworks plant, reciprocating pumping engines, and hydraulic power machinery, but with the development of the centrifugal pump and electric motor, the last two classes of manufacture were being eclipsed. At this time the need for greater specialization was apparent, and Bruce Ball was responsible for the company's development in the irrigation and hydro-electric fields, attention being confined to the control <of water. Under his experienced and able direction the works was progressively expanded and ultimately became recognized as the largest factory in the Empire specializing in the design and manufacture of valves and control devices for water. He had visited many parts of the world where important examples of the company's products had been installed.

Bruce Ball took a keen and active interest in the work of technical institutions and trade associations. He was elected an Associate Member of the Institution in 1899 and was transferred to membership in 1918. In 1923 he presented a paper on "Improvements in Mechanical Contrivances in connection with the Storage and Distribution of Water". He later became Chairman of the Glasgow and West of Scotland Branch (now the Scottish Branch) and served for several years as a Member of Council. In 1939 he was elected President of the Institution and during his year of office displayed the highest degree of initiative and wisdom in the direction of its affairs at a time when urgent war work made heavy demands on his energies. After serving on the Council for a further three years he was, in 1943, elected an Honorary Member.

He had been Vice-President of the London District of Engineering Employers, and Chairman of the Aircraft Manufacturers' Committee of that body during the First World War, Vice-President of the British Engineers' Association, Member of the Engineering Divisional Council of the British Standards Institution, Member of the Grand Council of the Federation of British Industries, and President of the Ayrshire District Association of the Engineering Employers' Federation. He was also a Governor of the Royal Technical College, Glasgow, prior to which his keen interest in the training and education of young engineers had induced him, among his many other activities, to act as Assessor for the award of National Diplomas and Certificates in Mechanical Engineering in Scotland for eight years, and subsequently as a member of the Joint Committee of the Institution and Scottish Education Department.

Of a kindly disposition, Bruce Ball endeared himself to the very large number of people with whom he came in contact. He was never happier than when among his friends and particularly enjoyed the warm sociability of the Council Dinners. His tastes were simple and he never sought honours; but those honours which gave him greatest pleasure and satisfaction were election to Honorary Membership of the Institution and of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • [1] Institution of Mechanical Engineers