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British Industrial History

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James Conner

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James Conner (1858-1937)


1937 Obituary [1]

JAMES CONNER, M.B.E., was works manager to Messrs. Dick, Kerr and Company, for no less than twenty-five years, first at the firm's Kilmarnock works, and later at Preston. He was born in Glasgow and received his education at Ayr Academy and Anderson's College, Glasgow. In 1873 he entered the St. Rollox works of the Caledonian Railway where he served his apprenticeship until 1878.

After further experience in superintending the erection of outdoor machinery, he joined Messrs. Neilson, Reid and Company at Hyde Park Works, Springburn, as a leading draughtsman. In 1884 he became chief draughtsman to the Britannia Engineering Company, Kilmarnock; the firm was later acquired by Messrs. Dick, Kerr and Company. Mr. Conner was appointed works manager in 1895 and remained at Kilmarnock until 1901, when he was transferred to Preston, to take charge of the firm's new works there. He occupied this position until 1920, when he took up consulting work, in which he continued until his death on 22nd May 1937, in his seventy-ninth year.

Mr. Conner's management of Messrs. Dick, Kerr's works covered the later period of the steam tram; and he was in the forefront of those working for its development. He was also a pioneer in the industrial application of large gas engines. The remarkable increase in the number of electric tramway systems, and of the adoption of electric traction by certain railways, created special demands which had to be met during his management of the Preston works. In the first year of the War he was responsible for converting the works into an armament factory, and was subsequently awarded the M.B.E. for his services. He had been a Member of the Institution since 1902.


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