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British Industrial History

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James Neilson

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James Neilson (1838-1903)

1838 Born on the 1st May, a member of the Neilson family, son of William Neilson who owned Orbiston House from 1862.

One of the Managing Directors of the Summerlee and Mossend Iron and Steel Co

Also a Director of the Caledonian Railway Company, of the Lanarkshire and Ayrshire Railway Company and of the Ardrossan Harbour Co and Chairman of the Lanarkshire and Dumbartonshire Railway Company.

1902 Created C.B. for his services in connection with the Yeomanry

1903 He died at home, Orbiston House, Belleshill, Lanarkshire, on the 6th October.


James Neilson, at Mossend, gained a notorious reputation as a fervent opponent of trade unionism. In 1899 his action against some workers who had joined a union provoked a confrontation which lasted over 15 months. Neilson brought in strikebreakers and evicted workers and their families from company-owned houses. The police were accused of bias against strikers and in favour of the blacklegs, to the extent that steelmaker John Colville took up the matter with the Chief Constable.[1]


1904 Obituary [2]

JAMES NEILSON, C.B., one of the Managing Directors of the Summerlee and Mossend Iron and Steel Company, died at his residence, Orbiston House, Belleshill, Lanarkshire, on the 6th October, 1903, in his sixty-fifth year.

Born on the 1st May, 1838, he was one of a family which had been closely identified with the iron industry in Scotland for more than a century. In addition to his connection with the Summerlee and Mossend Company, he was a Director of the Caledonian Railway Company, of the Lanarkshire and Ayrshire Railway Company, and of the Ardrossan Harbour Company, and Chairman of the Lanarkshire and Dumbartonshire Railway Company.

He was also Chairman of the School Board of the parish of Bothwell for many years and of the District Committee of the Lanarkshire County Council, and he held the rank of Colonel in the 'Queen’s Own' Glasgow Imperial Yeomanry.

Colonel Neilson’s services as a volunteer were so remarkable as to warrant special mention. He joined in 1855, and in 1865 served with the regiment in aid of the Civil Power during some riots at Airdrie, and was never absent from a training. He raised and equipped the 18th Company Imperial Yeomanry, consisting of 121 men and 5 officers for service in South Africa. Colonel Neilson raised amongst his friends upwards of £4,000 for the better equipment of this Company, and out of his own pocket supplied each of the men with serge tunic, trousers and field-cap, for use on board ship and stable duties. When additional Yeomen for service at the front were called for, he raised 609 men, so that altogether he sent to South Africa 730 men. For his services in connection with the Yeomanry he was created C.B. in 1902.

James Neilson was elected an Associate of the Institution on the 6th December, 1898.


1903 Obituary [3]

JAMES NEILSON, C.B., died on October 6, 1903, at his residence, Orbiston House, Lanarkshire. He was managing director of the Summerlee and Mossend Iron and Steel Company, and the head of a family which has been identified with the iron industry for more than a century.

His great grand-uncle, Beaumont Neilson, acquired a world-wide reputation as the inventor of the hot blast which revolutionised the mode of manufacturing iron. Sixty-eight years ago his grandfather, John Neilson, of Oakbank, built the first iron steamer that ran on the Clyde. Colonel Neilson was also a director of the Caledonian Railway Company, and chairman of the Lanarkshire and Dumbartonshire Railway Company.

He was honorary colonel of the Lanarkshire Imperial Yeomanry, and was created a Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1902.

He was elected a member of the Iron and Steel Institute in 1870.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  • Institution of Civil Engineers obituary [1]