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1810 Born in Aberdeen. Coutts was always regarded as a gifted Aberdonian from his precocious up-bringing. Coutts had been the son to a farmer named Patrick Coutts in Aberdeenshire. Had been titled one of the "Three Wise Men" from Aberdeen, Coutts was fundamental and the foundation to the innovative iron ship building industry in Tyneside.
Sometime draughtsman for the Aberdeen firm of Vernon, Bourne and Co
In 1839, the first iron made sailing ship, the "John Garrow", was built along with the help of his partner John Ronalds in his shipyard in Aberdeen. It was shortly there after in 1840 when Coutts moved south to Tyneside to go at it alone and open his own shipyard.
John Coutts was very adamant about making it known he was not related to the well renowned and highly reputable Scottish Coutts Family, who was well known for banking. It was in 1840 when Coutts had travelled south to Tyneside to open his own shipyard in an old wooden shipyard at Low Walker on the Tyne.
1842 It was at this old wooden shipyard on the Tyne that Coutts had built and then launched the famous P.S. Prince Albert; the first iron ship of substantial size to fare the seas and the river Thames.
1844 Built the Q.E.D. in his old shipyard in Tyneside. The Q.E.D. was an iron-hulled barque ship. The Q.E.D. had an auxiliary engine system - a new system - along with the innovative feature, and a world's first, of a water ballast; it carried double bottoms. These innovations weren't just for the novelty but would eventually become the norm many different industries especially in the collier trade. The elaborate water ballast had virtually replaced the sand-and-gravel ballasts that were the industry standard previously.
1851 Living at 8 Picton Place, Newcastle: John Coutts (age 40 born Aberdeen), Shipbuilder (25 men). With his wife Margaret Coutts (age 29 born Aberdeen) and their five children; Henry C. B. Coutts (age 9 born Newcastle); Charles F. Coutts (age 7 born Newcastle); Clara Coutts (age 5 born Newcastle); Annie M. Coutts (age 2 born Newcastle); and John A. Coutts (age 7 Months born Newcastle). Also two sisters-in-law; Sarah Milne and Jessie Milne. Two servants.
1852 Built the 900 ton W. S. Lindsay, the largest iron ship that had been built to date for the eponymous merchant William Schaw Lindsay. She was designed to take emigrants to Australia and although she cost one-third more than similar vessels, the ship was three times more efficient with 280 cabins including 60 in first class. The vessel overturned in a storm in The Downs on her maiden voyage with 300 passengers aboard; she had to be towed back to London at a cost of £3,000. Note: The Lloyds report on the incident states 'The ship sailed on the 7th of December, but on reaching the Downs she was pronounced not seaworthy by her owner, and was accordingly return to her port of clearance. Her compass dispelled a very on one side from 1½ to 2½ points, although perfectly correct on a level keel, and the vessel had not sufficient stiffness in the water to enable her to answer her helm as steadily as was expected.'
Coutts and Parkinson employed Charles Mitchell as a designer for their ships; Mitchell was considered to be one of the "Three Wise Men" from Aberdeen for the iron ship building industry in Tyneside. Coutts was known for hiring many of his employees from his hometown in Aberdeen: this was especially the case with his venture in Coutts and Parkinson at Willington Quay from the years 1849 through 1855.