Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

Registered UK Charity (No. 115342)

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

John Jonathan Kermode

From Graces Guide

John Jonathan Kermode (1859-1931)

1931 Obituary [1]

JOHN JONATHAN KERMODE devoted the whole of his engineering career to inventions in connexion with the use of oil fuel for ships and factories and for industrial cooking and central heating. Over thirty years ago he demonstrated before the Admiralty on H.M.S. "Surly" the possibility of obtaining full power from a water-tube boiler arranged to burn oil only. His system was subsequently adopted for use in the British Navy and in the French and other navies, and during the War Mr. Kermode's apparatus was installed in many warships, hospital ships, oil-tankers, and military locomotives.

Mr. Kermode was born in 1859 and received his engineering training at Owens College, Manchester, which he entered in 1876 as a Whitworth Exhibitioner. He subsequently served his apprenticeship at the works of Sir Joseph Whitworth, by whose foundations he was one of the first to benefit.

Later, he joined Messrs. Laird Brothers of Birkenhead and afterwards went to sea and obtained a Board of Trade first-class Certificate as a marine engineer with the West Indian and Pacific Steamship Company.

He ultimately became engineering superintendent for the latter firm, but subsequently returned to Messrs. Laird Brothers, for whom he was engaged on warship construction.

In 1900 Mr. Kermode commenced business on his own account in Liverpool, specializing in oil-burning appliances, a subject on which he wrote several technical papers.

He had been a Member of the Institution since 1906 and his death occurred on 19th November 1931, in his seventy-second year.

1931 Obituary[2]


It may fairly be said that to make a success of his ideas, an engineer capable of original work must not only be an inventor, but also a propagandist and a business man. It is not sufficient merely to see the possibilities in an idea, since only by successful practical application can the reward for inventive work be won. This may mean many years of work in overcoming initial difficulties, and usually in combating the prejudice which novel ideas usually have to meet.

The necessary qualifications for the introduction of a novel development were certainly possessed by Mr. John Jonathan Kermode, whose death, we regret to record, occurred on Thursday, November 19, in a Liverpool nursing home. He was a resourceful engineering inventor, many of whose ideas are the common practice of to-day, but anything he did in his early days was overshadowed by his work in connection with the utilisation of liquid fuels for combustion in boiler furnaces, with which his name will, by most people, be connected. Not only could he claim credit for the production of a successful system, but he was able to convince..the. Admiralty of its merits. His work certainly had much influence on the ultimate general adoption of oil-fuel firing in the Navy, which proved to be a matter of vital importance during the period of the European War. The use of liquid fuel for firing ships’ boilers has led to an entire change of outlook on the part of the naval architect, the marine engineer and the boilermaker, and has certainly represented one of the main technical developments in marine engineering during the last twenty-five years.

Mr. Kermode was born at Peel, in the Isle of Man, on November 10, 1859. His education was obtained at his native place, at Derby, and at the Manchester Grammar School. He attended classes at Owens College, Manchester, while an apprentice at the works of Sir Joseph Whitworth and Company, Limited, and, in due course, became a Whitworth Exhibitioner, and also won a Royal Exhibition. After further engineering experience with Messrs. Ashworth Brothers, of Collyhurst, Manchester, Mr. Kermode became a draughtsman at Messrs. Laird Brothers, of Birkenhead. After four years’ work in this way, he spent another four years at sea in vessels of West India and Pacific Steam Ship Company, and qualified for the First-Class Certificate of the Board of Trade.

He returned to Liverpool in 1899, and after a year’s engagement as chief draughtsman with Messrs. Laird Brothers, he opened an office as a consulting engineer, devoting himself largely to the development of liquid-fuel firing for boilers. Early successful work led him to approach the Admiralty, and eventually, so convinced were their engineering advisers of the possibilities of the scheme that they placed H.M.S. Surly at his disposal for experiment and demonstration. This was the beginning of the change-over from solid to liquid fuel in the Navy. Kermodes, Limited, of The Temple, Dale-street, Liverpool, was founded for the development of oil burning and to provide equipment for the purpose. The adoption of the system in the mercantile marine was but slow in early years, but recent years have manifested a great change of outlook.

Mr. Kermode was responsible for the introduction of buffer springs between the tiller and the quadrant of the steam steering gear of a ship, and he claimed to have been the first designer of an enclosed marine engine having forced lubrication when he was employed by Messrs. Laird Brothers; but, as has already been said, the development of oil burning was the main work by which he will be remembered. The progress of oil burning can well be traced through the columns of Engineering, for since 1899, when the first article on “Liquid Fuel Burning” appeared, each step in progress with the Kermode system has been recorded. Trial results have been givqn as well as descriptions of the equipment installed in association with Babcock and Wilcox, Yarrow, and other water-tube boilers. Similar work with steam wagons, fire engines, and with Cochran boilers has also been recorded in our columns.

Mr. Kermode was elected a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1906. He was also a member of the Royal Society of Arts and of the Royal Meteorological Society."

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