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Robert Morrison

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Robert Morrison (1822-1869)

1822 born in the parish of Moy, Inverness-shire, on the 14th of February, son of a flour miller

c.1839 At about the age of seventeen he was apprenticed by his father to another millwright; he assisted in the installation of a flour mill for Sir George Munro, of Poyntsfield. Sir George then sent him to Glasgow to work for John Percy Henderson, of Polmont. Here he acquired a practical knowledge of marine and other engines.

Later, to extend his knowledge, he moved to Leeds, and subsequently to Manchester, where he was employed by William Fairbairn.

1841 Moved to Glasgow, working as draughtsman for Mr. Paton, locomotive superintendent of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway.

1844 Went to Messrs. Hawthorns, of Newcastle-on-Tyne, as manager of their works.

1849 of Hawthorn's, Engineers of Forth Bank.[1]

1851 he married Miss Fleming, only daughter of Mr. John Fleming, solicitor, of Newcastle

1853 Started business for himself at Ouseburn, as Robert Morrison and Co. The works at that time were comparatively small, but by his great mechanical skill, application and energy, in a few years, he extended them so that they covered about 10,000 square yards of ground, and employed more than five hundred men, in the manufacture of marine and other classes of engines, as well as of an improved steam-hammer which he invented and patented. His hammers were extensively used by both the English and Russian Governments, by Sir William Armstrong, for his big guns, and by many large engineering firms in this country, as well as in America.

Pumping engines of considerable size were occasionally made at the Ouseburn Works, and of these one pair was erected for the Sunderland and South Shields Water Co, each cylinder being 5 feet in diameter.

1866, in common with many others, he felt the effects of the commercial depression which then prevailed, and so severe were his losses that he was obliged nearly to close his works; but he settled handsomely, and beyond their expectations, with those to whom he was indebted. At this time he was also engaged as principal and manager, under the name of Morrison and Co., in developing iron-stone mines at Brotton, in the Cleveland district; and judging that little could be got, for some years at least, by following mechanical engineering, he devoted his time and energy to bringing as speedily as possible into complete working order these mines; and this was successfully accomplished, but only shortly before his death, which took place on the 20th of December, 1869


1871 Obituary [2]

MR ROBERT MORRISON was born in the parish of Moy, Inverness-shire, on the 14th of February, 1822. His father, David Morrison, was at that time tenant of the flour or meal mill situated at Kylachy, in the parish of Moy, where Robert, although young, most assiduously assisted him.

Indeed, the most striking feature in Robert’s character, when a boy, was his devotion to his books and his dutiful attention to his father, whom he helped late and early both before and after school hours ; while he prepared his lessons, after the rest of the family had retired to bed, poring for hours over his books, by such light as could be got from the resinous chips from the roots of the fir tree.

He resided for some portion of his school days at the house of the Rev. Dr. James MacLauchlan, who allowed him the use of books, which he read with avidity whenever he had spare time either in or out of doors ; and Robert Morrison frequently, in after life, alluded in feeling terms to the good precepts instilled into his mind by the minister. When about the age of seventeen he was apprenticed by his father to a millwright in the same county named Reid, who during this time got orders from Sir George Munro, of Poyntsfield, Ross-shire, to supply and fix on that property a flour mill.

Being sent to assist at this work, Robert Morrison’s intelligent appearance, activity, and business-like habits so favourably impressed Sir George, that he was offered the lucrative appointment of factor, or manager, over sugar-growing estates in Jamaica belonging to Lady Munro. His father, however, raised objections to this scheme, and Sir George, still wishing to encourage merit, sent him to Glasgow, with a strong recommendation to the late Mr. John Percy Henderson, of Polmont.

Here he worked with various engineering firms, and acquired a practical knowledge of marine and other engines. After a time, having a strong desire to extend his knowledge, he determined to proceed south, going in the first place to Leeds, and subsequently to Manchester, where he got employment with Mr. Fairbairn, M. Inst. C.E., (now Sir William Fairbairn, Bart.).

At this time, 1841, his leisure hours after work were occupied in making sketches of the various parts of engines, which he executed with remarkable neatness. He was noted for his industry, being most scrupulous to his employer’s interests, which brought him no small amount of ill-favour from other workmen ; for, as charge-man, he insisted that those under him should commence work at the proper time and not wait for the appearance of the foreman ; indeed it was partly on account of .this feeling that he left Manchester and returned to Glasgow, where he obtained with Mr. Paton, locomotive superintendent of the Edinburgh and Glasgow railway, the situation of draftsman.

In 1844 he went to Messrs. Hawthorn, of Newcastle-on-Tyne, as manager of their works. He was much valued and esteemed by the firm, and he had, in such a position, the advantage of getting more prominently under the notice of others who were able to judge and appreciate his merits.

In 1851 he married Miss Fleming, only daughter of Mr. John Fleming, solicitor, of Newcastle ; and in 1853 he commenced business on his own account, at Ouseburn, as Robert Morrison and Co.

The works at that time were comparatively small, but by his great mechanical skill, application and energy, he, in a few years, extended them so that they covered about 10,000 square yards of ground, and employed more than five hundred men, in the manufacture of marine and other classes of engines, as well as of an improved steam-hammer which he invented and patented. His hammers were extensively used by both the English and Russian Governments, by Sir William Armstrong, for his big guns, and by many large engineering firms in this country, as well as in America, where, by license from the patentee, they were manufactured by Messrs. Wm. Sellers and Co., of Philadelphia. Morrison’s steam-hammer was adjudged the first medal and prize at the Exhibition of 1862. The largest hammer he made was one of 40 tons, in 1863, for the Russian Government; its total weight when completed, in three parts, was 550 tons, and the diameter of the cylinder was 6 feet 6 inches, being, at that time, probably twice the size of any previously manufactured.

Pumping engines of considerable size were occasionally made at the Ouseburn Works, and of these one pair was erected for the Sunderland and South Shields Water Company, each cylinder being 5 feet in diameter.

In the year 1866, in common with many others, he felt the effects of the commercial depression which then prevailed, and so severe were his losses that he was obliged nearly to close his works; but he settled handsomely, and beyond their expectations, with those to whom he was indebted. At this time he was also engaged as principal and manager, under the name of Morrison and Co., in developing iron-stone mines at Brotton, in the Cleveland district; and judging that little could be got, for some years at least, by following mechanical engineering, he devoted his time and energy to bringing as speedily as possible into complete,working order these mines; and this was successfully accomplished, but only shortly before his death, which took place on the 20th of December, 1869.

He was a devoted husband, an indulgent and affectionate father, a sincere friend, and a dutiful son. For many years he occupied the mansion and grounds known as Shield Field House. He was much interested in the education of the poor, and had been but a short time at Brotton when, through his instrumentality, large and efficient school-houses were built there.

Mr. Morrison was elected a Member of the Institution on the 28th of May, 1861.


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