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Alexander Gracie

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Sir Alexander Gracie (1860-1930), chairman and managing director of the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Co


1930 Obituary [1]

Sir ALEXANDER GRACIE, K.B.E., M.V.O., an Original Member of the Institute of Metals, died suddenly in London on Sunday, March 2, 1930, while attending service at the Westminster Congregational Church.

Alexander Gracie was the son of John Gracie, of Landrick, Dunblane, and was born at Dunvegan in the Island of Skye, on November 10, 1860. He received his education at Anderson's College, Glasgow, and on leaving College became a marine engineering apprentice in the Finnieston Engine Works, Glasgow, of Messrs. J. and J. Thomson. On completing his apprenticeship he entered the drawing office of Messrs. James and George Thomson, Clydebank, and three years later was appointed leading draughtsman to Messrs. Denny & Co., Dumbarton, serving in that capacity for two years. He then returned to Messrs. J. and G. Thomson, which firm had since become the Clydebank Engineering and Shipbuilding Co., Ltd., to take full control of all marine machinery design, and during his period of service with this firm, which continued until the end of 1895, he was also under-manager of the engine works, and was concerned in the construction of many high-class vessels, including warships, cross-Channel steamers, and Atlantic liners.

In January 1896 he joined the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Co., Ltd., and he remained connected with this firm for the rest of his active professional life, filling successively posts of engineering manager, director, managing director, and finally, in 1909, chairman and managing director. He retained the chairmanship for ten years, and the managing directorship for a year longer, when he retired from the company. While he was there he witnessed the introduction of water-tube boilers, steam-turbines, speed-reduction gears, and oil fuel, oil engines, &c., and successfully applied these innovations to ships built by his firm. A very large number of vessels of varying types - many of which became famous - was designed and built at Fairfield under his superintendence.

He was created a Member of the Victorian Order in 1908, on the conclusion of the record return voyage across the Atlantic - after the Canadian Jubilee Celebrations - of the battle cruiser Indomitable, the first ship of the Invincible class built at Fairfield. For his valuable services during the European war he was created, in 1918, a Knight of the Order of the British Empire.

In 1905 Sir Alexander was appointed to serve on the Royal Dockyards Reorganization Committee, and in 1912 he was made a member of the Royal Commission on Navy Fuel in Peace and War. He was elected a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1899, and in 1913 delivered the "James Forrest" Lecture, his subject being "Twenty Years' Progress in Marine Construction."

Sir Alexander's connection with the Institution of Naval Architects was long and distinguished. He was elected a Member of Council in 1901 and again in 1909, and was made a Vice-President in 1916. He was a Deputy-Lieutenant and a Justice of the Peace of the county of the city of Glasgow, and Justice of the Peace for Lanarkshire.

Sir Alexander was for some time a director of Cammell Laird & Co., Ltd.; of the English Electric Co., Ltd.; Leeds Forge Co., Ltd.; and the Newlay Wheel Co., Ltd. Before the amalgamation of the railways he was a director of the Glasgow and South-Western Railway, and after the amalgamation was made a member of the Scottish Committee of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company. He was a director of the Merchants House of Glasgow, Deacon of the Glasgow Incorporation of Hammermen, and a member of the Trades House of Glasgow.


1930 Obituary[2]

"THE LATE SIR ALEXANDER GRACIE. The sudden death of Sir Alexander Gracie, M.V.O., K.B.E., which occurred in London, on March 2, last, removes a well-known figure from Scottish shipbuilding circles. The son of the late Mr. John Gracie, of Landrick, Dunblane, Alexander was born on November 14, 1860, and received his education at Anderson’s College, Glasgow. After leaving College he became a marine engineering apprentice in the Finnieston Engine Works, Glasgow, of Messrs. J. and J. Thomson, and, in 1884, upon completing his apprenticeship, he entered the drawing office of Messrs. James and George Thomson, Clydebank. Three years later he was appointed leading draughtsman in the establishment of Messrs. Denny and Company, Dumbarton, and after serving in that capacity for two years he returned to Messrs. J. and G. Thomson, which firm had since become the Clydebank Engineering and Shipbuilding Company, Limited, to take full control of all marine machinery design. During his period of service with this firm, which continued until the end of 1895, he was also under-manager of the engine works. In January, 1896, he was offered, and accepted, the position of engineering manager of Messrs. Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, Limited. While in this capacity he designed and supervised the construction of the propelling machinery for several large passenger steamers and for a number of warships, among which were H.M.SS. Diadem, Argonaut, and Hermes, and some 30-knot torpedo-boat destroyers.

When Dr. Elgar retired, Mr. Gracie, as he then was, was promoted to the rank of managing director of the Fairfield Company, and upon the former’s death in 1909, he became chairman of the firm. During his eleven year’s tenure of this office he displayed great organising and administrative abilities, and did much to develop manufacturing plant and methods. The Fairfield Company have always been a progressive firm, and it is of interest to recall that they were the first shipbuilding establishment on the river Clyde to fit geared turbines on board merchant steamers, namely the SS. Normannia and Hantonia. In spite of the exacting nature of his duties, Sir Alexander served at various times upon several Government committees, among which were the Admiralty Designs Committee, the Royal Dockyards Reorganisation Committee, and the Royal Commission on Navy Fuel in Peace and War. He received the decoration of membership of the Royal Victorian Order in 1908 on the conclusion of the record return voyage across the Atlantic, after the Canadian Jubilee Celebrations, of the battle cruiser Indomitable, the first ship of that class built at Fair-field. In recognition of his services during the European war he was made a Knight of the Order of the British Empire in 1918. Sir Alexander became a member of the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland and of the Institution of Naval Architects in 1896, and, in 1910, was made vice-president of the latter Institution. On March 7, 1899, he was elected a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and, on October 23, 1913, delivered the James Forrest Lecture, choosing as his subject “ Twenty Years’ Progress in Marine Construction.” *

Sir Alexander was also an original member of the Institute of Metals. He was a director of Messrs. Cammell Laird and Company, Limited ; Messrs Leeds Forge Company, Limited; Messrs. Newlay Wheel Company, Limited; and Messrs. English Electric Company, Limited. He was a member of the Scottish Committee of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company."


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