Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,139 pages of information and 245,599 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.

Henry Hyndman Laird

From Graces Guide

Henry Hyndman Laird (1838-1893) of Laird Brothers

Youngest son of John Laird

1862 Mr. Henry Hyndman Laird was admitted into what then became the firm of Messrs. Laird Brothers, shipbuilders of Birkenhead, of which Mr. William Laird was the senior partner.

1893 Obituary [1]

HENRY HYNDMAN LAIRD was born at Birkenhead on 21st May 1838, being the fourth son of Mr. John Laird.

He was educated at the Birkenhead school, and commenced his shipbuilding training in 1855 in the works of the Messageries Imperiales (now Maritimes) at La Ciotat, near Toulon.

After remaining there nearly three years he returned to Birkenhead in 1857, and the knowledge he had acquired of naval architecture became of the greatest service to his father's firm.

On the retirement of his father from the direction of the firm in 1862 he joined his elder brothers, William and John, as a partner in the firm of Laird Brothers.

In the matter of warship design he was singularly successful, and nearly every naval power possesses one or more specimens of work turned out by his firm. Many of these warships have been in action notably the Chilian torpedo-catchers, "Almirante Condell" and "Almirante Lynch," and the Peruvian turret-ship "Huascar."

Besides building many warships for South America and other foreign states, the Birkenhead Works have turned out recently for the British government the "Rattlesnake," and have nearly completed the first-class battle-ship "Royal Oak" and two gunboats "Onyx" and "Renard" (Proceedings 1891, pages 451-3).

For the merchant service equal, if not greater, success has been attained with the Atlantic liner "Columbia" and those of the National line, besides several Channel steamers for the London and North Western, the Great Western, and the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railways, and the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company.

Mr. Henry Laird was remarkably cautious, shrewd, and just, and popular with workmen of all ranks.

His death took place at Birkenhead from pneumonia, on 26th May 1893, at the age of fifty-five, after a brief illness.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1872, and was a Member of Council in 1876-79; he was also a Member of Council of the Institution of Naval Architects.

Obituary 1893 [2]

"...Mr. Henry Laird was born on May 21st, 1888, and hence was within a couple of days of his 56th birthday when he died.

After receiving a sound commercial education at a local school, he was sent to France, and subsequently entered the works of the Messagerie Maritimes at La Ciotat. At this time, circa 1856, iron shipbuilding was being carefully fostered by the French Government, and the vessels turned out at La Ciotat for the Messageries Imperiales, as it was then, were from a. scientific point of view much superior to those we were building. It is often forgotten that we manufacture ships, whereas with the French designers every step was the result of a scientific analysis.

Mr. Henry Laird remained at La Ciotat for nearly three years, and the knowledge of naval..."More.

1893 Obituary[3]


Colleagues in his profession, as well as his personal friends, deeply regret the death of Mr. Henry Laird, of Birkenhead, for to a disposition which charmed all whom he met, he added an experience and love of research which eminently fitted him to help in the solution of the problems which beset the path of progress. The regret, too, is intensified by the suddenness with which the result followed the first painful warning. A fortnight ago he was in London, dining with the Italian Minister and Dr. White, of the Admiralty ; on the 19th ult. he was encouraging the young men in his native town, as was his wont, by presiding at the meeting of the Birkenhead Science and Art Committee. On Monday, the 22nd, he became ill; pneumonia developed, and, despite all the efforts suggested by the highest medical skill, death came before the dawn on Friday, the 26th ult. He was but fifty-five years, having been born on May 21, 1838, and was the fourth son of Mr. John Laird, whose efforts, seconded by those of his sons, raised Birkenhead to its present position of importance, and built up one of the leading marine works in the kingdom. The subject of our memoir received his early education at the Birkenhead school, and with the view to gaining experience, was sent afterwards to the South of France. His shipbuilding training, too, was commenced abroad--in the works of the Messageries Imperiales (now Mari times), La Ciotat, near Toulon, and apart altogether from the advantage of the healthy discipline associated with work in a strange establishment, there was the benefit of study of French naval architecture, which in those days was more advanced, relatively to British practice, than is the case to-day ; of this we have evidence in the French vessels captured in war in the early decades of the century. The two years were thus profitably spent, and in 1857 “ Mr. Harry,” as he was known by the workmen, returned to Birkenhead with clear ideas as to the various forms of hull best suited for most conditions. At his father’s works there were abundant opportunities for completing education, for Mr. John Laird, afterwards member of Parliament, was one of the most progressive, as he was one of the most successful of builders. He not only built the first iron steamers for this country, but shipped, in 1834, to the Savannah River the first iron paddle steamer seen on American waters, while in the same year two boats were similarly sent to the River Euphrates, and a light-draught paddle-wheel sloop-cf-war (Nemesis) sailed round the Cape in 1840. She had only 7 ft. draught, but had two drop keels worked in trunks, an early adaptation of the centre-board, the object being of course to give her steadiness, and make her more weatherly when under canvas with her floats removed. Many such pioneers could be mentioned, as well as early warships, notably the world-famed Alabama. When Mr. Laird relinquished his position and the firm became Laird Brothers, there was every element present for further success.

Mr. Henry Laird, soon after his return, held a high position amongst his compeers as a naval designer, and the firm continued to manifest the same spirit of progress. Just as the father had been the first to adopt iron in the construction of vessels for ocean navigation, so the sons were among the first to use steel in 1858, and even then they experienced no difficulty in doing good work and obtaining suitable material. But it is curious to recall that they had to resort to the somewhat expensive process of ordering the plates 3 in. longer than they were used, so as to admit of the piece being taken off and tested. Be- , sides, they were the first to use entirely steel rivets. ' It is interesting now to note that they adopted Dr. j Siemens’ plan of reducing the diameter of the rivets in proportion to the thickness of the plates, and made the spacing of the holes the same proportion to their diameters as it would be in iron. Experiments led them early to the opinion that the mere fact of the hot rivets being put into the punched holes was sufficient to anneal that portion of the steel which had been distressed by punching. In almost all types of steamers the firm have excelled,! and particularly in the construction of warships of various types, not only for our own Navy, but for foreign navies, notably of South American republics. Many of their warships, too, have been , seen in action. In the recent Chilian War, for instance, their two SOVknot torpedo gunboats fought with torpedoes and gave the world the first practical demonstration of this weapon of destruction, and, curiously enough, the attack of these vessels was directed at one point against a Birkenhead-built turret ship—the Huascar, built for Peru, but captured by Chili.* Quite lately, too, they have turned out two remarkable ironclads for the Argentine Government,+ while for the British Navy the firm have at present the first-class battleship Royal Oak and two gunboats nearing completion. For the merchant service equal, if not greater, success has been attained with the Atlantic Liner Columbia, and several Channel steamers for the Holyhead and Kingstown mail service, the last constructed—the Ireland—attaining a speed of 22 knots, while mention may be made of the three vessels of the Lynx class and of the Ibex for the Channel Island service. In the credit associated with all these successes Mr. Henry Laird takes a large share. He worked steadily and most patiently and with marked success.

Seldom did he appear in public. He became a member of the Institution of Naval Architects in 1874, and two years later was elected a member of Council. He also was a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and in 1876 (four years after election) was made a member of Council. But while he readily gave his influence for the advancement of the interests of the Institutions and of engineering practice generally, he never read any paper. Occasionally he spoke, and his remarks were always so practical and of such a nature as to create a wish that he would embody the results of his research and experience in more detailed and permanent form. But he was of a very retiring disposition, most unassuming; and in private a charming companion. His friends were therefore numerous, and they share with his relatives regret at his untimely demise."

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