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British Industrial History

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James Rowan

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James Rowan (1854-1906) of David Rowan and Sons

1906 Obituary [1]

JAMES ROWAN was born in Glasgow on 18th March 1854, being the son of the late Mr. David Rowan, founder of the firm of David Rowan and Co., engineers, of Glasgow.

He was educated at the Glasgow Academy and the University of Glasgow, serving subsequently an apprenticeship of five years - 1870 to 1875 - in his father's works. During this time he divided his attention between the pattern shop, the fitting department, and the drawing office, continuing in the latter for five years.

In 1880 he became assistant manager in the works, and five years later was made a partner with his father, the title of the firm becoming Messrs. David Rowan and Son.

In 1888 he took over the complete control of the establishment.

On the death of his father, ten years later, he assumed as partner his brother-in-law, Mr. William Thomson who had been associated with the firm as manager since 1891.

In the dispute which arose in 1897 between the engineering employers throughout the kingdom and their workmen, he took a keen interest, particularly in the economic questions involved, and realized that investigation was needed in the questions of administration and remuneration of labour. During the strike a careful investigation of the various American Premium Systems was entered into, with a view to their application to marine-engine building. Realizing their unsuitability as applied to this particular branch of engineering, he, along with Mr. Thomson, evolved a system now known by his name, and put it into operation in his works on the day the men returned to work after the strike. This system he described in a Paper read at the Engineering Congress at Glasgow in 1901. This Paper, read in conjunction with two others - notably, one by his partner and friend, Mr. William Thomson - led to a most interesting discussion.

Two years later he read a supplementary Paper before this Institution, entitled "A Premium System applied to Engineering Workshops." As a result of the introduction of this premium system, a complete re-organization of the works in respect of plant and workshop methods was commenced in 1899, and since then there has followed a wide development of the system, which will for long be identified with his name.

At the time of his death he was President of the North-West Engineering Trades Employers' Association; and had recently been elected as one of the representatives of the engineers and shipbuilders on the Clyde Navigation Trust, in which he took a keen interest, and being vice-convener of the Workshops Committee devoted a large amount of time to the scheming out and arranging of the new Clyde Trust workshops at Renfrew.

His death took place very suddenly and quite unexpectedly at his residence in Glasgow on 19th November 1906, at the age of fifty-two.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1888, and was appointed a Member of Council in 1905. He was also a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, a Member of Council of the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland, a Member of the Institution of Naval Architects, of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and of other Societies.

1906 Obituary [2]

Mr. James Rowan, senior partner of David Rowan and Co, engineers and boilermakers, Elliott Street, Glasgow . . . [much more]

1907 Obituary [3]

1906 Obituary [4]

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