Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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John Williamson (Captain)

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Captain John Williamson, with his brothers and father, had a long history of connection with the development of the Clyde passenger service.

c.1858 Born in Rothesay, son of Alexander Williamson.

1861 Alexander Williamson 35, steamboat steward, lived in Rothesay, with Mary Williamson 33, James Williamson 10, Mary Ann Williamson 12, Marian Williamson 8, Robert Williamson 6, Alexander Williamson 5, John Williamson 3, Grace Williamson 9 Months[1]

1871 Alexander Williamson 45, steam boat owner, lived in Rothesay with Mary Williamson 43, Minanne Williamson 22, Marion Williamson 19, Robert Williamson 16, Alexander Williamson 15, John Williamson 13, Grace Williamson 10[2]

1881 Jas Williamson 30, steamboat owner, lived in Greenock West, with Mrs. Williamson 31, Cathy Williamson 4, William Williamson 2, and his brother John Williamson 22, steamboat master[3]

1891 Alexander Williamson 65, ship owner, lived in Rothesay with John Williamson 33, ship master, Marion Williamson 38, Grace Williamson 30, Eliza Williamson 25[4]

1901 Head of a syndicate which pioneered the introduction of turbine-propulsion on a large passenger vessel.

1901 John Williamson 42, ship owner, lived in Rothesay, with his sister Grace Williamson 42[5]

1923 Died in Nice, France[6]


ALTHOUGH he was not an engineer, the late "Captain" John Williamson, whose death took place last Friday, played a most important part in connection with the introduction of the marine steam turbine for mercantile vessels. When disaster overtook the turbine-engined destroyers Viper and Cobra, the future of the marine steam turbine was in grave jeopardy. The ship owning companies were not anxious to undertake the risks of pioneering work, and, as Sir Charles Parsons himself has recorded, the fortunes of the Parsons Marine Steam Turbine Company reached a very low ebb. At this stage Captain Williamson approached the Parsons Company and also William Denny and Brothers, with proposals for the construction of a turbine pleasure steamer to run on the Firth of Clyde. The result was that the historic vessel King Edward was launched at Dunbarton in May, 1901. She was very shortly followed by the Queen Alexandra for the same owners, and by a series of cross-Channel and other vessels, culminating in the Mauretania and Lusitania. The King Edward has recently been refitted with new turbines and still, apparently, has many years of usefulness before her. Mr. Williamson was closely associated all his life with the Clyde river steamers and was the author* of a most interesting and historically valuable work on the subject which traced the development of the vessels from the time of the Comet onwards. At one time, while he was in control of his own steamers, his brothers, James and Alexander, were responsible for the management of two of the railway companies' fleets.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 1861 census
  2. 1871 census
  3. 1881 census
  4. 1891 census
  5. 1901 census
  6. National probate calendar
  7. The Engineer 1923/05/04