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 163,165 pages of information and 245,632 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.

Maurice Edward Denny

From Graces Guide

Maurice Edward Denny (1886-1955) of William Denny and Brothers

1886 February 11th. Born at Braehead, Dumbarton, the eldest son of Archibald Denny (1860-1936) and his wife Margaret Tulloch.

Educated first at Tonbridge School, Kent, and then spent two years in Switzerland and one in Germany at the universities of Lausanne and Heidelberg.

Apprenticeship in the firm, combining it in a sandwich course with four years at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,

Worked for a year in the drawing office of William Doxford and Sons

1911 He joined the family business, becoming a partner in William Denny and Brothers

1911 co-operated with Charles Algernon Parsons to produce Dennys' first set of geared turbines for the destroyers Badger and Beaver.

1916 Married Marjorie, daughter of William Royse Lysaght, steelmaker, of Castleford, Chepstow, Monmouthshire and had two sons and two daughters.

1920 He was elected vice-chairman of the company

1922 succeeded his uncle, Colonel John M. Denny, as chairman.

Developed a ‘vane-wheel’ system for powering flat-bottomed riverboats, and two types of torsion meters, the Denny-Johnson and the Denny-Edgecumbe.

Collaborated with William Wallace (1881–1963) of Brown Brothers and Co to produce the Denny-Brown stabilizer which was used during WWII to give greater stability for gunnery, and afterwards in many ships.

1952 Retired and became president.

1955 February 2nd. Died at Drymen, Stirlingshire

1955 Obituary [1]

ALL those engaged in the shipbuilding and marine engineering industries will have learned with profound regret of the death of Sir Maurice Edward Denny, Bt., which occurred at his home, Gateside House, Drymen, Stirlingshire, on Wednesday, February 2nd after a short illness.

Sir Maurice, who was in his sixty-ninth year, had been actively engaged in shipbuilding and allied activities all his life and at the time of his death was president of William Denny and Brothers, Ltd., the well-known firm of shipbuilders and engineers.

He was born at Dumbarton on February 11, 1886, and was the eldest son of Sir Archibald Denny, the first baronet and grandson of Peter Denny, who helped to found the firm of William Denny and Brothers in 1844. His family was closely associated with the Royal Burgh of Dumbarton, where his forbears, according to old records, were living in 1520 and where his great grandfather, William Denny, was engaged in the business of shipbuilding before the present concern was founded, a firm which is famous as the builders of the clipper " Cutty Sark," now preserved at Greenwich, and, in association with the Parsons Marine Steam Turbine Company, Ltd., the Clyde steamer "King Edward," the first merchant ship to be turbine driven.

Sir Maurice received his early education in his native town before proceeding to Tonbridge School, from where he went to Switzerland for a period of two years, followed by a final year in Germany.

From 1903 to 1909 he served an apprenticeship, with William Denny and Brothers, on the sandwich system and during this period he spent some years in the United States, where he took a four-year course in naval architecture, studying under Professor C. H. Peabody at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he graduated as a Bachelor of Science.

On his return to this country he spent nearly a year with William Doxford and Sons, Ltd., the Sunderland shipbuilders and engineers, and then rejoined the family business as assistant to Leslie Denny and to gain further practical experience at the Leven shipyard.

Two years later, in 1911, he was elected a partner of William Denny and Brothers and was appointed a director when the firm was converted into a limited liability company in 1918. A short time afterwards he became vice-chairman of the company and in 1922 he succeeded his uncle, Colonel John M. Denny, C.B., as chairman, and from that date for the next thirty years his administrative and organising abilities, which were of a high order, supported by his capacity for hard work, were to prove valuable assets to the Denny firm.

Under his control the firm continued to enhance its reputation for building ships and turbine machinery, particularly with respect of fast cross-channel ships. In addition the company has been associated with Brown Brothers of Edinburgh with the development of the Denny-Brown stabiliser which was fitted to a number of naval vessels during the war and has formed part of the equipment of several large passenger ships built since the war, to minimise rolling and so add to the comfort of the passengers. In the realm of sport it is noteworthy that the firm built the yachts "Shamrock II" and "Shamrock III" for Sir Thomas Lipton to race for the America Cup. Some other achievements and activities of the company were recalled by Sir Maurice at the 1954 Autumn meeting of the Institution of Naval Architects when he mentioned the completion of the experimental tank by William Denny at Dumbarton in 1882, and the early work on model research, and rolling, and the development, from experiments started in 1905, of the first helicopter which successfully rose from the ground.

Sir Maurice retired in 1952, Edward L. Denny becoming chairman, but continued to serve as a director and on January 1, 1953, took up the position of president of the company. During the first world war Maurice Denny went to France with the British Expeditionary Force and served as a major in the Machine Gun Corps and later became Deputy Director of Design in the department of the Deputy Controller at the Admiralty. For his services he was appointed a Companion of the British Empire in 1918. His activities at Dumbarton did not prevent Sir Maurice from taking a wide interest and an active part in the technical development of shipbuilding and the administrative affairs of the industry.

For many years he played an active part in the Shipbuilding Employers Federation and also served, in 1940, a term as president of the Shipbuilding Conference. He was interested in the technical developments of shipbuilding and marine engineering and was active in his support of the technical societies. During the years before it was amalgamated with Lloyd's Register of Shipping Sir Maurice rendered yeoman service to the British Corporation Register of Shipping and Aircraft, of which he became honorary vice-president in 1941 and honorary president two years later.

The Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland recognised his work for the furtherance of shipbuilding and his leadership in the field of research by making him, in 1950, an Honorary Member of the Institution, a distinction which he shared with three others, one of whom is the Duke of Edinburgh. The Denny family always had close associations with the Institute of Marine Engineers and Sir Maurice was no exception and he was elected president in 1935-36, an office which was held by his father, Sir Archibald, in 1914 to 1916, by his grandfather, Peter Denny, in 1891-92, and by two other members of the family, namely, Colonel J. M. Denny in 1900 and James Denny in 1908-9.

Another technical body to which Sir Maurice gave liberally of his time and experience is the Institution of Naval Architects, which he joined as a student in 1909; he became a member in 1918, served as a member of council, and was made a vice-president in 1935. His work for the Institution, which he represented on the Education Committee, the General Board of the National Physical Laboratory and the Advisory Committee of the William Froude Laboratory, was recognised by his appointment as Honorary Vice-President in 1950.

In more recent years Sir Maurice was closely concerned with research and development as represented by the British Shipbuilding Research Association, of which he has been not only a member of council since the formation of the Association in 1944, but also the chairman of the research board. At a joint summer meeting of the Institution of Naval Architects, the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland and the North-East Coast Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders, held in Newcastle upon Tyne, Sir Maurice gave some account of the work and organisation of the Association in a paper entitled "The British Shipbuilding Research Association - The First Six Years." It was largely due to the initiative of Sir Maurice that the hull of the old Clyde paddle steamer, the "Lucy Ashton," was obtained for the purpose of carrying out full-scale resistance experiments. These went forward successfully and in 1951, during the London proceedings of the International Conference of Naval Architects and Engineers, he presented a paper with the title "B.S.R.A. Resistance Experiments on the 'Lucy Ashton,'" which reviewed the experiments.

He succeeded his father as baronet in 1936 and in the Birthday Honours of 1946 the K.B.E. was conferred on him, while in 1949 the honorary degree of LL.D. was conferred on him by Glasgow University. As one of the great figures in shipbuilding, particularly Clyde shipbuilding, his death is a great loss to the whole industry.

1955 Obituary [2]

SIR MAURICE EDWARD DENNY, BT, K.B.E., LL.D., D.L., S.B., J.P., who was born at Dumbarton in February 1886, died on the 2nd February, 1955.

He was educated at Tonbridge School and after three years in Switzerland and Germany he went to Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where, after 4 years he graduated as Bachelor of Science. After an apprenticeship to Doxford and Sons, Sunderland, he gained further practical experience in the family shipyard and in 1911 became a partner in the firm. When the firm became a limited company in 1917 he was appointed a director and succeeded to the Chairmanship in 1922.

During the 1914-18 war he served in the Machine Gun Corps and was created a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1918.

Apart from his main interest, which was in Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering, Sir Maurice served on the boards of the Union Bank of Scotland, and Blackburn & General Aircraft Ltd as well as a number of companies engaged in industries allied to that of his own firm. In 1935 he was elected President of the Institute of Marine Engineers. He also served as Vice-President of the Institution of Naval Architects, to whom he had previously presented several technical Papers, and of the Junior Institution of Engineers. In 1940 he was elected President of the Ship-building Conference.

During the 1939-45 war Sir Maurice’s firm built more than thirty vessels for the Royal Navy and converted two merchantmen to aircraft carriers.

He was a keen ornithologist and numbered model-making among his other hobbies.

He was elected an Associate Member of the Institution in April 1918 and was transferred to the class of Members in April 1924. He succeeded to the baronetcy in 1936. In 1952 he retired, relinquishing the Chairman-ship of his company to a younger cousin whilst he himself became President.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • Biography of Maurice Edward Denny, ODNB [1]