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British Industrial History

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James McFarlane

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James McFarlane (1841-1906)


1906 Obituary [1]

JAMES McFarlane was born in Lauder, Berwickshire, on 9th November 1841, and received his education at Gordon School, near his native place.

From 1855 to 1860 he served an apprenticeship as a millwright and engineer, partly with the late Mr. J. Young, St. Leonard's, Edinburgh, and partly with the late Mr. Samuel Easton, Engineer, Fushiebridge, Midlothian.

From 1860 to 1864 he worked as a journeyman fitter in various engineering establishments in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Leith.

In 1864 he was appointed foreman in the engineering works of Messrs. S. and H. Morton, engineers and shipbuilders, Leith, where he remained for two years engaged in superintending the construction of marine engines and other steamship machinery.

Two years later he received the appointment of under-foreman, and subsequently became principal foreman in the Edinburgh works of Messrs. G. and W. Bertram, engineers and manufacturers of paper-making machinery. There he remained for eight years, during which time he was actively concerned in the introduction of many reforms in workshop practice, and was also instrumental in improving the design and construction of steam-engines and paper-making machinery in various details.

In 1874, he, together with a partner, commenced business in Edinburgh under the title of Kay and McFarlane, engineers and ironfounders, which was ultimately dissolved ten years later. Mooring that decade he made a special study of the requirements of brewery and distillery machinery and plant, earning a reputation for his extensive knowledge, and securing several patents for inventions and improvements connected with this branch of engineering.

About the same period he also turned his attention to the improvement of apparatus for the conveyance of grain in warehouses, malt-houses, &c., by means of endless belts, and was entrusted with the installation of examples of this class of machinery in many of the leading breweries and distilleries in the United Kingdom, all which proved to be a great saving of labour and time as compared with methods of grain transportation previously practised.

In 1884 he joined, as partner, the firm of Messrs. James Milne and Son, engineers, Edinburgh, and shortly after superintended the erection and equipment of large new workshops for his firm.

In these works a larger field was opened up for his capabilities in carrying on the manufacture of paper-making machinery, brewery and distillery plant, and general engineering. At this period he also brought out several inventions and improvements connected with paper-making and brewing machinery.

In 1891 he severed his connection with Messrs. Milne and Son, in order to commence practice as a consulting engineer in Edinburgh, making a speciality of brewery and distillery work; and continued in active practice until within two years of his death. During this period he carried through many alterations and reconstructions of existing breweries, etc., and also superintended the complete construction and equipment of several new works of a similar kind.

He was a Fellow of The Royal Scottish Society of Arts, a life-member of The Edinburgh Association of Science and Art; and was associated with several other scientific institutions connected with the Scottish capital.

In 1904 he retired from business on account of failing health, and his death, from heart failure, occurred at Edinburgh on 21st May 1906, in his sixty-fifth year.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1895.


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