Elder & Co.

Iron and steelwork contractors

Elder & Co., of Glasgow, began c. 1893, trading as 'iron merchants and bolt manufacturers', owned by John Simpson Elder (c. 1863–1924). 1 Elder was a joiner's son, raised in Garnethill, Glasgow by his widowed mother who took in lodgers (including seven German hotel waiters in 1901), while his sisters worked as dressmakers. 2 He was an iron merchant's commercial clerk at the age of eighteen, and continued as such until he opened his own firm in his early thirties. 3

Within two years of opening, Elder was a specialist 'iron and steel girder' merchant, at 50 Galbraith Street, Anderston (now Minerva Street), a harbour-side industrial area, with a ready clientele. 4 In 1897 Elder placed an advertisment for a portable, vapourised kerosene-gas 'Wells light' to aid production, the light would provide 'intensely white' illumination to unlit 'boiler works, bridge and girder shops' and outdoor civil engineering projects. 5 This vital equipment could also heat rivets when assembling structural ironwork (as on the Forth Bridge). 6

Elder assumed two partners, Robert Scott (born Edinburgh, c. 1867) around 1889, and George Lindsay (born Monikie, Forfarshire, c.1861–1924), around 1902. 7 Like Elder, these two men were both former commercial clerks rather than engineers. The firm had relocated to Stobcross Girder (or Iron) Works, Old Kelvinhaugh Road, by 1902, the new staff and premises probably indicating increased business. 8

In 1905, Elder was appointed a Justice of the Peace, and in 1906, Scott was living in the affluent Dowanhill district of Glasgow, suggesting both had achieved considerable success. 9 The company had a quiet trading history until 1923, when Elder's son, Redvers (b. 1900), a former publisher, joined them. 10 On Lindsay's and Elder's deaths in 1924, the firm was dissolved and Lindsay's sister took legal action to inherit her unmarried brother's estate. 11


1: Census data, www.ancestry.co.uk; death date, www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk [both accessed 21 June 2013]; Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1893–4, p. 250.

2: Census data, www.ancestry.co.uk [accessed 21 June 2013].

3: Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1893–4, p. 250.

4: Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1895–6, p. 179.

5: Glasgow Herald, 23 October 1897, p. 2; The 'Wells Light', Wallwork & Wells' Patents, Montreal: Becket Bros, 1890, online microfiche from Library of National Archives of Canada, via University of Alberta, www.archive.org [accessed 21 June 2013]; 'The Wells Light', Science: A Weekly Newspaper ..., [New York] 14, No. 353, 8 November 1889, pp. 307–8.

6: 'Lighting', Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911, online edition [unpaginated], www.theodora.com/encyclopedia/ [accessed 21 June 2013].

7: Glasgow Post Office Directory 1899–1900, p. 534; 1902–3, p. 350; census data, www.ancestry.co.uk; death date, www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk [both accessed 21 June 2013].

8: Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1902–3, p. 204.

9: Scotsman, 6 November 1905, p. 6; '11 Dowanside Road' and '15 Dowanside Road', Glasgow West End Addresses ... 1836–1915, www.glasgowwestaddress.co.uk/ [accessed 21 June 2013].

10: Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1919–20, p. 223; 1923–4, p. 238.

11: Death data, www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk [accessed 21 June 2013]; Edinburgh Gazette, 30 June 1925, p. 759; 31 July 1925, p. 885; 6 December 1927, p. 1396.