Messrs Alexander Moncur and Son
Alexander Moncur was the foreman to the late James Hay, manufacturer, West Wynd. On James Hay's retiral in 1824, Alexander Moncur continued in business on his own account. He was a manufacturer for 51 years and died in 1875 in his 89th year.
Subscription value in 1863:
Relative to inflation up to 2023:
Relative to income compared to 2023:
Details and history
Name of company:
Messrs Alexander Moncur and Son
(at sometime known as 'Ure Street Works')
Nature of business:
Coarse Linen Manufacturer
Date ceased trading:
5th August 1905 - corresponded with the death of Alexander Moncur's son, Alexander Hay Moncur. The business was thereafter continued by Alexander Hay Moncur's son, also Alexander.
Subscriber 108 – James Irons – nephew of Alexander Moncur’s wife, Elizabeth Irons
Alexander Moncur was born in 1786 at Inchture, Perthshire to John Moncur, a ploughman and Helen Miln. He moved with his parents to Dundee in 1793, at approximately 7 years of age. Unfortunately, his father John died within 10 years of the family taking up residence in Dundee. Their home at the time had been a small house in Step Row – ‘1 of the 2 houses which were then in existence there.’ His mother Helen was left alone to take care of her five children, the youngest having been born after his father’s death.
On account of being required to augment the meagre family income, Alexander (the eldest child) received very little consistent education and, instead, was set to work at ‘winding pirns.’ For three years Alexander toiled until he was then apprenticed to the ‘weaver’ trade with William Anderson – ‘I commenced by working vitries, a common kind of cloth manufactured at that time.’
After a year, Alexander was then apprenticed to James Hay at the top of West Wynd. Within a further year, Alexander’s apprenticeship was completed (2 years being the usual term) and he then began on his own account as a journeyman weaver. According to his own account of events, Alexander ‘wrought at the loom for different masters but principally to James Hay.’
Aged 17/18 years, Alexander then went to be a warper with James Hay, working from 6 a.m. – 8 p.m. with an hour for breakfast and the same for dinner.
By 1814, his mother dead and he responsible for his siblings, Alexander married Elizabeth Irons. By this point, he had accrued £140 and in 1815 was able to buy his own house in Miller’s Wynd for the sum of £150 (the additional £10 having been lent by his employer James Hay). Over the next 10 years, the rate at which Alexander was able to save money increased.
When, in 1824, James Hay retired after approximately 30 years in manufacturing, he strongly advised his employee Alexander Moncur to ‘start on his own account.’ Alexander had neither considered this possibility nor did he particularly wish to take that path. However, he regarded his options as either to do as was suggested or to find a new employer – the former option won.
Alexander Moncur began in business at Whitsunday, 1824 – in possession of £250 and a house worth £150.
Operating at first from Miller’s Wynd and subsequently from Watt Street in the 1850s (the next street east of Millar’s Wynd and to the north of Springfield) Alexander Moncur, by the 1860s had established his manufactory in Ure Street. While operating from Watt Street in the 1850s, Alexander’s sister Ann, together with her husband William McKenzie resided at the same address and would appear to have been in employment within his business as a ‘sack sewer’ and ‘furnace man/stoker.’
The works set up by Alexander Moncur in Ure Street (on the North side of Hawkhill) was described as having been a ‘small, power loom factory, 4 sheds with new roof and interior.’ By 1864, it comprised 1 engine producing 20hp, together with 96 power looms and providing employment for ‘150 hands.’
It was declared that Alexander Moncur’s was a modest concern and that his caution and judicious approach to business ensured that he was able to weather the storms of ‘boom and bust’ of the flax, linen and jute trade. That being said, he did not appear to be without pride or ambition for his products, exhibiting, as he did, at the Great Exhibition of 1862 – ‘Messrs Moncurs’ exhibits are no less creditable to them; while, like the stall of Messrs Moir, it is distinguished amongst most others by the unpretending, yet business-like way in which the goods are got up, anything like more show being evidently entirely subservient to substantiality.’
Coming, as he did, from an impoverished background, Alexander Moncur was later declared to have risen ‘from poverty and obscurity to a position of honour and independence.’ Mr Moncur ‘began at the very alphabet of the manufacturing business. When a boy, he wound the pirn wheel; as a youth he drove the shuttle; and when a man, he turned the warping mill.’
He was a member of Dundee Town Council for 12 years from 1843 to 1855 and held office as Magistrate.
Through his recognised ‘habits of economy, self denial and industry,’ Alexander Moncur established a lucrative business, enabling him to accrue an estate valued, on his death in 1875, at more than £67,000.
His only surviving son, Alexander Hay Moncur (later to become Dundee’s Provost in the 1880s) continued operating Victoria Works after the death of his father.
NOTE: The letter extract, written by Alexander Moncur and held by Dundee Heritage Trust, offers a vivid impression of his younger life, family circumstances, character and foray into a life of industry – an informative account.
- Census Records. (1861). 282/2 17/19. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Warden, Alexander J. The Linen Trade: Ancient and Modern. (1864). London. Longman. p.657.
- Public Notice. Dundee Courier. 3 October 1905. p.1. Findmypast website.
- Letter Extract. Early History of Alexander Moncur. Dundee Heritage Trust Collections.
- Old Parish Registers. Dundee. Marriages. (1814). 282/140 198. Scotlandpeople website.
- Watson, Mark. Jute and Flax Mills in Dundee. (1990). Tayport. Hutton Press. p.230.
- Dundee, Perth & Cupar Advertiser. 17 June 1862. p.2. Findmypast website.
- Obituary. Dundee Courier. 13 August 1875. p.4. Findmypast website.
- Death and Obituary. Dundee Courier. Friday, 13 August 1875. pp.4.8.
- Legal Records. Wills and Testaments. Dundee Sheriff Court. (1875). SC45/31/ 26. Scotlandspeople website.
The information above about has been collated from a range of digital and hard copy sources. To the best of our knowledge it is correct but if you are relying on any information from our website for the purpose of your own research we would advise you to follow up the sources to your own satisfaction. If you are aware of an inaccuracy in our text please do not hesitate to notify us through our Contact page.