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Messrs Gibson, Farquharson and Co

In the early 1860s, Gibson, Farquharson & Co was a successful flax spinning company on the verge of moving into the jute industry, expanding their premises and fostering loyalty from their workers through events and activities.

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Details and history

Name of company:

Messrs Gibson, Farquharson and Co

Company address:

Craigie Mill, Arbroath Road, Dundee[1]

Number of employees:


Nature of business:

Flax spinners


Not known

Date ceased trading:



The main partners in this firm were William Gibson, 2 William Street, Forebank, Dundee[1] and William Farquharson, 38 Cotton Road, Dundee.[1] Gibson was born in Dundee around 1822[3] and Farquharson in Moulin, Perthshire in 1824.[4] Gibson, Farquharson & Co had recently moved into their premises at Craigie Works[1] on Arbroath Road. The previous year, their business was listed as being at Lilybank Works[5] (aka Taybank Works), in the same area. This area of Dundee was industrial but also home to the very popular, and then fairly new, Baxter Park. In 1866, they expanded further, adding “a power-loom factory for about a hundred looms, which will have a separate engine-house from that of the mill.”[6] Later that year, Arbroath Road was widened and Gibson, Farquharson and Co, along with several other manufacturers in the area, gave up some of their land to let this happen.[7]

Their workers were involved in a variety of social activities, both official and unofficial. For New Year 1865, Gibson, Farquharson & Co organised a “soiree” in the Exchange Rooms for their staff, chaired by a manager, Mr Berrie. The evening consisted of instrumental music and singers, a magic lantern show, and “appropriate speeches.”[8] This sort of workplace-sponsored celebration was fairly common in Victorian Dundee. From the managers’ perspective, it encouraged loyalty from workers, and these events seem to have been popular with workers as well. The warmth of workplace relations is illustrated by the occasion in 1868 when forty workers from Gibson, Farquharson & Co presented their overseer with a writing desk to show their appreciation, followed by a tea at Lamb’s Temperance Hotel.[9] Workers evidently donated part of their small wages to good causes regularly – a subscription of £1 was raised by the workforce for “Ferryden sufferers” in October 1863[10] and £5 for the restoration of the Old Steeple in 1870.[11] The works also had its own cricket team during the 1870s.

By 1865, the flax spinning business was experimenting with jute, landing ninety tons in October of that year.[12] William Farquharson died in 1867[13] and by 1875, Craigie Spinning Works was listed as owned by “Gibson, Robertson & Co.” (There was also a dwelling house on their premises.)[14] Later that year, strikes across Dundee’s textile industry affected the company, though fifty of their workers returned to work before the strike was over.[15] Adam Wilson, a poet and textile worker who wrote as the ‘Factory Muse,’ wrote a poem about this strike expressing solidarity with women workers.[16] Two years later, the firm came to the attention of authorities when William Gibson, partner in the firm and his two firemen, James Malcolm and James McDonald, were charged with a contravention of the Smoke Nuisance Act for having failed to ‘consume the smoke emitted by their furnaces’ the previous Monday. Because it was their first offence, no penalty was charged and this was a fairly common charge for jute mills at the time.[17]

William Gibson had moved to Invertay, West Ferry by 1871, living there with his wife Margaret and children Williamina, Elizabeth, William and Margaret.[18]

Towards the turn of the century, the company’s fortunes declined. In 1899, it was reported that Gibson, Robertson & Co had 500 of 500 employees out on strike.[19] By this time the running of the works was in the hands of William Gibson junior but, unfortunately, he died in 1905 as a result of a tragic accident while examining some machinery. His elderly father was on the premises at the time.[20] This tragedy probably prompted him to put the Craigie Works up for sale in 1905, with its price reduced to £25,000 – they were evidently struggling to find a buyer.[21] By 1906 Craigie Works wass listed as belonging to Mr J.K. Caird.[22] William Gibson senior, the surviving subscriber to the Albert Institute, died on 14 June 1910, aged 89.[23]

Meanwhile, Gibson, Farquharson & Co was still in use as a business name (or it was certainly revived towards the end of the century) for a marine insurance brokers’ firm. In 1893, Joseph Gibson of Gibson, Farquharson & Co was president of the Dundee Chamber of Commerce. Gibson, Farquharson & Co was listed in 1911-12 Post Office directories, based at 26 Commercial Street, Dundee.[24]




  1. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1864-65. Local History, Central Library, Dundee.
  2. 1871 Census Scotland. St. Andrew, Dundee. 282/4 ED1A p.21. Ancestry website.
  3. 1861 Census Scotland. Dundee. 282/1 ED24 p.26. Ancestry website.
  4. Old Parish Records. Moulin, Perthshire. Baptism. 9 December 1824. 384/20 21. ScotlandsPeople website.
  5. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1861-62. Local History, Central Library, Dundee.
  6. "Building Notes" People's Journal, 4 March 1866. British Newspaper Archive website.
  7. Dundee Advertiser, 16 March 1866. British Newspaper Archive website.
  8. Dundee Advertiser, Monday, 2 January 1865. British Newspaper Archive website.
  9. Dundee Courier, Monday, 27 April 1868. British Newspaper Archive website.
  10. Dundee Advertiser, 9 October 1863. British Newspaper Archive website. (It is unclear what they were suffering from but it may have been a boat disaster.)
  11. Dundee Courier, Saturday, 17 September 1870. British Newspaper Archive website.
  12. "Shipping News" Dundee Courier, 19 October 1865. British Newspaper Archive website.
  13. Statutory Registers. First District, Dundee. Death. 1867. 282/1 442. ScotlandsPeople website.
  14. Valuation Roll, Dundee Burgh, 1875, VR009800035-/37. ScotlandsPeople website.
  15. Dundee Courier, Saturday, 4 September 1875. British Newspaper Archive website.
  16. Wilson, Adam. (1901) Flowers of Fancy  p.49. Dundee: Paul & Mathew. Local History, Central Library, Dundee.
  17. Dundee Courier, Wednesday, 8 August 1877. British Newspaper Archive website.
  18. 1871 Census Scotland. St. Andrew, Dundee. 282/4 ED1A p.21 and 1881 Census Scotland. St. Andrew, Dundee. 282/4 ED41 p.27. Ancestry website.
  19. Dundee Advertiser, Thursday, 7 September 1899. British Newspaper Archive website.
  20. Leng, John, & Co. (1906) Dundee Year Book, 1905. Dundee: John Leng & Co. Local History, Central Library, Dundee.
  21. Dundee Evening Telegraph, Friday, 29 September 1905. British Newspaper Archive website.
  22. Dundee Courier, Saturday, 24 February 1906. British Newspaper Archive website.
  23. Statutory Registers. St. Andrew, Dundee. Death. 14 June 1910. 282/4 638. ScotlandsPeople website.
  24. Dundee Post Office Directory 1911, p.320. Local History, Central Library, Dundee.

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.