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Gilroy Brothers and Company

Gilroy Brothers was originally established by three brothers, Robert, Alexander and George. They were responsible for one of the most successful manufacturing businesses in Dundee and among the first to directly import Jute from India.

Subscription value in 1863:

£300

Relative to inflation up to 2019:

£30000

Relative to income compared to 2019:

£240000

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Details and history

Name of company:

Gilroy Brothers and Company

Company address:

Couper's Alley, Wellgate, c.1846-1847.[1]
Hospital Ward Mill (with office in Panmure Street), Dundee, c.1850.[2]
Tay Works, Lochee Road (office in Panmure Street), c.1853-1859.[3]
Rosebank Factory, c.1856-1862.[4]
Tay Works and 11 Cowgate, Dundee, c.1861-1872.[5]
Tay Works, 2 Lochee Road and office, 1 Lochee Road. c.1874-1921.[6]

Number of employees:

Estimated number in 1872 approximately 3000[7]

Nature of business:

Flaxspinners,[8][9] millspinners,[8] manufacturers,[8] power-loom manufacturers,[8] power-loom linen manufacturers,[10] flax and jute spinners[10] and shipowners[10]

Turnover:

Date ceased trading:

Ceased trading as Gilroy Bros 1920[11]

Related Subscribers

Subscriber no.4 – George Armitstead – George Gilroy was a political supporter.

Subscriber no.51 – Cox Brothers – George Gilroy was James C. Cox’s father-in-law.

Comments

Gilroy Bros began business in the east end of the Dundee as spinners of flax and tow, moving to Douglas Mill in the west end and weaving in a small hand loom factory at Rosebank.[9] The business was initially set up by the eldest brother Robert, with Alexander and George joining later.[7] The firm of Gilroy Brothers & Co., millspinners, first appeared in the local directory in 1846, with an office at Couper’s Alley, Wellgate.[1] In 1848, they moved partly into jute and acquired and extended the works which once belonged to William Boyack and in 1863 they rebuilt the Tay Works in Lochee Road. Tay Works was one of the largest textile mills in Britain, being 650 feet long. Construction was under the direction of Joseph Lindsay from Gilroy Brothers’ Engineering Department.[12] Robert, the founder of the firm, was seen as a shrewd buyer of material and seller of yarns and goods, Alexander managed the financial department and George had charge of the works.[13]

The Gilroys were among the first to establish the direct import of jute into the city. By 1872 they had given up flax and tow completely in favour of a concentration on jute.[13] For a time they were both shipowners and manufacturers. The firm owned the following ships: Mary Gray, built 1840 (c.1850-1857);[14] B.L. Harriman, built 1851 (c.1856-1865);[15] Alexander, built 1864 (c.1864-1870);[16] George Gilroy, built 1862 (c.1864-1872);[17] Glenroy, built 1854 (c.1864-1865);[10] Alpine, built 1859 (c.1867-1870);[18] Dundee, built 1865 (c.1867-1879);[19] R.T. Turnbull, built 1864 (c.1867-1872);[20] Broughty Castle, built 1870 (c.1871-1872);[21] Castle Roy, built 1874 (c.1876-1889)[22] and Gil Roy, built 1875 (c.1878-1889).[23] The company seemed to give up being shipowners after 1890.

Robert Gilroy died in 1872 aged 63[7] and Alexander in 1879 aged 61.[24] In 1877, after the death of Robert and Alexander’s retirement from the firm, George Gilroy took over the business and, in 1890, changed the name to Gilroy, Sons, & Co., when he took his sons, George Alexander Gilroy and Alexander Bruce Gilroy into the firm.[9]  After the death of his two brothers, George took more of a role in market work in the Cowgate.[13] George senior died in January 1892.[25] The firm became a limited company in 1890.

In 1920 Gilroy, Sons & Co. amalgamated with other jute firms, including Cox Brothers (Camperdown Works) and J. and A. D. Grimond (Bowbridge Works), to form Jute Industries Ltd, and it was registered as a limited company in England in 1920. It changed its name to Sidlaw Industries Ltd in 1971 and to Sidlaw Group plc in 1981. Over the years the company moved away from jute into other interests. As of 2013 the company was still registered as active and based in Bristol.[26] Gilroy, Sons & Co went into voluntary liquidation in 1933.[11]

One lasting legacy of the Gilroys is the impressive range of buildings they left behind. These have been converted into student flats, a hotel, a gymnasium and various other uses. The road where they are located is now known as West Marketgait, with Lochee Road now commencing a little further to the north.

Robert Gilroy (1810-1872)

Robert was born in Dundee, the son of Alexander Gilroy and Elizabeth Easson[27] and first appeared in the local directory in 1834, as a manufacturer in the Hilltown,[28] the year he married Elizabeth Smith.[29] Thereafter, he is described as a flaxspinner and manufacturer at Rosebank,[30] before the formation of R. & A. Gilroy, hecklemakers, 58 Barrack Street,[31] a firm also described as millspinners, Couper’s Alley, 18 Wellgate.[32] At this time Robert Gilroy, linen manufacturer, was living on Constitution Street at the top of Don’s Road[32] with his wife and three young children: John (c.1836), Nancy (c.1839) and Robina(c.1841).[33] Soon after joining in business with his brothers, Robert moved to Union Terrace, Constitution Road, Dundee, where further children: Alexander (c.1843), George (c.1845), Betsy (c.1847), David (c.1849) and Robert (c.1851) lived along with their parents and older siblings, Nancy and Robina.[34] Robert became a director of the Dundee Chamber of Commerce and was on the weekly committee of Dundee Royal Infirmary,[35] while his wife was on the committee of the Ladies Anti-Slavery Association.[4] Robert also became a director of the Dundee Industrial Schools Society and vice-president of the Dundee Institution for the Deaf and Dumb and Blind.[8] Another son, Thomas (c.1852) and daughter, Sarah (c.1854) had also been born by the time of the 1861 census.[36] In recognition of the firm’s ownership of ships, Robert was elected a member of the Local Marine Board.[37] He once again became a director of the Chamber of Commerce[38] and added further directorships at the Dundee New Gas-Light Co.[38] and the Albert Institute Ltd.[37] He was also a member of the Guildry Incorporation and the Nine Trades of Dundee.[7] Having lived at 1 Union Terrace, Dundee (also known as Terrace House)[39] for a considerable time, Robert and his family moved to Craigie House, Ferry Road, Dundee in the late 1860s.[40] His son, John, with his New York-born wife, Elsie, were members of the household at the time of the 1871 census. Robert and four of his five sons were described as merchants.[41] His wife, three unmarried daughters and five female servants completed the household.[41]

He was a liberal in politics and chaired the committee which unsuccessfully attempted to have Mr Guthrie of Craigie elected in 1868.[7] Having recently lost his wife, Betsy,[42] Robert’s health deteriorated and he died on 20 October 1872, aged 62.[43] He was a Congregationalist and had been a regular attender at the Ward Chapel in Dundee.[7] His canniness in business and his various inconspicuous charitable actions were much commented on at his death.[7]

George Gilroy (1815-1892)

George Gilroy was born on 2 February 1815.[44] He first appeared in the local directory as a manufacturer on the north side of Blackness Road, Dundee in 1837.[45] At the time of the 1841 census, George was described as a manufacturer and was living with the Jack family in Princes Street, Dundee.[46][47] In 1846, he married Sarah Reid[48] and about the same time was described as a merchant at 16 Couper’s Alley, next door to the address at which his brothers had the offices of R. & A. Gilroy.[49] His house was at 19 South Tay Street, a fashionable part of Dundee.[49] By 1850, George had become part of the firm renamed Gilroy Brothers and had moved house to Fleuchar Craig/Milnbank, where he lived for the next few years.[50] The couple’s children were James Reid(1847),[51] Robert (c.1849),[52][53] George Alexander (1851),[54] Alexander Bruce (1854)[55] and Sarah Ann(1858).[56] In the late 1850s, George and his family moved to 1 Douglas Terrace, Broughty Ferry[57][53] and then Fort Hill House, Broughty Ferry.[58] He then had the neo-Tudor style Castleroy[59] constructed in 1867-1869, to the design of Perth architect, Andrew Heiton,  and, “with almost a hundred rooms, Castleroy was the largest and grandest of the ‘jute palaces’.”[60] It was George’s home for the rest of his life[61] It remained in the family ownership until after the Second World War. Having been used by Polish forces during the war, it was given to the local council and was used as emergency accommodation for families on the housing waiting list. It succumbed to dry rot and was demolished in 1955.[60]

George served as an elected member of the Local Marine Board, c.1874-1877;[62] was a Justice of the Peace for the Dundee District of Forfarshire, c.1876-1892[63] and was also a member of the Dundee Board of Directors of the Queen (Fire & life) Insurance Co., c.1886-1892.[64]

George died on 12 January 1892 at Castleroy, aged 76.[65] He had been a Liberal in politics and an active supporter of George Armitstead.[13] In religion he was a Congregationalist and was largely responsible for the erection of Broughty Ferry Congregational Church, although, in later life, he attended Monifieth Parish Church.[13] He left an estate valued at £385,139 9s. 2d.[66] He left a widow, four sons and one daughter.[13]

Alexander Gilroy (c.1818-1879)

Alexander, the youngest of the three brothers, was described as a manufacturer at the time of the 1841 census. At this time, he was living at 4 Tannage Court, Cowgate, Dundee in the household of Mary Ramsay and her children, along with another two male lodgers.[67] He first appeared as partner of his older brother Robert, in the firm of R. & A. Gilroy, hecklemakers, 58 Barrack Street, Dundee in 1842.[31] It would appear that he lived in Rosebank,[2] with 7 Don’s Road[68] as an alternative version of his address. Rosebank was an address also associated with Robert Gilroy and the firm of R. & A. Gilroy.[69] In 1851, Alexander was living with his unmarried younger sisters, Marjory and Ann, along with one female servant. He was now described as a flaxspinner and manufacturer employing 160 weavers etc.[68] By 1853, Alexander had moved to a house at 3 Union Terrace, Dundee[3] before removing to Broughty Ferry[8] where he lived at Emden House, Camperdown Street,[10] with his sister Ann and two female servants.

Alexander married Margaret Kyd Livingstone in Govan, Glasgow in 1862.[70] They moved to Fort House, Broughty Ferry.[18] Their children were Mary Elizabeth (1863),[71] Alexander Thomas (1865),[72] Marguerite Livingstone (1867)[73] and Donna Isabel Livingstone (1870).[74] After 1871, the family lived at Dunalistair House, Hill Street, Broughty Ferry.[75]

Alexander served on the weekly committee of directors for Dundee Royal Infirmary, c.1853-1854;[76] was on the committee of Dundee Bowling Club, c.1853-1854[76] and was president of the Sabbath School Teachers Union, c.1856-1857.[77]

Alexander died in London on 17 July 1879, aged 61.[78] He left an estate valued at £157,882 2s. 6d.[79]

Sources

  1. Dundee Directory, 1846-47. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  2. Dundee Directory, 1850. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  3. Dundee Directories, 1853-1859. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  4. Dundee Directories, 1856-1862 Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  5. Dundee Directories, 1861-1872. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  6. Dundee Directories, 1874-1921. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  7. Dundee Obituary book No. 1, 1869-94, p.51. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  8. Dundee Directory, 1861-62. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  9. Millar, A.H. (1925) Glimpses of Old and New Dundee, pp.64-65.  M.C. MacLeod.
  10. Dundee Directory, 1864-65. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  11. Information on Gilroy Brothers & Co. Archives Hub Website.
  12. Watson, Mark (1990). Jute and Flax Mills in Dundee. Tayport: Hutton Press Ltd.
  13. Leng, John, & Co. (1893) Dundee Year Book, 1892. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  14. Dundee Directories, 1850-1857. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  15. Dundee Directories, 1856-1865. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  16. Dundee Directories, 1864-1870. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  17. Dundee Directories, 1864-1872. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  18. Dundee Directories, 1867-1870. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  19. Dundee Directories, 1867-1879. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  20. Dundee Directories, 1867-1872. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  21. Dundee Directory, 1871-72. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  22. Dundee Directories, 1867-1889. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  23. Dundee Directories, 1878-1889. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  24. Dundee Advertiser, 19 July 1877, p.5. British Newspaper Archive website.
  25. England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966. Ancestry website.
  26. Catalogue Entry, Jute Industries Ltd. MS66. University of Dundee Archive Services website.
  27. Old Parish Records. Dundee. Baptism. 18 July 1810. 282/90 437. ScotlandsPeople website.
  28. Dundee Directory, 1834. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  29. Old Parish Records. Dundee. Marriage. 22 December 1834. FHL Film No. 993404. Ancestry website.
  30. Dundee Directories, 1837-1843. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  31. Dundee Directory, 1842-43. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  32. Dundee Directory, 1844-45. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  33. 1841 Census Scotland. Dundee. 282 ED74 p.5. Ancestry website. (Robina is wrongly identified as Robert, a two-month old son, but appears as Robina, a daughter, in subsequent censuses).
  34. 1851 Census Scotland. Dundee. 282 ED40 p.15. Ancestry website. (Census identifies this as Union Place, but should be Union Terrace).
  35. Dundee Directory, 1856-57. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  36. 1861 Census Scotland. Dundee First District. 282/1 ED18 p.63. Ancestry website.
  37. Dundee Directories, 1867-1872 Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  38. Dundee Directory, 1867-68. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  39. Dundee Directories, 1856-1868. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  40. Dundee Directory, 1869-70. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  41. 1871 Census Scotland. St. Andrew, Dundee. 282/4 ED2A p.21. Ancestry website.
  42. Statutory Registers. St. Andrew, Dundee. Death. 1872. 282/4 280. ScotlandsPeople website.
  43. Statutory Registers. St. Andrew, Dundee. Death. 1872. 282/4 778. ScotlandsPeople website.
  44. Leng, John, & Co. (1893) Dundee Year Book, 1892. Dundee: John Leng & Co. pp.65-67. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  45. Dundee Directory, 1837-38. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  46. 1841 Census Scotland. Dundee. 282 ED95 p.12. Ancestry website.
  47. Dundee Directory, 1842-43. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  48. Old Parish Record. Dundee. Marriage. 22 September 1846. FHL film no. 993404. Ancestry website.
  49. Dundee Directory, 1846-47. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  50. Dundee Directories, 1850-1857. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  51. Old Parish Record. Dundee. Birth. 7 November 1847. FHL film no. 0993405, 0993408, 993403, 993408. Ancestry website.
  52. 1851 Census Scotland. Liff & Benvie, Dundee. 282 ED94 p.40. Ancestry website.
  53. 1861 Census Scotland. Dundee First District. 282/1 ED35 p.10. Ancestry website.
  54. Old Parish Record. Dundee. Birth. 26 February 1851. FHL film no. 0993405, 0993408, 993403, 993408. Ancestry website.
  55. Old Parish Record. Dundee. Birth. 20 March 1854. FHL film no. 0993405, 0993408, 993403, 993408. Ancestry website.
  56. Statutory Registers. Dundee Second District. Birth. 21 January 1858. 282/2 166. ScotlandsPeople website.
  57. Dundee Directory, 1858-59. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  58. Dundee Directories, 1861-1870. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  59. McKean, Charles and Walker, David. (1984) Dundee - An Illustrated Introduction. Edinburgh: Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland/ Scottish Academic Press. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  60. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. (1992) Dundee on Record - Images of the Past. Edinburgh: HMSO.
  61. Dundee Directories, 1871-1892. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  62. Dundee Directories, 1874-1877. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  63. Dundee Directories, 1876-1892. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  64. Dundee Directories, 1886-1892. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  65. Statutory Registers. Monifieth. Death. 12 January 1892. 310/9. ScotlandsPeople website.
  66. Calendar of Confirmations, 1892. Local & Family History, A.K. Bell Library, Perth.
  67. 1841 Census Scotland. Dundee. 282 ED18 p.14. Ancestry website.
  68. 1851 Census Scotland. Dundee. 282 ED41 p.20. Ancestry website.
  69. Dundee Directories, 1837-1850. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  70. Statutory Registers. Govan, Lanarkshire. Marriage. 646/1 15. ScotlandsPeople website.
  71. Statutory Registers. Monifieth. Birth. 4 April 1863. 310/59. ScotlandsPeople website.
  72. Statutory Registers. Monifieth. Birth. 4 October 1865. 310/149. ScotlandsPeople website.
  73. Statutory Registers. Monifieth. Birth. 25 February 1867. 310/41. ScotlandsPeople website.
  74. Statutory Registers. Monifieth. Birth. 9 May 1870. 310/90. ScotlandsPeople website.
  75. Dundee Directories, 1871-1879. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  76. Dundee Directory, 1853-54. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  77. Dundee Directory, 1856-57. Local History Department, Central Library, Dundee.
  78. Wills and Testaments. Dundee Sheriff Court. 21 November 1879. SC45/31/29. ScotlandsPeople website.
  79. Calendar of Confirmations, 1879. Local & Family History, A.K. Bell Library, Perth.

Credits

  • Dundee City Library Family History - Librarian Eileen Moran

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