James Irons Esquire
James Irons, an unmarried gentleman, spent his working life as a jute spinner and manufacturer in Dundee. He operated both Park Mill on Douglas Street and Seafield Factory on Seafield Lane, producing sackings of various descriptions.
Subscription value in 1863:
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Personal details and history
Affiliations, clubs, offices and related subscribers
Clubs / societies
Subscriber 143 – Messrs Alexander Moncur & Son – Father and son were the uncle and cousin of James Irons
Career and worklife
Career to date:
James Irons' father, James Snr., in his earlier years a weaver, was by the 1830s and through the 1840s a linen manufacturer. He operated from premises in Bellfield Lane, Hawkhill, Dundee. In the 'Dundee, Perth and Cupar Advertiser' of 29 January 1846, James Snr. gave notice that he intended to relinquish his business in favour of his son, James Irons Jnr., who was by then a young man in his mid twenties. This was accompanied together with a notice by James Jnr. that he would continue the manufacturing business, on his own account, at the Hawkhill premises. By 1848, James' father had died and James Jnr. inherited 'the whole manufacturing implements and utensils belonging to me as his own absolute property.' Shortly afterwards, by 1850, James acquired factory premises in Seafield Lane, Perth Road. In succeeding years, he continued to expand his business. By 1857, in addition to Seafield Factory in Seafield Lane, he also operated Park Mill in Douglas Street. However, his business was one which experienced financial difficulties. Losses and debts were reported in local newspapers as early as 1861. At the time of making a subscription to the Albert Institute, James Irons' business had entered a period of recovery.
James Irons (1820-72) was the son of James Irons (1786-1848) and his wife Helen Macomie/McComie/McOmy (1783-1848).
His parents were married in Dundee on the 15th March 1807. Both parents were buried in the Howff Cemetery in Dundee. James Irons had two brothers and one sister: David (1810-1816) John Irons (1817-?) and Helen Bran(d) Irons (1823-1876). In 1851, James Irons lived at 216 Perth Road with his sister Helen B Irons. By 1861, he still lived at the same address with one servant, Christina Robertson (b.1828). In 1871, James Irons continued residing at 216 Perth Road, although with a different servant (Jane Ranken, b.1827). At that time, his sister Helen B Irons then lived in Yeaman Street, Barry, Angus. James himself had no known spouse or children. He died on 3rd January 1872 in Dundee and was survived for 4 years by his younger sister, Helen Bran(d) Irons.
Having taken charge of his father’s manufacturing venture in Bellfield Lane, Hawkhill in 1847 and having inherited ‘the whole manufacturing implements and utensils’ a year later on his father’s death, James Irons gradually increased his venture in spinning and manufacture. He firstly obtained factory premises on the Perth Road – ‘on the west side of Seafield Lane, occupied by Mr James Irons – sackings of various descriptions are here manufactured in quantities, giving employment to 150 persons upon an average.’ It was also described as having been ‘a branch of the firm occupying and working ‘Park Mill.’ This mill on Douglas Street was tenanted by James Irons from his uncle, Alexander Moncur. Messrs Alexander Moncur & Son operated Victoria Works, a small power loom factory on Ure Street.
Park Mill was described as having comprised of 2 1/2 storey, 7 bays, extended to 14 bays in 1858-71 plus timber roof. During the early 1860s, it was declared to be a small factory with 2 preparing sheds with a 2 storey section by Park Street, its first floor, of wood, for winding. A 1 storey section with a ridge vent was supposed to have been used for beaming. It possessed 2 engines of 30 horse power utilising 50 power looms. By the mid 1860s, Park Mill offered employment for 260 hands.
However, for James Irons, the 1860s also witnessed some trying times fiscally. The failure of his business was recorded in 1861 and it was said that ‘Mr Irons has been exceedingly unfortunate within the last few years, having made bad debts and other losses to the extent of fully £10,000.’ A year later, in 1862, James felt bound to appeal against the valuation of Park Mill, thereby incurring a disagreement between himself and his uncle, Alexander Moncur. The appeal was brought to the attention of the Dundee Valuation Appeal Court, where James Irons appealed the valuation of Park Mill at £350.
By 1865, in an attempt to stem complaints smoke nuisance etc., James Irons was happily in a position to be able to combat the complaints with a claim that he was ‘just now getting in new engines, which would require less steam that those at present in use, thereby reducing the quantity of fuel and producing less smoke. This would be done in the course of 2 or 3 months.’
Having survived a failure earlier, James then experienced a fire at Park Mill in 1866. The fire occurred in the low flat and at first presented a very alarming and formidable appearance but ‘from the dextrous way in which the workers used the new (aptly named) fire engine ‘L’extincteur,’ the burning was soon extinguished. A large quantity of the jute in course of preparation was destroyed and, it is said, a good deal of damage, on the whole has been done. The fire is supposed to have been caused by the friction of the machinery.’
In records from 1869 on, James Irons operation was confined to Park Mill. The fate of the Seafield Factory is unknown and not to be confused with Seafield Works of Taylor’s Lane (Thomson).
After James Irons’ death in 1872, Park Mill was advertised for sale with James’ cousin, Alexander Hay Moncur (later to become Provost of Dundee) acting along with the selling agent. His estate was valued at over £12,ooo, the beneficiaries being his sister Helen and his cousins, Helen Moncur (or Prain of Longforgan) and the aforementioned Alexander Hay Moncur who was destined to become a highly notable citizen of Dundee.
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- Watson, Mark. Jute and Flax Mills in Dundee. (1990). p.230. Tayport. Hutton Press Ltd.
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- Dundee Courier, 18 October 1866. p.2. Findmypast website.
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- Dundee Courier, 9 January 1872. p.1. Findmypast website.
- Legal Record. Wills and Testaments. Dundee Sheriff Court. (1872). SC45/ 31/ 23. ScotlandsPeople website.
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