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John Brown Esquire

Born Montrose in 1816, John first appears in Dundee as a shipbuilder in the 1846-47 Directory. Business flourished for a time and he built the 'Correro', the first screw steamer to be built on the Tay. He died virtually penniless in 1888.

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Personal details and history

Full name

John Brown

Date of birth


Place of birth




Marital status


Name of spouse

(1) Catherine[2] (2) Helen Mary Emslie[3]


(1)Frederick W.; Georgina B.; Alice J. & Catherine T. (2) John; Thomas; Alexander[4]

Home address

3 King Street, Dundee[5]
38 Constitution Road, Dundee[6]
Reres Villa, Broughty Ferry, Angus[7]
Broughty Ferry, Angus[8]
Seabourne House, Broughty Ferry, Dundee[9]
8 Airlie Place, Dundee[10]
10 Airlie Place, Dundee[11]
Elma Villa, East Newport, Fife[12]
Kinburn Place, East Newport, Fife[13]
2 Dalhousie Terrace, Dundee[14]
10 Airlie Place, Dundee[15]
10 Airlie Terrace, Dundee[3]

Age at death:

71 years

Place of death:

10 Airlie Terrace, Dundee[3].

Date of death:



Western Cemetery, Dundee. Register Number 149, Compartment 11 Lair number 63,64.

Affiliations, clubs, offices and related subscribers

Religious affiliation

Not known

Political affiliation

Not known.

Clubs / societies

None known

Public offices

None known

Related subscribers

Career and worklife




Owner: later partner[16]

Place of work

John Brown, Shipbuilders[8] Brown and Simpson, Shipbuilders[10]

Work address

Marine Parade
East Victoria Dock

Career to date:


More information


John was born on 9th August 1816 to John Brown and Susan Barclay, members of a long established shipbuilding family in Montrose.[1]

John was married twice, firstly to Catherine Taylor, with whom he had four children: Frederick W. Brown; Georgina T. Brown; Alice J. Brown and Catherine T Brown.

Secondly he married Helen Emslie with whom he had Thomas Brown; John Brown and Alexander Brown.[4]


John’s first appearance in Dundee is in the 1846-47 Directory as a shipbuilder on East Dock and living at 3 King Street.

In the 1851 census he was employing 80 men and the first screw steamer built in Dundee was launched from his building-yard in the same year. This vessel, named the ‘Correo’, was of 395 tons, and was fitted with a pair of geared engines of 70 horsepower.[17]

John was joined by a partner and about 1860 the firm became Brown & Simpson. They prospered and were building two ships a year until the late 1860s,[18] when shipbuilding in Dundee, and indeed, worldwide was depressed. By the 1871 census the number of employees had shrunk to 30. Ten years later the firm was described as “Shipbuilders and Sawmillers” and was employing only 20 men.

During his career, John’s housing followed a similar pattern to his business. He climbed the property ladder, beginning at 3 King Street, a property near his shipyard,[5] and rising by 1865 to be the owner of 10 Airlie Place, a recently built and rather prestigious property in the West End of Dundee.[16] About that time, he was also able to contribute to the building of the Albert Institute, but by the time of his death he owned no heritable property and was effectively penniless.[3]


John died in 1888 and the following death notice appeared in the Dundee Courier and Argus on Monday 22nd January: “At 10 Airlie Terrace, Dundee on the 22nd January inst., John Brown late shipbuilder.”[19]

The entry in the 1891 Calendar of Confirmations and Inventories reads:

“Brown, John. 18 Nov. 1891 Confirmation of John Brown, Shipbuilder, Dundee, who died 22-01-1888, at Dundee, intestate, granted at Dundee, to Helen Mary Emslie or Brown, 10 Airlie Terrace, Dundee, Executrix dative qua relicit. Value of estate £21,9s.”[3]

The only two items in the Inventory were:

(1) Value of his personal clothes- £ 1:10/-
(2) Legacy of £19:10/- under the Trust Disposition Settlement and Codicils of the late Miss Anne Chalmers who sometime resided at Taymouth Terrace, Broughty Ferry to be supplemented or made good in case of deficiency of funds as has happened or otherwise out of the estate of her late sister, Margaret as provided by her Trust Disposition and Settlement. £19: 19/-
Total £21: 9/-“*[3]

The Confirmation also revealed that the deceased had no heritable property in the country and that their ante-nuptial contract of marriage did not nominate an executor.[3]

Although John did not donate anything to the McManus it does have a model of the Strathmore. Both ship and model were built by Brown and Simpson in 1875.


*Some figures are wrong but it is correctly transcribed.


  1. Old Parish Records. Montrose. Baptism. 20 August 1816. 315/50 543. ScotlandsPeople website and Old Parish Register film 312/FR 1620 20 August 1816. Tay Valley Family History Society.
  2. Old Parish Register film Dundee 282/21-23. 14th November 1848. Tay Valley Family History Society.
  3. Confirmation of executor in Court Books of Commissariat of Forfar, 18 November 1891. National Records of Scotland.
  4. 1851, 1861 and 1871 Censuses Scotland. Dundee. Tay Valley Family History Society.
  5. Dundee Directory 1846-47 p.90. Internet Archive website.
  6. Dundee Directory 1850 p.81. Internet Archive website.
  7. Dundee Directory 1856-57 p.75. Internet Archive website.
  8. Dundee Directory 1858-59 p.109. Internet Archive website.
  9. Dundee Directory 1861-62 p.119. Internet Archive website.
  10. Dundee Directory 1864-65 p.100. Internet Archive website.
  11. Dundee Diectory 1867-68 p.103. Internet Archive website.
  12. Dundee Directory 1874-75 p.109. Internet Archive website.
  13. Dundee Directory 1882-83 p.117. Internet Archive website.
  14. Dundee Directory 1884-85 p.123. Internet Archive website.
  15. Dundee Directory 1886-87 p.129. Internet Archive website.
  16. Valuation Roll. Dundee. 1865. ScotlandsPeople website.
  17. Paper read by Mr Henry Gourlay to the British Association in 1867. Internet Archive website.
  18. Scottish Built Ships. Caledonian Maritime Research Trust website.
  19. Dundee Courier & Argus, Monday, 22 January 1888. Dundee Central Library, Wellgate, Dundee.


Thanks go to: The volunteers at Tay Valley Family History Society 179/181 Princes Street, Dundee Staff at the Local History Department, Dundee Central Library, Wellgate, Dundee. Staff at Dundee City Archives, 14 City Square, Dundee. Staff in the Historical Search Room at Register House, Edinburgh.    

The information above about John Brown 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.