J. and H. Walker
James and Harry Walker were forward thinking men in their generation and contributed greatly to the growth of both the flax and jute industries. The brothers ended their partnership, with Harry forming another company and James's sons doing likewise.
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Details and history
Name of company:
J. and H. Walker
Number of employees:
Nature of business:
Jute spinners and manufacturers
James Walker (1807-1879) and Henry, aka Harry, Walker (1812-1889) were the sons of John Walker (1772-1835) and Margret Walker or Gib(b) (1787-1872), who lived at Blebo, near Dura Den, a few miles from Cupar, Fife. They married in March 1806 and had more than 11 children. All were born in Kemback parish, as follows: James (1807-1879), Helen (1808-1898), Henry (1812-1889), Margaret (1814-1907), Robina (1816-1839), Mary (1821-1887), John (1824-1825) and Caroline Murdoch (1826-1839). There was also Euphemia (d.1917) and another John. John senior and his wife Margret (Margaret) are buried, together with Helen, Margaret, Robina, Mary, John and Caroline, in Cupar Old Parish churchyard, Fife.
There were two spinning mills in the parish as well as the mills at Kemback, Fife – a meal bone mill and a sawmill. In the area there was also a scutching mill.
John Walker (father of James and Henry) established his flaxspinning operations at Blebo at the beginning of the 19th century. In later years, his sons James and Henry were to become instrumental in the operations at Blebo Mill. In the ‘History of the County of Fife,’ (John M Leighton – 1840), it was stated that:
Blebo Mill, possessed by Messrs J & H Walker, employing 30 females and 12 males and moved by a water wheel of 14 horse power, assisted in summer by a steam engine of 10 horse power.
This would certainly seem to have been an auspicious start in the young lives of James and Harry, leading to such successful business careers for these sons, who went on to become pioneers of the industry in Dundee.
James and Harry, later of J and H Walker, moved from Blebo to Dundee in 1833. The period around 1834-1836 saw the building of Dura Works (perhaps named for Dura Den) a two storey and attic fire-proof mill consisting of a 3 by 12 bay block fronting Dens Road and a 2 by 20 bay block on Cowan Street. Later, there were extensions and, after a few years, a two storey office in Dura Street. This was originally to be a flax spinning mill, but within two years was spinning jute yarn and was very successful, surviving the trade difficulties of 1836 and the 1840s and 1850s. The company employed 131 men, 369 women, 121 boys and 72 girls who were also at school part-time and registered as scholars.
On 15 June 1829, James married Elizabeth Geddes (1802-1888). In 1834 they were living in 28 Cowgate with an office at 14 Cowgate and he is listed as a yarn spinner. By 1837 they were living in King Street above the business offices.
Harry at this time was resident in Forebank and that year Abigail Neish (1811-1876) and he were married, on 17 July 1837, and went on to reside at 3 Upper Dudhope Terrace, Dundee. By 1851 James had moved to 41 Constitution Road, Dundee, and Harry left Dudhope Terrace for Newport and by 1861 James had moved to Logie House, Lochee Road, Dundee.
The partnership of James and Harry Walker was dissolved 1873. Harry built Caldrum Works, c.1872-1873, which was eventually the second biggest jute mill in Dundee, and established the firm of Harry Walker & Sons, the sons being John Harry Walker and William Neish Walker. This was perhaps the first large British textile complex to integrate spinning, weaving, and finishing on a single storey. By 1913 the firm was a limited company and the works had been extended to cover a ground area of 8 acres with 9,500 spindles. In 1920, Harry Walker & Sons Ltd. amalgamated with Jute Industries Ltd.
After the dissolution of J & H Walker, Peter Gibb Walker and James Walker junior, two sons of James senior, formed the company of P & J. Walker who took over the running of Dura Works. Dura Works was sold to James Scott & Sons c.1888. It only ceased spinning in 1981.
James Walker was the proprietor of the estate of Ravensby and a Justice of the Peace. Both he and Elisabeth, his wife, were interred in Barry kirkyard, Barry, Angus, but all their children were born in Dundee. The eldest, Peter Geddes Walker (1832-1896), who in 1873 took over the management of Dura Works, was also a few years later listed as a senior partner of the firm P.G. Walker & Son, Balgay Jute Works, Lochee Road, Dundee. The other children were Margaret Gibb Walker (b. 1837), Elisabeth Geddes Walker (b. 1839), Helen Walker (1844-1912) and James Walker (b.1848). In the 1871 census the family were living in Ravensby House, Barry, Angus and were listed as follows: father, James, Justice of the Peace and Commissioner of Supply for Forfarshire; mother, Elizabeth; daughter, Helen; and son, James, listed as a commercial clerk in a jute manufacturing works in Dundee.
Harry and Abigail had six children: Abigail (b.1836), Margaret (b.& d.1840), John Harry (b.1842, d. 5 September 1893), Jane (b. & d.1844), Harriet (1847-1851) and William Neish Walker (b.1849). Three girls died and on the Walker headstone in the Western Cemetery, Dundee, there is an inscription on the back which reads – “Margaret* Jane * and Harriet daughters of Harry Walker and Abigail Neish died in childhood and were interred in Chapel Shade Cemetery”.
Harry had lived in Newport-on-Tay for 35 years and was one of the oldest residents, travelling to business by the Tay Ferries. He lived at Seafield House in 1861 and then Woodmuir, and latterly built and lived in for over 25 years a handsome mansion designed by Mr. Heiton, architect, called Westwood House. His home is now St Serf’s Nursing Home.
Harry went on to become a Justice of the Peace for Fifeshire and Vice-Chairman of the Savings Bank, having been for many years one of its Managers and serving on its Acting Committee. He was the President at the last Annual General Meeting of the Managers. He was an elder of Newport-on-Tay Free Church, where he took a leading part in the erection of the new church. Many were his interests in the village and generosity towards the residents, helping to develop a bowling green and taking a warm interest in the new golf course. As a keen curler he attended the annual dinners of the Newport Club.
He took great interest in the Royal Infirmary, Dundee, and other institutions. In politics, he was a Liberal and Chairman of the Newport Liberal Committee, was an advocate of Reform, but could not see his way to adopt Mr. Gladstone’s Home Rule policy. Latterly, he became a Liberal Unionist, but did not take any prominent or active position against his former political associates. In 1866 he was elected President of the Dundee Chamber of Commerce, occupying that position at the time the British Association met in Dundee, when he entertained many significant and distinguished attendees as his guests.
In Newport, Mr. Harry Walker was long a Director and, in rotation, Chairman of the Gas Board, the first Chairman of the Newport School Board, a Director of Newport Railway, a member of the Executive Committee of the Mars Training Ship, and an original Trustee of the Blyth Hall. For a considerable time he was Convener of the Tay Ferries Committee and subsequently on the Finance Committee of the Dundee Harbour Trust.
An interesting note regarding this great man was his skill as a financial wizard in calculations and mental arithmetic. Of sound judgement, he was a valued acquisition to many public boards in Dundee and was heard to lament that mental arithmetic was out of favour in public schools. Up to his retirement, Mr. Walker was a member of the Sustentation Fund Committee and attended their meetings which were held in Edinburgh.
Both Harry Walker and his wife died at their home, Westwood, in Newport. She died 4 December 1876 from a long term illness. He died 13 March 1889, having returned from Dundee to Newport by ferry, visited his two sons, John Harry who resided at Woodburn Villa and William Neish at 2 Hill Park Terrace, and arrived home for dinner when he took ill and died from apoplexy. They are both buried in the Walker family lair in the Western Cemetery.
On 24 April 1889, the confirmation of Harry Walker’s will was granted at Cupar, Fife, to (1) John Harry Walker and William Neish Walker, his sons, (2) to Graham Neish, Liverpool, his son-in-law, and (3) to David Scott Ferguson, Assistant Manager, Union Bank, Glasgow, executors named in the will dated 27 August 1877 and codicil dated 13 October 1882 and recorded with other writs in the Court Books of the Commissariot of Fife on 16 April 1889. The value of the estate was £73,683 5s. 8d.
Further Family Information:
The eldest son of Harry, John Harry (1842-1893), married Isabella Thomson (b.1847). They had Harry (1869), John W. (1871), Frederick (1873), Thomas H.H. (1875), Winifred (1878) and Euphemia (Fanny) (1879).
The youngest son of Harry, and brother of John Harry, William Neish Walker (1849) married and had Harry Giles Walker (1875), Isabella A. Walker (1876) and Charles W. Walker (1879). These sons and all the children of both these families were born in Forgan parish. The Walker families of each generation had at least three servants.
- Dundee Directory, 1864-65. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
- Watson, Mark. (1990) Jute and Flax Mills in Dundee. Tayport: Hutton Press.
- Dundee Directory, 1874-75. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
- Dundee Directory, 1888-89. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
- Old Parish Records. Kemback, Fife. Birth. 27 February 1807. 433/10 201 and Statutory Registers. Barry, Forfarshire. Death. 7 January 1879. 274/3. Scotlands People website.
- Old Parish Records. Kemback, Fife. Birth. 13 July 1812. 433/10 214 and Statutory Registers. Forgan, Fife. Death. 14 March 1889. 431/9. Scotlands People website.
- Walker Family Memorial. Cupar Old Parish churchyard, Fife. Deceased Online website.
- Workers of the Mills. Dark Dundee website.
- Old Parish Records. Dundee. Marriage. 15 June 1829. 282/210 284. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Old Parish Records. Dundee. Birth. 16 November 1802. 282/80 564 and Statutory Registers. Barry, Forfarshire. Death. 10 November 1888. 274/41. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Dundee Directory, 1834. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
- Dundee Directory, 1837-38. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
- Old Parish Records. Dundee. Birth. 24 February 1811. 282/90 468 and Statutory Registers. Forgan, Fife. Death. 4 December 1876. 431/43. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Old Parish Records. Dundee. Marriage. 17 July 1837. 282/220 309. ScotlandsPeople website.
- 1841 Census Scotland. Dundee. 282 ED65 p.16. Ancestry website.
- 1851 Census Scotland. Dundee. 282 ED40 p.12. Ancestry website.
- Dundee Directories, 1850-1854. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
- 1861 Census Scotland. Dundee Second District. 282/2 ED42 p.2. Ancestry website.
- Dundee Obituary Book, 1889. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
- Online Catalogue Information. Harry Walker & Sons. MS66/VI. University of Dundee Archive Services website.
- Old Parish Records. Dundee. Birth. 13 December 1832. 282/170 118 and Statutory Registers. St. Peter, Dundee. Death. 282/1 226. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Old Parish Records. Dundee. Birth. 11 July 1837. 282/180 110. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Old Parish Records. Dundee. Birth. 24 July 1839. 282/180 259. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Old Parish Records. Dundee. Birth. 28 July 1844. 282/190 190. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Old Parish Records. Dundee. Birth. 2 February 1848. 282/190 314. ScotlandsPeople website.
- 1871 Census Scotland. Barry, Angus. 274 ED5 p.9. Ancestry website.
- Old Parish Records. Dundee. Birth. 6 June 1836. 282/180 41. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Old Parish Records. Dundee. Birth. 3 September 1840. 282/180 332. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Old Parish Records. Dundee. Birth. 5 June 1842. 282/190 86. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Western Cemetery. Burial Lair Records. Friends of Dundee City Archives website.
- Old Parish Records. Dundee. Birth. 2 June 1844. 282/190 182. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Old Parish Records. Dundee. Birth. 28 March 1847. 282/190 285. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Old Parish Records. Dundee. Birth. 19 April 1849. 282/190 353. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Walker Family Monument. Western Cemetery, Dundee.
- 1861 Census Scotland. Forgan, Fife. 431 ED3 p.6. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Obituary Book No.1. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
- Dundee Courier, 14 March 1889. British Newspaper Archive website.
- Calendar of Confirmations, 1889. Ancestry website.
- Deceased Online/Births Marriages Deaths.
- 1851 1861 1871 1881 Census Scotland. Ancestry website.
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