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Messrs John Moir & Son

John Moir and Son, of Dundee, was a long established and much respected firm of linen manufacturers, operating from the Cottage Factory in East Dock Street.

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Details and history

Name of company:

Messrs John Moir & Son

Company address:

18 St Andrew's Street[1]

23 Cowgate[2]

Cottage Factory[2]
East Dock Street

Number of employees:

Variable - 13 men, 3 boys, 80 women in 1861:[3] 200 by 1864:[4] 20 men and 80 women by 1881[5]

Nature of business:

Merchants and Manufacturers



Date ceased trading:


Related Subscribers

Subscriber 147 – Messrs Methven & Norrie – William Methven was John Moir’s son in law, having married his daughter, Eliza Spence Moir.


John Moir was born into the Dundee linen manufacturing trade on the 23 August 1801.[7] The son of George Moir and his wife, Elisabeth Spence,[7] both his father, and uncle, were in the linen trade.[8]

John Moir married Margaret Brown in 1825[9] and they had six boys and two girls between 1828 and 1845.

Moir appeared as a ‘clerk,’ living in ‘Tod’s-burn-Lane’ in 1834.[10] The firm in which he worked as a clerk would appear to have been that of ‘William Ferguson (or Fergusson) and Son,’ at the Dudhope Mill, as in 1843, the house John Moir had been living in was advertised as to let by him.[11] A high standard of living can be noted from the fact it had the modern facility of an indoor water closet, or toilet.[11]

The family moved to William Street, where John Moir lived until his death in 1881. He was survived by sons Edward, George and James, together with their sisters, Eliza and Margaret.[12] Three of his sons predeceased him. The other two, Edward and James, joined their father in the business, Edward as his partner and James as a mechanic/manager.[12] John Moir would appear to have valued his son Edward’s role as partner in the firm, receiving as he did, a greater part of his father’s estate than his siblings were awarded – ‘Edward…to whom I bequeath this larger proportion (3/15 parts as opposed to 2/15 given to his siblings) because of his assiduous attention to the business of the firm of which he and I are partners.’[12]

John Moir served as a magistrate and town councillor[13] and ‘in private life was an amiable, inoffensive man, highly respected by all classes.’[14] This earned him the honour of being one of the jurors for the awarding the prizes, given for linen manufactures at the great Exhibition of 1851.[14] Their own company exhibited ‘starched padding.’[15] He was also appointed by the town to set up the exhibit being sent for Flax and Hemp goods, quoted as described –

“‘The next class in this section is that of Flax and Hemp, and here Dundee takes the lead. The fittings of the stalls are very complete, and the display of goods is in every way worthy of that prosperous manufacturing town.

The acting committee for Dundee appointed John Moir, manufacturer, to collect the specimens and go to London to give instructions regarding the fitting out of the space allotted to Dundee in the Exhibition. He accordingly went in the beginning of March, and accomplished his mission satisfactorily. The space allotted to Dundee is 42 feet in length, by 6 feet in width, with a passage on all sides. It has been fitted up with three tiers of shelving, the two upper of which are enclosed in front with glass. There are between 400 and 500 pieces of linen and hempen cloth, arranged in classes according to their different qualities. The object of the Dundee committee was to exhibit a complete set of specimens of our manufactures, made up in the various forms in which they are sent off to the Home and Foreign Markets, in order that merchants visiting the Exhibition might have the opportunity of seeing what Dundee can produce.’[16]

The whole country, possibly much of the world, was excited about the Great Exhibition, which was held in Hyde Park and the person in charge of the overall organisation was none other than Prince Albert himself. John Moir was presented with a medal by Prince Albert to thank him for his judging –

‘Exhibition Medal—Mr John Moir of this town has just had transmitted to him along with the accompanying letter from Prince Albert, a bronze medal, with a beautiful medallion of her Majesty and the Prince, for his services during the Exhibition as one of the Jurors :—

‘Windsor Castle, October 31st, 1851. 

Sir, —I have the honour, as President of the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, to transmit to you a medal that has been struck by order of the Commissioners, in commemoration of the valuable services which you have rendered to the Exhibition, in common with so many eminent men of all countries, in your capacity of Juror. In requesting your acceptance of this slight token on our part of the sense entertained by us of the benefit which has resulted to the interests of the Exhibition from your having undertaken that laborious office, and from the zeal and ability displayed by you in connection with it, it affords me much pleasure to avail myself of this opportunity of conveying to you the expression of my cordial thanks for the assistance which you have given us in carrying this great undertaking to its successful issue. 

I have the honour to be,  Sir, 

Very faithfully yours,

(Signed)  Albert,

President of the Royal Commission.’[17]

John Moir and Sons do not appear to have tried their hand at the many other International Exhibitions abroad but shortly before they paid a subscription to the Albert Institute in Dundee, they exhibited at the second London exhibition of 1862. John Moir and Sons’ own stand was described in the local paper –

‘MESSRS JOHN MOIR & SON- Exhibit a very nice case of their manufactures. They show Osnaburgs in four qualities, from 24 to 30 porter, of very good quality; very superior Sprigs, 26 to 32 porter, of fine level yarn, round thread, and well woven; all Flax Canvas Padding, of sightly appearance, and nicely finished. They also show all Flax Double Warp Ducks, the yarn a fine cream, and the cloth well got up; and Union Double Warp Powerloom Ducks, very pretty goods. Their Canvas Duck, Brown Bordered Duck, and Linen Bengals, are carefully made, excellent cloth, and very sightly. They also exhibit Forfar Sheetings, in four qualities, 22 to 23 porter; and Brown Flax Powerloom Sheetings, also ot four qualities, 26 to 32 porter, of much excellence, both in material and workmanship, and very sightly cloth. The goods shown by Messrs Moir are most carefully prepared, of sterling quality, well assorted and have a neat and taking appearance.’[18]

John Moir and Son does not seem to have been a large firm and, interestingly, they appear to have stuck to producing linen rather than turning their hand to the production of jute. However, they were clearly an important part of Dundee at the time of the payment of subscriptions to the Albert Institute and it would have been surprising if they had not contributed.



  1. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1845. p.65. Dundee Central Library, Local Studies.
  2. The Dundee Directory, 1861-62. p.182. Dundee Central Library, Local Studies.
  3. Census Records. Dundee. (1861). 282/1 24/27. ScotlandsPeople website.
  4. Warden, Alexander J. The Linen Trade, Ancient and Modern. (1864). London. Longman. p.657.
  5. Census Records. Dundee. (1881). 282/ 4 15/ 11. ScotlandsPeople website.
  6. Dundee Courier. 25 June 1901. p.1. British Newspaper Archive website.
  7. Old Parish Registers. Dundee. Births. 23/08/1801. 282/ 80 489. ScotlandsPeople website.
  8. The Dundee Directory, 1809. p.61. Dundee Central Library, Local Studies.
  9. Old Parish Registers. Dundee. Marriages. (1825). 282/210 144. ScotlandsPeople website.
  10. Dundee Directory, 1834. p.35. Dundee Central Library, Local Studies.
  11. Northern Warder and General Advertiser for the Counties of Fife, Perth and Forfar. 21 February 1843. p.1. British Newspaper Archive website.
  12. Legal Records. Wills and Testaments. Dundee Sheriff Court. (1881). SC45/ 31/ 31. ScotlandsPeople website.
  13. Dundee Weekly News. 22 October 1881. p.4. British Newspaper Archive website.
  14. Dundee Advertiser. 20 October 1881. p.5. British Newspaper Archive website.
  15. Dundee, Perth, and Cupar Advertiser. 13 May 1851. p.3. British Newspaper Archive website.
  16. Dundee Courier. 14 May 1851. p.2. British Newspaper Archive website.
  17. Dundee, Perth and Cupar Advertiser. 05 December 1851. p.2. British Newspaper Archive website.
  18. Dundee Courier. 07 June 1862. p.2. British Newspaper Archive website.

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.