The Doric Columns
Men of Granite - A true acknowledgement of Granite’s contribution to the City is not possible without acknowledging the Granite workers whose skills and labour established and sustained the quarrying and manufacturing industries.
Aberdeen Granite Association Ceases
Stonecutters. Wm Anderson, St. Clair St. Geo. Brewster, 150 West North Street Christie & Gordon, 36 Cotton St. John Craig, 12 Nelson Street Arthur Fraser, Nelson street John Fraser, & Son, North Broadford Jas Garden, & Co. , Gerrard St. David Glennie, 84 Gerrard st. Grant & Watt, Affleck street James Grant, & Son, Bon Accord terrrce James Hunter, 209 King Street Jas. Hutcheon, King St. G L Jamieson, Crown Granite Works, N. Charlotte st. Wm.,Keith, jun., 187 King St George Law, Guild street Legge, John W., , Holburn street Macdonald, Wm., St. Clair St. Milne and Wishart, 35 Charles st. Milne, Alex., 124 West North Street J & J Ogg, , Wellington Road Alex. Petrie, 71 Constitution St. J Petrie, & Co., Clayhills, Wellington road Robertson, Alexander, Wellington road Skinner, George, Victoria Street south A & J Smith, , Gilcomston Park John Taylor, Leadside Andrew,Williamson, 20 Mounthooly
Charles McDonald, Granite Polisher, Froghall Granite Works, Jute Street
John Fyfe (Quarry Products) Ltd
John Fyfe, 72 Waterloo Quay
John Fyfe’s silver-grey Kemnay granite, as it then went on to be more widely used in the construction of other prestigious buildings across the City, including the Citadel, Art Gallery, St Mary’s Cathedral, Northern Assurance Company offices, HM Theatre, Palace and Grand Hotels and the exquisitely carved granite stonework facade of Marischal College, not to mention the Thames Embankment, piers, docks, viaducts, lighthouses, sea defences, and bridges. Indeed, John Fyfe played a major part in giving Aberdeen its Silver City title. Portrait of quarrymaster John Fyfe by John Singer Sargent who, at the turn of the 20th century, was one of the country’s finest portrait painters. This portrait was commissioned for Mr Fyfe in 1902 by his business friends, colleagues and Aberdeen Council members. It was presented to him by his life-time friend and rival Mr Manuelle. Lord Provost Mearns and former Lord Provost Fleming also paid tribute to Mr Fyfe’s worth, dwelling upon his generosity to the City, his pioneer work in the granite industry and the devotion of his whole life and energy to its development.
The Granite Supply Association Limited, of Aberdeen, was forced to curtail its production and employment owing to scarcity of rough granite blocks of which they formerly imported 20,000 tons to supplement home supplies; that much of this is required for building work.
Arthur Taylor Granite Mason
Arthur Taylor’s granite yard was in Jute Street and it was from this yard that James Philip produced works of notable skill and artistic merit: including work for the Titanic memorial in Liverpool and Inverurie war memorial, as well as the statue of Edward VII in Aberdeen.In 1897 Taylors Yard employed the 1st 2 mechanical pneumatic hammers which had been used in this way in the Country. In 1900 Mr Taylor presented the hammers to the Aberdeen Mechanical Society.
Carved by mason James Philip with his assistant George Cooper. Pneumatic and hand chisels were used in the cutting of this Kemnay granite sculpture. The lead mason, James Philip, spent his working life in the granite yard of Arthur Taylor and he was perhaps the best carver ever employed in the City’s stone trade.
Arthur Taylor’s granite yard was
in Jute Street and it was from this yard that James Philip produced works
of notable skill and artistic merit: including work for the Titanic
memorial in Liverpool and Inverurie war memorial, as well as the statue
of Edward VII in Aberdeen.
THE Estates of JAMES KNOWLES, Granite Merchant, Kittybrewster Granite Works, Ashgrove Road, Aberdeen, and residing at No. 46 Clifton Road, Aberdeen, were Sequestrated on 21st day of April 1909, by the Sheriff-Substitute of Aberdeen, Kincardine and Banff at Aberdeen. The 1st Deliverance is dated 21st April 1909. The Meeting to elect the Trustee and Commissioners is to be held at 12 o'clock noon, on Wednesday the 5th day of May 1909, within the Imperial Hotel, Stirling Street, Aberdeen. A Composition may be offered at this Meeting; and to entitle Creditors to the 1st Dividend, their oaths and grounds of debt must be lodged on or before the 21st day of August 1909. All future Advertisements relating to this Sequestration will be published in the Edinburgh Gazette alone. HENRY J. GRAY. Advocate, Aberdeen, Agent.
In 1899 the 'Aberdeen Weekly Journal' reported on the installation of electric light at the Kittybrewster Granite Works: "An installation of the electric light has been fitted up in the granite works at Kittybrewster belonging to Mr. James Knowles, and, on the occasion of the turning on of the light last night, a number of gentlemen connected with the trade met in the yard for the purpose of witnessing the experiment, this being the 1st establishment of the kind into which the new illumination has been introduced. All expressed themselves highly satisfied with the success attained. There are 50 incandescent lamps and 6 arc lamps, and the installation has been carried out by Mr. Riach, foreman for Shirras, Laing, and Co., Ltd. The gentlemen present at the inauguration last night were: Mr. A Wilson, president of the Granite Association; Mr. Lawson, of Macdonald Limited; Mr. Garvie, of Mr. Charles Macdonald; Mr. Arthur Taylor, Jute Street; Mr. Archibald A Brown, Mr. Cruickshank, Torry; Mr. William Morgan, Portland Street; Mr. J A Sangster, Engineer; and Mr. A T Stewart, who has recently come from Edinburgh to fill the post of Engineer in the electrical department of Shirras, Laing, and Co."
The Granite business of A A Brown was owned by Archibald Abel Brown (1856-1917). He married Jane M Stewart (daughter of James Stewart Snr, niece of James Garden and Mary Stuart). A A Brown’s granite business was based at Advocates Road from at least 1915 to 1940.
Sir James Taggart, (1849-1929) Sculptor, Granite Merchant, Lord Provost of Aberdeen (1914-19), Lord Lieutenant and Admiral of the North Sea during and after the 1st World War.
James Taggart was born in Coldwells near Inverurie and was brought up at Port Elephinstone he came to Aberdeen aged 16 and was apprenticed as a stone cutter and studied at the Mechanics' Institute. He spent some time in the USA before returning to establish his own Business as a Granite Mason in 1879 at 1st in partnership but latterly on his own from 1883. He was an active fund raiser for the Sick Childrens Hospital.
Stonemasons employed in cutting monumental stone for the American Market often emigrated to the USA for short periods as part of their wider Education in the Granite Trade. They usually worked in Aberdeen during the winter months – when locally-hewn granite was being prepared for America – then spent the summer Stateside helping to complete and erect the work.
That annual exodus consisted mainly of younger men, and began around 1865 when the Americans started to exploit Granite reserves on their Eastern seaboard. Their fledgling industry suffered from acute shortages of skilled labour – it could take 6 years to become a time-served granite cutter – which in turn led to higher costs. The solution was to import skills from abroad, and that meant from the established centres of Granite expertise in Scandinavia, Italy and Scotland.
During slack periods in Aberdeen, the Granite Cutters’ Union would even encourage younger men to seek work overseas, in order to reduce the size of the labour pool, and many Scots settled abroad for good. In Massachusetts, a representative sample of the granite quarrier's taken in 1910 showed that of 17 operations, 7 were run by men who were either born in Kemnay, or had passed through the ranks of John Fyfe’s Paradise Hill Quarry at Kemnay.
Kemnay Quarries, were from 1858 leased by John Fyfe, an Aberdonian; by 1880, 250 men employed with 7 steam cranes and 2 Blondins (wire cableway lifts - claimed as his invention). Blocks 30ft long and 100 tonnes in weight were produced in its heyday. Celebrated for supplying Holborn Viaduct and Thames Embankment, London, and Forth Bridge.
Shortly after the War of 1812, one of the world's largest granite deposits was discovered at Millstone Hill. Native Americans who occupied the region prior to American settlement were aware of the presence of granite deposits, but it was American geologists who discovered the extent of the find. When word reached Europe about the vast deposit, stone workers from across Europe began to migrate to the area. The arrival of the railroad in 1875, made the transport of granite to wider markets much easier, triggered the boom of the granite industry in Barre. The influx of skilled craftsmen from Scotland, Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Greece, England, Finland, Germany, Sweden, Poland, Norway, Ireland, Denmark, Yugoslavia and Lebanon resulted in forming one of the most culturally diverse communities in Vermont.
When the world-famous Rock of Ages quarry at Barre, Vermont, boomed in the late 1890s, a wave of Scots quarry workers from Aberdeenshire came in to operate the drills, saws and surfacers. Little wonder: Rock of Ages began after George Barron Milne, an Aberdeen stonecutter, immigrated to Barre in 1883. He opened his 1st Granite business there 2 years later, and his quarry eventually outstripped both Rubislaw and Kemnay – today its open pit is nearly 600 feet deep, and 50 acres in surface area.
The illustration of James Taggarts Works showing the Derrick Crane, Boiler Chimney, and passing Electric Trams and laden Horse & Cart with completed work displayed in the show-yard to passers by and those atop the tram.
James Taggart & Son had a large workforce and big premises at 92 Great Western Road, (about half-way between Chattan Place and Claremont Street)
The Aberdeen Directories show they traded at Gerrard Street, Aberdeen (the same street in which they were living) from 1874 to 1879 as James Garden & Co, thereafter just Garden & Co from 1882. First address listed is Gerrard Street (1874-75), then 67 Gerrard Street (1875-77) before moving to King Street (1879-80) and remaining there. Note that the map shown below is from 1866, so the King Street site must have either had a previous Granite Merchant located there prior to Garden & Co moving in, or alternatively this was where the Company operated from without actually being registered. Also note that they were living at 76 Gerrard Street in the 1851 census, so they were in the Granite Trade in Aberdeen before forming their company. Gerrard Street is about 250 yards to the north west from the granite works shown on the map below. As both brothers died in 1886, it is likely that the running of the Company passed either to their father, James, or alternatively to their uncle James Stewart Snr, or possibly to their cousins William Alexander and James Stewart. On the death of James Garden in 1894 there appears to have been none of the Garden family still involved in managing the business, although several other members of the extended Garden family were involved in the wider Granite Trade, with some in the company. Garden & Co Granite Works between King Street (on the right) and West North Street (on the left). Now the site of a supermarket. King Street premises purchased in 1892 for £2000.
Garden and Co
Garden & Co., The Victoria Granite Works, King Street, Aberdeen. The house in question was founded in 1871 by Messrs, William and James Garden, and in the year 1882 the title of Garden & Co. was assumed. The premises occupied comprise a large yard, covering an acre of ground, with various buildings devoted to the several departments of the business. The offices are spacious and well appointed, and contain excellent accommodation for the draughtsmen and designers engaged in the establishment. There are numerous Dressing Sheds, equipped with turning Lathes, Sawing machines, and other apparatus for the cutting, shaping, and dressing of granite, these being all driven by a powerful steam engine and boiler. In the yard itself are stored tons upon tons of granite, and Messrs. Garden & Co. had facilities for the execution of every conceivable kind of work into which, this valuable material can enter. They have specialities in monumental work, their designs in this connection being eminently artistic, while the workmanship is not to be surpassed in fineness of finish; and the house has long been noted for its superior productions in polished archways, pilasters, columns, and building fronts, and in fountains and other manufactures of a similar character. They also did a large business as polishers to the trade, their working facilities being of a very superior character and not equalled by smaller firms in this line. This superiority is especially noticeable in the matter of Polishing Carriages, Lathes and Saws, which have all the latest improvements, and of which Messrs. Garden & Co have particularly fine equipment. Altogether this house must be regarded as one of the foremost in the Granite Trade - indeed, it has a recognised position as one of the largest concerns of the kind in the world. Its trade extends to every quarter of the globe, and a very large export business is done, the firm making their own shipments direct to customers everywhere. A most valuable connection is maintained at home and abroad, and the house enjoys a splendid commercial reputation, based upon the honourable, straightforward, and business-like manner in which all its affairs are conducted. Upwards of 250 skilled hands are regularly employed, and Messrs. Garden & Co. were actively represented by an agent at Sydney, New South Wales, where they have many customers.
Robert Warrack Morrison - Sculptor
- known to colleagues as “Bob” and to the Aberdeen Granite Industry in his day as “the King of the Carvers”. It was only in the trade that he was known at all, for, unlike the professional sculptor whose name was usually recorded, the monumental mason received no credit for his work, no public recognition whatsoever. Yet Morrison was reputedly a genius. Born in 1890, the son of a tailor, he worked for Morren & Co. of Holland Street in Aberdeen. Like numerous other North-east stone-cutters, he worked as a young man in the granite-yards of the United States, going out to Barre, Vermont before the 1st World War. In the States, he joined his brother John, also a stone-cutter; but both brothers returned to Britain on the outbreak of war in 1914, John enlisting in the Royal Field Artillery, while Bob, who appears to have been turned down for active service on medical grounds, worked instead in a munitions factory in Glasgow. Aged 24, he married his fiancée, Annie, that same year.
Boddie & Wilson
William Boddie was born in 1838, and set up his firm of granite merchants and monumental sculptors in Aberdeen in 1876, with stonecutter Alexander Wilson as a partner, trading as Boddie & Wilson. Their workshop was at 37 Clare Street. At the time, Boddie lived at 57 John Street, and Wilson at Orchard Bank Cottage, Old Aberdeen. The partnership was short lived, and in 1882, Boddie is listed on his own at 37 Clare Street, and living at 211 King Street. A decade later he expanded his works to include showyards at 255-294 King Street, and moved his home to 3 Roslin Terrace. The firm produced Granite Monuments for Cemeteries in and around Aberdeen, as well as Architectural Carving. Another aspect of their work was the supply and carving of pedestals for public monuments, their most important work of this type being the pedestal for the statue of Sir William Ewart Gladstone in Glasgow’s George Square (1902). Designed by the statue’s sculptor, W H Throncroft, and originally sited on the East side of the square, the pedestal was built from the finest axed Kemnay Granite. Unveiled on 11 October, 1902, the pedestal stands 13 feet tall (3.96m), and its slightly curved sides are inset with bronze panels illustrating scenes from Gladstone’s life. Its front is adorned with a bronze shield with the Arms of Glasgow. Shortly after the Gladstone commission was completed, Boddie entered into partnership with his son, trading as W Boddie & Son, from 1903.
William Boddie died on 24 April 1917, aged 79, and was buried in Aberdeen’s St Peter’s Cemetery, King Street, where his grave is marked by a tall, granite Classical monument carved with his entwined initials. His firm continued trading until 1943, by which time Robert M Walker was its manager
Bower & Florence
Bower also traded as a lime and manure agent from 34 Marischal Street and 48 Market Street, and lived at 18 Golden Square, whilst Florence operated independently as a granite polisher at Rose Acre, King's Crescent. James Haddon Bower was born in Lochee, Forfarshire, and came to Aberdeen as the Manager of the North Eastern Railway Company’s goods department before forming his partnership with Florence. He retired from the partnership a few years later and was replaced by his son Haddon Anderson Bower (d. 1927); whilst he pursued his other interests in the City’s businesses. Purchasing the Estate of Pitmurchie, near Torphins, he became greatly respected for his knowledge of affairs connected with farm and land management, and for his promotion of the recycling of by-products from the Distilling Industry for agricultural use as feeding cake for animals, to prevent the polluting of Rivers.
Around the years preceding World War I, John McLaren, a former employee, returned to the firm as Bower’s partner. At the end of McLaren’s war service, when 75% of the firm’s workforce was in uniform, Bower petitioned the War Office to obtain McLaren’s early discharge and return to the works, in order to prepare for the imminent return to work of the firm’s remaining men and others seeking to fill its vacancies. The firm was purchased by McLaren after Bower’s death in 1927, became a Limited Company in 1947, and eventually amalgamated with Stewart & Co. Ltd., in Fraser Road in 1963, bringing to an end a century of production at their King’s Crescent workshops.
John Florence was apprenticed as a stonecutter in Aberdeen and had acquired a considerable knowledge of building work by the time he became Bower’s partner. He was also active in local politics as a Conservative, although he never gained public office. He died of influenza.
The story of Bower & Florence was recorded and published by John McLaren (McLaren’s son) who became a Director of the firm in 1947, in his book Sixty Years In An Aberdeen Granite Yard: The Craft and the Men, in 1987. This features a number of photographs of the firm’s staff, including Haddon A Bower, John McLaren and their masons, as well as photographs of other Granite firms at work.
George Cassie & Son
This type of saw was designed to cut granite. It was made in Aberdeen by George Cassie and Son Limited. Engineers and Blacksmiths, 500 King Street.
The saw has an endless wire loop which is driven round the wheels at each end of the saw. The wire was is fed down on to a block of granite but it is not the wire that cuts the stone. An abrasive (carborundum) mixed with water was fed under the wire. The revolving wire rubbed the mixture against the stone. In time this cut through the granite making slabs for gravestones or for buildings.
The names they gave to their machines ranged from Cairngorm, Piper, Eagle to Swallow the latter does not seem to have a particular Scottish connection. Aberdeen Museum has a fine collection of Cassie Catalogues as well as many engineering drawings of the Company Products. George Cassie & Son Ltd went into liquidation in the 1980s.
GRANITE SAWS AND TURNING LATHES
Within recent years the industry brought Saws into use with good effect. These Saws also have the pendulum motion. A steel blade, or blades, with the aid of diamond grit - a coarser quality than that used for polishing - and water, cuts the block, thus giving 2 clean faces without the aid of hewing. If the blocks are to have fine-axed faces it may be necessary to go over them lightly with a patent axe; but if for polishing, they can go right from the saw into the polishing machines.
Circular work is now nearly all done by turning lathes, with a circular cutter working at an angle on both sides of the stone. Boring is also done by machinery, and holes through paint rollers, etc., are bored with the aid of a hollow steel tube attached to a vertical revolving shaft. This machine is also fed with diamond grit, and the core which is left in the inside of the drilling can be converted into small columns, whereas, in the old method of dressing by hand, the whole centre was, of course, bored out.
Wright & Sons
An Aberdeen based granite polisher and monumental sculptor, James Wright (1810-76) started as a stone cutter in the City’s John Street in 1838, when he formed a partnership with James Petrie as Wright & Petrie, 1838-46. By 1851, he operated on his own at the Polished Granite and Marble Works, John Street. In the 1870s, he received Letters Patent as a ‘Manufacturer to Her Majesty’, at 11 John Street, renaming his yard as the Royal Granite Works. Wright was responsible for the monuments in Glasgow's Necropolis to the engineer Peter MacGregor (1862) and the Aitken family (1882). He also produced the plain, granite obelisk to Isabella Dalziel in Edinburgh’s Dean Cemetery (1858). He lived at 16 Shoe Lane, 1838, and 8 South Constitution Street, 1851. Wright died in 1876, and was buried in St. Nicholas Churchyard. His sons William and A H Wright succeeded to the firm and traded as J. Wright & Sons. The firm survived until 1975, by which time it advertised itself as J. Wright & Sons (Aberdeen) Ltd., Manufacturers of Polished Granite and Abrasives. William Wright went to Australia in the late 1800’s and set up a Granite Works in Victoria. He died here in Melbourne in 1921
Wright, Alex. H., granite merchant, 90 Crown st., h 53 Holburn Street. Wright, Frederick, granite merchant (of J. W. & Sons, Royal Granite Works), 80 Queen's rd., & the Birches, Aboyne
In the 1930's a Granite worker Mr Pyper took his family to London for a period where he worked on building the Bank of England Vaults, which are lined with unyielding granite for security.
William Edwards & Son (Granite Merchants) Ltd, whose premises consisted of 2 yards, No.s 3 and 4 Pittodrie Street. In August 1971 it acquired the share capital of Robert Crofts & Sons Ltd whose yard in Pittodrie Street was adjacent to the former Edward's yard on the south side of the street. It was to this area on the east side of King Street, bounded by Merkland Road East to the South and occupied mainly by granite firms since the 19th century,
In May 1965 Robertson acquired the share capital of William Edwards & Son (Granite Merchants) Ltd, whose premises consisted of 2 yards, No.s 3 and 4 Pittodrie Street. In August 1971 it acquired the share capital of Robert Crofts & Sons Ltd whose yard in Pittodrie Street was adjacent to the former Edward's Yard on the south side of the street.
It was to this area on the east side of King Street, bounded by Merkland Road East to the South and occupied mainly by granite firms since the 19th century, that Robertson would now relocate and establish its head quarters. Now head office and manufacturing could be concentrated on one site. In 1971, Pittodrie Granite Turning Co.
Erran Granite Works
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