From the Book of Eminent Burgesses of Dundee 1513 to 1885.

James Carmichael, Engineer - 23rd December 1822.

 

JAMES CARMICHAEL, MILL WRIGHT AND ENGINEER IN DUNDEE, WAS ADMITTED BURGESS FOR HAVING PAID £ 10 STG. TO P. H. THOMS, CHAMBERLAIN, IN FULL OF HIS FREEDOM.

James Carmichael
JAMES CARMICHAEL and his brother CHARLES may be regarded as the pioneers of engineering enterprise in Dundee; but they have a wider claim to recognition, since some of their most important inventions, developed and perfected in the Burgh, served to revolutionize the tardy processes of iron manufacture in existence before their time, and to foreshadow many recent advances in their own special department of Mechanics. The CARMICHAELS were natives of Glasgow, their father, GEORGE CARMICHAEL, having been long a Merchant Councillor and a Bailie in that city, and also one of the original partners in the famous Glasgow Arms Bank. JAMES CARMICHAEL was born in 1776 and CHARLES in 1782. Their father died about four years after the birth of the latter, and their widowed mother having realized her husband's share in the co partnery which existed between him and his brother, retired to her native place of Pentland, in Midlothian, taking her two sons with her. JAMES was apprenticed as a mill wright with his mother's brother, Mr UMPHERSTON, in that remote locality; and under the strict and enlightened training of his relative his latent capacities for engineering were thoroughly developed.

On the completion of his term of service JAMES CARMICHAEL obtained a situation as superintending mechanic at the Adelphi Spinning Works, Glasgow, then carried on by Messrs THOMSON & BUCHANAN, and was for some time one of their most valued employees. CHARLES CARMICHAEL, the younger brother, served his apprenticeship to the engineering trade at Loanhead, and whilst yet a young journey¬man he came to Dundee in 1805, and entered into partnership with Mr TAYLOR as a mill wright, the designation of the firm being " TAYLOR & Co." This co partnery expired in 1810, and at that time CHARLES induced his brother JAMES to remove to Dundee, and to begin business with him as an engineer. The spinning of flax was then the staple trade of Dundee, and as it was increasing with great rapidity at this time, there was ample scope for the development of con¬structive engineering. The application of steam as a motive power had revolutionized applied mechanics, and the CARMICHAELS soon made their firm famous as makers of steam driven machinery for spinning purposes.

A new industry was introduced by them in 1821 by their construction of the steam engine fitted up by them to drive the ferry boat between Dundee and Woodhaven. The success which attended this experiment was so great that two years afterwards they were commissioned to supply a similar engine for another ferry boat on the same station, in which many improvements in marine steam engines especially that of the reversing gear were anticipated, and have since been perfected.


To the CARMICHAELS the honour belongs of having constructed the first Scottish locomotives for the traffic on the Dundee and Newtyle Railway. These were made in 1832 33, and were used continuously on this line for over thirty years, but were finally displaced by the more elaborate locomotives of the present day. They were also the inventors of the Fan blast, by which the manufacture of iron was greatly accelerated, and the cost of its production much reduced. The CARMICHAELS did not take any steps to protect their new methods of operation, with the result that their inventions thus became public property. Their ingenuity, however, did not pass unnoticed, for in April, 1841, JAMES CARMICHAEL was presented at Glasgow with a handsome silver service, subscribed for amongst the members of the iron trade, "in testimony of their deep sense of the liberal manner in which he and his brother have permitted the unrestricted use of their valuable invention of the Fan Blowing Machine."

CHARLES CARMICHAEL, who was for several years a member of the Town Council, died on 13th May, 1843. His eldest brother survived till 14th August, 1853, at which time he expired in his house at Fleuchar Craig. A bronze statue of JAMES CARMICHAEL, executed by JOHN HUTCHISON, R.S.A., was erected in Albert Square, Dundee, in 1873. JAMES CARMICHAEL, son of CHARLES CARMICHAEL, was admitted Burgess of Dundee on 19th March, 1835, and the engineering firm established by his father and uncle was further carried on by him and his cousin.