The Lithgow family business was established in 1847 when the partnership of Joseph Russell, William Todd Lithgow and Anderson Rodger took over the Bay yard in Port Glasgow.
James and Henry Lithgow both followed in their fathers footsteps and when he died in 1908 both brothers were left with the running of the business.
His most treasured honor was being made the first honorary freeman of Port Glasgow.
In memory of his brother he gifted Auchenbothie House "unconditionally" to the town. This was later opened as Auchenbothie Old Peoples Home on 25th November 1950.
The house was allowed to fall into a terrible condition before planning permission was finally given for the redevelopment of the building and surrounding land.
The area now contains new homes and smaller flats within the main building.
William Todd Lithgow
William Lithgow's parents both died before he was seventeen. He started his working life as an apprentice ships draughtsman
His father had sold cotton yarn for a mill in New Lanark and left him with £1000 to invest in shipbuilding
1854 - 1908
Lithgow was chief draughtsman-designer in this partnership and his work was crucial to their strategy of standardising hull shapes and components, thus increasing efficiency and profitability.
The company expanded into new shipyards including the Kingston yard Lithgow became more and more prosperous. In 1879 he married Agnes Birkmyre (daughter of Henry Birkmyre of the Gourock Ropeworks) , and in 1883 they moved from Port Glasgow to a grander family home, Drums which they rented a few miles further up the Clyde at Langbank. James was born that year, and Henry in 1886.
Although the 1880s were a busy and successful decade for Russell & Co, there were tensions between Lithgow and Rodger which led to the partnership dissolving. Lithgow kept the original company name and the Kingston Yard
1883-1952: 1st Baronet of Ormsary
James Lithgow was born on 27 January 1883 in Port Glasgow, son of William Todd Lithgow (1854-1908) and Agnes Birkmyre.(1859 - 1929)
He was educated at Glasgow Academy, Glasgow and in Paris, France, under a private tutor. In 1901, he passed up the opportunity to go to university to take up an apprenticeship at the family shipyard, Russell & Co, Port Glasgow. He became a partner in his father’s business in 1907 and the following year, on the death of his father, he assumed joint ownership with his brother,.
In 1924, he married Gwendolyn Amy Harrison, daughter of a former Clyde shipowner and was awarded the position of honorary colonel of the Clyde Heavy Battalion of the Royal Artillery - a Territorial Army regiment. In 1925, he was created 1st baronet of Ormsary, Ardrisaig, Argyll & Bute, Scotland. In the late 1920s and 1930s, Sir James was to be a central figure in the shipbuilding rationalisation scheme, National Shipbuilders Security Ltd. Under his guidance the industry succeeded in eliminating about one third of the capacity of the shipyards between 1930 and 1939. Other major posts held by Sir James were president of the Federation of British Industry 1930-1933 and chairman of the Scottish National Development Council 1931-1939.
During the 1939-1945 World War, Winston Churchill re-called Sir James to London in 1940 to be Controller of Merchant Shipbuilding & Repairs. He was also a member of the Board of Admiralty 1940-1946. He briefly held the post of Controller of Tanks and was deputy chairman of the Industrial Capacity Committee of the Production Council. Additionally he was president of the Iron & Steel Federation from 1943-1945. When the war ended, he returned to Port Glasgow to assist his brother in running the shipyards. In 1946, he was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Glasgow. His brother died in 1948 and Sir James Lithgow himself suffered a serious thrombosis soon afterwards, from which he was never to fully recover. At the time of his death on 23 February 1952, Sir James Lithgow was owner of the largest privately owned shipyard in the world.
The 1914-1918 World War interrupted his shipbuilding career, serving with the Army. His company spent the first part of the war on garrison duty on the river Clyde and then in France from 1916 until May 1917. That year he was made Lieutenant Colonel and finished the war a brevet Colonel.
James Lithgow returned to Scotland in 1919 and continued to expand Lithgows Ltd interests by expanding yards and diversifying the operation.
1886 - 1948
Henry seems to have been responsible for the running ofmany parts of the family business while his brother was taking up positions in other areas he was in place at Lithgows. He served as director alongside his brother on many of the boards of the company's that Lithgows family were to take control over.
He also had some connection with Lochwinnoch being involvedin the construction of the railway line
Located in the Renfrewshire hills, mainly on Duchal Moor, was once a narrow gauge railway line, known as the Grouse Railway Line, by locals. The line was about 5 miles long and crossed hundreds of acres of boggy moorland in the hills between Lochwinnoch and Kilmacolm.It was constructed in 1922 by shipping magnateHenryLithgow and it provided rail access to the shooting butts for field sportsmen from all over Britain who descended on the moors to test their shooting skills against the fast-flying game birds which skimmed low across the heather to escape the cracking guns.
Sir William James Lithgow, 2nd Baronet (born 10 May 1934) grew up as heir to an exceptionally successful Scottish shipbuilding company, Lithgows, and inherited it in 1952 when it was the largest private shipbuilding concern in the world. Economic and political changes, especially the nationalisation of British shipbuilding in the 1970s, meant that Sir William could not simply follow in the footsteps of his father, Sir James Lithgow, and his grandfather, William Lithgow. He led the family business in new directions, and now oversees companies with a focus on engineering, salmon farming and other marine and agricultural matters. He describes himself as an "industrialist and farmer".Since 1999 his son James has been chairman of the Lithgow Group, with Sir William as vice-chairman.
Sir William James Lithgow, 2nd Baronet
Sir William is the son of Sir James and Lady Gwendolyn Lithgow, whose family homes were Gleddoch House, at Langbank on the Clyde a few miles from their shipyards at Port Glasgow, and Ormsary, their country estate in Knapdale. He was educated at Winchester College, and is a Chartered Engineer and Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering. Valerie Helen Scott married Sir William James Lithgow, in January 1964 - and tragically died in August of the same year - the death attracting national press coverage.
His father died when he was eighteen, and his mother acted as chairman of the family company until 1959.
In 1967 he married Mary Claire Hill and they have a daughter and two sons.
When Sir William passed on the chairmanship to his son James around the time of his 65th birthday, the press reported his belief that many of British shipbuilding's problems in the 1960s and 1970s could be attributed to government policies stemming from the Treasury. He had apparently "seriously considered relocating to Australia". As of 2006, he has an address in Western Australia, but Ormsary is his home as well part of his title as 2nd Baronet of Ormsary. Sir William and the Lithgow Group still have offices at Langbank, close to the house the first William Lithgow moved to in 1883.
The ancient Lithgow family crest is an otter and a Latin motto translated means " By Sea & Land" - an apt motto for the Lithgow Group. This is a global business that is proud of its heritage, concerned for its customers, appreciative of its people and proud of its independence.
Henry never married and was still living in Drums at the time of his death on 28th May 1948
This page last modified on Tuesday, April 06, 2010
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