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William McGeoch - The Founding Father
Published 7th January 2019
1807 - 1896
To explain the circumstances in which the firm of William McGeoch & Company was founded, we can do no better than
quote the following extract from the ‘Glasgow Citizen’ …
“Among those who heard the stories of the gold in Glasgow’s smoke and dust was William
McGeoch, a Wigtownshire farmer’s son who had already broken away from the land to work in
a lawyer’s office. Now he had left law too and joined the great drift to the city where he became
apprenticed to a local ironmongery firm - John Stewart & Company.
By 1832 his ‘time was out’ and he had saved enough money to start up in business for himself.
It is an indication of the young man’s confidence that he opened his first warehouse for general
and marine ironmongery, not in any obscure side street, but in Argyle Street (right), the busiest
thoroughfare in the city.”
It was evident in 1832 that the city of Glasgow was growing rapidly - its population was now over
200,000 compared to 77,000 at the turn of the century and this would obviously mean an
increased demand for products of every sort. No doubt the first William figured that ironmongery would be a good trade to
start with which had prompted him to learn his trade from John Stewart.
William’s premises in Argyle Street were only a short walk from Broomielaw
and the River Clyde (left) in which it might be said that the future of his
business was chiefly to lie. He must have studied the trade that ship
chandlers were doing with small coasters which were able to use Broomielaw
where the depth of water at low tide was seven to eight feet, just deep
enough to float a small ship. But the year before he started in 1831, an event
had taken place not far away which had very great significance for him. The
first iron ship ever to be launched anywhere in the world emerged from the
Garscube Road Foundry of John Neilson providing Clydesiders interested in
marine affairs with a huge new industry and opportunity.
Browsing among chandlers’ stocks, William decided that he could take a
share of that business with copper and brass lanterns, tarry twine, marlinspikes, coir mats, deck and cabin stocks of every
kind His love of the sea and ships became one of the more deeply established family traits which would reveal themselves
fully in future years.
In 1835, William married a Miss Helen Jackson and they were destined to have a large family which included four sons –
Andrew, William, Alexander and John. All of them except John would enter the business in due course.
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