Clockmakers of the Falkirk District

There are many good histories of clock and watch making in Scotland and so it is unnecessary here to go into the technicalities of the trade or its evolution.  Like most small towns, the people of the Falkirk area relied upon church and tolbooth clocks to provide the time and the associated bells punctuated and regulated the day.

The early clocks were relatively crude and were often repaired by local smiths.  Duncan Ker was a smith in Falkirk in 1700 but moved to Stirling in 1703 where he was admitted into the Incorporation of Hammermen that year.  Between 1704 and 1706 he erected a new clock in the steeple of the tolbooth there and was given the old clock in part payment (Whyte, 25).   The pendulum clock was invented in the 1650s and required a long case to house it – the longer the case the longer and more accurately the clock would run.  By the end of that century eight-day clocks had become the norm and longcase clocks had developed into status symbols with their ornate faces and well-constructed furniture stands made of good quality woods like mahogany.  Before long they were to be found in stately homes and lairds’ mansions.  Thirty-hour clocks were cheaper to make and helped to increase the penetration of this commodity into society.  By 1796 there was sufficient trade for a town like Bo’ness to sustain two clockmakers (Statistical Account – Bo’ness).  Writing at the same time Rev Wilson of Falkirk was impressed by the increase in the number of clocks that he had seen in his own lifetime

“It appears that in the reign of Charlemagne, there was but one clock in Europe. How different is the situation of arts and improvements now, when there are four clock and watch makers in the town of Falkirk itself!”

(Statistical Account – Falkirk). 

It was rare until the late part of that century to find them in the homes of artisans – and even less so in those of labourers.  This situation slowly changed as the number of clocks increased and by the mid-19th century ownership had descended to the working class.  They were very highly prized as this testament of 1868 makes clear:

“Skinflats, Bothkennar.  I David Wilson, formerly a coalminer, feeling that my days in this world may not be long, and fearing that there may be disputes amongst my family regarding the Eight-Day Clock that is in the possession of my Son Peter Wilson, hereby declare on soul and conscience that the said Eight Day Clock was left me by my father, to be kept by me in trust for my Son, Peter Wilson, and to be delivered by me, to the said Peter Wilson, whenever he had a use for it, and that it was delivered to the aforesaid Peter Wilson.  Witness my mark this Thirtieth day of December, Eighteen hundred and sixty-eight, in presence of these Witnesses, Peter McLaren and John Morrison, both residing in Skinflats.”

(Falkirk Archives a480.1).

An eight-day clock was also bequeathed to Helen Campbell in 1894 on the death of her father, Peter Campbell, who was a cabinet-maker in Grahams Road, Falkirk.  Peter made, amongst many other items, clock cases (Whyte, 120.)

The 19th century saw rapid change in clock and watch production.  At the beginning of the century many provincial clockmakers were buying in mass-produced parts, mostly manufactured in Birmingham.  This included the painted dial.  By the 1830s it was usual for the entire mechanism to be bought in and the local clockmakers became assemblers and retailers.  Before the close of the century the market was flooded by cheaper imports from America, Germany and France.  Over this period there was also a switch in popularity from clocks to watches.

Early Clockmakers:

Bennie, DanielFalkirk1780 (Whyte, 8)
Bower, JohnFalkirkc1800
Callander, WilliamFalkirk, Back Row1760-70s
Colman & CoFalkirkearly 19th century
Davie, WilliamFalkirk
Dobbie, GeorgeFalkirk1780s-1836
Dobbie, George Falkirk, 97 High St1850s
Dobbie, WilliamFalkirk, High Street1720-1783
Dobbie, WilliamFalkirk, 97 High St 1796-1864 Watchmaker to the Queen
Doyle, William
Frater, JPolmont
Galbraith, JohnFalkirk, High Street 1770s-1806
Gibson, PeterFalkirk1780-1793 (Whyte, 18)
Hendrie, JamesFalkirk1750s
Kier, PeterFalkirk, 97 High St 1800s-1830
McCallum, JamesFalkirkc1800 (Love Vol 1)
McNiesh, JohnFalkirk1805
Park, WalterFalkirk
Paterson, WilliamFalkirk1830s
Roy, JamesFalkirk1764-1770
Russell, JohnFalkirk, High Street1770-1817
Russell, JohnFalkirk1850s
Russell, WilliamFalkirk, High Street 1820s
Scott, WilliamFalkirk 1780s (Smith, 339)
Warden, RobertFalkirk 1790
Warden & BowerFalkirk c1780

The following more detailed accounts of some of these individuals are based on the work of James Love.

Callander, William

William Callander was a clockmaker in Falkirk in 1766. He had sasine of a property in Back Row (now Manor Street).

Campbell, Charles

Little is known of Charles Campbell, clockmaker.  He took possession of a lair at Carriden Churchyard in 1794 (CH2/61).  He died at Bo’ness on 25 November 1812 after being “many years clock and watch maker” there (EEC 27.11.1812; Smith 76).

An example of his work, c1795, is illustrated by Felix Hudson (1977, 62) and shows:

a white painted dial “Cha.s Campbell   Bo nefs”.  The spandrels are painted with a central tuft of foliage set in an arch with a lattice background.  The head arch has a set of rose heads.

Colman & Co

Colman and Company, a firm of clockmakers established in Falkirk early in the 19th century. A very handsome clock bearing their name was sold when the Napiers left Merchiston Hall.

Currer, Robert

Robert Currer was a native of Peebles and set up business at 42 High Street in Falkirk in 1839. For more about Robert Currer’s clocks, click here.

Dalgleish, Robert

Robert Dalgleish, a number of whose clocks are still extant, was in business in Falkirk in 1805.  On 23 March 1818 he was appointed by the Stintmasters to superintend the town clock, for which he was allowed a sum of two pounds sterling; he was chosen a Stintmaster in 1819; died January 1832, and was buried in the Erskine Churchyard. He also made mercury barometers.

Davie, William

Nothing is known of William Davie’s time at Falkirk.

1981-17-1 – Face with white dial, “WM DAVIE FALKIRK”. The four continents appear in the spandrels, similar to those on the Currer clock: “Europe” – Britannia with a warship and altar in the background; “Asia” –woman holding a parasol for shade with an onion-shaped dome in the background; “America” – woman with feather head-dress, a snake and crocodile, sacks; Africa – black man with bead necklace. The arch shows commerce seated on a sack with a globe to her left, a British fort in the background and a sailing ship and a steam ship to her right, an anchor and barrels.

Dobbie, William I

William Dobbie, born about 1720, appears to have begun as a clockmaker about 1751, taking over a business established in 1739.   For more about William Dobbie I and his clocks, click here.

Dobbie, George I

George Dobbie was born at Falkirk on 28 December 1765; apprenticed as a clockmaker with his father. In 1785 Dobbie competed unsuccessfully against John Russell for the duty of taking charge of the Tolbooth clock of Falkirk.   George Dobbie I married, about 1787, Agnes Rankine, daughter of John Rankine, portioner, near Carron; she predeceased him about March 1790; married, secondly, Mary Simpson. George Dobbie died in 1836, aged 71 years, and was succeeded by his son, William Dobbie II.

Dobbie, William II

William Dobbie was born 9 May 1796 and apprenticed to the business of his father, whom he succeeded in 1836.   William Dobbie, born about 1720, appears to have begun as a clockmaker about 1751, taking over a business established in 1739.   For more about William Dobbie II and his clocks, click here.

Dobbie, George II

George Dobbie II was born at Falkirk in 1828, was assumed as a partner with his father, William Dobbie, in 1852. In that year their place of business was at No. 97 High Street, now No. 111.

Galbraith, John

John Galbraith was settled in Falkirk as a clockmaker in 1778. To read more about John Galbraith, click here.

Hendrie, James

James Hendrie or Hendry, clockmaker, Falkirk, is very probably the same who, in August 1750, was paid the sum of £1 10s by Falkirk Kirk-Session “for mending the Kirk Knock”.  For more about James Hendrie and his clocks, click here.

Hill, George

Hill’s wife died of cholera c185.  He was the only clockmaker in Bo’ness in the mid-19th century.  His son became a baillie of the burgh.  He later emigrated to Canada or Australia and died in the 1890s.

1997-45-1 – White painted dial “GEO HILL   BO’NESS”.  The painted spandrels depict the four continents – “EUROPE” showing Britannia with her arm extended in front of a white horse and a warship; “ASIA” has a woman holding a scimitar in her right hand and a book in her left, a camel to the left and a pyramid to the right; “AFRICA” has a black woman with a bow and arrow with round huts in the background; “AMERICA” is written on a tobacco barrel and the woman next to it has tobacco leaves in her headdress.  In the arch is a scene of commerce showing Britannia holding a trident with a lion at her feet.  A globe at the front right in front of a sack of “COTTON” and a barrel emphasise trade.  In the background is a fort and sailing ships.  The scene is captioned “BRITANNIA AND ST GEORGE”.

Keir, Peter

Peter Kier, clockmaker and minor poet, was settled in Falkirk before 1806. To read more about Peter Keir and his clocks, click here.

Marr, J & A

John Marr ran a watchmakers’s shop in the High Street of Falkirk from around 1847 and in 1853 took his brother Alexander into partnership.  To read more about J & A Marr and their clocks, click here.

McNiesh, John

John McNiesh is known to have operated in Falkirk in 1805 and 1807 (Smith, 259; Love Vol 2).

Private collection – a simple white painted dial with no separation of the arch giving a clean modern appearance. The spandrels each contain a pink rose and a bunch of grapes is set in the arch. Below these, following the upper curve of the clock numbers, is “JN MCNIESH”.
The wooden case is inlaid with narrow strips of boxwood and has the conventional swan neck pediment.

Roy, James

James Roy is no doubt the same who was booked apprentice to John Aitken, clockmaker, Edinburgh, in 1759. He would serve a term with Aitken not less surely than five years.  This brings us to the year 1764, and it may almost with certainty be inferred that shortly after that date he settled in Falkirk.  He is mentioned in the Kerse Papers in 1768.  He was in Falkirk in January, 1770, but in November of the same year he was settled in New York.  Roy married Elizabeth, only surviving daughter of George Wishart, shipmaster in Borrowstounness, and Marjory Waddell, his wife. The shipmaster died in 1759 and his son Robert was served his heir.  He studied for the ministry and was licensed as a preacher of the gospel.

Russell, John

John Russell, Falkirk’s most noted clockmaker, was born about 1745, at Dennyloanhead.   For more about John Russell and his clocks, click here.

Russell, William

William Russell was a younger brother of John Russell, the famous   Falkirk clockmaker.  On the death of John in 1817, William succeeded him in business.  Specimens of his clocks were known.

Warden, Robert

Robert Warden was in business in Falkirk as a clockmaker in May 1790.  He was the son of Robert Warden, hammerman in Port Glasgow, and Margaret Erskine. Presumably he became a partner in Warden and Bower, Falkirk.”  Examples of their clocks are known.

Late 19th & 20th Century Watchmakers

By the middle of the 19th century, watches were becoming more common and their greater numbers meant that the clockmaker’s trade expanded.  As they were carried about the person the need to maintain them was more evident.  Slowly the name of those charged with this task changed from clockmaker to watchmaker.  They improved, repaired and cleaned watches as well as selling new ones which were mass-produced elsewhere.

They also sold barometers, telescopes, nautical and musical instruments, jewellery, silver tableware and cutlery, silver tipped canes and batons, engraved trophies and medals, as well as acting as agents for such things as plate glass insurance companies.  Small items of furniture such as writing boxes, caskets and jewellery boxes were often provided by the shops, with individual engraved plaques when required.  Some doubled as opticians and some even sold guns.

Aitchison, LawrenceFalkirk, 142 High St1837-1852(Love Vol 1). Moved to 48 Argyle Arcade, Glasgow, in 1852 where he retired November 1884 (FH 5.2.1852, 1; North British Daily Mail, 4 November 1884, 8 ).
Andrew, RobertFalkirk

Denny, Main St

Denny, 41 Stirling St


Native of Stewarton. Robert Andrew opened a shop in Main St, Denny, on 20 June 1874
next door to Thomas Edgar’s boot and shoe shop. He had been with Thomas Fleming of Falkirk. Aged 32 in 1881 census. He started a motor service in 1924. Died 12 November 1925. [FH 20.6.1874, 1a: 25.3.1876, 1; 5.12.1891, 1e; 20.9.1924, 1; 14.11.1925, 8]
Beatson, John C.Camelon, 149 Main St1895-1940(FH 3.7.1895, 3; 11.9.1897, 5). Died c1940; closed during Second World War.
Bell, Allan1868Pawned clocks & watches left with him for repair (FH 3.12.1868, 4).
Brown, AlexanderStenhousemuir1878-c1900(FH 31.8.1878, 1). Native of Larbert. Watchmaker, aged 28, boarding with the Kay family in 1881 census. Retired to Edinburgh. Died February 1922.
Buchanan, AndrewDenny1850s-1876(FH 26 July 1855, 3). Andrew Buchanan died in 1876 and his stock was sold off (FH 6.4.1876, 4).
Buchanan, JohnFalkirk1901Tenant at 1 Campfield St.
Burns, AlexanderFalkirk

Falkirk, 91 High St (Wilson’s Buildings)

Falkirk, 142 High St


Business sequestered October 1853 (FH 20.10.1853,1). Returned May 1855 (FH 3.5.1855,2), but put in Trust 1856.
Callander, William BrownFalkirk, 151 High St

Falkirk, 130 High St

Native of Falkirk, aged 26 in 1881 (Census). (FH 1.6.1878, 1; 15.5.1897, 8). Died 11 April 1939 (FH 15.4.1939, 11). Run by brothers Thomas & James B Callander. Re-opened August 1948 by William Morrison (FH 28.8.1948, 1).
Campbell, CharlesBo’ness1770-1812Took possession of a lair at Carriden Churchyard in 1794 (CH2/61). Died at Bo’ness on 25 November 1812 after many years clock and watch maker there (EEC 27.11.1812; Smith 76).
CampbellBo’ness1883(FH 10.10.1883, 3).
Chisholm, JohnSlamannan1896-1897(FH 16.6.1897, 7). He was really a jeweller and later active in the local Masonic Lodge; died March 1927.
Colquhoun, P.G.Grangemouth, Grange St.1890-1891(FH 17.5.1890, 8). Retired June 1891 (FH 24.6.1891, 1).
Connochie, JamesFalkirk, High St.1888Son of Caroline Connachie, the keeper of the Temperance Hotel in Falkirk. Aged 19 and already a watchmaker in 1881 census. (FH 24.11.1888, 1; 18.3.1891, 5)
Cooper, RichardFalkirk-1841Died 25 October 1841 (Love Vol 3).
Crawford, George ScrimgeourFalkirk, High St.1836(Smith, 91; Pigot’s Directory 1837). Married the daughter of Peter Kier (Love Vol 2).
Cullen, DavidFalkirk1840s
Currer, AndrewFalkirk, 42 High St.1870-1890Died 8 March 1890 (FH 12.3.1890, 1).
Currer, RobertFalkirk, 42 High St.1839-1875Native of Peebles. Elected town councillor, director of Falkirk Industrial School and the Town Mission, looked after town clock. His younger brothers John & James worked with him. Retired & business sold to William Muir 1875. Died 27 January 1878 (FH 31.1.1878, 4).
Currer & SonFalkirk1890-(FH 3.12.1890, 2). William Currer.
Dalgleish, RobertHigh St.1798-1832Son of Simon Dalgleish, farmer in Eastheugh (Smith, 99; Whyte, 14).
Dalziel, JamesStenhousemuir, North Main St1896-(FH 27.6.1896, 8; 26.9.1914, 8). Registered as an optician under the National Health Insurance Acts 1926. Died 25 May 1944. His son, J.F. Dalziel was released from war service to take over the business (FH 1.9.1945, 2).
J & W DalzielGrahamston, 176 Grahams Rd1903-(FH 19.10.1903, 8).
Davie, WilliamFalkirk1830-1845Example of his clocks used to be at the Star & Garter in Linlithgow (Love Vol 1).
Dempster, Thomas H.Falkirk, High St.1870sApprenticed with Robert Currer for 7 years and then went into partnership with Thomas Fleming in 1867 as Dempster & Fleming (FH 26.9.1867, 1). Dissolved December 1870 and new shop opened (FH 1.12.1870, 1).
Dobbie, FBo’ness, South St.1860s-1870(FH 21.2.1867, 5; 28.5.1870, 1).
Dobbie, GeorgeFalkirk1821-1850(Smith, 111)
Dobbie, GeorgeBo’ness1870s(FH 2.7.1874, 5).
Dobbie, the MissesBo’ness, Regent House, North St-1868Shop on ground floor destroyed by fire when Custom House caught fire – stock insured (FH 6.2.1868, 2). Related to William Dobbie of Falkirk (FH 20.4.1868, 2). Employed Thomas Wilson as a watchmaker (FH 25.6.1868, 2).
Doig, WilliamPolmont1825Clock face in Grand Lodge Museum, Edinburgh (Smith, 113).
Duguid, JohnBo’ness1888(FH 14.4.1888, 6)
Easton, WalterSlamannan1877(FH 19.1.1878, 3). Seems to have taken over an older business in Slamannan.
Fleming, ThomasFalkirk, Lint Riggs

Falkirk, 36 High St

Falkirk, Vicar St

Falkirk, Glebe St



Thomas Fleming spent 5 years as an apprentice to Aitchison before the latter moved to Glasgow. Fleming then went to Edinburgh to finish his apprenticeship and continued to work there for another 13 years. Returning to Falkirk he set up a watchmaker’s business as T & W Fleming as the working partner. Another partnership in 1867 formed Dempster & Fleming, and dissolved in December 1870 (FH 10.12.1870, 1). He went bankrupt in April 1870 (FH 20.4.1871,1) before he switched to dealing in antiques. He was a town councillor (FH 26.9.1867, 1; 6 November 1907,6). Lived in Laurieston.
Galbraith, RobertFalkirk1830(Whyte, 18).
Gardner, AlexanderFalkirk, Newmarket Street1889(FH 21.12.1889,1)
Gardner, RobertSlamannan1883-1888(FH 16.6.1883, 3; 14.7.1883, 2). Died June 1888 (FH 30.6.1888, 1)
Gillies, HughFalkirk1863(Whyte, 18).
Gorrie, JamesDenny, Main St.1870s-1877Native of Methven, Block-maker till collapse of trade, self-taught watchmaker. Aged 63 in 1881 (census). Elected a Commissioner of the Burgh of Denny and appointed chief magistrate, March 1877. Died 22 November 1892 (FH 26.11.1892, 8).
Graham, AlexanderFalkirk, High St.1854-1856Set up in Alexander Burns’ shop. (FH 6.4.1854, 1).
Grierson, A.Falkirk, 162 High St.1894-1950sSon of Elizabeth Grierson, innkeeper, 38 High St, Falkirk. Watchmaker aged 18 in 1881 census. (FH 11.7.1894, 4; 31.3.1951, 2). Responsible for the clock in the Blackness War memorial.
GuthrieFalkirk, 92½ Grahams Rd1895-(FH 1.6.1895,1).
Hamilton, Gavin N.Falkirk, 29 High St.

Falkirk, 31 High St.

Native of Hamilton. Bought J & A Marr and moved from Glasgow (FH 10.2.1877, 1). Boarded with Ferguson family in 1881 aged 20 & had an apprentice (Census). Member of Falkirk Town Council. Retired May 1925 (FH 16.5.1925, 6).
Hill, GeorgeBo’ness1850s-60sGeorge Hill’s wife died of cholera, c1851 (Salmon, 420)
Hunter, W.D.Denny, Main St.

Stenhousemuir, Smithfield.

Opened 1899 (FH 25.3.1899, 4). Photographic studio destroyed by fire August 1905 (FH 19.8.1905, 5).
Jeffrey, John SmartBo’ness1870s-1901A native of Slamannan he set up shop in Bo’ness c1870. Maintain Town Clock (FH 14.6.1873, 4). Shop extended 1888. Ran the Carriers Arms public house. Member of Harbour Commission. Died 16 December 1901 (FH 21,12,1901, 7).
Kennedy, HughFalkirk1860s(FH 17.11.1864, 2).
KettrerGrahamston1870s(FH 27.10.1877, 2).
Liddell (Liddle), JohnFalkirk, Kirk Wynd
Falkirk, 118 High St
1870s-1877(FH 26.9.1874,2). Tools and stock sold 1878 (FH 2.11.1878, 2).
Mann, AndersonFalkirk, Kirk Wynd

Falkirk, Steeple Land

Falkirk, 178 High St.

From Mearns; moved to Ayr, then Glasgow, then Falkirk c1869 (1881 census – aged 41). (FH 26.1.1878, 1; 9.10.1886, 1; 1.2.1890, 8).
Marr, John & AlexanderFalkirk, High St.

Falkirk, 29 High St.

Natives of Falkirk. Alexander Marr died July 1875 falling from a train (FH 29.7.1875, 3). Business sold to Gavin Hamilton February 1877 (FH 10.2.1877, 1) John died 22 August 1888 (FH 25.8.1888, 4).
Marr, RobertFalkirk, 33 High St.Brother & heir of above Alexander Marr (Whyte, 30). Aged 47 in 1881 Census, Died c1900.
Marshall, AlexanderFalkirk1901Tenant in Thornhill Rd
MathiesonStenhousemuir1893(FH 30.12.1893, 1).
Middlemas, ThomasFalkirk, High St.186?-1867Moved from Falkirk in 1867. (FH 26.7.1866, 4; 28.3.1867,1; 2.5.1867,4).
Montgomery, W.Falkirk1850s
Muir, William CFalkirk, 44 High St1876-From Glasgow. (FH 14.10.1876, 1). Acquired business of Robert Currer. Employed 2 men. Aged 30 in 1881 Census. Repaired town clock 1896. Son Thomas qualified as an optician.
Murray, William & Margaret Airth18811881 Census – aged 23 & 26. William was from Fraserburgh.
Nicolson, James & SonFalkirk, 142 High St.

Falkirk, 5 Princes St.

A native of Pittenweem, on 1891 James Nicolson became manager of late David Strang’s business (FH 8.6.1889, 1; 5 June 1937, 9). He took over the business in 1897 (FH 16.1.1897, 4). Moved to Princes St in 1936. Died 17 April 1940.
Norval, Archibald B.Slamannan, Bank St.1891-Bought the business of late David Ure (FH 19.12.1891, 8).
Pringle, GeorgeDenny1810(Whyte, 38).
Shanks, JohnSlamannan?1870s(FH 27.11.1879, 5)
Smith, David SBo’ness1889-1890(FH 2.3.1889, 1). Moved to Linlithgow 1890.
Smith, EdwardLived in Glensburgh, Grangemouth1889-1890(FH 14.10.1903).
Smith, JamesLoan, Muiravonside1850sStole watches left to be repaired (FH 11.12.1856, 3).
Strang, DavidFalkirk, 142 High St.1857-1889Took over his brother’s shop c1857. Elected to the Board of Police Commissioners (FH23.2.1860, 2). Maintain town clock. Died 19.4.1889 (FH 20.4.1889, 1). His apprentice WJ Fletcher set up business in Belfast (FH 28.12.1889, 4). His wife continued in the Falkirk business with James Nicolson as manager until her death in 1896. Nicolson took over in 1897 (FH 16.1.1897, 4)
Strang, RobertFalkirk, High St1854-1857
Thomson, AndrewFalkirk, Glebe St/ Newmarket St1909(FH 28.5.1857, 1). Moved to Alloa & brother took over at Falkirk.
Thomson, JamesGrangemouth, Charing Cross1884-James Thomson worked for D Thomson & Co.
Thomson, RobertBo’ness1750-1788Robert Thomson, watchmaker, was in the stent list for 1753 (CH2/540/67). Died 1788 (Smith, 381-2)
Thomson, WilliamBo’ness1887(FH 24.12.1887, 5)
Towers, WalterGrangemouth, 34 Grange St
18 Lumley St
1913-1924Took over business of James Wilson (FH 8.3.1913, 1). Well known as an artist. Emigrated to New Zealand 1924 (FH 12.4.1924, 6).
Turiansky, BFalkirk, Newmarket St.1880s(Moyes Collection)
Ure, David (Dewar)Slamannan, Bank St.1891(FH 14.10.1891, 4). David Ure, a native of Doune, died at his work bench 22 November 1891.
Whyte, JohnGrahamston, Oddfellows’ Hall, 921 Grahams Rd1895-Bought business of Thomas Wilson 1895 (FH 9.3.1895, 8; 1.6.1895, 1).
Williamson, RobertFalkirk1818-1841(Smith, 394; Pigot’s Directory 1837). After his death in 1841 his business was carried on by his daughters (Love Vol 3). Clock in Smith Museum, Stirling.
Wilson, JamesGrangemouth, 34 Grange St

18 Lumley St

(FH 25.6.1887, 5) Added a branch at York Pl c1903. From 1911 regulated clock at Commercial bank. Business bought by Walter Towers 1913 (FH 8.3.1913, 1).
Wilson, ThomasBo’ness

Grangemouth, Grange Pl (Charing Cross Bldgs)

Oddfellows’ Hall, Grahamston


Employed by the Misses Dobbie (FH 5.3.1868, 2). He took over their business in 1869 following a fire (FH 3,4,1869, 1). Moved to Grangemouth May 1872 and then to Grahamston. Drowned in Union Canal 27 December 1894 (suicide?) & business sold to John Whyte (FH 2.5.1872, 1; 29.3.1884, 1; 24.5.1884,1; 2.1.1895, 4)
Wyse, JamesFalkirk1850s

J Nicolson watch paper – “J.NICOLSON,/ 142 HIGH ST,/ FALKIRK/ Watches,/ Clocks, jewellery,/ Silver & Electro Plate./ FIRST CLASS REPAIRS.” (courtesy of Allan Ronald).

After carrying out a repair or cleaning of a pocket watch it became customary for watchmakers to insert a watch paper into the back of the case as a form of advertising.


Each of these businesses took on young male apprentices aged between 12 and 14 years who did much of the repair work.  The names of only a few of these are noted in the records such as in the pages of the Falkirk Herald:

James Gibson, son of the Falkirk clock and watch maker Peter Gibson, apprentice to James Howden in Edinburgh for seven years from 14 February 1793 (Whyte 18).

William Forrester, Grangemouth, apprentice watchmaker to Gavin Hamilton. (FH 21.3.1894, 5)

John Cowie, 12 years old, apprentice watchmaker, Stenhousemuir. (FH 7.10.1896, 5).

James Feely of Grangemouth, watchmaker, served his apprenticeship with WB Callander, died September 1899 aged 34.

Edward McGregor, apprentice watchmaker, Main St, Grangepans and

James Lumsden, ditto, Bridgeness. (FH 7.10.1899, 7).

Alexander Stevenson apprentice to John Jeffrey, Bo’ness (FH 27.5.1936, 5).

George A Trapp, aged 18, apprentice watch & clock maker to his uncle Robert Marr – born in Jersey, USA (1881 Census).

Hughes, Frederick Robert

Mr Hughes was a chemist and proprietor of the Secret Works at the Links in Bo’ness.  An Englishman, he came to Bo’ness to take charge of the work, which then belonged to Mr Ashley.  He occupied a great deal of his time with astronomy and optics.  He attempted to make clocks go without any variation all the year round using mercurial pendulums – the mercury rising and falling in the pendulum bulb and compensating for the difference in length of the pendulum rod caused by the changeable heats of summer and winter.  He eventually worked his principal clock in a chamber underground, where he got a more equable temperature and controlled his other clocks from the primary one.  Hughes died on 11 March 1895, aged 87 years, and was interred in the Lower Churchyard, along with his wife Sarah and daughter Eliza.


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Love, J.1925Local Antiquarian Notes and Queries. Volume 3.
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G.B. Bailey, 2021