Dobbie, Forbes and Company

Ironfounders of Larbert

Founded in 1872 by Robert Dobbie and his brother-in-law, Peter Forbes (Dobbie was married to Catherine Dick and Forbes to her sister, Charlotte). Robert Dobbie, a moulder to trade, had gone from the Camelon Foundry to Ure & Company of Bonnybridge (George Ure, James Smith & Stephen Wellstood) in 1860. He left Ure & Co. in 1864, to become assistant manager of the Smith & Wellstood warehouse at Bonnybridge, becoming manager in 1867 after the retiral of Stephen Wellstood. He left Bonnybridge in 1869 to set up an iron merchant’s warehouse in Glasgow, called Dobbie and Rennie. At this time, Dobbie didn’t have the manufacturing capability, so, emulating the early methods of Smith & Wellstood, he had his castings made by Crosthwaite’s Union Foundry at Camelon. After this, Dobbie continued at Glasgow under his own name, but in 1872, he and Peter Forbes, who was described as a manufacturing chemist in Glasgow, but who, as well as his family connection with Dobbie, was also a brother-in-law of James Jones (later of James Jones & Sons and Jones & Campbell), founded the Larbert Works, on ground at North Broomage, bought from the Russell family of Carron.

The new foundry, close to the Caledonian Railway, became something of a family affair, as Dobbie soon installed his brothers within various departments. Thomas Dobbie was foreman fitter, George Dobbie eventually became foreman pattern maker, and William Dobbie was a clerk. Robert even brought his father Scott into the business as warehouse manager and later a distant relative, Campbell Ferguson, formerly of Campbell Ferguson & Co., Bonnybridge. Smith & Wellstood took an action against Dobbie, Forbes & Co. at Glasgow Sheriff Court in 1874, for using their trademark ‘Trafford’ on ranges made by Dobbie, Forbes. The Company was fined £500 costs and forbidden to use the trade mark. He continued to make the range, but under another name, ‘The Colonist’. After the death of Peter Forbes in 1876, Dobbie’s new partners were William and James Couper of Glasgow, William Dick junior of Falkirk (his brother-in-law), and William Haden Richardson. George Dobbie, William Haden Richardson, James Couper and Mr John Cameron Walker, were the partners at the time of Robert Dobbie’s death in 1908.

The number of employees in 1880 was 150, and in 1913 it was 600. Their products included stoves, ranges and light castings and in 1905 had even dabbled in the construction of a motor car. After his brother’s death, George Dobbie became manager, his partner being John Cameron Walker. George Dobbie died in 1932 aged 80 years, followed not long after by Walker. In 1934, Dobbie, Forbes, & Co. became part of Allied Ironfounders, with Mr J. R. Walker, son of John Cameron Walker, carrying on as manager. The name ‘Allied Ironfounders’ was later dropped in favour of ‘Glynwed‘ and then to that of the Falcon Catering Co. In 2002, the Falcon Catering Company intimated that they planned to vacate their premises in Foundry Loan, Larbert, and move to a new site at Carronshore. However, the company finally moved to a Stirling location in 2003, and in 2005, the Works and offices in Foundry Loan were demolished.

Robert Dobbie is still remembered today as a great benefactor to the people of Larbert and Stenhousemuir – every year since 1910, four of the local bowling clubs have competed for the “Dobbie Trophy”.

Brian Watters (2006)