Red Clydeside: A history of the labour movement in Glasgow 1910-1932


Sir William Beardmore, 1920s

image from Red Clydeside collection

William Beardmore was born at Greenwich in Kent on 16 Oct 1856, the first son of William Beardmore of Parkhead, Glasgow, and Sophie Louisa Holfman. William junior was educated at Glasgow High School and Ayr Academy, completing his studies at the Royal Technical College in Glasgow and the Royal School of Mines in London. William junior also attended evening classes at Anderson's College in Glasgow where he studied chemistry and mathematics. He served his apprenticeship at Parkhead Forge, a steel making and engineering works founded in 1837 in the east end of Glasgow.

After his father died Beardmore took his place as partner in a moderately successful engineering business, which made boilers for the thriving railway and ship-building industries. In 1899 he was able to buy a shipyard at Govan on the Clyde, which he soon built into the largest industrial concern in Scotland employing more than 40,000 men. Further expansion followed, taking over the Arroll Johnston vehicle plant and the Mossend steel works, along with a new shipyard at Dalmuir. Beardmore became a major armaments supplier in the years leading up to the first world war, building battleships, submarines, tanks and aircraft.

Although ostensibly an industrialist Beardmore was also known for his patronage of certain pursuits, and he famously sponsored Shackleton's 1907 Antarctic expedition. This sponsorship resulted in one of the world's largest glaciers being named after him. He was created a baronet in 1914 and raised to the peerage as Lord Invernairn in 1921. William Beardmore died at home at 'Flichity House' in Inverness-shire on 9 Apr 1936 of heart failure aged 79.

Source: Beardmore Collection, Glasgow University Archives