Basic Biographical Details

Name: James Abernethy
Designation: Ironfounder
Born: 1809
Died: 1879
Bio Notes: James Abernethy was born in 1809, one of the three sons and five children of James Abernethy, iron-founder and his wife Anne Harvey. The elder Abernethy had established an iron founding and sawmilling business in partnership with George and Robert Tower of Ferryhill and Alexander Gibbon, an advocate in Aberdeen. Abernethy senior may have been assisted in the business by his brother George.

James junior was educated at Aberdeen Grammar School and Marischal College, Aberdeen and served his articles with his father. He also gained experience as a journeyman in Manchester, Birmingham and London. He returned to the family firm at Ferryhill and subsequently, assisted by his brothers, gradually took over running the business, James Abernethy & Co.

The business of the firm was quite varied at the beginning and included machinery for mills and processing machinery for colonial tea and sugar plantations and for guano extraction. Although the firm tried to dispense with the mill-wrighting side of the business, it still made mill machinery throughout the 19th century. However after 1850 the main business was bridges, generally to the designs of others, like Alexander Gibb and James Willet. Abernethy & Co provided the expertise as fabricators of cast and wrought iron structures. The bridges were generally for the Great North of Scotland Railway. By 1882 the GNSR had more than 300 under-bridges with cast-iron beams as well as many arch and lattice-girder bridges.

In 1841 Abernethy married Isabella Bathia Wyllie, the daughter of an Aberdeen bookseller. The couple had two sons. Abernethy was elected an Associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1866.

He died in 1879, his practice being continued by his sons, James Washington Abernethy, born 1845, and David Wyllie Abernethy, born 1848. The business continued until the mid-20th century.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this ironfounder:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 1Ferryhill Cottage, Aberdeen, ScotlandPrivate 1879(?) 

Buildings and Designs

This ironfounder was involved with the following buildings or structures from the date specified (click on an item to view details):
 Date startedBuilding nameTown, district or villageIslandCity or countyCountryNotes
Item 1 of 161829Wellington Suspension Bridge over River DeeCraiglug AberdeenshireScotlandEngineer, with Samuel Brown
Item 2 of 161842Aberdeen Harbour, navigation lights  AberdeenScotland 
Item 3 of 161854Park Bridge over River DeeDrumoak AberdeenshireScotlandWas the ironfounder
Item 4 of 161859(?)Bridge of NeweStrathdon AberdeenshireScotlandActed as engineer and contractor and manufactured parts
Item 5 of 161860sHarbourFraserburgh AberdeenshireScotlandImprovements
Item 6 of 161862Bridge at DinnetDinnet AberdeenshireScotland 
Item 7 of 161864Tanglandford Bridge over River YthanMethlick AberdeenshireScotland 
Item 8 of 161865Aberdeen Joint Passenger Station  AberdeenScotland 
Item 9 of 161865Cairnton-Aberdeen aqueduct, iron pipework  AberdeenshireScotland 
Item 10 of 161867Quendale MillQuendaleMainlandShetlandScotland 
Item 11 of 161870Bishopmill Bridge over the River LossieElgin MorayshireScotland 
Item 12 of 161872Bridge over River DeveronMilltown of Rothiemay BanffshireScotland 
Item 13 of 161874Aberdeen Harbour, North Pier  AberdeenScotlandConsultant to Cay for concrete extension.
Item 14 of 161875HarbourFraserburgh AberdeenshireScotlandBalaclava Pier was widened and the Balaclava Breakwater, Lighthouse and Lifeboat Jetty were built
Item 15 of 161875Suspension footbridge, WhitesandsDumfries DumfriesshireScotland 
Item 16 of 161892Polhollick Suspension Bridge over the River DeeGlenmuick AberdeenshireScotlandConstruction


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this ironfounder:
Item 1 of 2Abernethy, John Scott1897The life and work of James Abernethy CD FRSE Past President of the Institution of Civil Engineers London 
Item 2 of 2Johnston, W T Scottish Engineers and Shipbuilders   

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this ironfounder:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 1Robert Gordon's University ArchiveCollection of plans, manuscripts etc Information per Jim Fiddes