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Basic Biographical Details

Name: William Robertson
Designation: Engineer
Born: 13 August 1825
Died: 11 July 1899
Bio Notes: William Robertson was born at Crathie, Aberdeenshire on 13 August 1825. Early in life he moved to Dundee where he became a leading draughtsman under Peter Carmichael in the engineering department at Baxter Brothers's Dens Works. In 1856 Robertson formed a partnership with James Guthrie Orchar, also born in 1825, who had had similar experience with Kinmond, Hutton & Steele and at Portsmouth Dockyard. They took over the recently built Wallace Foundry of the now dissolved partnership of Kinmond Hutton & Steele and were very successful at once. In the following year they were commissioned to design and build J & A D Grimond's Bowbridge Works and John Smieton's Panmure Works at Carnoustie; and in 1859 D Thomson's giant spinning mill and weaving shed at Seafield Works, quickly followed by other major complexes at Brechin, Perth and Kirkcaldy. The partners also excelled in the design and manufacture of textile machinery, patents forming a significant part of their income. After about ten years in business both partners were able to build large houses, Robertson's being Balmore, Newport, a very stylish Italianate villa with a tower. Whether he designed it himself through Robertson & Orchar 's drawing office is unclear.

Robertson was active in municipal affairs. He became interim town councillor for Dundee's First Ward on the death of Baillie Foggie in 1869, and was elected to the seat in November. He quickly made his name by promoting the augmentation of the Monikie water supply from the Fithie Burn and the Crombie reservoir and strongly advocated the acquisition of the Loch of Lintrathen as a lasting solution to Dundee's water supply. He was however defeated on the route of the pipeline by Provost Yeaman, the latter's direct route proving to have too steep a fall as Robertson had predicted. In 1874 Robertson was elected a magistrate and from 1875 to 1878 he was provost. Thereafter he severed his connection with the Council but continued to play an active role in the affairs of the Royal Lunatic Asylum, Dundee Infirmary, the Mars Training Ship and Dundee High School to which he gifted the gymnasium and the technical workshops. Like his partner Orchar he was a significant art collector and a supporter of the building of the Victoria Art Galleries.

Robertson's health failed in 1898. Although he resumed attending business in the spring of 1899, his health became too precarious for him to travel thereafter. He died at Balmore on 11 July 1899, survived by his wife Elizabeth Petrie, and was buried at the Western Cemetery in Dundee.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this engineer:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 2Wallace Foundry, Dundee, ScotlandBusiness18561899 
Item 2 of 2Balmore, Newport, Fife, ScotlandPrivatec. 1869 *1899 

* earliest date known from documented sources.

Employment and Training


The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this engineer (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 1Robertson & OrcharBefore 1861 Partner 

Buildings and Designs

This engineer 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 291856Wallace Foundry  DundeeScotlandAlterations and extensive additions
Item 2 of 291857Bowbridge Works  DundeeScotlandNew buildings as specified in 'events'
Item 3 of 291857Panmure WorksCarnoustie AngusScotland 
Item 4 of 291860s(?)Albany Works, linen factoryDunfermline FifeScotlandOriginal building
Item 5 of 291860sCanmore WorksDunfermline FifeScotland 
Item 6 of 291860s(?)Castlebrae WorksDunfermline FifeScotland 
Item 7 of 291860s(?)Pilmuir Linen WorksDunfermline FifeScotlandParts of the works
Item 8 of 29c. 1860Linen WorksForfar AngusScotlandPossibly
Item 9 of 291861Seafield Works  DundeeScotland 
Item 10 of 291863Johnstone's FactoryEast Wemyss FifeScotland 
Item 11 of 291864Den Burn WorksBrechin AngusScotland 
Item 12 of 291864South Street worksForfar AngusScotland 
Item 13 of 29c. 1864Eden Valley Linen WorksFreuchie FifeScotland'Probably' (HS)
Item 14 of 291865Larchfield Works  DundeeScotland'Probably' (HS)
Item 15 of 291865Pleasance WorksFalkland FifeScotland 
Item 16 of 291867Canmore WorksForfar AngusScotlandAttribution by Mark Watson
Item 17 of 291867Marywell Brae WorksKirriemuir AngusScotland 
Item 18 of 291868Wallace WorksPerth PerthshireScotland 
Item 19 of 291869Gairie Linen WorksKirriemuir AngusScotland 
Item 20 of 291870St Margaret's WorksDunfermline FifeScotland 
Item 21 of 291872Caldrum Works  DundeeScotlandSpinning mill and factory
Item 22 of 291874The Victoria Road Calender  DundeeScotland 
Item 23 of 291874 or 1885Camperdown, Calender  DundeeScotlandDesigned the Calender machine (originally in Bowbridge Works) but mioved to Camperdown.
Item 24 of 291876Victoria Works (Castleblair Ltd)Dunfermline FifeScotland 
Item 25 of 291882Caldrum Works  DundeeScotlandSheds extended to Main Street frontage. Bag factory and mechanics shop
Item 26 of 291887Caldrum Works  DundeeScotlandSheds extended to Main Street frontage
Item 27 of 291894Mid Wynd Works  DundeeScotlandCloth warehouses in Hawkhill
Item 28 of 291895Mid Wynd Works  DundeeScotlandFour powerloom sheds
Item 29 of 29Before 1898Unspecified worksKirkcaldy FifeScotland 


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this engineer:
Item 1 of 3Dundee Yearbook1899    
Item 2 of 3Johnston, W T Scottish Engineers and Shipbuilders   
Item 3 of 3Scotlands People Website Wills & Testaments  Cupar Sheriff Court Sc20/50/79, 80, 81

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this engineer:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 1The Piper of Dundee26 July 1899