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Basic Biographical Details

Name: James Robertson Laidlaw
Designation: Architect
Born: July 1935
Bio Notes: James Robertson Laidlaw was born in Edinburgh in July 1935. He attended George Watsons College, leaving in May 1951 to join the firm of David Carr & Stuart Matthew in Lynedoch Place as an apprentice draughtsman. In 1952 he commenced the six-year course in architecture at Edinburgh College of Art, at that time consisting of a combination of full- and part-time study. His full-time study began in September 1955. He was awarded the Andrew Grant Travelling Scholarship. He was president of the Art College SCR from 1957. During the summer vacations he worked for the Ministry of Works and Law & Dunbar-Nasmith. He graduated in 1958, being admitted ARIBA and ARIAS the following year.

After qualification he joined A H Mottram & Son, Frederick Street, Edinburgh to work on the design of Craigroyston Secondary School. He remained with Mottram Patrick until 1961 when he joined Fairbrother Hall and Hedges, working under Douglas Haig Bamber to undertake further school projects. The practice was renamed Bamber & Hall when David Hall was assumed partner.

Laidlaw married ****in 1962. In September 1965 he appointed a partner in the practice, and very busy years followed with the combination of increasing practice and family responsibilities. He began to take an interest in professional matters and served on various committees of EAA. He purchased a site at Colinton in 1967 which enabled him to design a family home which, with extensions, served for 35 years.

In December 1968 the practice moved from Rutland Square to Caledon House Liberton. From late 1969 there was a downturn in the economy which had severe consequences for the practice. The staff was reduced and three partners left the practice, the firm continuing under the direction of Bamber and Laidlaw. In 1971 both were assumed Fellows of the RIAS. That year the firm took over the practice of Charles Gray, the principal, Charles William Gray retiring immediately and Gilbert Gray and Ernest Lovett becoming partners in the renamed firm, Bamber Gray.

In 1973 Laidlaw diversified by establishing a West End restaurant ‘The Howtowdie’ together with two friends. This proved an immediate success but began to absorb too much time. He therefore relinquished his interest after a few years. Also about this time he helped establish the Chord Housing Society (later amalgamated with Edinvar) and joined the board of the Fire Prevention Council (Scotland) but in 1974 a severe bout of illness curtailed his activities for some months.

In 1975 Douglas Bamber retired from practice with Laidlaw becoming senior and managing partner with J Fyfe being introduced as partner. The practice continued to expand and prosper, taking on more jobs, the geographical spread of which widened. More staff was taken on to cope with the increased workload and larger client base. In Aberdeen the practice was involved with the establishment of Langstane Housing Association and in Dundee with the Gowrie Housing Association, which meant much travel for Laidlaw at this time. A branch office in Aberdeen was opened in 1984, and housing work followed from the connections with the housing associations and from other new as well as established clients.

Laidlaw maintained his involvement with professional matters throughout this period, joining the Councils of the EAA in 1977, the RIAS in 1978 and RIBA in 1982. He was appointed High Constable of Edinburgh and Fellow of Royal Society of Arts in 1988, member of the Architects Registration Council, the Board of Architectural Education and Governor of Edinburgh College of Art in 1993. He also became a trustee and council member of the Architects Benevolent Society.

As the workload grew and demands and responsibilities on him showed no sign of diminishing, as well as there being few opportunities to enjoy the practice of architecture at design level, Laidlaw decided to stand for election to the Presidency of RIAS. He was duly elected and retired from practice after twenty-eight years as partner, eighteen as senior partner and was able to devote his time to the profession in Scotland. He continued to undertake arbitration and witness work as well as accepting some directorships. He was also able to develop his other interests while continuing as consultant to the practice. He retired from consultancy work in 1997, though continued working in various capacities until fully retiring in 2002.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 32, Ashley Grove, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate1959 *After 1960 
Item 2 of 323, Royal Terrace, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate1965 *  
Item 3 of 3Caledon House/73, Kirkbrae, Liberton, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusinessBefore 1970After 1994 

* earliest date known from documented sources.

Employment and Training


The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 4Bamber Gray & Partners 1997Partner 
Item 2 of 4Carr & Matthew1951 Apprentice 
Item 3 of 4A H Mottram & SonLate 1958December 1960Assistant 
Item 4 of 4Bamber Hall & Partnersc. 1967 Partner 

Buildings and Designs

This architect 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 911950Pinkie HouseMusselburgh MidlothianScotlandAdditions and alterations as apprentice with Carr & Matthew
Item 2 of 91After 1951Hopetoun cottages, Hopetoun estate  West LothianScotlandRefurbishment?
Item 3 of 91After 1951Hopetoun HouseAbercorn West LothianScotlandAlterations? - as apprentice with Carr & Matthew
Item 4 of 91After 1951Hopetoun Mausoleum  West LothianScotlandRepairs
Item 5 of 91After 1951Kirkcaldy Town HallKirkcaldy FifeScotlandFurther work?
Item 6 of 91After 1951Linburn House and other buildings on siteWilkieston MidlothianScotlandFurther work - as apprentice with Carr & Matthew
Item 7 of 91After 1951Linburn House Estate, Housing for the BlindWilkieston MidlothianScotlandAs apprentice with Carr & Mtthew
Item 8 of 91After 1951R W Forsyth Ltd Department Store  EdinburghScotlandAlterations - as apprentice with Carr & Matthew
Item 9 of 91After 1951Thistle Foundation, Robin Chapel  EdinburghScotlandAs apprentice with Carr & Matthew
Item 10 of 911952Meadowfield Housing Estate  EdinburghScotlandAs aprentice with Carr & Matthew
Item 11 of 911953Astley Ainslie Hospital  EdinburghScotlandAlterations and additions - as apprentice with Carr & Matthew
Item 12 of 911959Craigroyston High SchoolCraigroyston EdinburghScotlandWorked as assistant to Mottram on the school.
Item 13 of 911959Ferranti, Laboratories (Electronics, Gyroscopic, and Environmental)Crewe Toll EdinburghScotland 
Item 14 of 911959St Cuthbert's Co-operative Association Premises  EdinburghScotlandAs apprentice - alterations?
Item 15 of 91Late 1950sSt Cuthbert's Co-operative Association Department Store and Dairy  EdinburghScotlandAlterations?
Item 16 of 911960sLibraryBroxburn West LothianScotland 
Item 17 of 911960sUphall Primary SchoolUphall West LothianScotland 
Item 18 of 91Before 1960Caledonian Brewery  EdinburghScotlandAlterations? As assistant
Item 19 of 91c. 1960Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, east gates and lodge  EdinburghScotland 
Item 20 of 911962Comprehensive Secondary School, West CalderWest Calder MidlothianScotlandAs assistant
Item 21 of 911962Factory for Ferranti, Thornybank [Thorniebank]Dalkeith MidlothianScotland 
Item 22 of 911962Tranent Fire StationTranent East LothianScotland 
Item 23 of 911964Fire Station, McDonald Road  EdinburghScotland 
Item 24 of 911964Marionville Fire Station & 3 HousesMarionville EdinburghScotlandUncertain if inolved at this stage
Item 25 of 911966Crewe Toll Fire StationCrewe Toll EdinburghScotland 
Item 26 of 911966Factory for Ferranti Ltd., DundeeDundee Industrial Estate DundeeScotlandManufacturing area & two-storey office block. Optical laboratories added at some point in 1960s.
Item 27 of 911966Ferranti , Silverknowes PremisesSilverknowes EdinburghScotland 
Item 28 of 911966Ferranti Ltd FactoryGorgie EdinburghScotland 
Item 29 of 911967Craigshill Fire StationLivingston West LothianScotland 
Item 30 of 911967Craigshill Fire StationLivingston West LothianScotland 
Item 31 of 911967Dalkeith Fire StationDalkeith MidlothianScotland 
Item 32 of 911967Holy Rood RC Secondary SchoolDuddingston Edinburgh  
Item 33 of 911967Portobello Secondary SchoolPortobello EdinburghScotland 
Item 34 of 911969St Augustines School  EdinburghScotland 
Item 35 of 91After 1969Preston Lodge Secondary SchoolPrestonpans East LothianScotland 
Item 36 of 91Late 1960sBridgeton Telephone ExchangeBridgeton GlasgowScotlandExtensions
Item 37 of 91Late 1960sFerranti Ltd North Berwick East LothianScotland 
Item 38 of 91Late 1960sFerranti Ltd offices and laboratories  AberdeenScotland 
Item 39 of 91Late 1960sGreenwell Housing DevelopmentFauldhouse West LothianScotland 
Item 40 of 91Late 1960sHostel for Scout CouncilBonaly EdinburghScotland 
Item 41 of 91Late 1960sHousing DevelopmentLinlithgowbridge West LothianScotland 
Item 42 of 91Late 1960sTelephone ExchangeCumbernauld LanarkshireScotlandExtensions
Item 43 of 911970s49 houses for Edinvar Housing AssociationCurrie MidlothianScotland 
Item 44 of 911970sBank of ScotlandGorebridge MidlothianScotland 
Item 45 of 911970sGracemount Secondary School  EdinburghScotlandExtensions
Item 46 of 911970sHousing for Edinvar Housing AssociationLeith EdinburghScotlandReconstruction
Item 47 of 911970sNazareth House  Newcastle-upon-TyneEnglandReconstruction
Item 48 of 911970sOld People's Home, Winton ParkPort Seton East LothianScotland 
Item 49 of 911970sPhilipstoun Housing DevelopmentPhilipstoun West LothianScotland 
Item 50 of 911970sRoyal Bank of ScotlandWest Calder West LothianScotland 
Item 51 of 91After 1970Steil's InstitutionTranent East LothianScotlandUpgrading and extensions
Item 52 of 911971Henderson Technical SchoolHawick RoxburghshireScotland2-storey block, Free Church Lane (?)
Item 53 of 911971Lothian Regional Council Water Department officeFairmilehead EdinburghScotland 
Item 54 of 91After 1971Offices and laboratories for SE Scotland Water Board  EdinburghScotland 
Item 55 of 91After 1971Shops and Offices for Scottish ProvidentPenicuik MidlothianScotland 
Item 56 of 911972Fife and Kinross District AsylumSpringfield, Cupar FifeScotlandWards upgraded
Item 57 of 911972Lynebank Mental HospitalDunfermline FifeScotlandUnspecified work
Item 58 of 911973Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, blood transfusion unit and laboratories  EdinburghScotland 
Item 59 of 911973The Howtowdie restaurant  EdinburghScotlandAlterations to form restaurant
Item 60 of 911973West Fife Infectious Diseases HospitalDunfermline FifeScotlandWards upgraded
Item 61 of 911974Dunfermline College of Physical Education, EdinburghCramond estate Edinburgh, MidlothianScotlandAlterations? Additions?
Item 62 of 911974Heriot-Watt University, Chemical and Process DepartmentRiccarton MidlothianScotland 
Item 63 of 911974Heriot-Watt University, Mechanical Engineering DepartmentRiccarton MidlothianScotland 
Item 64 of 911974Liberton Fire StationLiberton EdinburghScotland 
Item 65 of 911974Napier Technical College  EdinburghScotlandAlterations? Additions?
Item 66 of 91Before 1975Club for Miners' WelfareGilmerton EdinburghScotland 
Item 67 of 91Before 1975Supermarket for G & P Merchants  EdinburghScotland 
Item 68 of 91Before 1975Supermarket for I MckayPenicuik MidlothianScotland 
Item 69 of 911976JohnstounburnHaddington East LothianScotlandAlterations
Item 70 of 911976Langstane Housing Association Development and Langstane HostelBloomfield AberdeenScotland 
Item 71 of 911977St Ronan RC Church, LadytonBonhill DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 72 of 91197932 Abercromby Place  EdinburghScotlandAlterations
Item 73 of 911979Burton's Biscuit FactorySighthill EdinburghScotland 
Item 74 of 911979Calton Studios  EdinburghScotlandConversion
Item 75 of 911979Drumsheugh Baths  EdinburghScotlandAlterations
Item 76 of 91c. 1980Factory for FerrantiEllon AberdeenshireScotlandAlterations
Item 77 of 91c. 1980Ferranti Ltd offices and laboratories  AberdeenScotlandAlterations
Item 78 of 91c. 1980Nazareth House  AberdeenScotlandAlterations
Item 79 of 91c. 19815-43 Leith Street  EdinburghScotlandComprehensive rehabilitation and extension
Item 80 of 91c. 198169 flatsCraigmillar EdinburghScotlandRehabilitation
Item 81 of 91c. 1981Factory & Warehouses for Regional Properties  EdinburghScotlandAlterations and refurbishment
Item 82 of 91c. 1981Playing fields and landscapingGyle EdinburghScotland 
Item 83 of 91c. 1981Queensberry House  EdinburghScotlandExtensions and alterations
Item 84 of 911983Chord Housing DevelopmentCurriemuir MidlothianScotland 
Item 85 of 911985Queensberry House  EdinburghScotlandRestoration
Item 86 of 911985Stornoway Airport fire stationStornowayLewisRoss & CromartyScotlandAs consultant
Item 87 of 911989Burgher ChapelCulross FifeScotlandConversion to residential use
Item 88 of 91Late 1980sBanner of Truth warehouseSughthill EdinburghScotland 
Item 89 of 911991Lycee francais  LondonEngland 
Item 90 of 911992Gowrie Housing Association housingSinderins DundeeScotland 
Item 91 of 911993East Lothian Housing Association housing developmentGifford East LothianScotland 


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 6RIBA1961Kalendar 1960-61   
Item 2 of 6RIBA1965The RIBA Kalendar   
Item 3 of 6RIBA1970RIBA Directory 1970   
Item 4 of 6RIBA1979Directory of members   
Item 5 of 6RIBA1984RIBA Directory of members   
Item 6 of 6RIBA1994A Directory of RIBA Members   

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 1RIAS NewsletterSeptember 1997v8, no7  

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 2Courtesy of James Robertson LaidlawInformation sent to Dictionary Sent April 2010
Item 2 of 2RIAS, Rutland SquareRecords of membership  


© All rights reserved. ©and courtesy of RIAS 

© All rights reserved. ©and courtesy of RIAS