Kincaids

THE FIRST 100 YEARS

 

From Centenary booklet 1968

 

"Engined by Kincaid". These words, reflecting as they do a sound job of work, are just as apt today as they were a century ago. As we move towards new and challenging horizons, it is fitting that we should pause and reflect on the years of effort and enthusiasm that have been invested into making the name of Kincaid what it is today.

From small beginnings in Greenock 100 years ago, the company has grown in influence and repute, earning a place for itself among the leaders of the marine engineering community in the United Kingdom.

This then is the story of Kincaid's, a story which has its roots in the bustling era of the late nineteenth century when British initiative and inventiveness was bursting on the markets of the world. The architects of change were many, but none more spirited than the engineers who took the wind out of sail and gave us the marine engine.

 

This was the time and scene which fashioned John G. Kincaid, a man of pawky humour and business acumen, traveller, adventurer, and an engineer to the core. He was born in Greenock in October, 1840, second son of a local shipmaster. He died in Greenock in April, 1924, survived by his wife and four of his six sons, and a company of secured prominence.

 

John G. Kincaid was only 28 years old when, in partnership with Mr. John Hastie and Mr. Robert Shaw Donald, he purchased the Clyde Foundry and Engine Works in East Hamilton Street, Greenock. There have been many changes since then in the scope and size of the firm, but East Hamilton Street remains as its principal works and head office. He was well fitted to the role after a liberal schooling in Greenock and in France, and an apprenticeship in Caird & Company's engine works in Arthur Street which in 1919 he was to acquire for his own growing business.

 

John G. Kincaid came into man's estate in 1861 with his first voyage to sea as junior engineer on the North German Lloyd's steamer Hansa, built by Caird & Company. He rejoined Caird's the following year, but the itch to travel was great in him. In 1864 he left home once more, this time as second engineer on another Caird built ship, the Rio Parana. The destination was Buenos Aires, a place that was to figure largely in his life and memories. While there he went to the war in Paraguay in charge of the Brazilian store steamer Ozorio. They followed the wake of the warships 1,400 miles up -the river to the sack of the capital, Asuncion.

 

On returning to Buenos Aires, Mr. Kincaid joined the owners of Rio Parana, the Compania Nueva Saltina, ultimately becoming their superintendent engineer.

 

It was while at home in 1868 ordering a new steamer for them from John Robertson & Company, whose shipyard is now the modern Cartsdyke yard of the Scott Lithgow Group, that he formed the copartnery with Messrs. Hastie and Donald, acquiring not only the Clyde Foundry but also the St. Andrew Square Engine Works of John Hastie & Company. Before long he was off again to Buenos Aires to complete his contract with Saltina, run their new ship in, and travel the South American Continent, spending a time with his two brothers in Patagonia cattle herding.

 

John G. Kincaid was not a man who wasted opportunities, for when he returned to Hastie, Kincaid & Donald he had several orders for Clyde Foundry. One of these, an engine of patented gear type, showed how sweet are the uses of adversity.

 

The shipowner was perturbed at the loud, humming noise it emitted. Mr. Kincaid went to see him during a business trip to South America and came away with a repeat order. The owner, it seems, had discovered the humming much to his advantage. It struck a chord with natives who responded by dancing on the ship's deck. Naturally his ship was favoured with their trade and his rival's ship, which had a very ordinary, certainly unmusical engine, had to do without.

 

While John G. Kincaid was a lover of music, this unexpected bonus was not to become a trademark of Kincaid engines. But he was also a man with an inventive turn of mind. For many years the firm made feed water filters and heaters, and grease extractors which he patented in conjunction with Mr. William Crockatt. Another of his patents, a stern frame, was fitted to several vessels.

 

The Clyde Foundry of the original company comprised a pattern shop, moulding shop, small smithy, turning shop, and fitting shop. Initially, it was engaged mainly on land installations, but it was both fitting and inevitable that it should turn to the sea for its livelihood.

 

Light draught stern wheelers for service on shallow rivers abroad were a feature of early Kincaid skills; funny little fellows by today's standards, but pioneers in their own way in remote and difficult trading conditions.

 

Mr. Kincaid invented a lifting and lowering gear which facilitated adjustment of the paddle wheel to accommodate variations in draught. Was it journalistic licence or a tribute to the skills of Kincaid's which prompted one Glasgow newspaper to report that they were working on two ships which were to float on heavy dew?

 

The company, however, saw that its future would be as specialists in the construction and installation of marine machinery.

 

At the outset, production was geared almost exclusively to single-cylinder non-condensing engines to drive steam lighters. These were momentous days in the development of steam engines. Surface condensers were only then being introduced and the compound engine was making its entry. In later years, the application of oil as a competitive source of power was to introduce dramatic changes in marine propulsion.

 

The effect of' the discovery of oil in the United States in 1859 had as yet not influenced the ascendancy of steam. Britain with her wealth of "black diamonds" was the power house of the world, and steam was the driving force. It is, however, interesting to recall that just as it was a Scot who invented the steam condenser, it was also a Scot, Dr. James Young known affectionately as Paraffin Young, who in 1850 invented the basic refining process which is still the key technique in oil refining.

 

Time was also to ring changes in the company of Hastie, Kincaid and Donald, emphasising the strong family link of the name Kincaid. The first of them was in 1873 when Mr. Hastie, who had a distinct interest in steam winches, steering gear, and other auxiliary equipment, retired from the copartnery and resumed occupancy of his works in St. Andrew Square to develop this business on his own. This happened at a time when the other two partners were anxious to expand into marine engineering. It was an arrangement which suited everyone. Nine years later, Mr. Donald retired. The firm was now Kincaid & Co. In 1888, a limited liability company took over and traded as Kincaid & Co. Ltd., with Mr. Kincaid acting as manager. In 1895 the company was again reconstructed as John G. Kincaid & Co., with the founder and his brother, Mr. Charles S. Kincaid, as partners. In 1906 it became a limited liability company, Mr. William Nicoll, and Mr. James S. Kincaid, the founder's second eldest son, joining the board. On the death of his father, Mr. James was to become chairman and managing director, positions he held until his death in 1940. His brother, Mr. Randal G. Kincaid succeeded him. He had already been a director for 23 years and was in charge of the London office. Mr. Kincaid later relinquished the post of managing director, but continued as chairman until his retiral in 1964. It was fitting that the long and energetic service of the Kincaid family should be marked by his appointment as president of the company.

 

There had been great changes too in the size and output of the company. Like Kincaid's, ships were growing in size and in power. In many ways the two developments were complementary.

 

In 1912, a large erecting shop was added to the west end of the Clyde Foundry. Its average clearance height was 42 feet 6 inches and it was equipped with cranes of up to 60 tons capacity. The floor was a 15 inch thickness of concrete which required no additional strengthening to support heavy items. In view of the heavy demands that were to be made on the company during the First World War, it was a timely development.

 

The war was only six months old when another modernisation programme was begun which added 30,000 square feet of floor area, the design providing galleries with 6,500 square feet floor area. The facilities provided included a new funnel shop and two machine shop bays. The smithy was extended, and new machinery installed in the machine shop. The erecting shop was extended to 320 feet long, and the railway siding brought within the range of the large overhead crane.

 

The year 1916 saw further improvements of considerable extent. Two new boiler shops, a pattern shop and store, and a coppersmiths' and plumbers' shop were completed. The impressive war record of the company was recognised by King George V in a visit to the works on September 17, 1917, and again by the Prince of Wales on March 4, 1918. Ships engined by Kincaid made an undying name for themselves in the savagery of two world wars. Names like River Clyde, San Demetrio, San Alberto, and Buloto, are enshrined in the history of the British Merchant Marine. Tremendous pressures were put on the resources of the Kincaid workforce and organisation in both wars to which they responded magnificently.

 

The acquisition of the Arthur Street Works in 1919, while obviously an event of personal pleasure to the founder, gave the company much needed elbow room. An immediate programme of modernisation was undertaken on the machinery and plant for the construction of steam engines and boilers.

 

The time was fast approaching when another development of significance was to take place, the obtaining of a sub-licence from Harland & Wolff Ltd. to build diesel engines of Burmeister & Wain design. The tussle between the oil and the coal driven ship had truly begun.

Kincaid's first Burmeister and Wain type engine was built in 1924. It was a six cylinder, 630 mm. bore, 1,300 mm. stroke, four cycle engine, developing 1,150 b.h.p. in service at 85 r.p.m. It was installed in the general cargo ship Lycia which was-,, building in Port Glasgow for Thos. & jno. Brocklebank.

 

The tremendous increases in power since then are demonstrated in the orders secured by the company in this its centenary year. Take engine number K390, the first of a series ordered by Upper Clyde Shipbuilders Ltd. in April. It too is a six cylinder engine, but it has a bore of 740 mm., a stroke of 1,600 mm., and it develops 1 I,WO b.h.p. at 124 r.p.m. The delivery of this engine will bring the output of Burmeister & Wain type engines by the company since engine number KI in 1924 to 2,000,000 b.h.p.

 

An order of considerable prestige and work value was secured two months later. It was for the largest marine diesel engine to be built in the U.K., a 12 cylinder engine developing 27,600 b.h.p. at 114 r.p.m. Another order for two engines of the same size followed.

 

Although the company continued to build steam engines for many years, the success of the diesel engine was such that in the early 1950's it was decided to concentrate marine engine production on the Burmeister & Wain range. Continual improvements in diesel engine design to provide higher power for minimal space occupancy have been of considerable aid to Kincaid's production and selling powers. The last opposed piston engine built by the firm was delivered in 1963. Since then, production has been exclusively on poppet valve engines.

 

The last steam engine order taken by the company was a triple expansion engine developing 1,93,5 i.h.p. at 68.5 r.p.m. It was delivered in 1954. It was shipped to India for installation in the Scindia Steam Navigation Company's 7alaputra.

 

But it wasn't quite the last steam engine. One of the most eventful episodes in the Kincaid history was the building in 1962 of an engine which during test bed trials recorded a brake horse power of 10 at 70 revolutions per minute. This was the engine which was to take the celebrated Comet from Greenock to Helensburgh at approxi­mately 4.4 miles per hour. It was no mean achievement, for the Comet of 1962 was a replica of Bell's Comet of 1812, Europe's first practical steam boat. Recreating the engine involved considerable historical research and a considerable degree of ingenuity. The remains of the original engine were in the Science Museum at South Kensington, but because of the extreme brittleness of the metal, the Museum authorities would not grant permission to open the cylinder or valve casing for examination.

 

This reminder of the pioneers of yesteryear was also a demonstration of the flexibility and precision of the Kincaid organisation. It had moved decisively from steam to diesel engines and in doing so, set in motion further impressive modernisation programmes to keep abreast of the latest developments. The most important of these was the construction in 1953 of a large new building in Arthur Street. This was to house the newly instituted fabrication department which was serviced by a 50 tons overhead crane with a 10 tons auxiliary lift. An area was set aside for the smithy personnel who, a short time afterwards, were transferred from the steam hammer smithy in East Hamilton Street to the newly equipped electrically powered smithy.

The Arthur Street Works has one of the few electric stress relieving furnaces in Scotland and is an extremely versatile and productive unit. The role of the works is chiefly as a supplier of fabricated sections and components for the main works' output, but it houses one of the three erection shops and does a considerable sub-contract business for various industries.

 

Arthur Street is also the location of the company's Apprentices' Training School which, when it was opened in 1949, covered an area of 1,785 square feet and had a training staff composed of an apprentice supervisor and one instructor. The course lasted three months. The facilities and the training techniques have been developed considerably since then. The school now occupies 4,200 square feet, has a modern lecture room with seating for 30 trainees, and is staffed by a supervisor and three instructors. Off-the-job training lasts for one year.

 

The apprentices' school has been well looked after in the general programme of machinery replacement. Eighteen new machines have been installed there since 1966, some small, some big, but all important to the overall concept of the training programme. Typical examples are a fly press and a horizontal milling machine.

 

Apart from this, there has been a considerable investment in new and replacement plant and machinery at the two works in recent years. Since 1959 a total of 59 machines together with ancillary equipment has been installed.

 

East Hamilton Street is particularly well equipped for machining the heavy parts of engines. The key machines for this work, a 50 foot centre crankshaft lathe, a ram boring and milling machine, and heavy vertical and horizontal drilling machines, have been replaced within the last five years. The latest machinery installed there includes a chucking automatic machine and an additional No. 9c combination turret lathe. The cranage has also been reinforced by three new cranes, the largest of them with a 75 tons lift. A fourth crane, of the hydraulic mobile type, was purchased for the Carwood Street store as an ancillary to the overhead crane.

 

At Arthur Street, heavy investment items included a 5 foot planing machine, a 72 inch vertical boring and turning mill, and a guillotine.

 

Modernisation of plant and production methods has been a constant theme of the company throughout its history. This has been matched by an enlightened approach to the welfare and security of employees. Their response has been indicative of the enthusiasm and determination of the company in its successful efforts to make the name of Kincaid a meaningful one in maritime affairs. This is reflected in the many speedy and efficient jobs undertaken for customers in various parts of the U.K.

 

An impressive expertise has been developed over the years, not only in the building of marine engines but in the installation of ships' engine rooms and of remote and automatic control systems. These are the front line forces of the company, but the reserves include many useful services to customers such as the company's Carwood Street store where auxiliary equipment, finished parts, and spares, are kept under cover in a controlled temperature until required. Owners are thus assured that valuable equipment will reach their ships in good condition.

The changes which have been witnessed since John G. Kincaid and his partners set out to build a business on a one acre site are vast and many. But one thing remains constant, the spirit and pride in craftsmanship acclaimed in the phrase 'Engined by Kincaid".

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