Business & Innovation

Business & Innovation

It could be argued, that from the late 18th century, East Renfrewshire’s history becomes a tale of the ambition and innovation of people of business who were able to harness advances in technology, particularly in the area of manufacturing.

The Industrial Revolution was the movement from hand production to the production of goods by machine. This allowed items to be made in quantities vast in comparison to what would have been possible before. The introduction of water and steam power allowed the creation of large mills and factories, requiring a large workforce. People were drawn to the new employment opportunities and towns and villages grew up where only farmland had previously existed. Busby, Thornliebank, Neilston and Barrhead all grew rapidly as the textile industry expanded, and local landowners in Eaglesham and Netherlee were eager to encourage entrepreneurs to establish mills and printworks on their land. The population boomed and our landscape and way of life was changed forever. As the textile industry waned in East Renfrewshire in the second half of the 19th century, heavy industry and engineering came to the fore with Shanks of Barrhead and Andersons of Mearns being prime examples.

Modern day East Renfrewshire was shaped by this industrial past but who were the people behind this transition?

In this section, we explore some key figures in local business and innovation from the 18th century onwards. While some went on to enjoy great success, wealth and status others fared less well such as John Robertson, who despite possessing a great talent for invention, died penniless. However, all can be said to have played their part in East Renfrewshire’s larger story.

Walter Crum (1796-1867)

Pioneering scientist and industrialist whose work advanced the fortunes of the Thornliebank Printworks

John Robertson (1782-1868)

Developed the steam engine for The Comet, the first successful steamship to sail commercially in Europe.

John Shanks (1826-1895)

Plumber, engineer and prolific inventor who was the founder and driving force behind Shanks & Co., Barrhead

William Weir

Managing Director of Weirs and served in roles in government, politics and industry. From 1914 resided in Eastwood House, Giffnock

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