JAMES CARMICHAEL, the celebrated engineer, whose name is so intimately associated with the rise and progress of Scotch, engineering, was born in Glasgow in the year 1776. His father, Mr George Carmichael, was the senior partner of the firm of Messrs George and James Carmichael, Brothers, merchants in the Trongate,
Glasgow. James had the misfortune to lose his father when only ten years of age ; and his mother, having disposed of her share of the business, returned, with her family of five children, to her native placeóthe village of Pentland, in Midlothian. In due time, James Carmichael was bound apprentice as a country millwright to his maternal uncle, a Mr Umpherston, of Loanhead, who was the fourth generation of the same family who had carried on the trade
of millwrights in the same place. It need hardly be remarked, that, in this retired village of Midlothian, seventy-five years ago, there were none of the opportunities for obtaining knowledge now so common, and so easily procured by young men, in the shape of libraries. In fact, few books on the subject of mechanics and mill work were at that time in existence. Mr Umpherston, however, was a person of more than ordinary intelligence, and procured all the information he possibly could, in connection with his profession, which he freely imparted to his apprentices. Under such an able and conscientious instructor, young Carmichaelówho, at very early age, had given striking indications of possessing a highly mechanical geniusóobtained a thorough knowledge of his trade, and became, indeed, a skilled workman. At the expiry of his apprenticeship, he went to Glasgow, and entered the service of
Messrs Thomson & Buchanan, cotton spinners, Adelphi Works. As indicating the very intimate acquaintance with the science of mechanics and engineering which he had even at this early period, it may be mentioned that, while in the employment of this firm, he assisted Mr Buchanan in getting up the ' Tables ' of his treatise on Mill Workówhich treatise still continues to be an Important work on this subject; and in Brunton's Compendium of Mechanics, ' Carmichael's Tables ' are published for reference.
Mr Carmichael's younger brother Charles, who had also served his apprenticeship at Loanhead, came to Dundee in the year 1805, and commenced business as a millwright in company with a Mr Taylor, under the firm of ' Taylor & Co.' The contract of copartiery was for five years ; and at the end of this period, Charles requested his brother James to come and join him in Dundee. To this James at once agreed ; and having disposed of a small property which he had inherited at Crossmaloof, near Glasgow, to Mr Thomson, his employer, he came to Dundee in the year 1810. The business of the two brothers was at first confined to millwright work ; but about this period a great impetus was given to the spinning of flax by machinery in Dundee, in consequence of the large orders from Government, during the great French war ; and this soon induced the firm to give their attention to the making of steam engines. In a short time, the firm of James and Charles Carmichael came to be known throughout all the flax-manufacturing districts as makers of stationary engines ; and the character for sound workmanship gained by the fathers is well sustained by the sons to the present day.
In 1821, the firm fitted up the first twin steam-boat for the ferry across the Tay at Dundee. This vessel succeeded so well, that mother, of the same construction, was built and put on the passage in 1823. An account of the ferry, with a description of the machinery, was published in the Edinburgh Philosophical Journal,
by Captain Basil Hall, R.K, from which the following extract is taken :ó
In the year 1815, there were twenty- five boats, or pinnacles, as they were tiled, on this passage, manned by upwards of a hundred men and boys. There were no regular hours of sailing, and passengers had either to hire a
boat, or wait until a sufficient number of passengers had assembled to make up the fare. Accommodation for the transport of carts, cattle, &c, there was none. In the year previous to the first steamer being put on the passage, the number of passengers was about 70,000. In 1824óonly three years after the numbers wereópassengers, 100,536; carriages, 130; gigs, 474; cattle, 6627; sheep, 15,449; horses, 477; loaded carts, 2562.
In the construction of the machinery of these twin steam-boats, several new and important improvements were introduced by Messrs Carmichael. They invented a method of working and reversing the engines from the deck of the vessel, which was a long step in advance in the perfecting of the steam-engine ; and it was applied with complete success to the engines of the twin-steamer George IV.
The hand-gearing for starting and stopping the engines was situated on the deck of the boat, and all concentrated upon a small table in view and hearing of the man at the helm, or the master, who directed both when coming to the quay. On this table were certain words indicating the function of each handleósuch as ' Go ahead,' * Go astern.' It is related that a sapient townsman, crossing for the first time after the new gear had been fitted to the boat, glanced at the table, and seeing the last-named inscription, said:
" George Aastern !ófa 's he? I aye thocht thir engines wis made
The introduction of this invention soon led to the use of steamers and engines of the same construction on the ferry
between Newhaven and Burntisland, and on many other ferries both in this and in other countriesóa description of the machinery being published and made the common property of the trade. (See the Practical Mechanic's Magazine for 1842).
At this period, there were comparatively few tools in use in the iron trade ; and an important addition was made to them when the Messrs Carmichael invented their useful planing, shaping, and boring machine. They supplied the Government factories of Woolwich and Portsmouth with this admirable machine ; and a drawing of it is given in Rennie's large work on Tools.
In 1832 and 1833, the Messrs Carmichael made the first locomotive steam-engines for the Dundee and Newtyle Railway- the first locomotives made in Scotland. These engines did their work most efficiently for more than thirty years, although they did not cost more than one-third of the price of the heavy locomotives of the present day.
The invention for which the Messrs Carmichael were most celebrated, however, was the Fan Blast or Blowing Machine, for heating and melting iron. This simple yet effective machine was first brought into practical operation by these gentlemen about the year 1829 ; and shortly afterwards they, in the. most liberal manner, communicated it to the public, so that it soon came into general use, both in the United Kingdom and in foreign countries. Its
chief advantages wereócheapness of construction, producing double the quantity of air by the application of the same power as was formerly used, and, the blast being perfectly steady, the metal was much sooner melted, and rendered more soft, than under any other process previously applied. It was also found equally efficient in blowing smiths' forges. A very material saving was accomplished in the expense of fitting up, and great economy in the space occupied, compared with the old method of blowing by bellows ; while the iron, being brought to a welding heat in one-half of the time, a much greater amount of work was done by the same number of hands. Although a highly profitable patent might have been made of this machine, the inventors freely gave the use of it to the trade, and were ever ready to show it at work, and give all information on the subject. This liberality could not pass unnoticed ; and accordingly, early in the year 1841, a public subscription was got up, and a handsome service of silver plate was presented to each of the brothers, at a banquet given them at Glasgow by members of the iron trade in that city and elsewhere. The inscription on the various pieces of plate presented to Mr James was as follows :-
Presented to James Carmichael, Esq., Engineer, Dundee, by a few-
Friends in the Iron Trade, in testimony of their deep sense of the liberal
manner in which he and his brother have permitted the unrestricted use
of their valuable invention of the ' Fan Blowing Machine. ' Glasgow, April
Charles Carmichael was born in 1782, and died on May 13, 1843. James, who, as has been already stated, was born in 1776, died at Fleuchar Craig, Dundee, on Sunday, Aug. 14, 1853.
In July 1872, as the result of a suggestion made in the Dundee Courier by some of the old workmen of the firm, who still held in honour the memory of their old employers, a movement was originated to erect a statue to Mr James Carmichael. A public meeting was held, at which a resolution was adopted approving of the proposal ; and the necessary funds were soon afterwards obtained. Whilst this is written, competitive designs are in course of preparation by eminent sculptors for a bronze statue of Mr James Carmichael, which will be erected in Albert Squareóone of the most prominent positions in Dundeeóin commemoration of his ingenuity, engineering skill, and generosity.