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Perthshire Advertiser article from 1921

(Month unknown cut-off from cutting, day was 3rd of month.)

Messrs John Moncrieff, Ltd.

THE wide-spread and long-standing renown of this vast concern places it in the front rank of similar establishments in Great Britain. The history of the business is one of uninterrupted growth and development since its foundation in 1865 by the late John Moncrieff, father of the present proprietors, who have given ample evidence of being not only able to sustain but augment the prestige of the firm’s name.

The business was commenced in premises situated off the South Street and comprised the manufacture of gauge glasses, glass bottles and writing inks. All these industries have been continued to the present time. In less than twenty years from the start the premises in the South Street proved too small for the business done, and about two acres of new ground were acquired in St. Catherine’s Road, on which site larger works were built, although a considerable proportion of vacant ground was left for future extensions. Within another fifteen years, however, the new ground was completely built over, and several acres of additional ground at the lower harbour had to be fued from the Corporation. This site has the advantage of a railway siding into the Factory, and the whole ground is now largely occupied by buildings and furnaces. In addition to the Lower Harbour extensions, premises and ground adjoining the main works at St. Catherine’s Road have been acquired, so that the area now occupied by the firm in St. Catherine’s Road and the Harbour exceeds five acres.



The production of gauge glasses still forms the most important section of the business. These are used for indicating the water level on steam boilers, and they are to be found all over the world wherever steam boilers are used. The tubular gauge glasses have to withstand the same steam pressure and strain as is borne by the steel plates of the boiler. When it is realised that fifty years ago boilers rarely exceeded the steam pressure of 50 lbs. to the square inch, and now are frequently in use at 300 lbs. and even higher to the square inch, it will be readily understood how much has had to be done by way of research and experiment to meet the increasingly severe conditions in vogue. All this has been pioneer work on the part of the firm, carried out in their own laboratory and experimental furnaces by their own scientists. In proportion as the quality of glass was improved so did the difficulty of melting and refining the glass increase and, consequently, there has been an immense revolution in the furnaces used. The type used over 50 years ago was a small furnace fitted with four small fire-clay pots, which contained about 1 cwt of glass each. The melting was carried out by the use of direct coal or gas coke fires. The total cost of such a furnace then was very small. Whereas now the furnaces used in gauge glass and bottle production are huge tank furnaces, costing thousands of pounds and holding up to 200 tons of melted glass. The melting heat is obtained by converting the coal into gas in detached producers, passing it through generators, and introducing secondary hot air, thus making a perfect melting flame.

The development of the manufacture of bottles has in like manner been greatly extended, particularly during the last twenty years.



The manufacture of Ink has passed through many phases since the firm commenced its production. Many years ago the discovery was made that aniline colours added to the old permanent base made it possible to produce a writing ink more pleasing to the eye at the time of writing. About the year 1900 the firm of John Todd & Company, established prior to the year 1836, was taken over. About this time the firm specialised in the production of copying inks, but this particular section of the business was almost entirely wiped out by the introduction of typewriters and the practice of copying letters by means of carbon papers.



Upon the outbreak of War this country fully realised for the first time how important its glass industries were, and to what a serious extent many branches of the industry had been allowed to die, largely, owing to the competition of cheap labour in foreign countries. In a word Britain found itself almost wholly dependent upon Germany and Bohemia for its Scientific and Chemical glass. As nearly every industry depends upon laboratory investigation at some stage either for testing raw material, or for results in processes of manufacture, the gravity of the situation is apparent. On urgent representation by the Government the firm undertook to establish the industry in this country. This involved the erection of large new premises with entirely different types of furnaces. Owing to the various qualities of glass required for scientific purposes the glass had to be melted in large fire-clay pots, each pot containing about one ton of glass. In addition, the training of workmen to a new style of glass-making had to be undertaken and much research and experimental work to discover the various compositions necessary for each type of glass article produced. At the same time, the Government found that they had no source of supply, for glass equipment used in the manufacture and condensation of the acids, etc., vital for the making of high explosives. The demand for this important requirement was presented in the form of Blue Prints, but the many processes necessary to produce the equipment had all to be evolved by research and experiment. The result ultimately achieved is that British chemical glass is equal, if not superior, to any pre-war German or Bohemian productions.

In the course of an interview with the managing director on this very important statement the “P.A.” representative elicited the following further pronouncement, which will be read with mingled feelings of regret and satisfaction — the latter that it has achieved so much, and the former that it should be hampered in its efforts to develop an important industry. Unfortunately, however, Mr Moncrieff said it is doubtful whether this industry can be maintained, owing to the paralysing competition on the part of Germany and Austria in order to regain their monopoly. This competition is only made possible by the low exchange ruling in the countries referred to, whereby they are in a position to sell under the British costs of production. Apart from the fact that nearly £50,000 has been sunk by the firm in establishing the industry, surely, from the point of view of employment for British workmen, something effective ought to be done to prevent the industry from being crushed. It is not probably realised that general National disarmament will not protect us from serious injury if vital key industries are crushed out of existence, as it will put in the hands of these countries, who have maintained their key industries, the power of withholding (or charging exorbitantly for) supplies necessary to our general industries, as a means of bargaining, or demanding something entirely to their own advantage, and detrimental to us.



The Moncrieff firm represents the highest achievements in glass manufacture in Great Britain, and in connection therewith it is not without interest to note that the first glass-maker in Scotland was George Hay, who secured from James VI. a patent conferring on him the privilege of manufacturing glass for a period of thirty-one years. Mr Hay set up business in a peculiarly formed cave at Wemyss, on the Fife coast, and therein set up his furnace. The venture did not pay, but the cave is still pointed out as the “glass cove.”


  1. From Moncrieff archive with thanks to Colin Mayor — former director of John Moncrieff Ltd

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