Records of Mirrlees Watson Co Ltd, sugar machinery manufacturers, Glasgow, Scotland

Scope and Content

  • Letterbooks 1923-1924
  • Job books 1899-1966
  • Job schedule books 1922-1963
  • Centrifugal schedules 1962-1967
  • Schedules 1962-1966
  • Dry pump schedules 1922-1966
  • Schedule of parts 1906-1921
  • Order books 1840-1966
  • Order job books 1922-1935
  • Copy books 1935-1966
  • Drawings index books 1848-1936
  • Descriptive index to drawings 1841-1966
  • Roller books 1904-1964
  • Miscellaneous volumes 1878-1960
  • Sugar bulletins 1925-1936
  • Production order books 1962-1974
  • Sugar machinery drawings [to be identified]

Administrative / Biographical History

P & W McOnie , engineers, was formed in Glasgow, Scotland, in  1840  by Peter McOnie, general engineer, and his brother, William, to repair sugar machinery and supply spares. By  1848  when the partnership was dissolved, the company had turned out 50 engines and 50 sugar mills. In  September 1848  , Peter established a new partnership,  McOnie & Mirrlees , with James Buchanan Mirrlees, sugar machinery manufacturer. The partnership became  Mirrlees & Tait in  1851  , following Peter's death in 1850, when J B Buchanan recruited William Tait from W M Neilson's Hydepark Locomotive Works in Springburn, Glasgow, as his junior partner and manager of the works. The engines and machinery that the company exhibited at the 1862 International Exhibition were criticised for their cheap and weak cast iron, lack of economy and "lavish introduction of quantity rather than attention to quality of their cast iron framing". These criticisms were acted on by  Mirrlees, Tait & Watson , as the firm had become known in  1868  . By 1876, they had been making engines with Corliss valve gear for 8 years, and an engine and mill made by the firm on view at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition was attracting attention "on account of the improved details of construction". At this time, the company was employing around 800 workmen and had one of the most fully equipped ironworks in Great Britain at Scotland Street, Glasgow. By 1896, the firm could cast 100 tons per day.

The relationship between the various sugar machinery manufacturers and engineering firms was close which allowed for subcontracting in times of heavy demand. In 1883,  Mirrlees, Watson & Co as they had become in  1882  , formed Watson, Laidlaw & Co, to build centrifugal separators for the company. Similarly, in the depression of the mid-1880s, Mirrlees, Watson & Co were making components for several Glasgow sugar-machinery manufacturers and general engineers.

In  1889  , the firm was incorporated as  Mirrlees, Watson & Yaryan Co Ltd . The years 1878-1884 saw a boom in the sugar machine manufacturing industry and saw the company produce 45,000 tons of machinery, worth about £1,500,000.

The company developed several new components, such as the Yaryan evaporator, and held the sole licences in the UK for the Weston centrifugal separator and diesel engine in 1897.

In  1900  , the company became known as  Mirrlees Watson Co Ltd becoming  M W Sugar Holdings Ltd in  1966  . In  1967  , the company was acquired by  A & W Smith & Co Ltd , sugar machine manufacturers, Glasgow, which by then was a wholly owned subsidiary company of Tate & Lyle Ltd, sugar manufacturers. The two companies traded as  Smith Mirrlees . Smith Mirrlees was acquired in 1988 by Fletcher & Stewart Ltd, sugar machine manufacturers, Derby, England. They ceased to operate at the Eglinton Works in the late 1980s.

Sources:   Michael Moss and John Hume, Workshop of the British Empire: Engineering and Shipbuilding in the West of Scotland(London, 1977) and   A Slaven & S Checkland, Dictionary of Business Biography: 1860-1960 , vol 1 (Aberdeen, 1986)


This material is arranged into series, which consists of numbers of items related by format and/or function. Within series, the items are generally arranged chronologically

Access Information

Access to all records dating within the past 50 years must be cleared with the company. Apply in the first instance to the University Archivist

Acquisition Information

Smith Mirrlees : Eglinton Works, Cook Street, Glasgow, G5 8JW : 1972

Smith Mirrlees : Eglinton Works, Cook Street, Glasgow, G5 8JW : 1976 (Additional deposit)

Smith Mirrlees : Eglinton Works, Cook Street, Glasgow, G5 8JW : c1982 (Additional deposit)

Fletcher & Stewart Ltd : c1988 (Additional deposit)

Other Finding Aids

Digital file level list available in searchroom as part of the Smitth Mirrlees finding aid (UGD 118)

Manual file level list available at the National Registers of Archives in Edinburgh (NRA(S)3119) and London (NRA14656)

Alternative Form Available

No known copies

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the University Archivist

Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use & condition of documents

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 0248 procedures

Custodial History

Acquired directly from creators


None expected

Related Material

GB 248 UGD 062 Records of The Mirrlees Watson Co Ltd

GB 248 UGD 116 and UGD 118/6 Records of Blairs Ltd

GB 248 UGD 116/1 Records of A & W Smith & Co Ltd

GB 248 UGD 118/3 Records of Pott, Cassels & Williamson

GB 248 UGD 118/4 Records of W & W McOnie

GB 248 UGD 118/5 Records of John McNeil & Co Ltd

GB 248 UGD 118/7 Records of R G Ross & Sons Ltd

GB 248 UGD 118/9 International Sugar Bulletin

GB 248 UGD 118/11Records of Fletcher & Stewart Ltd

See source list on Sugar available via Glasgow University Archive Services homepage at

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Additional Information

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Geographical Names