Records of MacTaggart Scott & Co Ltd, hydraulic engineers, Midlothian, Scotland

Scope and Content

  • Administrative records, 1899-2014;
  • Corporate records, 1907-2010;
  • Shareholding records, 1907-1960;
  • Legal records, 1909-1992;
  • Financial records, 1899-2009;
  • Production records, 1899-1998;
  • Staff and employment records, 1899-2013;
  • Property and plant records, 1899-2008;
  • Marketing records, c1930-2014;
  • Company history records, 1934-1998;
  • Subsidiary companies records, 1972-2013;
  • Photographs and videos, c20th century;
  • Patrick Prenter records, 1886-2001;
  • Trade associations, 1934-1989;
  • William MacTaggart, 1989;
  • Founders and former board members records, 1878-1997.

Administrative / Biographical History

MacTaggart Scott & Co Ltd was founded 1898 in Loanhead, Edinburgh, by  Hugh Holmes MacTaggart (1867-1930) and  Robert Grigor Scott (1870-1940). Hugh MacTaggart was the son of William MacTaggart (1835-1910), the Scottish landscape and marine painter. MacTaggart was educated at the Royal High School in Edinburgh before entering an apprenticeship at the Rosebank Ironworks of Messrs Brown Bros & Co Ltd. The company specialised in hydraulic steam reversing engines for shipping, and in 1894 MacTaggart was appointed works manager.

Robert Grigor Scott was the son of a bank inspector. His engineering apprenticeship was divided between Napier Brothers and Lees Anderson. During his last year at Lees Anderson he attended evening classes at the Glasgow and West Scotland Technical College where he matriculated in naval architecture. Scott joined the Brown Brothers company in 1892 and within five years became one of the firm's leading draughtsman, but in 1897 he left the company due to poor health. MacTaggart and Scott worked very closely at Brown Brothers, and their friendship continued after Scott’s departure. They discussed starting their own hydraulic and engineering company. After each approaching their families they were given a loan of £3,300 (with the bulk of the funding coming from William MacTaggart who pledged £3,000) to start the business. Loanhead was chosen as a suitable site due to its transport links and its supply of labour from both the town and the surrounding area.

The company's first commercial order came in 1899 when a tweed manufacturer, the Ballantyne Brothers, commissioned a 12-ton wagon turntable. Much of their early work involved repair and maintenance at local mills and factories, however their most important early products were hydraulic cranes, steering gears, telemotors and reversing engines, which helped establish strong links with the British shipbuilding industry. By 1900 the company had already illustrated their desire to expand internationally and applied for inclusion in the list of Admiralty tenders.

In 1904 they began making steering telemotors for ships. The increasing size of steamships meant that manual steering was becoming more difficult and dangerous. The telemotor helped to convey orders and improve accuracy, and went on to establish the reputation of MacTaggart Scott worldwide.

The First World War led to MacTaggart Scott's involvement in submarines. While contracted by Scotts of Greenock they suggested replacing the hand-operated gear used to control the vent valves by a hydraulically powered telemotor. They successfully unveiled their prototype in November 1915, and Admirality contracts soon began to dominate the company's workload. During the late 1920s, MacTaggart Scott began experimenting with catapults. The use of catapults to propel a plane from the deck of a ship had been in discussion in naval circles since before the First World War. After the War, the USA had fitted all new naval vessels with catapults, but the British Navy had lagged behind. The Admiralty commissioned 35 catapults from MacTaggart Scott between 1928 and 1940. The company made three different models during this time, all of which ran into several series with modifications and improvements being made to original versions. The production of arresting gears for the Admiralty began in 1931, the system was designed to safely stop planes landing in the deck of aircraft carriers, and the firm made 72 sets between 1934 and 1939.

The Admiralty began an intensive submarine programme in 1952 providing regular work and continuing MacTaggart Scott's traditional naval and defence work. During the 1950s, the company also became more involved in hydraulic motors and developed the Mark V high torque hydraulic motor, which led to orders from the National Coal Board for mining machinery.

A downturn in the British defence market compelled the company to modify its organisational structure in 1973 by creating a new holding company, MacScott Hydraulics Ltd. One of the most prestigious contracts for the company was the modernisation of the bridge-operating machinery of the Tower Bridge in London in 1974 when they replaced the steam-operated hydraulic machinery with a new electro-hydraulic system. MacScott Hydraulics merged in 1975 with a firm of engineers' agents, A. Bond & Co. (Edinburgh) Ltd, becoming known since then as MacScott Bond. MacTaggart Scott remains a privately owned company working for the Naval Defence and Marine industries from around the world.


Arranged chronologically within record series

Access Information

Some files in this collection are subject to the Data Protection Act. Written permission from MacTaggert Scott is required: for access to the collection for commercial or legal purposes; for access to records dating from 1980 onwards, for any purpose. It is advised that you should contact the Duty Archivist before visiting:

Acquisition Information

Deposit : MacTaggart Scott & Co Ltd : 18 Feb 2015 : ACCN 3929

Other Finding Aids

Digital file level list available in searchroom

Alternative Form Available

No known copies

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

None which affect the use of this material

Conditions Governing Use

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

Any work intended for publication that is based on research from this collection must be approved in advance. Apply in the first instance to Archives and Special Collections, email:

See Deposit File for reproduction restrictions on photographic records dated after 1945.

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 248 procedures

Custodial History

Received directly from the creator


Accruals possible

Related Material

No known related material

Location of Originals

This material is original


No known publications using this material

Additional Information

Description compiled in line with the following international standards: International Council on Archives, ISAD(G) Second Edition, September 1999and National Council on Archives, Rules for the construction of personal, place and corporate names

Scotland is the location of all place names in the administrative/biographical history element, unless otherwise stated.

Fonds level description compiled by Arturo Pinto García, Business Archive Cataloguer, August 2016.

Geographical Names