James F Low & Co Ltd

Scope and Content

Minutes 1902-1970; shareholding records 1902-1971; ledgers 1902-1971; purchase books 1918-1940; machinery records and order books 1850-1947; patents book 1924-1960; machinery specification books 1858-1976; bills of material 1946-1955; machinery instructions 1946-1959; inventories; photographs 1928-c.1950; plans and drawings 1857-1968. Also includes company files and other records of subsidiary company James F Low (Engineers) Ltd, manufacturers of contractors' small plant 1902-1984.

Administrative / Biographical History

James F Low & Co Ltd was set up around the beginning of the nineteenth century by James Low and Robert Fairweather at Monifieth, then 'a primitive village of turf huts'. The firm, which produced the first locally made carding machine for flax tow in 1815, grew as machine spinning spread throughout Tayside. On the death of William Low in 1840, James Kennedy managed the works until James Fairweather Low (1825-1901) assumed control in 1849. Under James F Low, who was later assisted by his brother Samuel Miller Low (1835-1921), the firm continued to expand. By the 1880s there were 300 workers employed at the Monifieth Foundry, producing a range of machines for the processing and spinning of jute, flax, hemp and other similar fibres, not only for local textile spinning concerns but for customers throughout the world. James F Low's son William took over in 1892 and in 1902 the firm was incorporated as a limited company under his chairmanship.

In 1924, the Low family sold their interest to John Shaw & Sons (Wolverhampton) Ltd, manufacturers and merchants. By the early 1930s the company was in serious financial trouble and in 1933 was taken over by a Dundee syndicate headed by Joseph Johnstone Barrie of Charles Barrie & Sons, shipowners and insurance brokers. The company's fortunes were restored during the Second World War when the foundry was almost completely turned over to the production of bombs, machine tools and aircraft components. In 1948, McLeod & Co Ltd of Calcutta, whose interests included jute mills, tea estates, engineering and light railways, acquired the company. Actual ownership was subsequently vested in James F Low & Co (India) Ltd, established as a limited company in 1949. One consequence of the change of ownership was the manufacture of Low's machinery by the Britannia Engineering Co Ltd, of Calcutta.

From about 1955 Low & Co (India) Ltd, were faced with contracting markets for their textile machinery and consequently diversified into sub-contract work and the manufacture of a range of building equipment, including cement mixers, dumpers, fork-lift trucks, concrete pumps and vibrating pokers. This latter development led to the establishment of Rob Roy (Contractors Plant) Ltd, (c.1959) and Angus Concrete Pumping Services Ltd (formerly Angus Winding Ltd) and in 1966 Low & Co, acquired The Silent Ballcock Co Ltd, which had been incorporated in 1957. The name of The Silent Ballcock Co Ltd was changed to James F Low (Engineers) Ltd, in whom all the fixed assets of James F Low & Co Ltd, including Monifieth Foundry, were vested. James F Low & Co Ltd, thus became merely a holding company with three wholly owned subsidiaries. Control remained with James F Low & Co (India) Ltd, although between 1970 and 1973 a large stake was acquired by Mona Agency, Isle of Man, later transferred to Westdean Ltd, Jersey. In 1984 the Clydesdale Bank called in the receiver and James F Low (Engineers) Ltd, ceased trading. James F Low & Co Ltd, and its subsidiary, Rob Roy (Contractors Plant) were unaffected by the order.


Records are arranged chronologically within series.

Access Information

Open for consultation subject to preservation requirements. Access must also conform to the restrictions of the Data Protection Act and any other appropriate legislation.

Acquisition Information

The records were deposited by the company in 1984 (AccM/209).


Fonds level description compiled by Sarah Chubb, Archives Hub Project Archivist, January 2002.

Other Finding Aids

Descriptive list. Subject source lists and databases are also available.

Alternative Form Available

The James F Low (Engineers) Ltd company files are available on microfiche from Companies Registration Office, Edinburgh.

Conditions Governing Use

Reproduction is available subject to preservation requirements. Charges are made for this service, and copyright and other restrictions may apply.


None expected.

Additional Information

The material is original.

Geographical Names