James Gillespie was born in Dunfermline on 14 April 1854, son of Thomas Gillespie and Janet Honeyman. About 1873 he came to St Andrews to fill a post in the office of the architect George S. Birrell who had been in practice since ca. 1869 and, on Birrell's death in 1876, Gillespie took over the business.
James Scott was born in Kinnesswood near Loch Leven in 1861, the son of Thomas Scott, clerk of works, and Janet Hoy. Whilst he was still a boy his parents moved to Glasgow where he was educated. In November 1885, he came to St Andrews to join the staff of Mr Gillespie, probably as chief draughtsman. The partnership of the two effectively began at this time, but the evidence from the plans suggests that the legal partnership probably began in 1895.
It is difficult from the remaining evidence to discern the individual contribution made by each architect, but it seems to have been a happy partnership, the gifts of the one complementing those of the other. It continued until Gillespie's death in 1914 by which time the firm's output exceeded that of any other architect in the town's history.
Mr Gillespie had hoped that his son, also James and a partner in the firm, would continue in his place, but he was killed at the Battle of the Somme in 1916. As a result it was James Scott and, after his death in 1944, his sons, Alfred G. Scott and James H. Scott, and grandsons, Michael Scott and Hunter Scott, structural engineer (d. 1997), who continued to run the firm.
The firm was well known throughout Fife and beyond, and the architects were responsible for many well known buildings. Their varied output included estate cottages, farm steadings, miners' housing, town halls, co-operative societies and factory buildings as well as many small alterations. Most of their large commissions came as a result of their connection with the Nairn family of landowners and industrialists; in addition to the large industrial works of the Nairn Linoleum Company in Kirkcaldy, a considerable amount of work was carried out at the Rankeilour Estate. One of James Gillespie's interests was the army volunteers, with which many of the local gentry, notably Michael Nairn and John Gilmour were associated. Sir John Gilmour of Montrave also commissioned various plans, the most noteworthy being those for Montrave House which was designed by Gillespie and Scott. Gillespie and Scott were also responsible for the Kirkcaldy High School (now demolished), Kirkcaldy Cottage Hospital and several St Andrews University buildings such as the Bute Medical Building and the Gatty Marine Laboratory. Significant too were projects on behalf of Guardbridge Paper Company and St Leonards School. Their principal contribution to the architectural development of St Andrews was in the field of domestic architecture.
Their main office was established at 4 Queens Gardens, St Andrews in the early 1880s and a branch office was set up later with three or four men permanently based in Kirkcaldy. In 1994 the business was acquired by a new partnership with architect Alistair Graham as the local partner. He continues to work from 4 Queen's Gardens using the firm's original name of Gillespie and Scott.
Major sources: Andrew Nairne, 'James Gillespie and Scott' from Building for a new age ed. John Frew, (Crawford Centre for the Arts, 1984), pp.44-52; Obituaries, St Andrews Citizen, 18 July 1914 (James Gillespie) and 15 January 1944 (James Scott). Robin Evetts, Architectural expansion and redevelopment in St Andrews, 1810-c1894, (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, St Andrews University, 1988).