Papers of Sir Stephen Pigott, 1880-1955, Director of John Brown & Company, Shipbuilders, Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire, Scotland.

Scope and Content

  • Personal Records, 1923-1960;
  • Ship Specification Books, c1930-1939;
  • Technical Notebooks, 1836-c 1935;
  • Techincal Plans and Drawings, 1910;
  • Advertising, c1934;
  • Employee Information, 1907-1932;
  • Photographs, 1930-1940.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir Stephen Pigott was born on  30 January 1880  in Cornwall, New York, United States of America. He was one of eight children born to a farming family and both of his parents were immigrants from Ireland. He attended Cornwall High School and despite parental opposition, undertook a degree in Mechanical and Marine Engineering from Columbia University, New York, where he graduated in  1903.  He also studied courses in Surveying and Hydraulics and learnt the rudiments of Naval Architecture. He was President of Columbia's Engineering Society and whilst arranging for Charles G. Curtis to guest speak at the society meeting, was offered work as Curtis's assistant in the development of the turbine for ship propulsion. Pigott began working with Curtis Turbines in  June 1903.  In  March 1908  he was sent to explain the development of the Curtis Turbine to the British Admiralty in London and returned two months later with contacts at John Brown & Co Shipbuilders, Clydebank, Glasgow, who were interested in the new method of propulsion. Seven months later, Pigott was invited by Sir Thomas Bell, Managing Director of John Brown & Co Shipbuilders, to take up the position of Turbine Specialist.

Pigott travelled to Scotland from New York with his wife Mary and young child, Stephen Jr., intially staying with a colleague and then buying property in 1925 in Helensburgh, Argyll and Bute, Scotland. Mary had a further four children called Nancy, Eleanor, Maureen and Patricia and they were brought up as Catholics following their father's religion. In 1935 Stephen Jr., Nancy and Eleanor all married. Nancy moved to the United States of America, Eleanor moved to Kenya, Maureen undertook war service, Patricia joined the WRENS in Australia and Stephen Jr. started his own family. In 1943 Mary died, which deeply affected Sir Stephen Pigott.

Although Pigott began as a Turbine Specialist at John Brown & Co Shipbuilders, he quickly progressed to become assistant to Sir Thomas Bell and, in 1919, rose to become the Engine Works Director, responsible for the Brown-Curtis Turbine. He was then forced to decide between returning to Curtis in New York and staying with John Brown in Clydebank - choosing the latter on the assurance that he would be Sir Thomas's choice of successor. Pigott became Director of John Brown & Co Shipbuilders in 1934, Director-in-Charge in 1935 and Managing Director following the retirement of Sir Thomas Bell in 1938. The 1930s and 40s were the most prodigious of his career, culminating in the launching of the famous liners "Queen Mary " in 1934 and her sister ship "Queen Elizabeth" four years later. Pigott received a knighthood from George VI at Buckingham Palace in early 1939. The vast ships were to prove invaluable as troop carriers during the imminent Second World War. In competition with the French equivalent - the "Normandie" - the Queen Mary raced to cross the Atlantic in a shorter time. The battleships Duke of York and Vanguard were also built under Pigott's management at the yard. Pigott also went on to become a Justice of the Peace for the City of Glasgow and recieved the Gold Medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers for outstanding leadership in marine propulsion and construction. Between 1937-1948 Sir Stephen Pigott was President of the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders. The last great ship built under his leadership was the SS Caronia, launched by Princess Elizabeth in 1947.

Pigott remained at John Brown's shipyard until his retirement in 1949. In 1951 he married for a second time the widow Mrs Dorothy McWharrie and they lived in Closeburn Castle, Dumfriesshire, Scotland, until his death four years later in 1955. He was survived by five children and eleven grandchildren.


Arranged chronologically within record series

Access Information

Open. Employee records may be subject to data protection legislation

Acquisition Information

Deposit: ACCN 2230 Mrs Elspeth Scott, 2002

Other Finding Aids

Digital file level list available in searchroom

Alternative Form Available

None known

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Some plans torn at the edges

Conditions Governing Use

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

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

Appraisal Information

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

Custodial History

Deposited at Glasgow University Archive Services on 03 July 2002


None expected

Related Material

Records of Upper Clyde Shipbuilders Ltd, Clydebank Division, shipbuilders, Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire, Scotland GB 248 UGD 348; GB 248 UCS 001.

Location of Originals

This material is original


Ritchie, L A (ed), The Shipbuilding Industry: A Guide to Historical Records, (1992, Manchester).

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 Jennifer Reade, Archives Assistant, 18 April 2007. Lower level description compiled by Janice Miller, Archives Assistant, 2002, input by Jennifer Reade and George Gardener, Archives Assistants, May 2007

Geographical Names