- Business correspondence and papers 1909-1969;
- Family correspondence and papers 1891-1959;
- Correspondence with Winston Churchill regarding the Finance Bill 1929;
- Speeches and articles 1925-1952;
- Presscuttings 1931-1952;
- Admiralty correspondence & papers 1940-1945; Territorial Army correspondence and papers 1902-52;
- British Employers Confederation correspondence and papers;
- National Shipbuilders Security Ltd board papers 1940-1943.
Papers of Sir James Lithgow, 1883-1952; shipbuilder & industrialist
Scope and Content
Administrative / Biographical History
Sir James Lithgow was born on 27 January 1883 in Port Glasgow, Inverclyde, Scotland, son of William Todd Lithgow ( 1854-1908 ) and Agnes Birkmyre. He was educated at Glasgow Academy, Glasgow, Scotland and at Paris, France, under a private tutor. In 1901 , he passed up the opportunity to go to university to take up an apprenticeship at the family shipyard, Russell & Co , Port Glasgow. He became a partner in his father's business in 1907 and the following year, on the death of his father, he assumed joint ownership with his brother, Henry Lithgow ( 1887-1948 ). In 1911, James Lithgow was appointed vice-president of the Clyde Shipbuilders Association, for the year 1912-1913 .
The 1914-1918 World War interrupted his shipbuilding career, serving with the Army. His company spent the first part of the war on garrison duty on the river Clyde, Scotland and then in France from 1916 until May 1917 . That year he was made Lieutenant Colonel and finished the war a brevet Colonel. His brother remained behind in charge of the shipyard and its vital war work.
In 1917, he was recalled from France to London by the Controller of Merchant Shipping, Sir Eric Campbell Geddes, and given the title Director of Merchant Shipping with the responsibility for ensuring merchant yards met the demands placed on them. In London he met William Douglas Weir, 1st Viscount Weir of Eastwood ( 1877-1959 ), who was then director general of aircraft production. This meeting was to have a major impact on Lithgow's future career.
In 1918 , back in Port Glasgow, Russell & Co was renamed Lithgows Ltd . James Lithgow returned to Scotland in 1919 and continued to expand Lithgows Ltd interests by expanding yards and diversifying the operation. The Shipbuilding Employers Federation appointed James president in 1920 and in 1922 Lord Weir persuaded him to take the vice presidency of the National Confederation of Employers Organisations. This led him to be a delegate to the International Labour Organisation at Geneva, Switzerland, from 1922-1925 and the employers' member on the governing body there between 1922 and 1927 and again from 1933 to 1935 .
In 1924 , he married Gwendolyn Amy Harrison, daughter of a former Clyde shipowner and was awarded the position of honorary colonel of the Clyde Heavy Battalion of the Royal Artillery - a Territorial Army regiment.. In 1925 , he was created 1st baronet of Ormsary, Ardrisaig, Argyll & Bute, Scotland. In the late 1920s and 1930s , Sir James was to be a central figure in the shipbuilding rationalisation scheme, National Shipbuilders Security Ltd. Under his guidance the industry succeeded in eliminating about one third of the capacity of the shipyards between 1930 and 1939 . Other major posts held by Sir James were president of the Federation of British Industry 1930-1933 and chairman of the Scottish National Development Council 1931-1939 .
During the 1939-1945 World War, Winston Churchill re-called Sir James to London in 1940 to be Controller of Merchant Shipbuilding & Repairs. He was also a member of the Board of Admiralty 1940-1946 . He briefly held the post of Controller of Tanks and was deputy chairman of the Industrial Capacity Committee of the Production Council. Additionally he was president of the Iron & Steel Federation from 1943-1945 . When the war ended, he returned to Port Glasgow to assist his brother in running the shipyards. In 1946, he was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Glasgow. His brother died in 1948 and Sir James Lithgow himself suffered a serious thrombosis soon afterwards, from which he was never to fully recover. At the time of his death on 23 February 1952 , Sir James Lithgow was owner of the largest privately owned shipyard in the world.
The arrangement of this material reflects the original order in which it was received
Conditions Governing Access
Received from the family of Sir James Lithgow
Other Finding Aids
Digital file level list available in searchroom
Manual file level list available at the National Registers of Archives in Edinburgh (NRA(S) 2818) and London (NRA 30494)
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
This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 248 procedures
Sir James Lithgow's papers remained with the family until they were deposited in the University Archives by his son
Slaven, Anthony, 'Sir James Lithgow . Slaven, A and Checkland, S (eds.), vol.1 Dictionary of Scottish Business Biography 1860-1960 ( Aberdeen , 1968 )
The collection is original
Compiled by Moira MacKay , Assistant Archivist, 16 May, 1997.
Revised by Adele Redhead, Assistant Archivist, February 2003. Amended by Sam Maddra, Assistant Archivist (cataloguing), 13 January 2014.