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John Calderwood (1840-1903)

Leaving Young's

DINNER TO MR JOHN CALDERWOOD – On Friday evening, on the occasion of his leaving the service of Young's Paraffin Light Company for a similar situation in London, Mr John Calderwood was entertained to dinner in the Assembly Rooms [Thompson's Hall], West Calder, "in recognition of the services rendered by him to this district." There were about 100 gentlemen present, and Dr Young of Kelly occupied the chair, the vice-chairman being Mr Robert Bell, Broxburn; while the company also included Professor Dewar, Cambridge, and Mr John Cowan of Beeslack. After dinner, Mr Rae read a number of apologies for absence, including the following from Lord Rosebery, dated Mentmore, 18th September:-

"I am unable to attend any public meetings at present, and, indeed, I hardly know when I can hope to be in Scotland, otherwise I should have been delighted to accept the invitation which you have forwarded to me, and which, perhaps, might have afforded me an opportunity of expressing the obligation which I feel, in common with all Mid-Lothian Liberals, to Mr Calderwood for his public spirit and his public exertions. His single-minded zeal, none the less recognised because modest and unobtrusive, did much to further a great cause, which it now appears was not merely the cause of the people of our county, but of the vast majority of the inhabitants of Great Britain. Wherever he may be, and I trust his severance from our neighbourhood is merely temporary, his services in an historical crisis must always be remembered by us, while it cannot but be, I think, a satisfaction to him to reflect that he carries away with him the cordial appreciation and regard of those with whom he then laboured." In connection with the reading of the letters of apology, the Chairman took occasion to remark that some of the writers did not understand the occasion of the meeting, which would explain some of the language used.(Applause and laughter.) After the usual loyal and patriotic toasts had been honoured, the Chairman proposed "The Guest," observing in the course of a long speech that Mr Calderwood's career was a complete demonstration of the enormous advantage of a careful scientific training. Technical education and what it could do were well represented in Mr Calderwood, who was a brilliant example of the effect of technical education. (Applause.) Dr Young went on to speak in detail of Mr Calderwood in wider and more general relations, as a most useful member of society, who had devoted himself with unresting energy, and no small amount of self-sacrifice, to the public good.(Hear, hear, and applause.) Mr Calderwood made a suitable reply, and at the same time took occasion to acknowledge the kindness of those present who had contributed to the silver plate, of the value of £150, presented to him on the previous evening by the employees of Young's Paraffin Light Company. Various other toast followed.

Falkirk Herald, 30th September 1880



Mr. John Calderwood, whose death was noted last week, was born in Edinburgh in 1840. After a brief period at a dame's school, he was sent about the year 1849 to George Square Academy, then a famous school under an equally famous headmaster (Mr. Brown). From George Square Academy he was transferred to the Edinburgh High School, where his elder brother (Henry) had preceded him, and after he had completed the curriculum there he became a student at Edinourgh University, his chemical studies being taken under Dr. George Wilson, who carried on his classes in the Surgeons' Hall. After having completed his studies in Edinburgh, he proceeded to Germany to extend his acquaintance with scientific methods and research. On his return to this country he entered the laboratory of Dr. Angus Smith, of Manchester, and shortly afterwards was selected to fill the important post of research chemist in the private laboratory at Bathgate of Mr. James Young, who was then engaged in perfecting old and in designing new methods for the production of the paraffin oils and products with which his name is indissolubly associated. In this way Mr. John Calderwood's attention became forcibly directed to the potentialities of the new business with which he was soon afterwards to be so intimately associated, and which, by the introduction of new processes and the invention of new plant and apparatus, he did so much to develop. Gradually, as the science of oil production and refining became better understood, Mr. Calderwood's attention was diverted from research to more practical operations, and when Mr. Young sold his business to a limited company (the present Paraffin, Light, and Mineral Oil Company, Limited), Mr. Calderwood's services were retained as chief chemist at Bathgate, and a few years later (about 1872) he was appointed manager of the extensive works which the company had erected and equipped at Addiewell. In September, 1880, he left the service of Young's Company to enter that of Price's Patent Candle Company, of London, as assistant manager, and in the spring of the year following he became general manager on the retirement of the late Mr. J.P. Wilson, who was a son of one of the founders of the firm. A few years later Mr. Calderwood was appointed the managing director when the business became the property of the present limited company. The success of the company under his management is well known, but he was not content to have achieved for his company commercial success, but was equally solicitous for the welfare of the workpeople in the factories at Battersea, London, and at Bromborough Pool, Cheshire. Besides encouraging and providing additional means of recreation and self-improvement for the workers, in all of which organisations he took an active as well as a sympathetic interest, he conceived, and was largely instrumental in perfecting, a scheme of old-age pensions whereby, on certain conditions, which are not onerous, those who have given to the company their best years of life and service are provided with retiring allowances at the close of their period of activity. Mr. Calderwood was approached at more than one period of his career with a view to his nomination as a candidate for parliamentary honours. But, although his tastes and his devotion to business, coupled with his retiring disposition, prohibited his acceptance of such an honour, he nevertheless gave of his valuable time and energy to the advocacy of the political principles which he held dear, and to the furtherance of many causes, educational, philanthropical, charitable, ecclesiastical, and others, in which his sympathies were enlisted

The Chemist and Druggist, 5th September 1903


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