Dr. Bill O' Gorman, from WIT, speaking about this site on WLR

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Malcolmson's

The founder of the Malcomson business empire was David Malcomson, who came to Clonmel as a boy in 1774, David was involved in cross channel trading in corn and cotton. He married Mary Ffennel of Cahir Abbey and their sons Joseph, Joshua, John and William became involved in the family business. The Malcomsons were astute entrepreneurs and became aware of streamer developments.

In 1836 they founded the Waterford Steam Navigation Co. By February 1843 they opened a repair yard on the Park Road, known as the Neptune Iron Works for their growing fleet of ships. Joseph took charge of the Iron Works; his wide ranging shipping interests gave him first-hand knowledge of the technical revolution that was happening in iron ship building. 40 steamships were built in Neptune's yard between 1846 and 1882, several of them were large trans-atlantic ocean liners.

The Malcomsons were reputed to be the largest steam-owners in the world in the 1850s and 1860s. With in twelve years the Neptune Shipyard had a workforce of 300 men under the leadership of master shipbuilders John Horn.

In 1849 Malcomson's shipyard recruited John Horn, an outstanding shipbuilder from the Clyde, to manage Neptune. Horn was a master shipbuilder, trained in England and head hunted by Joseph Malcomson. Horn had been trained by Robert Napier, one of the greatest marine engineer and shipbuilders of the era. Horn became foreman of Napier's marine engine works in the Clyde when he was only 18.

Horn understood and practised Brunel's construction techniques while adding his own innovations. He initiated a very ambitious and aggressive programme of shipbuilding making a mark at home and abroad. His leadership was extraordinary; the ships which were the largest being built in Ireland at the time were renowned for the strength of their hulls, one the SS Avoca was the first steamship to force the ice at Odessa.

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