Caird, Sir James

SUBJECT AREA: Ports and shipping
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b. 2 January 1864 Glasgow, Scotland
d. 27 September 1954 Wimbledon, London, England
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Scottish shipowner and shipbuilder.
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James Caird was educated at Glasgow Academy. While the connections are difficult to unravel, it is clear he was related to the Cairds of Greenock, whose shipyard on the Clyde built countless liners for the P \& O Company, and to the Caird family who were munificent benefactors of Dundee and the Church of Scotland.
In 1878 Caird joined a firm of East India Merchants in Glasgow, but later went to London. In 1890 he entered the service of Turnbull, Martin \& Co., managers of the Scottish Shire Line of Steamers; he quickly rose to become Manager, and by 1903 he was the sole partner and owner. In this role his business skill became apparent, as he pioneered (along with the Houlder and Federal Lines) refrigerated shipping connections between the United Kingdom and Australia and New Zealand. In 1917 he sold his shipping interests to Messrs Cayzer Irvine, managers of the Clan Line.
During the First World War, Caird set up a new shipyard on the River Wye at Chepstow in Wales. Registered in April 1916, the Standard Shipbuilding and Engineering Company took over an existing shipbuilder in an area not threatened by enemy attacks. The purpose of the yard was rapid building of standardized merchant ships during a period when heavy losses were being sustained because of German U-boat attacks. Caird was appointed Chairman, a post he held until the yard came under full government control later in the war. The shipyard did not meet the high expectations of the time, but it did pioneer standard shipbuilding which was later successful in the USA, the UK and Japan.
Caird's greatest work may have been the service he gave to the councils which helped form the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich. He used all his endeavours to ensure the successful launch of the world's greatest maritime museum; he persuaded friends to donate, the Government to transfer artefacts and records, and he gave of his wealth to purchase works of art for the nation. Prior to his death he endowed the Museum with £1.25 million, a massive sum for the 1930s, and this (the Caird Fund) is administered to this day by the Trustees of Greenwich.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
Baronet 1928 (with the title Sir James Caird of Glenfarquhar).
Further Reading
Frank C.Bowen, 1950, "The Chepstow Yards and a costly venture in government shipbuilding", Shipbuilding and Shipping Record (14 December).
FMW

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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