Lithgow, James

SUBJECT AREA: Ports and shipping
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b. 27 January 1883 Port Glasgow, Renfrewshire, Scotland
d. 23 February 1952 Langbank, Renfrewshire, Scotland
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Scottish shipbuilder; creator of one of the twentieth century's leading industrial organizations.
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Lithgow attended Glasgow Academy and then spent a year in Paris. In 1901 he commenced a shipyard apprenticeship with Russell \& Co., where his father, William Lithgow, was sole proprietor. For years Russell's had topped the Clyde tonnage output and more than once had been the world's leading yard. Along with his brother Henry, Lithgow in 1908 was appointed a director, and in a few years he was Chairman and the yard was renamed Lithgows Ltd. By the outbreak of the First World War the Lithgow brothers were recognized as good shipbuilders and astute businessmen. In 1914 he joined the Royal Artillery; he rose to the rank of major and served with distinction, but his skills in administration were recognized and he was recalled home to become Director of Merchant Shipbuilding when British shipping losses due to submarine attack became critical. This appointment set a pattern, with public duties becoming predominant and the day-to-day shipyard business being organized by his brother. During the interwar years, Lithgow served on many councils designed to generate work and expand British commercial interests. His public appointments were legion, but none was as controversial as his directorship of National Shipbuilders Security Ltd, formed to purchase and "sterilize" inefficient shipyards that were hindering recovery from the Depression. To this day opinions are divided on this issue, but it is beyond doubt that Lithgow believed in the task in hand and served unstintingly. During the Second World War he was Controller of Merchant Shipbuilding and Repairs and was one of the few civilians to be on the Board of Admiralty. On the cessation of hostilities, Lithgow devoted time to research boards and to the expansion of the Lithgow Group, which now included the massive Fairfield Shipyard as well as steel, marine engineering and other companies.
Throughout his life Lithgow worked for the Territorial Army, but he was also a devoted member of the Church of Scotland. He gave practical support to the lona Community, no doubt influenced by unbounded love of the West Highlands and Islands of Scotland.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
Military Cross and mentioned in dispatches during the First World War. Baronet 1925. Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire 1945. Commander of the Order of the Orange-Nassau (the Netherlands). CB 1947. Served as the employers' representative on the League of Nations International Labour Conference in the 1930s. President, British Iron and Steel Cofederation 1943.
Further Reading
J.M.Reid, 1964, James Lithgow, Master of Work, London: Hutchinson.
FMW

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

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