James MacNeill & Co.
James MacNeill & Co., Colour, Varnish, Faint, Chemical, and Sealing-Wax Manufacturers, St. Enoch Works, Barrowfield.—
That the preparation of such an apparently insignificant article as sealing-wax should necessitate such extensive premises as those of Messrs. James MacNeill & Co. at Barrowfield would probably surprise those who are unaware of the scale upon which the firm’s operations are carried out. True, their manufactures are not confined to that one article, but include colours, varnishes, and chemical soaps, yet quite one-half of their trade consists in the supply of sealing-wax in its many varieties. The works were established by Mr. James MacNeill, the present sole proprietor, in 1866. In the first instance, the town warehouse was in London Street : it was afterwards removed to St. Enoch Square, in the premises now occupied by the Commercial Bank of Scotland, and then again, as the trade continued to extend, was last year transferred to the present very commodious premises, Nos. 41 and 43 in that Square.
The works in the Barrowfield district are in French Street, Bridgeton, and are known as the St. Enoch Works. They are of very considerable extent, comprising buildings of varying heights, and have large water frontage extending upwards of 700 feet, which has been laid out in a most attractive manner. Notwithstanding the size of the premises, and although they are fully occupied, they do not give employment to so many persons as might be imagined. Of necessity, a large proportion of space is used for storage of the various materials and manufactured products, but this is peculiarly a case of a large manufacturing concern requiring but a comparatively small amount of manual labour. Fully one-half of the hands employed are engaged in the manufacture of sealing-wax of the thistle brand, for which the firm enjoys a world-wide reputation. Their goods are very extensively used in the post-office service throughout the country, and have given complete satisfaction.
Their long experience of the shellac and gum trades, and as colour manufacturers, almost enables them to defy competition. They were the first in the trade to produce a really white sealing-wax at anything like a reasonable price, and the superior facilities they possess enables them to guarantee not only the quality but the colour of their productions. By their processes the brittleness usually found in the common wax used for parcels, bottling, &c., is entirely avoided, and the adhesiveness is improved. Their manufacture embraces very many different kinds, from the finest by many degrees down to the roughest made. Every conceivable colour seems to be represented, in addition to the scarlet, crimson, or black, with which all are familiar. Some is perfumed, other made specially hard for use in hot countries. This form is made for use by confectioners, while that is for chemists. Here we have large cylindrical sticks made with, pure vermilion and sud-lac for electrical purposes, while there we have another superfine quality produced especially for seal engravers, with one of less excellence, but still superior, for the use of door-plate engravers. Tobacconists and tobacco-pipe makers have also been considered. Bottling-wax for boiling in a pot or melting at a jet is supplied in many qualities and in many colours, including magenta, mauve, pink, maroon, &c., in addition to the blacks, blues, yellows, &c., that are in more ordinary use.
A special quality of sealing-wax is supplied for use in Her Majesty’s post offices throughout the United Kingdom ; another, for similar purposes, called mail-bag and tender-wax, is supplied in black, brown, maroon, and royal bright red. The commoner kinds of wax, for parcel purposes, seem to be most used red, black, or brown in colour. Messrs. MacNeill & Co. also supply sealing wafers in many sizes, colours, and qualities, and put up in boxes or bags. They also supply those little circular red gummed labels now so much used by lawyers in place of the formidable wax seals which, it was the custom to append to some legal documents.
Of almost equal importance to their wax manufacture is Messrs. MacNeill & Co.’s trade in colours and varnishes. Both of these subjects have received great attention at their hands, and their products have taken a deservedly high place. The varnishes are prepared in some twenty different kinds, each of which has its specific quality, purpose, and use, whether it be for the seats in a public park or a valuable painting in the national collection. Black japan, Brunswick black, oak stain, and French polish, all are made by the firm as part of their colour trade. Paints are supplied in three forms, viz., ground paints, dry colours, and specially prepared as artists’ oil-colours and put up in collapsible tubes. The list of colours is a very long one, and includes some score of greens and blues, with dozens each of yellows, ochres, browns, and lake ; of white itself there are no less than nine different varieties, with other colours to correspond. All are produced from pure pigments of the finest quality, and by an improved system are ground to the utmost degree of fineness. As an addendum to their colour trade, Messrs. MacNeill supply pumice-stone, caustic paste, gold-leaf, Dutch metal, brushes, palette knives, and similar painters' sundries.
Of their chemical trade, mention of a few of the more important articles must suffice. A drilling composition for engineers and shipbuilders has a large sale, as has also a vulcan and asbestos cement for steam-jointing. A syrup for use on belting, metalline anti-friction powder, and an anti-corrosive composition for polished iron, steel, or brass are special preparations, the uses of which are fully set forth by their names. A white soft soap is manufactured under the firm’s own patent. They also make the “National” soap powder for painters, type printers, dyers, scourers, &c. Refined borax, double refined soda crystals, prussiate of potash, methylated spirits, and polishing wood naptha, may be said to represent the more exclusively chemical portion of Messrs. MacNeill’s business.
This notice would not be complete, however, without mentioning that both works and warehouse are in connection with the Telephone Exchange, the number of the former, which includes the office, being No. 2529, and of the latter, No. 521. This is a great convenience, and brings the firm into intimate relation with their customers throughout the city.
Mr. James MacNeill, the principal of the firm, belongs to one of the oldest and best Scottish families. Indeed, till within a few years ago, he was the next-of-kin to the late Captain William Henry MacNeill, of Raploch, chief of the clan MacNeill, who died on the 3rd of November, 1883. Mr. James MacNeill, of Barrowfield, was cousin to the deceased chief, and would, in due course, have succeeded to the estate and the chieftainship of the clan ; but Captain MacNeill, some years prior to his death, married an American lady, by whom he had several children. During the year 1885 Mr. James MacNeill purchased the estate of Nellfield, Gallow Hill, and Berryhill, embracing about two hundred and twenty-five acres, and containing coal and iron mines.
Back to Index of Firms (1888)