Beardmore, William, Baron Invernairn 1856-1936, shipbuilder, was born at Greenwich 16 October 1856, the eldest son of William Beardmore, of Parkhead, Glasgow, by his wife, Sophie Louisa Holfman. He was educated at Glasgow High School and Ayr Academy and completed his studies at the Royal Technical College, Glasgow, and at the Royal School of Mines, South Kensington. He served his apprenticeship at Parkhead Forge, which, founded by David Napier [qv.], had passed under the control of his father eleven years before. Working for long hours by day, he attended evening classes at Anderson's College, specializing in chemistry and mathematics. On the death of his father he became in 1879 a partner with his uncle, Isaac Beardmore, and on the latter's retirement founded the firm of William Beardmore & company, which gained world-wide fame, not only for the building of men-of-war and merchant ships, but for the construction of the R.34, which was the first airship to make the double crossing of the Atlantic. During the war of 1914-1918 the Beardmore shipyard, engine shops, and foundries rendered great service to the nation, for it was recognized as the best-equipped and most efficient establishment in the world. Some conception of its activities may be formed when it is stated that in the years 1906 to 1919 the firm built four battleships, seven cruisers, twenty-one destroyers, thirteen submarines, twenty-four hospital ships, and one seaplane-carrier. For some years after the war the firm continued its activities successfully, being responsible for such notable ships as the Empress of France, Lancastria, Cameronia, Conte Rosso, Conte Verde, Largs Bay, Esperance Bay, and Duchess of Atholl, and in April 1925 the largest vessel ever to leave the Beardmore slipways was floated, the first-class passenger and cargo steamer Conte Biancamano, 23,121 tons, for the Lloyd Sabaudo. The firm also built the 9,730-ton cruiser Shropshire and two submarines.
Soon after the launching of this large man-of-war, the most serious depression affecting both warship and merchant ship construction began and the huge establishment which Beardmore had created and managed so successfully suffered in common with other firms. Shipping, as well as ship-building, was affected by the depression. The Admiralty had ceased to place contracts for men-of-war and Beardmore could not secure sufficient mercantile work to keep the large body of technicians, draughtsmen, and workmen employed. The firm entered the field of locomotive construction and made motor-cars and commercial vehicles. But these experiments were not a success. It was one of the tragedies of the after-war period that the splendidly equipped shipyards, engine shops, and foundries were without work. Eventually, in 1930, the shipyard was acquired by National Shipbuilders' Security Limited, under an agreement which laid down that it might not be used for a period of forty years. One year before this development Beardmore had severed his connexion with the firm. He was an autocrat in his relations with his employees, but was regarded as a fair and just employer.
For many years Beardmore was chairman of the Industrial Welfare Society in the activities of which he took a keen interest. In 1917 he was president of the Iron and Steel Institute. He encouraged Antarctic exploration, his name being given by Sir Ernest Shackleton [qv.] to a glacier discovered on one of his voyages to the Antarctic regions. He was also a keen sportsman. In 1914 he was created a baronet and in 1921 raised to the peerage as Baron Invernairn, of Strathnairn, Inverness-shire. He married in 1902 Elspeth Stiven, eldest daughter of David Tullis, of Glencairn, Rutherglen, Lanarkshire; there were no children of the marriage. He died at Flichity, Invernessshire, 9 April 1936.
The Times, 10 April 1936
David Kirkwood, My Life of Revolt, 1935.
Contributor: Archibald Hurd.