John Marshall married James Jamieson’s sister, Janet, on 16th February 1836, but she died ten years later in 1846.
Now in 1855, John, a local corn merchant, was the new owner of the pottery. He set about reorganising the pottery, which included the
building of additional kilns. He had a genuine concern for both the potters and the community at large and in July 1858 he opened a
reading room and library. This was established in the house of William Cummings in Main Street and it was confined to his employees,
who paid a penny a week for the upkeep. In later years the library was carried on by Alex. Robertson and James Middleton. Thomas
Climie, the pottery's cashier, was the library's treasurer and he deducted the members' pennies from their wages every week. Sick and
funeral societies were also established.
With regards to the community, he was chairman of the first School Board and one of the trustees of the water supply. He was also a
John remarried in 1860. On 31st October at St John the Evangelist’s Church, London he married Catherine Pratt.
By April 1861, the workforce had increased to 149 from 106 in 1851. Many of these workers attended a concert in the Town Hall the
following month. It was a fund raising affair to boost library funds to enable the purchase of new books. By all accounts, the evening
was a great success.
The railway came to Bo’ness that same year, and a siding was soon led into the pottery’s north site although the waggons were horse
drawn into the premises.
In February 1864, disaster was prevented purely by chance. Had a worker not returned for something he had left behind, a fire would not
have been discovered. The fire would have done serious damage to the pottery and neighbourhood as the town didn’t have a fire engine.
In 1867 John took his brother in law, William McNay, into partnership. William had been a traveller for the firm for the previous 8 years.
The firm became more prosperous after this and there was a great increase in exports.
William’s brother, George McNay, a previous employee at the pottery and now a successful merchant in Falkirk, died on 18th December
In September 1877, the local Courier ran an article on the Bo'ness Pottery and it gives us an insight into the everyday working of the
The Pottery has been in the possession of the present proprietors for the last thirty years at least. It has prospered in their hands. They
have extended the premises to an astonishing degree. By the broken and cracked ware alone which have been cast aside on the sherd-
rack, or heap of potsherds, ground on the shore beach has been reclaimed some eighty or one hundred yards. A railway from the main
line comes up into the works, the waggons, of course, drawn by horses, so that goods from the warehouse can be raised up at once by
means of a crane placed there thus saving manual labour. The risk of breakage is to no small extent then obviated.
The process of the manufacture of earthenware is by no means so simple or easy as one might at first suppose, and when we let slip a
cup or bowl on the floor, which may be thereby broken, although the price of it may not be great and another easily purchased and put in
its place, yet we seldom think on the time and labour it has taken to fashion it, and the different processes it has gone through in order
to mould, smooth and polish it off, the time it has been in the kilns, the glazing process, the printing of the different colours upon it, the
painting also and the enamelling tint and colour work which has to be brought out in its proper lustre. We have not been gratified so
much, for a long time, or enjoyed a visit to any public work to greater advantage, in an instructive point of view, than the privilege we
were recently allowed of going through Bo'ness Pottery, seeing all hands at work in their respective departments, each showing
dexterity and skill that were truly wonderful.
We understand that no fewer than 350 people are employed at the establishment and that even before steam power was introduced a
greater number of hands were employed. It may not be necessary here to give any lengthened description of the different processes.
Suffice it to say that great improvements have been made of late in the manufactory. The clay is of the best quality and comes from
Cornwall. It is placed into the dry cellar and afterwards taken to the machine-house for being properly mixed then to the jolley shop.
The slip making and mixing processes are very important. The method of expressing the water after it has been mixed is of modern
invention, and is certainly accomplished in a careful and thorough manner, subjecting the clay again to the mixing process by means of
the pugmill renders it more plastic for the hands of the potter. The introduction of steam power expedites the labour of the operations in
moulding the different earthenware vessels, each it is intending to fashion.
The mould or frame at which the potter is placed goes round by steam power instead of being turned by the foot like a turning lathe.
Suppose common dinner plates are intended to be fashioned, then first at one end of the workshop, two or three hands are busy at a
kind of stamping press. One cuts off a portion of clay, sufficient to make the plate proposed, and places it below the stamping press
and another brings down the press upon it, and the clay which before was as round and as large as a large carpet bowl, has now the
shape of a 'carter's bunnet'. This work proceeds as constant as the ticking of a clock and a third party or more are employed taking
small bundles of the clay in this flat round shape, supplying the potters, say twenty in number, who are at work in their respective
frames, moulding their vessels with dexterity and dispatch. Each potter is also supplied with an attendant who serves him or her, as the
case may be, with a new mould after receiving and placing on a shelf at hand the vessel which has just now been manipulated. Each
new vessel remains in its mould on the shelf a certain time until it assumes the necessary degree of hardness to ensure its removal
from the mould without risk of injuring it. Of course there are drying rooms in which the new made vessels are placed, below the doors
of which are flues. They are afterwards removed to the large biscuit kiln for a first firing neatly packed into seggars. The kilns are
circular, 16 feet in diameter generally and 16 feet high. The roof is oval. After remaining there the necessary time, the seggars are
taken out and the different wares unpacked. After being glazed they are neatly packed into seggars again and to prevent them from
touching they are separated by what are termed pins, three of which are placed between each vessel. The seggars, after being
hermetically sealed, so to speak, are put into the glost kiln, piled one upon the other, where they remain the proper time so as to harden
The printing process is a very interesting one, that is putting the different flowers or figures on the plates, cups or saucers. The design
of the figure, flower or whatever it may be is cut out from copper and after being inked by whatever coloured is required, the cast or
pattern is taken on thin tissue paper by means of a copper plate press. The paper thus having received the necessary impression, all
extra margins being clipped off, it is then taken and pressed closely on the particular vessel intended for the figure or design. After the
lapse of some little time, the paper is then washed off the vessel, and the design is now neatly and distinctly printed upon it. I
witnessed the process myself, so that there is no 'legerdemain', no nonsense in the matter, but all pretty work and cleverly done. The
painting shop is the next step, and here, as well as in the printing one, many hands are busy at work, each giving the finishing touch to
the different kinds of wares that are put into his or her hands.
The goods are afterwards put into the muffle kiln for the purpose of drying the oil and imparting the enamel colouring and lustre. Lastly,
they are taken to the warehouse to be carefully packed in crates, ready to be consigned to their respective customers.
Flint is an indispensible commodity which must be properly ground and mixed with the clay. For this purpose Messrs. Marshall & Co.,
have kilns of their own on hand at their premises for burning the flint. These kilns are somewhat similar to these used for burning
limestone. After the flint has been burnt it is ground and converted into a fine solution in four large vats by means of an engine 63 horse
power. The seggars for baking the earthenware vessels in the kilns are also made on the premises. They are of a cylindrical form,
generally twelve or eighteen inches high, and are formed of composition clay. It is impossible to convey, in a short notice, such as this,
an adequate idea of the importance of the manufacture and the different processes necessary to be gone through, before the clay, in its
raw state, is converted into a neat cup and saucer. The workmanship, to sum up, is a laborious one. The potter's art and skills are not
acquired in a day, a week or a year, but can only be attained by experience and attention.
The manufactory is an honour to Bo'ness; the worthy partners of the firm deserve every credit for their worthy public spirit in carrying on
their works, and it would be a black day and a dark night for the port when Bo'ness Pottery shall cease to exist. To apply to it the well
known Scottish song 'The Boatie Rows' may not be out of place;
'The boatie rows, the boatie rows,
The boatie rows indeed,
And long may the boatie row,
That wins the bairns breid.'
Around 1877, the health of both partners deteriorated and John Marshall died on 1st January 1879. Read obituary here
William McNay died the following year on 24th March.
Following William’s death in 1880, his other brother, Charles Wason McNay took charge of the pottery.
On 4th January 1881, Charles held a supper for the employees in the large packing shed of the pottery. After a sumptuous repast, the
pottery manager, James Middleton, presented Charles with a very valuable timepiece, bearing the inscription:-
On 24th May 1886, the whole workforce went on strike, refusing to work at the reduced rates which were to be imposed on the piece
Charles ran the pottery until money trouble arose between the McNay family and Marshall’s trustees. He decided to build his own
pottery and left, leaving John Marshall jnr to take control.
In March 1887, James Middleton, the pottery manager, left the pottery. He was presented with a gold watch and pipe as a token of
esteem from his fellow workmen and friends.
In July 1890, there was another fire. This one was not discovered in time and it caused several thousand pounds worth of damage.
James Middleton had returned to the pottery as manager and on 9th August 1890, he was sacked.
James Marshall, John’s brother, became manager in 1891.
In April 1891, over 30 of the kilnmen went on strike because one apprentice more than the Union prescribed to the number of
journeymen had been engaged at the works.
Then, in May, James Middleton made an unsuccessful attempt to sue John Marshall & Co. for £250 on the grounds that he had been
unjustifiably dismissed the previous year. He had been dismissed for refusing to have his charges of glaze, fritt, colours, etc checked
by Mr Marshall or his deputy, claiming that he was entitled to keep the particulars of the various compositions to himself as they were
his secrets and therefore his property. Lord Wellwood ruled in favour of the pottery.
On 30th September 1891, the following advert appeared in the Scotsman:
Presented to Charles Wasson McNay, Esq., by the employees of the Bo’ness Pottery,
as a mark of the esteem and regard in which he is held by them as their employer.
- Borrowstounness, 4th January, 1881.
POTTERY FOR SALE. - BO’NESS POTTERY, belonging to the
Firm of Messrs John Marshall & Company, will shortly be
exposed to sale by public roup as a going concern.
Full particulars in future advertisements.
There must have been a change of heart, as no future adverts appeared and the Marshall brothers continued to run the business.
Throughout the 1890s, finance was proving to be a problem and in an attempt to give the pottery a cash injection, the brothers decided
on becoming a Limited Company and on 7th December 1895, John Marshall & Company Limited was formed. This would allow the
release of 1,400 Preference shares and 2,600 Ordinary shares, both valued at £5 each, giving a Nominal Capital of £20,000. This was
the theory, the practice was quite different.
By April 1896, 949 Preference shares and 560 Ordinary shares had been sold, giving a capital of £7,545. By November 1898, only a
further 68 Preference shares had been issued. In almost three years only £7,885 of a projected £20,000 had been raised.
The fate of the pottery was decided at an extraordinary general meeting of the Company held on Friday, 11th November 1898 at its
registered office, No. 7 Union Street, Bo’ness, when the following resolution was passed:
That it has been proved to the satisfaction of this meeting that the Company
cannot by reason of its liabilities continue its business, and that it is advisable
to wind up the same, and accordingly that the Company be wound up voluntarily.
Earlier in 1898, the floor of one of the stores collapsed, resulting in the loss of two large orders of fighting-cock ornaments intended for
India. This was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back.
The Bo’ness Journal of 31st December 1898 reported:
While workers in the Bo’ness area finished for the New Year
break today, staff at the Old Pottery Company found themselves
in a different predicament. They were being laid off.
When the company went into liquidation some time ago, it
honoured the workers contracts up until December 31.
It was hoped a buyer would be found for the pottery soon.
Within a fortnight, the pottery was on the market.
POTTERY FOR SALE
To be SOLD by Public Roup, within Dowell’s Rooms, Number Eighteen, George Street,
Edinburgh, upon Wednesday the 18th day of January 1899, at Two o’clock.
The POTTERY at BO’NESS, belonging to Messrs John Marshall & Company, Limited,
and the Whole BUILDINGS, KILNS, MACHINERY, ENGINES, BOILERS, and other HERITABLE PLANT.
The Purchaser will be bound to take over the Movable Plant and Stock-in-Trade at Mutual Valuation.
The Business is an Old-Established one, and is in Full Operation at present. The Grounds
extend to about 2½ Acres, and adjoin the Dock and North British Railway, from which
there is a Siding into the Works. The Works are well fitted with Ample Modern Machinery,
Grind all their own Materials, and are capable of doing Six Glost Ovens per week.
There are Three Bisque Ovens, Two Enamel Kilns, Two Hardening-On Kilns,
Three Glost Ovens, and Flint Kilns. Plans of the Ground, &c., will be shown to enquirers.
Feu-duty, £54, 3s. 2d.
LOW UPSET PRICE, to ensure a Sale, £4,500
For further particulars apply to A & J ROBERTSON, C.A., 33 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh;
or JOHN MARSHALL, Solicitor, Bo’ness, who has the Titles and Articles of Roup.
Unfortunately, a buyer was not found and at a sale of Movable Plant & Machinery the pottery was broken up.
SALE of MOVABLE PLANT and MACHINERY
at BO’NESS POTTERY, BO’NESS,
on FRIDAY, 7th July 1899, at Eleven o’clock.
The sale raised a total of £318. 6s. 6d.
A few months later, the pottery was again on the market.
LINLITHGOWSHIRE. -- BO’NESS.
To be Exposed to SALE by Public Roup, in Dowell’s Rooms, 18 George Street, Edinburgh,
on Wednesday the 18th day of October 1899, at Two o’clock Afternoon, by virtue of the
powers contained in a Bond and Disposition in Security.
ALL and WHOLE the SUBJECTS and OTHERS situated on the North Side of the Highway
or Street of Bo’ness, commonly called the NORTH POTTERY, and some time occupied
by JOHN MARSHALL & CO., LIMITED, Potters, or their Tenants, together with the Kilns,
Fixed Plant, and Machinery, and Whole Buildings and Erections on the Subjects.
The Property is held partly in Feu and partly Leasehold from the Duke of Hamilton.
A Large and Lucrative Business was at one time carried on in the Pottery, and this is
an opening for the re-establishment of the Business by purchase of the Property at a very
low price. The Grounds extend to about 2½ Acres, and adjoin the Dock and North British
Railway, from which there is a Siding into the Works.
The Feu and Tack Duties are £54, 3s. 2d.
UPSET PRICE only £2,400
The Subjects will be pointed out by Mr J. CURRIE LIDDLE, Solicitor, Bo’ness, from whom or
from the Subscribers, in whose hands are the Title-Deeds and Articles of Roup,
all further information may be obtained.
RONALD & RITCHIE, S.S.C., 20 Hill Street, Edinburgh.
That advert for the October sale appeared in the Scotsman on 6th, 13th & 20th September 1899 and on the last of these three dates,
one full month before the sale was due, Provost Stewart bought the premises.
The Bo'ness Journal reported:
PURCHASE OF BO’NESS POTTERY - A NEW FOUNDRY TO BE STARTED
The Bo’ness Pottery so long carried on by Messrs John Marshall & Co.,
and latterly by John Marshall & Co., Limited, has been bought by Provost
Stewart at the upset price of £2,500.
Arrangements will at once be made for converting the premises into a large
foundry and engineering work, and to combine therein, and in the property
of Mr John Steele, ironfounder, the businesses of the Bo’ness Foundry Company
and Messrs Marshall and Duguid.
It is intended to register a company under the Limited Liability Acts, and we
understand a portion of the capital will be offered to the Bo’ness public for subscription.