Portsoy Foundry


Researched by Findlay Pirie

MacDonald Brothers Portsoy Foundry

MacDonald Brothers Portsoy Foundry beside Loch Soy

Banffshire Reporter, Saturday, Sept.10th. 1887: -

RETROSPECTIVE AND PROSPECTIVE – At Lochside, Messrs. Macdonald Brothers have erected premises of considerable dimensions.

Banffshire Reporter, Wednesday, April 25, 1900 :-

ROAD PAIRING MACHINE TRIAL – A trial of road pairing machines, invented and manufactured by Messrs Macdonald Brothers, Portsoy, was held on Thursday near Huntly.  The work done by the machine was all that could be desired, and gave the District Committee, under whose auspices the trial was held, complete satisfaction.  Two machines were ordered for the Huntly district.  The opinion was freely expressed that this machine will be a great boon for dressing the sides of public roads, which work is at present done by tedious and expensive process of manual labour.

 Banffshire Reporter, Wednesday, February 19th. 1902 :-

PORTSOY’S FISHING INDUSTRY - Mr. James Macdonald, engineer, struck a happy thought at the luncheon of the Northern Seeds and Roots Association, held at Portsoy on Saturday, in his reply to the toast of “The Town and Trade of Portsoy,”  Mr. Macdonald seems to believe in calling a spade a spade, instead of glossing over stern facts with oily words.   We have this set forth very plainly in his sharp stinging remark that while our neighbouring towns of Portknockie, Findochty, and Portessie are thriving and extending their boundaries, by building comfortable and even beautiful houses, Portsoy is going back – so much so that, although it has two harbours, both of which form safer shelters for fishing boats than the harbours of any of the above-named places, yet one of them might be let for all the use being made of it.

Mr. Macdonald pointed out that Portsoy holds the premier position on the Moray Firth, situated as it is on the border of a wide agricultural district, and in splendid proximity to the fishing grounds.  It does seem strange that with these facts staring us in the face Portsoy is failing to keep its position with towns which do not enjoy a tenth of its advantages.

The fishing industry is very different from that of the olden times, when our fishermen only caught herrings for a few months in the year, lying about almost idle at home during the remainder, except to go to sea with small boats when the weather was fine, and thus eke out a scanty living.  The fishermen of today, with their large, comfortable, and expensive boats (costing as they do about £800 all found) fish diligently all the year round, except for a few weeks in the fall, and thus follow the herrings from point to point nearly all round our island.  As a consequence their old ignorance and superstitious ideas have been left behind, and they are developing into an educated, industrious, hardy, business class of men, valuable for any town to possess.

Surely, then, as Mr. Macdonald pointed out, it is the duty of our rulers to make some attempt to at least invite some hardy specimens of fishermen to come and live with us.   We have harbour accommodation for them; we have ground which they could build houses upon; and (more’s the pity) we have empty houses, boarded up, which, like one of our harbours, are not required.

If Mr. Macdonald’s words would produce the desired effect, they would not have been uttered at the Seed and Root Show in vain.  To lie down and complain and blame everything and everybody but ourselves is to roll down the hill.  To be up and doing is to climb the winding pathway of improvement that leads onward to success.

Banffshire Reporter, May 28th, 1902: -

A BOON TO FISHERMEN – Messrs Macdonald Brothers, Portsoy, have just patented an important invention for the propulsion of fishing boats.  For long, difficulties have been experienced by fishermen when becalmed in getting to fishing grounds, and from them to the market with their shots of fish they may have had the good fortune to secure.  The invention of Messrs. Macdonald makes it possible for a boat now to move at a speed of from 3 to 4 knots an hour when a favourable breeze fails to fill the sails.   That this must be a boon goes without saying, and we venture to state that many a fisherman, when wind fails him, may be enabled to realise from a night’s shot considerably more than the little expense his propelling gear has cost him.   The invention is simple, and the propelling gear is driven by the ordinary engine used for the boat’s capstan.  A box-like construction on deck, with a shaft passing into it, is the only outward appearance that the boat is possessed of anything beyond the ordinary appliances.  From the deck to the bottom or lower part of the boat is a tube or well through which the propeller shaft passes.   This shaft, with the propeller attached, may be shipped or unshipped in the course of a few seconds.  The patent, it may be mentioned, covers twin propellers as well as a single propeller, and thus can be made serviceable for the largest size of boats.

The first boat to be fitted with the invention was the “Nannie Raffan”, of Portsoy, Mr. George Wood, master and owner.   Some days ago this boat left the harbour for the West Coast fishing, and her exit was watched by many anxious to see the result of Portsoy’s latest invention.   Of disappointment there was none.  The “Nannie Raffan”, notwithstanding the head wind she had to contend with, soon made it apparent that, wind or no wind, she was bent on getting seawards.  The speed attained was in every way satisfactory, and only words of congratulation to the inventors were noised abroad among the gazing throng.    Since leaving the port, we are informed that the “Nannie Raffan” has found it necessary to test her propelling gear with advantage; and from Stornoway it is reported that the boat has been visited and the gear inspected by hundreds of fishermen, who are favourably impressed with the utility of the invention.

Banffshire Reporter, Wednesday, June 25th 1902: -

STEAM PROPULSION OF FISHING BOATS – Portsoy’s Latest Invention Found Most Useful - We referred in a recent issue to the fact that Messrs. Macdonald Brothers, engineers, Portsoy, had patented an important invention for the propulsion of fishing boats.  At the same time a description of the propelling gears was given, as well as an account of the successful trial made by the “Nannie Raffan,” the first boat fitted up with the invention.  The boat proceed to Stornoway, where the gear was tested with advantage, and underwent the close scrutiny and inspection of a large number of fishermen, who were favourably impressed with the utility of the invention.  The “Nannie Raffan” has now gone to Lerwick, where we are pleased to learn the invention has again come in for a large amount of attention and highly favourable comment.

Referring to the invention in connection with the arrival of the “Nannie Raffan” at Lerwick, the Shetland News of June 21st. Says: -

The arrival of the boat “Nannie Raffan” here on Thursday excited a good deal of interest.  The boat is fitted up with Messrs. Macdonald’s, Portsoy, patent propelling gear, driven by the ordinary capstan.  The shaft is attached to the capstan by a very simple device, and the propeller can be raised or lowered by the turning of a winch, this operation being so simple that it can be done with one hand.  The boat can be driven at a speed of 3½ knots per hour, and the skipper states that both at Stornoway and when coming here it has been found most useful.  With a large propeller, he is confident a speed of five knots could be developed.  The boat, which was bound for Uyasound, steamed from Freefield quay in presence of a large number of interested spectators, and went a good distance out through the north harbour before setting her sails.  The contrivance seems a very ingenious one, and its operation will be watched with much interest.

Banffshire Reporter, Wednesday, October 14th 1903: -

FISHING BOAT PROPULSION  - Messrs. Macdonald Brothers, engineers, Portsoy, have just completed the fitting up of the large fishing boat “Cynosure” with their patent twin screw auxiliary propellers.  It is a splendid looking boat, and has been much admired.  There appears to be every convenience on board, and the vessel is equipped with all modern appliances.

           Great interest has been taken in the introduction of the machinery, which has given great satisfaction.  It is expected the engine will give a speed of at least six knots.  Other boats are likely soon to be fitted up in a similar manner.

The “Cynosure” left the harbour on Monday afternoon, in presence of a large company who had gathered to witness the send off.

Banffshire Reporter, March 4th. 1904: -

PORTSOY – TRIAL TRIP OF THE NANNIE RAFFAN – Messrs. Macdonald Brothers, Engineers, Portsoy have just finished fitting up the large fishing boat, “Nannie Raffan” (George Wood, Skipper) with one of their patent auxiliary propellers.  The boat put to sea on Thursday morning on a trial trip, having on board a large company.  On leaving the harbour the boat was closely watched by a crowd of spectators as she skied along beautifully.  Throughout the voyage she attained a speed of fully five knots.   All concerned were greatly pleased with the manner in which the craft manoeuvred, and are agreed that the propelling gear will prove of great advantage.

 Banffshire Reporter, Wednesday, May 11th. 1904:  -

FISHING BOAT “CYNOSURE” – The fishing boat Cynosure which arrived here from Portgordon about a fortnight ago, left last night, after having been fitted with a new boiler by Messrs. MacDonald Bros.

Banffshire Reporter, Wednesday, January 11th, 1905: -

IMPROVEMENTS TO THE “AGNES WOOD”    - Messrs. McDonald Bros. have just completed fitting up of their patent twin-screw propellers into the boat “Agnes Wood”  (George Wood, Skipper).

 Banffshire Reporter, Wednesday, January 26th, 1916: -

DEATH OF MR. ALEX. MACDONALD, ENGINEER, PORTSOY – It is with deep regret that we record the death of Mr. Alexander Macdonald, engineer, and agricultural implement maker, which took place suddenly on Thursday at his residence, 22 Durn Road, Portsoy.  Mr. Macdonald had been at work early that morning, and appeared to be in the enjoyment of his usual health.  In the forenoon, feeling cold, he came and sat down by the fireside in his office.  Shortly after, he complained that he did not feel at all well, and would go home.  Soon thereafter serious symptoms manifested themselves, and he passed away at 1.30 in the afternoon.   Mr. Macdonald was in his 73rd. year.

Mr. Macdonald was a native of the parish of Fordyce, having been born at Blackjug (Glassaugh), where he learned the blacksmith trade with his father.  It is now 38 years since he and his brother, the late Bailie James Macdonald came to Portsoy and started the now well known business of Messrs. Macdonald Brothers, Engineers, and Agricultural Implement Makers.   To be exact the foundation of the firm was laid in 1878, and as a result of the united effort and inventive genius of the partners their career has been one round of success.  Twice the business premises were changed, and on each occasion more extensive buildings had to be erected.

The firm enjoyed the confidence of a large section of the agricultural community, and the implements are to be seen about many homesteads.  Among their important inventions may be mentioned the Portsoy turnip lifter, back delivery reapers, patent serpentine harrows and steel hay rakes, which were put on the market by the thousand.  Then there was their “Ideal Manure Distributor”, and many more agricultural requirements; while seafaring interests also received their attention, including auxiliary gear for the propulsion of fishing vessels, steam reversible capstans, and patent steam line haulers.   The firm continues to enjoy a wide reputation, and the business has assumed extensive dimensions.

The gentleman just deceased travelled over a wide area in the interests of the firm, and by his straightforward and trustworthy dealings enjoyed the confidence and esteem of their numerous customers.  Genial, frank, and kindly, Mr. Alexander Macdonald found staunch friends wherever he went, and there are many who will be deeply grieved to hear of his death.

He took a great and intelligent interest in all matters pertaining to the welfare of the town and district, and in regard to public work connected therewith he did not shrink responsibility.  In the early years of the burgh he served for a term of three years on the Town Council.  He was also a member of the Fordyce School Board and of the Fordyce Parish Council for a good few years, and held office on both boards up till the time of his death.  Firm and cautious, and gifted with sound common sense, he proved himself a very useful member on all these boards, more especially the School Board, knowing as he did so well the requirements of the parish and circumstances connected there.  All movements calculated in any way to serve and advance the public weal had his earnest and hearty support.

In politics he was an ardent Liberal, and steadily upheld that cause.  Many will regret his passing away, and by them his memory will be cherished for long.  Mr. Macdonald, who was predeceased by his wife some twelve years ago, is survived by two sons, and to them, and to his other relatives, there is extended the sincere sympathy of the community in their bereavement.  (The report goes on to describe the public funeral).

Banffshire Journal, Tuesday, July 14th 1970: -

WELL-KNOWN PORTSOY MAN DIES – The death occurred suddenly of Mr. A.V. McDonald, agricultural machine manufacturer, Portsoy.   Mr. McDonald was born in 1900 at the Station Hotel where his mother was proprietrix.  He attended Fordyce Academy and a Technical School in Glasgow, and was apprentice to the agricultural works, which had been started by his father in buildings by Loch Soy about 1885.  These buildings were previously owned by a firm of marble workers who had rights to the Loch Soy water.    Mr. McDonald sen. died in 1916 and his son Hugh went to America in 1923.  Since then Mr. A.V. McDonald ran the works on his own.  At one time over 30 men were employed there and machinery was exported to many countries.  The works closed in 1968.

Mr. McDonald married Mary Ewing from Cullen Street in 1924.  Mrs. McDonald is the local authority on the history of Portsoy.

A past president of the bowling club, the Church men’s club and the rifle club which was formed after the disbandment of the Home Guard.  Mr. McDonald was responsible, with Mr. Cochrane, former Banffshire drama adviser, for building the outdoor theatre.  He was also on the first committee to raise funds for the swimming pool. Before his marriage he played football for the works team and constructed one of the first radio sets in Portsoy.  Until his last illness he retained a keen interest in gardening and bird life.



Erected by Alexander MacDonald

in memory of his wife JANE H. VALENTINE

who died at Portsoy 25th. July 1903 aged 41 years

also their son HENRY JAMES MacDONALD

who died 7th. September 1903 aged 6 weeks

and the said ALEXANDER MacDONALD

who died 20th. July 1916 aged 72 years

In memory of JAMES MacDONALD, engineer,

who died 12th April 1913 aged 65 years.

In loving memory


born 26th August 1900 died 1st July 1970

and of his wife MARY ANGUS EWEN

born 15th. January 1900 died 11th. May 197

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>