Robertson & Cairns

Plumbers and gasfitters

Robertson & Cairns was an Edinburgh firm of brassfounders, plumbers and gasfitters, started by Alexander Robertson (previously a sole trader) and John Cairns, in the mid-1850s. 1 They were based at 31 Nicolson Street, Edinburgh for over 50 years. Robertson was admitted to Edinburgh Merchant Company in 1862, and his firm fitted the 'exceedingly effective' gaslighting for Newington United Presbyterian Church the following year. 2 Other clients bought from the firm 'ale warmers, new designs', water filters and gas stoves during the 1860s and 1870s. 3

The business suffered two major fires. The first, when neighbouring Hengler's Circus theatre burned down in 1875 and twelve years later when the theatre was completely destroyed. 4

John Cairns died in 1898, and his son subsequently formed John Cairns & Co., at 159 Bruntsfield Place. 5 Cairns's other former partners continued trading in Nicolson Street as 'A. Robertson & Son' (the son being Charles William Robertson). 6 In 1903, Robertson's business assumed Thomas Hogg, electrical engineer, as a partner, creating Robertson & Hogg, who stated they would 'respectfully solicit a continuation' of previous custom, and 'endeavour to merit the confidence of all patrons'. 7

In 1904, John Cairns Junior wrote a stongly-worded letter protesting against Edinburgh's municipal gas commissioners infringing upon his market, by 'trading in gas appliances', and unfairly manipulating prices to their own advantage. 8 James Robertson died in 1910 and John Cairns in 1933. 9

Notes:

1: Edinburgh Post Office directories, 1850–1911.

2: Scotsman, 21 October 1862, p. 2; 16 November 1863, p. 2.

3: Scotsman, 5 July 1861, p. 3; 25 August 1869, p. 5; 7 December 1872, p. 2; 18 November 1874, p. 3.

4: Scotsman, 15 March 1875, p. 4; Glasgow Herald, 16 March 1875, p. 5.

5: Scotsman, 26 January 1898, p. 14; Edinburgh Gazette, 12 July 1898, p. 699.

6: Edinburgh Gazette, 12 July 1898, p. 699.

7: Scotsman, 7 January 1903, p. 1.

8: Scotsman, 6 July 1904, p. 10.

9: Scotsman, 5 December 1910, p. 14, 13 November 1933, p. 18.