John Finlay & Co.

Ironmongers and lighting suppliers

John Finlay & Co. Ltd or Finlay's (not John Findlay & Co., as in some sources) were a long-established Glasgow firm of architectural and wholesale ironmongers. The original John Finlay was working at the Globe Foundry in 1838, before setting up his own company two years later. He established a brass foundry and smithy at Old Wynd, off the Trongate, but his retail premises were further west, in the more modern commercial hub of Buchanan Street. 1

Finlay filed various patents in the 1840s and 50s. He devised new means of lowering gas lamps from ceilings, and advertised 'patent grates prepared for the Paris Exhibition' and 'improved radiating stove grates'. 2 As well as supplying other manufacturers' weighing machines and cleaning materials, he made ventilators for greenhouses and churches, and 'gas apparatus for gentlemen's seats [country houses]'. 3 He went to court to defend his patents, calling such eminent authorities as Professor George Wilson, first Director of the Industrial Museum (now National Museums Scotland), and J. Macquorn Rankine, Regius Professor of Civil Engineering at Glasgow University. 4 He served as an expert witness himself in a subsequent trial, known as 'The Great Kitchen Range Case'. 5 His grates in 'brightly burnished steel, with highly artistic ornaments in bronze' were admired at the London International Exhibition in 1862. 6

Finlay retired in 1878, and the firm, based in Renfield Street, was taken over by Quintin Galbraith and John P. Slater. 7 They appended the word 'cheap' to their advertising, held stock clearances and erected the new Overnewton Workshops, Lymburn Street (A. D. Hislop, 1882). 8 They continued Finlay's original activities of tinsmithing, plumbing, and gasfitting, and supplied the gas lighting to Elder Park Church, Govan (reconstructed by John Honeyman, 1885). 9 By 1900, they boasted 'the finest selection ... out of London' of electrical parts, lamps, cutlery, mangles, and Finlay's long-established own-brand kitchen ranges, 'in sizes suitable for hotels, clubs [and] shooting lodges'. 10

John Finlay & Co. Ltd was wound up over an extraordinarily long period: the process was begun in 1917, but 'the principal assets, the ... properties' had not been sold by 1923. 11 Appeals for creditors to come forward were made in 1952, and it was not until 1990 that the final meetings concerning the liquidation were held. 12


1: Glasgow Post Office directories, 1838–45.

2: Glasgow Herald, 5 December 1845, p. 2; 20 November 1854, p. 7; Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1855–6, Appendix p. 211.

3: Glasgow Herald, 30 July 1847, p. 1; Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1855–6, Appendix p. 211.

4: Glasgow Herald, 27 March 1857, p. 6; Caledonian Mercury, 18 July 1857, p. 3.

5: Glasgow Herald, 2 December 1867, p. 4.

6: Glasgow Herald, 21 April 1862, p. 4.

7: Edinburgh Gazette, 12 April 1878, p. 289.

8: Glasgow Herald, 21 March 1881, p. 1; 14 July 1882, p. 9; John R. Hume, Industrial Archaeology of Glasgow, Glasgow and London: Blackie, 1974, p. 227.

9: Glasgow Herald, 31 August 1885, p. 10.

10: Glasgow Herald, 13 February 1900, p. 1; 1 May 1900, p. 11.

11: Edinburgh Gazette, 8 June 1917, pp. 1115–16; 6 March 1923, p. 388.

12: Edinburgh Gazette, 11 July 1952, p. 423; 11 May 1979; 31 July 1990, p. 1459.