Lord Dundas


The Dundas family were one of the most powerful families of the late 18th century. Sir Lawrence Dundas, 1st Baronet (1710 - 1781) was a Scottish businessman, landowner and politician.


He was involved in discussions about the route for the Forth and Clyde Canal before building began in 1768 as the canal would pass through his Kerse estate at the east end. He was to become the major shareholder in Forth & Clyde Navigation Company which developed and built the canal. The Carron Company Iron Works benefitted greatly from the canalís construction and it is said that Sir Lawrence, the Carron Company and the Canal were responsible for the founding of Grangemouth and the resulting industrial development that was to follow in the area. On Sir Lawrenceís death in 1781 his son Thomas, Lord Dundas inherited his estate and, following in his fatherís footsteps, became Governor of the Forth and Clyde Canal Company. The canal was essential to his business. He motivated the steamboat trials on the canal realizing that steam power could speed up the canal traffic. Dundas probably knew about William Symington through Patrick Millerís steamboat trials on Dalswinton Loch and the Firth of Forth or for the engines he built for James Bruceís Kinnaird mine. Dundas visited Symington at Wanlockhead in early 1800 to discuss the possibility of making a steam engine to propel a tug on the canal.

In June 1800 he put forward his proposal to the Forth & Clyde Canal Company directors who ordered a boat to be built. It was built at Alexander Hartís shipyard in Grangemouth and trialled on the Carron. Symington made improvements to the boat but the canal directors were not convinced that the boat would serve the purpose for which it was intended. When it seemed likely that they would withdraw funding it was Dundas who suggested to Symington that he should make a model of the vessel, which he did. Dundas kept faith in Symington and introduced him to the Duke of Bridgewater who, after studying the model, gave Symington a provisional order for 8 steam tugs for use on the Bridgewater Canal. CD A second boat was built at Grangemouth in 1802 and named Charlotte Dundas, in honour of one of his Lordship's daughters. Lord Dundas is said to have been on board the Charlotte Dundas with a cousin, Captain Dundas, and son in law Archibald Speirs when she made her first journey on 4 January 1803. The journey for which Charlotte Dundas is famous took place later that year on 28 March 1803. A model of the Charlotte Dundas is on display at Aske Hall, Yorkshire (which the family has owned since 1763.) It is believed to be a comparatively modern model of the boat and the only one with ice stampers. (Stampers were placed at the head of the boat for breaking ice on the canal.) Sir Lawrence Dundas is buried in the Dundas Mausoleum at Falkirk Old Parish Church with his wife and son Thomas.