If you have found the information on these pages useful, you might like to contribute to the costs involved (this money comes directly to me)
 

Or you may wish to give to one of these charities that are close to my heart - please tell them how you found them, if donating this way

 

Robert Davidson Nicolson textile fitter

M, #1370, b. 15 January 1893, d. 13 February 1951
Last Edited: 18 Jun 2020

Parents:

Father*: Forester Cockburn Nicolson seaman b. 21 Jul 1862, d. 19 Jan 1926
Mother*: Jane Lawson Pitkethly b. 17 Apr 1862, d. 15 Dec 1936
  • Birth*: Robert Davidson Nicolson textile fitter was born on 15 January 1893 at 3 Shuttlefield Street, Newburgh, Fife, Scotland, ; twin of David Pitkethley.
  • He was the son of Forester Cockburn Nicolson seaman and Jane Lawson Pitkethly.
  • (Groom) Marriage*: Robert Davidson Nicolson textile fitter married Kathleen Fairbank thread mill boxer, daughter of Samuel Fairbank clogger, greengrocer, furniture dealer and Alice Petty, in 1923 at Keighley, Yorkshire, England, ; First name(s)     KATHLEEN
    Last name     FAIRBANK
    Marriage quarter     2
    Marriage year     1923
    Registration month     -

    MarriageFinder ™
         

    KATHLEEN FAIRBANK married one of these people

    Robert D Nicolson
    Spouse's last name     Nicholson
    District     Keighley
    District number     -
    County     Yorkshire
    Country     England
    Volume     9A
    Volume as transcribed     9A
    Page number     465
    Record set     England & Wales Marriages 1837-2005
    Category     Birth, Marriage, Death & Parish Records
    Subcategory     Civil Marriage & Divorce
    Collections from     Great Britain, England.1,2
  • (Deceased) Death*: Robert Davidson Nicolson textile fitter died on 13 February 1951 at Royal Infirmary, Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, , at age 58 1951 deaths in the district of St Clement in the burgh of Dundee, ref 186; Robert Davidson Nicolson textile fitter married to Kathleen Fairbank, died 1951 February Thirteenth 0h 55m am Royal Infirmary UR 24 North Erskine Street Dundee, male aged 58 years, parents Forrester Nicolson seaman (dec) and Jane Nicolson ms Pitkethly (dec), cause mitral stenosis, congestive cardiac failure, left plural effusion as cert by Ian R Murray MBChB, signed S Nicolson son 61 Headley Avenue, Blythe, Northumberland, registered 1951 February 14th at Dundee signed A McIntosh assist registrar initial A C Marshall assist registrar.3
  • (Witness) Military Service: He witnessed the beginning of military service of Forester C Nicolson iron turner and the Black Watch Royal Highlanders 1/4 Dundee Territorial Division in 1915 at Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, ; Black Watch.4
    sitting Forester Cockburn Nicolson b1899, standing thought to be Robert Davidson Nicolson b1893
    Forester Cockburn Nicolson b1899
  • Military Service*: Robert Davidson Nicolson textile fitter served with the Black Watch Royal Highlanders 1/4 Dundee Territorial Division say July 1915 at France, , seated Robert Davidson Nicolson 1893-1951 4th Battalion Black Watch, service no 1192, in France about summer 1915; person standing unknown.6
    seated Robert Davidson Nicolson 1893-1951 4th Battalion Black Watch, service no 1192, in France about summer 1915; person standing unknown
  • (Witness) Photograph: Robert Davidson Nicolson textile fitter is in this photograph taken say 1916 at 3 Shuttlefield, Newburgh, Fife, Scotland, , along with Forester Cockburn Nicolson seaman, Jane Lawson Pitkethly, Jessie Pitkethly Nicolson, Helen Jane Nicolson, Forester C Nicolson iron turner and Henry Millar Nicolson jute mill overseer.4
    Thought to be: the folk on seats from L-R: Forester C Nicolson (dob 1862); standing child 1; Jane Pitlethly; 'Grampa' unknown (could this be a Pitkethly??); 'Grandma' unknown; standing child 2; Helen Jane Nicolson (dob 1890, died 1929) with the dog.
    Standing at the back L-R Unknown male 1; Unknown female 1; son Robert Davidson (1893) or Forester (1899); unknown male 2; unknown male 3, could be David Watson?; Jessie Pitkethly Nicolson (dob 1887, married to David Watson); unknown couple.
    Sitting at the front: Left child 1; right Harry Millar Nicolson
  • (Witness) Marriage: Robert Davidson Nicolson textile fitter witnessed the marriage of Forester C Nicolson iron turner and Sophia Nelson Morrison Innes jute winder on Friday, 12 November 1920 at 64 Forfar Road, Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, ; 1920 marriages in the district of St Andrew in the burgh of Dundee, ref 453; 1920 on the twelfth day of November at 64 Forfar Road Dundee after banns according to the forms of the United Free Church of Scotland, signed Forrester Nicolson iron turner jouny bachelor aged 21 rising at 22 North Erskine Street Dundee, parents Forrester Cockburn Nicolson stoker in gas works and Jane Lawson Nicolson ms Pitkethly; signed Sophia N Innes jute winder spinster aged 21 residing at 51 Albert Street Dundee, parents Peter Taylor Innes labourer (dec) and Sophoa Nelson Innes ms Morrison; signed James Robbie BD Clepington United Free Church Dundee, signed Robert D Nicolson, Peter Innes witnesses; registered 1920 November 14th at Dundee signed Jas Murray regsitrar.8
  • Photograph: Robert Davidson Nicolson textile fitter is in this photograph taken circa 1938 at Dundee, Angus, Scotland, , along with Robert Davidson Nicolson.4
    L-R Robert Davidson Nicolson, father Robert Davidson Nicolson, Samuel Forester Nicolson
  • Electoral Roll*: Robert Davidson Nicolson textile fitter was listed in the electoral roll of 1938 at 24 North Erskine Street, Dundee, Angus, Scotland, , First name(s)     Robert
    Last name     Nicholson
    Year     1938
    Name as transcribed     Nicholson, Robert
    Street     -
    Place     Dundee
    Spouse's first name     Kathleen
    County     Forfarshire (Angus)
    Country     Scotland
    Record set     Scotland, Dundee & Forfarshire (Angus) Electoral Registers 1857-1939
    Category     Census, land & surveys
    Subcategory     Electoral Rolls
    Collections from     Great Britain, Scotland.9

Census Events

Principal1901Robert Davidson Nicolson textile fitter appeared on the census of 1901 at 216 High Street, Newburgh, Fife, Scotland, , son, 8, scholar, Newburgh.
Member of Household31 March 1901They was listed in the 1901 census at 216 High Street, Newburgh, Fife, Scotland, ; Jane     Nicholson     Head     Married     Female     38     1863     Firemans Wife     Newburgh, Fife, Scotland
Jessie     Nicholson     Daughter     -     Female     13     1888     Scholar     Newburgh, Fife, Scotland
Ellen J     Nicholson     Daughter     -     Female     10     1891     Scholar     Newburgh, Fife, Scotland
Robert     Nicholson     Son     -     Male     8     1893     Scholar     Newburgh, Fife, Scotland
Sarah A     Nicholson     Daughter     -     Female     5     1896     Scholar     Newburgh, Fife, Scotland
Forrester     Nicholson     Son     -     Male     2     1899     -     Newburgh, Fife, Scotland.10
Member of Household31 March 1911They was listed as a member of the household of Forester Cockburn Nicolson seaman and Jane Lawson Pitkethly in the 1911 census at 20 N Erskine Street, Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, ; Forrester Nicolson, head, 48, mar, mechanical stoker, gas works minicipal, worker, born Dundee;
Jane Nicolson, wife, 48, married 26 years, 8 children born alive, 5 still living, born Newburgh Fife;
Jessie, daug, 23, single, sewing machinist, jute, worker, born Newburgh;
Helen, daug, 20, single, jute weaver, worker, born Newburgh;
Robert, son, 18, single, apprentice machine fitter, jte work, worker, born Newburgh;
Forrester, son, 12, at school, born Newburgh;
Henry, son, 7, at school, born Newburgh.11

Family:

Kathleen Fairbank thread mill boxer b. 1895
  • (Groom) Marriage*: Robert Davidson Nicolson textile fitter married Kathleen Fairbank thread mill boxer, daughter of Samuel Fairbank clogger, greengrocer, furniture dealer and Alice Petty, in 1923 at Keighley, Yorkshire, England, ; First name(s)     KATHLEEN
    Last name     FAIRBANK
    Marriage quarter     2
    Marriage year     1923
    Registration month     -

    MarriageFinder ™
         

    KATHLEEN FAIRBANK married one of these people

    Robert D Nicolson
    Spouse's last name     Nicholson
    District     Keighley
    District number     -
    County     Yorkshire
    Country     England
    Volume     9A
    Volume as transcribed     9A
    Page number     465
    Record set     England & Wales Marriages 1837-2005
    Category     Birth, Marriage, Death & Parish Records
    Subcategory     Civil Marriage & Divorce
    Collections from     Great Britain, England.1,2

Child:

Robert Davidson Nicolson+ b. 2 Feb 1932, d. c 1998
  • (Witness) Note for Web: Robert Davidson Nicolson textile fitter and Robert Nicolson blacksmith, Robert Davidson Nicolson blacksmith, Robert Davidson Nicholson, Robert Davidson Nicolson, Robert Davidson Nicholson, Robert Davidson Nicolson and Robert Davidson Nicolson was mentioned with Robert Davidson chemist. I have always wondered why so many of our Robert Nicolsons had/have the middle name of Davidson. I have looked far and wide to try to find a likely candidate marrying into our Nicolson clan, but have drawn a blank. That led me to think about someone who may have been known to the family from their days in Aberdeen. This Robert Davidson is only about 5 or 6 years younger than our Robert Nicolson who was the first (as far as we know) to use the Davidson name for his son born in 1823. Both men lived in the same part of Aberdeen - did they grow up together? Attend the same church? Did our Robert, as a blacksmith, cross paths with Robert Davidson the chemist who was building batteries, an electric locomotive, electric lathe, and electric printing press in the 1830s? Our Robert is in Dundee by 1836.

    The Scientific Tourist: Aberdeen
    Robert Davidson – pioneer electrician
    Robert Davidson (1804-1894) was a man of eclectic interests, an inventor who had originality, vision and even prototype devices but did not have the financial or commercial resource to develop his ideas far enough to better the technology of the day.
    His impact was not in generating a world-beating product or even gaining any significant personal wealth from his inventions but rather in providing an example to his successors of what could be done.
    Davidson was born, schooled, spent much of his working life and died in Aberdeen. He attended the second and third year classes of Marischal College from 1819-1821, including the lecture course of Patrick Copland. Since in due course Davidson established himself as a manufacturer and supplier of chemicals, it is likely that he also
    attended the optional chemistry class at the College given by William Henderson.
    Davidson set himself up in business in the 1820s supplying yeast from premises at Causewayend and then in nearby Canal Road, close to the Aberdeen-Inverurie canal. Via a small, narrow, wooden slatted bridge (the ‘tarry briggie’), Canal Road today crosses the railway line that follows the old canal cutting. In Davidson’s younger days the area was edge-of-town market garden and nursery land that was gradually attracting houses and industry1. Davidson moved from yeast into chemical manufacturing and supplying, and diverse ventures such as file sharpening. He seems, though, to have had two passions: astronomy and electricity. In astronomy he built himself a large reflecting telescope of 35 feet length with a 2 foot diameter mirror that rivalled the largest productions of John Ramage. His telescope, with its big supporting structure of struts and ladders, must have been a landmark in the area for several years but no illustration of it has been found. What brings Robert Davidson into these notes is his electrical developments.
    In the 1830’s, Faraday showed how to generate mechanical motion from electricity, albeit in a way that was useless for exploitation as a practical electric motor. Davidson became fascinated by the possibilities. He constructed his own batteries, not a difficult task for a chemical supplier and man with workshop skills, and by 1837 had made his first fair sized electric motor. In 1840 he held a public “Electromagnetic Exhibition” in Aberdeen and thousands paid 1/- entrance to see a working model electric locomotive able to carry two people, a model electric lathe, a small electric printing press and an electro-magnet that could lift 2 tons when supplied by a suitable battery.
    The motor driving the lathe and printing press had a 5 foot diameter flywheel and the electromagnet had pole pieces 4 inches square. These were not desk-top toys. If Davidson had had this exhibition in 1880, many would have marvelled. This was 1840, truly well ‘ahead of his time’. The Aberdeen Banner prophesised that electromagnetic machinery “will in no distant date supplant steam”’. Davidson took his exhibition to Edinburgh in the following year, where the influential Robert Chambers of encyclopaedia fame made similar remarks and the young James Clerk Maxwell aged 10 was taken by his father to see it. In late 1842, Davidson took his exhibition to London in the hope of attracting sponsorship. By then he had added an electrically powered circular saw that cut 1” square planks in about 1 second and a powerful electric arc made by passing the current through two pieces of coke. He broke even in London but didn’t attract the sponsorship he’d hoped for. His motor was illustrated (above) in an edition of Penny’s Mechanic of 1843.
    Between the Aberdeen and London exhibitions, Davidson built a full-sized prototype electric locomotive called Galvani. It was 16 feet long and weighed about 6 tons. In 1842 it ran at 4 miles per hour on the Glasgow to Edinburgh line (the railways hadn’t reached Aberdeen by then). Unfortunately, Galvani was destroyed before
    Davidson could get it back, by men unknown but suspected of being promoters of steam engines. In truth, Davidson didn’t quite have the necessary technology to make a commercial success of electric railways. His power was provided by chemical batteries that were expensive to produce and to re-charge them the chemicals had to be
    replaced. The re-chargeable lead-acid accumulator wasn’t invented until the end of the 1850s. He was some three decades before even the early days of viable electrical generators that could really make electric transport feasible. It all could have happened much earlier if Davidson had found a patron with deep pockets and patience but no-one was forthcoming in the early 1840s.
    Electric locomotives would make city underground railways a possibility but they didn’t appear in Britain until around 1890. Robert Davison was suddenly found to be still alive and was converted into a media celebrity “Octogenarian Aberdonian - oldest living electrician” e press trumpeted, or words to that effect. The Electrician magazine reported “Robert Davidson was undoubtedly the first to demonstrate the possibility of electrical traction in a practical way”. He was, but the torch he lit did not begin a blaze. Davidson died 4 years later at the age of 90, old enough to see his vision made real at last. Nothing remains in Canal Road of Davidson’s house at no. 32 or his business; only the name and the little road with its tarry briggie, itself a ‘modernisation’ of 1854 that replaced a lower bridge over the canal a little downstream. Davidson is buried in St Peter’s cemetery but his gravestone simply describes him as ‘chemist’.

    John S. Reid
    1 Diane Morgan “The Villages of Aberdeen: Round About Mounthooly”, Denburn Books, Aberdeen (1995),
    outlines how the area has changed over the last two centuries and includes a short chapter on Davidson.

    ---------------

    More info here https://www.scottishfield.co.uk/outdoors/motors/an-electric-future-planned-by-19th-century-scot/.12

Citations

  1. [S64] General Record Office for Scotland, online www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk, General Record Office for Scotland (Edinburgh, Scotland), NOT in Scotland - GROS search produces no matches [Nov 2010].
  2. [S54] Website findmypast.co.uk (www.findmypast.co.uk) Record Transcription:
    England & Wales Marriages 1837-2005 [May 2020].
  3. [S50] General Record Office for Scotland, online www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk, General Record Office for Scotland (Edinburgh, Scotland), GROS Statutory Death 1951 Dundee St Clement ref 186 image held [Jul 2004].
  4. [S40] CO via email [May 2018].
  5. CO via email [May 2018]
  6. [S61] Website Facebook (www.facebook.com) RN via Facebook [Nov 2018].
  7. RN via Facebook [Nov 2018]
  8. [S64] General Record Office for Scotland, GROS Statutory marraige Dundee St Andrew 282/nn 453 [Dec 2004].
  9. [S54] Website findmypast.co.uk (www.findmypast.co.uk) Record Transcription:
    Scotland, Dundee & Forfarshire (Angus) Electoral Registers 1857-1939
    Dundee, Forfarshire (Angus), Scotland [May 2020].
  10. [S54] Website findmypast.co.uk (www.findmypast.co.uk) Record Transcription:
    1901 England, Wales & Scotland Census
    216, High Street, Newburgh, Fife, Scotland [May 2020].
  11. [S17] General Record Office for Scotland, online www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk, General Record Office for Scotland (Edinburgh, Scotland), Census 1911 Dundee ref 282/4 42/ 47 image held [May 2020].
  12. [S49] Website Web Site online (www.) https://homepages.abdn.ac.uk/npmuseum/Scitour/Davidson.pdf