The Founders:
The inaugural meeting of the Institute was held in the rooms of the Philosophical Society of Glasgow on the evening of 14 October, 1892. There were one hundred and thirty founder members although the first volume of the Journal of the West of Scotland Iron and Steel Institute does not record how many of these were present at the meeting. Although the number of members may at first appear surprising, they covered a considerable geographical area -south to the Lugar Iron Works in South Ayrshire, and north-east to the Carron Iron Works in Stirlingshire – and it was the intention during that first winter session to hold five meetings in Glasgow, Motherwell, Glasgow, Kilmarnock and Coatbridge respectively. However it is recorded that at the first meeting the Secretary ( Mr. T.F. Barbour, Analyst and Consulting Chemist, Glasgow) had to report that ” it would be impossible for a great many members, with the present railway facilities, to attend “. It was therefore agreed to hold all of the meetings at a central location; the Andersonian Buildings of the Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College – an arrangement which has its echo in the present day with S.A.M. meetings now taking place at the same institution, now University of Strathclyde.


The list of founder members covered a relatively wide geographical area but to present day view, the number and range of companies represented is more remarkable. The members represented approximately one hundred organisations which has however to be seen in the context of the concentration of companies involved in, or servicing the ferrous metallurgy business in the West of Scotland; there were for example, thirteen iron and steel companies in Coatbridge alone.

The first President of the Institute was Mr. James Riley of the Steel Company of Scotland who was a nationally known figure and a member of the Iron and Steel Institute. He had been involved in the organisation of a visit to the Glasgow area by the Iron and Steel Institute under its President, Sir Henry Bessemer, to see the developments, which were being pioneered by local companies. Such was the impression created that Sir Henry declared that he had never seen ” such excellent material and finished work “. Shortly before his election as the first President, Mr. Riley was awarded the Bessemer Medal of the Iron and Steel Institute, which remains the pre-eminent international award in ferrous metallurgy. While the President was clearly a man of national importance, he was also chairman of a Council of distinguished local figures, many of whom were also members of the Iron and Steel Institute in London. There were thirteen Vice-presidents, twelve Councillors, a Treasurer, a Secretary and two District Secretaries in Motherwell and Ayrshire. These men were drawn principally from the iron and steel companies but had a diversity of professional qualifications and backgrounds, which established the wide range of subject matter to be discussed at technical meetings. There were owners, works managers, chemists, rollers, plate shearers, and a cashier; representatives of coal companies, refractories and ceramic companies, and equipment manufacturers; and a Professor of Metallurgy.

The Inaugural Address given by Mr. Riley was a review of the importance of iron and steel in a world context with special reference to the development of the industry in Scotland and it is interesting to consider some of the statistics given (assuming 75% of total available capacity): 950,000 tons of pig iron, 225,000 tons of wrought iron, 500,000 tons of finished steel produced, ” But in addition to these three great branches of the Iron and Steel industry, we have the Iron founding business, in which there are used in ordinary years not less than 300,000 tons of pig-iron, and the Shipbuilding industry, requiring as a rule not less than 200,000 tons of iron and steel annually; as well as the Bridge-building, and the Marine Locomotive and General-Engineering Industries, of whose consumption of iron and steel I do not feel capable of giving a reliable computation. ” These figures show clearly the importance of the industry and its contribution to the economy of the West of Scotland.

The presence among the founding members of Professor Sexton was indicative of the importance given by the new Institute to the scientific discipline on which industrial improvement was based. The Department of Metallurgy at the West of Scotland Technical College had been established in 1884 and Alexander Humboldt Sexton was the first Professor in a post devoted to what would today be referred to as Extractive or Chemical Metallurgy, but such was the scope expected of metallurgists at the time that Professor Sexton was able in the first three years of Institute technical meetings to present discussions on Gaseous Fuel, Historical Notes on the Hot-Blast, Estimation of Carbonic Acid, and a Presidential Address in 1895 on Advances in Practice and Training. This synergy between the professional, business and educational aspects of the affairs of the Institute has continued throughout the years with several eminent Professors in the “Tech.” and subsequently University of Strathclyde, elected President of the Institute. At the First Annual General Meeting on 14 April 1893, the President moved the following resolution; “That the best thanks —— be tendered to the Governors of the Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical college for granting the use of rooms — and to the Professors of Metallurgy and Chemistry for the facilities which they have afforded to the Institute — “.

The Institute and later the Scottish Association for Metals have had several homes over the past century following those initial meetings. The Institute first had its own accommodation at 207, Bath St. from 1897 but left there and took up rooms, which were made available by the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland at their headquarters at 39, Elmbank Crescent from 1909 to 1916. From then until the end of the Second World War the Institute again had its own rooms at 93, Hope St. under the guidance of the long-serving Secretary, Mr.D.A. MacCallum, before returning to Elmbank Crescent. During this time, however, the technical meetings were generally held at the Royal Technical College in George St., although in the period from 1942-44 these were held in the Ca’d’oro Restaurant in Union St. The affairs of the Institute from 1945 were organised by Mr. P.W. Thomas, who was also Secretary to the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders, from rooms once again made available at 39, Elmbank Crescent, and this arrangement continued until 1968 when these premises were sold by the I.E.S.S. and the Institute returned to its academic base which had now become the University of Strathclyde. (The building in Elmbank Cres. is now the home of Scottish Opera). Following the formation of the Scottish Association for Metals in 1974, there was no permanent home but accommodation for the affairs of the Association was provided through the Secretary, Mr. Alex MacLagan, and British Steel Corporation and the technical meetings continued to be held in the Colville Building of the University of Strathclyde. At the First Annual General Meeting in 1893, the Council were able to report a successful first year with five meetings, membership of 153 (although only 116 had paid their one guinea subscription), and a balance in hand after payment of a £25 honorarium to the Honorary Secretary. Of particular note was the success realised in the publication of the Journal, of which more is written below.

Technical Subjects

Technical Subjects:

At the Inaugural Meeting the matter of subjects suitable for presentation and discussion by the Institute was agreed and the following list was published in the Journal; Welding properties of steel, Annealing of steel and its results, Gaseous fuel and its production, Various methods of reheating steel, Value of “work” of different kinds in the manufacture of steel, Waste gases from blast furnaces and their utilisation, and Alloys of steel. This list was to be the subject of considerable formal and informal review over the ensuing years and the reader is referred to the Journal for evidence of just how widely the technical topics have ranged down the years.

The first paper read to the Institute was on “The Economic Aspects of Iron and Steel Manufacture” by Mr James M. Cherrie— “.Unfortunately, the Journal does not record the company by whom the author was employed, and the list of Founder Members gives only the information that he was ” of 21, Hope St., Glasgow “. Equally unfortunately for Mr. Cherrie, the President ruled that as his paper was of a non-technical nature, there would be no discussion and only an abstract would appear in the Journal. The procedure adopted for these early meetings and which survived relatively unchanged until the demise of the Institute, was as follows; (1) The Chair to be taken at 7.30, (2) Minutes of the previous meeting to be read and approved, (3) Motions and general business, (4) Discussion of papers read at the previous meeting, (5) Paper(s) of the evening to be read. (Papers to be read had to be circulated at least 10 days before the meeting and if no amendments to the paper or written discussion were received by the meeting following the discussion, then publication was accepted). The subject matter and the attendance at the technical meetings were both of a surprisingly high level when viewed from the present day. Two examples taken from the 1912-13 session and reported in Volume 20 of the Journal illustrate the point. The third meeting of the session was a lecture on ” Colour photography of internal stress in bodies of engineering form “, illustrated by ” lantern slides and diagrams ” by Professor E.G. Coker of Finsbury Technical College, London. The reader needs only to study the beautiful colour reproductions in the Journal to see how this predates colour interferometry and laser techniques for stress measurement of polymers practiced today. The second example was an Extra Meeting held on llth January 1913 in the Carnegie Library, Coatbridge on ” The (chemical) reactions of the puddling process ” by Professor T. Turner, Feeney Professor of Metallurgy, University of Birmingham. The meeting was chaired by Provost Thomas Davie of Coatbridge who announced that in spite of ” very inclement weather the meeting was well attended – the estimated attendance was between 200 and 300 “.

Many important contributions to metallurgy and materials technology have appeared in the eighty one volumes of the Journal of the West of Scotland Iron and Steel Institute and we are indebted to Mr. Archie Speirs, Mr. Bill Fern and Emeritus Professor Harry Bell (the latter gentlemen Past-Presidents of the Association) for a selection of the most interesting and important of these to be published by the Scottish Association for Metals.

The Journal ceased publication in 1974 when the Institute became the Scottish Association for Metals and in those eighty two years there had been only seven Editors, and of those Professor Robert Hay acted in an interim capacity in 1945-47. The longest serving of these were D.A. MacCallum (1916-45) and P.W.Thomas from 1947 until the end of publication when he was awarded the Riley Medal of the Institute, named after the First President, for “outstanding service to the Institute as Secretary and Editor of the Journal”. Mr Thomas final service to the Institute was to prepare a definitive Index to all seventy four volumes, a considerable effort since this also included a categorisation of the papers. This was published in the final volume.

The final technical papers to be published in the Journal were the Presidential Address of Dr. John Glen of British Steel Corporation on “Accuracy in testing at high temperature” and a paper on ” Plant availability” by J.W. Campbell and J.G. Dunbar also of British Steel Corporation.


The history of the Institute and the Scottish Association is made up of the people who contributed their time and efforts in the many ways which are required to make such organisations work effectively. That these efforts have been successful is confirmed by the strength of the Association today. It is not possible in a short review such as this to do justice to the many people, both members and others, who have played important parts in the development of both organisations and the author apologises for the sins of omission which the reader will no doubt identify.

The list of Presidents and members of Council reveals the, names of the most important people in both industry and academe of the last one hundred years. From James Riley onward are names such as Beard, both George and Herbert of the Gartcosh Steel and Iron Works, as early Presidents; David Colville as a Founder Member, and that family, synonymous with the twentieth century Scottish steel industry, continued to be associated through John Craig and Sir Andrew McCance in their turn as Presidents. (The names of Colville and McCance are also perpetuated in the buildings of the University of Strathclyde). Outside of those directly involved in iron and steel making, John G Stein of the Bonnybridge refractories company was elected a member in 1894 and Colonel Alan Stein was President in 1939-43 , while James Tennant of the Coatbridge iron founders was President from 1943-45. These outward signs of the role played by these families and companies are however only recognition of the much greater but less obvious support which they provided to the Institute and Association.

There has also been a continuous thread of support from the institution known today as the University of Strathclyde, starting from its days as the Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College and the presence of Professor Sexton as a Founder Member. There have been a succession of incumbents of the Chair of Metallurgy who have also been Presidents of the Institute or the Scottish Association but a perusal of the papers published in the journal shows the much wider involvement of staff and students of the colleges. Indeed such was the repute of the Institute and its Journal that some of the greatest names of the day were to be found in Glasgow presenting and discussing their ideas. In his Biographical Memoir of Sir Andrew McCance, Professor Norman Petch recalls the considerable industrial and scientific importance of the nature of the various structures observed metallographically in heat-treated steels, and the contribution made to these studies in 1910-14 by McCance, then an employee of Beardmores in Glasgow. Several papers appeared in the Journal of the Iron and Steel Institute and dispute arose between the ideas of McCance and Dr. W. Rosenhain, Director of the National Physical Laboratory and one of the leading authorities of the day, which were not resolved until the development of X-ray crystallography in the nineteen forties, and of which Professor Petch remarked (with obvious authority), ” On balance, McCance could probably be said to have been nearer the mark than Rosenhain “. Not withstanding this scientific disagreement, Rosenhain was an invited speaker in Glasgow on three occasions in 1908, 1914 and 1915 and was followed through the years by many leading physical metallurgists such as Professor T Turner, W.H. Hatfield, Sir Charles Goodeve, and E. Orowan. Indeed Orowan’s paper on ” Creep of Metals ” presented in the 1947 session remains one of the definitive discussions on time-dependant deformation. To this list of eminent visitors must be added the names of those members of the local society who were also in the van of development of the structure of metals, Professors Campion, Desch, Andrew, Ellwood and Petch, William Barr, H. Harris, J. Glen, and I.M. Mackenzie.

In the area of ferrous extraction metallurgy the Institute and Association have played a major part. Sir Henry Bessemer, Lamberton, Beard, Sir Monty Finnieston, Professors Hay, White, Taylor and Bell and many others have presented their work in Glasgow and have benefited from the informed discussion which the members provided. This continues to the present day with a paper presented to the 1991 session by Dr. Younger of Davy-McKee on the smelt-reduction process for the production of iron and steel without a blast furnace.

Through these people it is true to say that the Institute and later the Association played a leading role in scientific development in metallurgy.

The Presidents have been referred to as men of considerable standing but the Institute and Association have been equally well served by the Honorary Secretaries and Treasurers who carried the organisational responsibilities and to whom the success of the business of the societies was due. These were long-serving gentlemen and particular recognition must be made of Mr. D.A. MacCallum who from 1916 to his death in 1945 served as Treasurer, Secretary and Editor of the Journal, and Mr. P.W. Thomas who occupied the same posts from 1945 to the change from Institute to Association in 1974. In more recent times the Scottish Association for Metals has also been well served by its officers of whom the present Honourary Treasurer, Dr J.M. Arrowsmith has been the sole occupant of that office for the Association (1974-present), while the position of Secretary has been filled by Mr. A. MacLagan (1974-83) and subsequently by Dr. J.R. Wilcox.

The membership which these gentlemen have so faithfully served has varied in numbers over the past century. At the First Annual General Meeting there was recorded a membership of 153 which by the tenth anniversary had risen to 315 and the Institute reached its maximum recorded membership of 635 in 1924. By the end of the Second World War the A.G.M. of 1945 still showed 486 members but this had declined to 245 in 1974 when the Scottish Association for Metals was formed from the merger of the Institute with the Institute of Metallurgists Scottish Branch. The problems of encouraging wider attendance have always been recognised and were referred to at the 1935 A.G.M. by the Vice-president Colonel Alan Stein who reported an average attendance of 71 but exhorted ” Will more members get busy and let next year be again a record year (of recruitment) “.

The Annual Dinner was long been an important event in the calendar of the Institute and Association, and was an occasion on which members socialise among their friends and equally importantly, their business acquaintances. The format of the Dinner remained the same over a long period and was an occasion on which distinguished guests were invited to address the company on matters both important and light-hearted and some outstanding speakers have graced this occasion. In recent times the trans-atlantic Scots accent of Professor Alex McLean, American Iron and Steel Institute Distinguished Professor at Toronto University (and a former student member of the West of Scotland Institute) has been heard in counter-point to the well-rounded tones of Sir Geofrey Ford, Secretary of the Institute of Metals in London, while the view from the unions was put in his inimitable style by Mr Gavin Laird of the A.E.U. in 1991. What the founding fathers would have thought of a union secretary addressing their dinner is not known and the earliest dinners (with no ladies present, far less a dance) were mainly attended by the captains of industry and the landed-gentry. The dinner of 1935, held in the Central Hotel, Glasgow, when the West of Scotland Institute was at its peak, was chaired by the President, Dr (later Sir) Andrew McCance, and had a guest list of fifteen of whom the principal speakers were Sir Josiah Stamp (President of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway) and Sir Arthur Huddleston (Director of the Royal Technical College). Among the apologies for absence that same evening were those from The Right Honourable The Lord Provost of Glasgow (Sir A.B. Swan) and The Right Reverend The Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway. Indeed it seems that in matters spiritual the Institute was well attended by the latter gentleman as he was also one of the principal speakers at the dinner of 1924 when he was accompanied by Mrs Reid. This event in the Grosvenor Restaurant represented the final return to normal business for the Institute following the Great War and its aftermath and was the first dinner to be held after 1914. This was also the first occasion on which ladies were invited to the dinner, although at the time there was only one lady member of the Institute. Indeed this is an aspect of Association membership, which even today requires attention, and we have yet to have a lady President or to welcome the first lady speaker at the annual dinner. The dinner expanded in size during the middle years of the century (there were 600 members and guests at the 1938 event) and after a ten year gap following the outbreak of the Second World War was reintroduced as a dinner and dance in 1949, although there had been musical entertainment at the dinner since 1924. The guest list has continued to bring the leading metallurgists and industrialists of the day to Glasgow and included in 1974 Dr (later Sir) Monty Finniston, Chairman of British Steel Corporation, who proposed the toast to “The Institute” and looked forward to the construction of an integrated steel plant at Hunterston on the Ayrshire coast, based on a direct reduction plant, which would signal major advances in the Scottish steel industry. History tells, of course, that this never came to pass and the steel industry in Scotland went into decline. 1974 was however to be the year in which the forward-looking leadership of the Institute saw that the way ahead was to combine their interests with other branches of the subject and, in collaboration with colleagues in The Institute of Metals, Scottish Branch began the process of formation of a new body, The Scottish Association for Metals. The President of the Institute Dr J. Glen and the Chairman of the Scottish Branch, Mr A.M. McConnell piloted the negotiations through a series of meetings of the Officers of the two bodies until, at a Special General Meeting of the Institute at University of Strathclyde on 4 September 1974, it was resolved “That the West of Scotland Iron and Steel Institute and the body known till 31 December 1973 as the Scottish Local Section of the Institute of Metals agree to the merger of the two bodies and to arrange affiliation with the Metals Society (later the Institute of Metals and in 1992, the Institute of Materials)” A number of suggestions were advanced for the name of the new body before adoption of ” The Scottish Association for Metals”.