Remembering James Watt

ONE of Scotland’s greatest sons is being remembered this week – exactly 275 years after he was born.

The inventor James Watt was born in Greenock on January 19, 1736.

He went on to develop and improve the steam engine – the workhorse which powered the Industrial Revolution.

On Friday (Jan 21), the charity The Friends of Kinneil in Bo’ness – where Watt worked on early steam prototypes – will celebrate the inventor’s legacy with a “James Watt Supper”, an alternative to the traditional Burns Supper.

Maria Ford, the chair of The Friends, said: “Probably very few of us have a copy of Rabbie Burns’ Complete Works in our homes – but nearly everyone will have lightbulbs measured in Watts.

“It says a lot about Watt’s legacy that a unit of power was named after him. This amazing man deserves credit for his work – and in the week of his birthday we intend to do just that.”

The Friends promote the historic Kinneil Estate in Bo’ness – dominated by the imposing Kinneil House.

Watt was invited there by a local industrialist Dr. John Roebuck, who wanted him to improve the way water was pumped out of local mines. A cottage workshop – still standing in the estate – was constructed for Watt to use. The inventor worked at Kinneil for two spells in 1769 and 1770.

Sadly, the doctor – one of the founders of the famous Carron Iron Works in Falkirk – went bankrupt in 1773 and had to sell his share in Watt’s patent to one of his creditors, a Matthew Boulton of Birmingham.

And so a new partnership was born.

Watt moved to England and the improved steam engine – further developed with the help of Matthew Boutlon – revolutionised the use of steam power in Britain’s mills and factories.

Mrs Ford said: “Had John Roebuck not hit money problems, history could have been very different. But we’re still proud of the important part Kinneil played in the story of James Watt.

“On Friday, we’ll toast his life and works – and hear some immortal memories from a local historian, Ian Scott. Some of our members will also make their own contributions as we remember how James Watt changed the world.”

The Friends have organised typical 18th century music for private party – organised for charity members and invited guests in a local church hall.

The bill of fare will feature a modern take on Salamagundi, a popular dish of the time, followed by “Steam pudding” – the obvious choice for dessert.

A hot toddy will also be in offer to help toast the man behind the improved steam engine.

The charity has updated its website to give people more information on James Watt and his links with Bo’ness. Visit www.kinneil.org.uk/jameswatt

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