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Records of the United Turkey Red Co Ltd

Collection Summary

Reference Code

GB 0248 UGD 013



Extent and medium of the unit of description

3.4 metres


Existence and Location of Originals

This material is original.

Name of creator

United Turkey Red Co Ltd | 1897-1960 | bleachers, finishers and dyers | Alexandria (Scotland)

Biographical History

Administrative History

United Turkey Red Co Ltd was by far the largest firm in the bleaching, finishing, dyeing and printing industry in Scotland. It was formed during the 1890s, growing naturally out of a number of occasional associations between dyeing firms in the West of Scotland, set up to deal with difficulties encountered by the industry as a whole. In the 1880s, for example, a German technical monopoly in the production of artificial alizarine, the chemical extracted originally from the madder root, which produced the Turkey-red colour, led to steep price increases for English and Scottish dyers, with consequent loss of business and unemployment. In the 1890s, the dyers set up a protective association, the Dyers in Glasgow and the West of Scotland, to contest what were seen as discriminatory tariffs imposed on British dyed yarns imported into India. An important figure in the establishment of the new company was John Hyde Christie (1836-1926), who began work for John Orr Ewing and Co as chief chemist in 1859, becoming general manager and, in 1878, a partner in the firm. The companies involved in the merger were John Orr Ewing and Co (established 1830), Archibald Orr Ewing and Co (established c1830), Wm Stirling and Sons (established 1723) and, in 1900, Alexander Reid and Sons was purchased.

The management of the new company maintained the commercial autonomy of individual firms for a while, but eventually the business was reorganised under the overall supervision of John Christie, on a departmental basis. In time, three of Christie's sons came into the business, and one of them, Henry Christie, became chairman following the death of William Ewing Gilmour, his father's successor, in 1924. Together with James Morton (1867-1943), Henry's brother, John Christie Jnr was responsible, during the 1900s, for developing a new, cheaper and quicker turkey-red dyeing process. They also worked on processes to produce other artificial dyestuffs but the board of the company was not keen to diversify at that stage. The merger of a number of older and established businesses seems to have had a bad effect on labour relations, and there was a major dispute in 1911 resulting in a widespread strike and some violence.

In 1920, the company underwent significant reconstruction. An advertisement for the company, some time after this date, described their business as "Dyers and Printers of Cotton Cloths and Yarns in all colours". At this time, the head office of the company was at 46 West George Street, Glasgow. There was also an office in Manchester. The Christie family maintained its connection with the company into the third generation, George Christie becoming a director. He retired from the company before 1960. In 1960, the chairman of the company was H Cowan-Douglas, and the managing Director was W Calderhead. At that date, the registered office of The United Turkey Red Company Ltd was Levenfield, Alexandria, West Dunbartonshire and there were company offices at 10 Charlotte Street, Manchester, and at 137-141 Regent Street, London. In 1960, however, the company's assets were purchased by the Calico Printers' Association Ltd, Manchester, which closed the Alexandria works. Calico Printers' Association Ltd subsequently became part of the Tootal Group plc, Tootal House, 19/20 Spring Gardens, Manchester M60 2TL.

Scope and Content

Scope and Content

The records of United Turkey Red Co Ltd consist of:

  • administrative records (1826-1934)
  • staff records (1845-1916)
  • financial records (1845-1939)
  • production records (1873-1934)




Businesses and Organisations


[View administrative information]