James Mackie & Sons Limited – Belfast

James Mackie & Sons’ Albert Foundry – Springfield Road, Belfast c.1950s

Facility Type & Function:

A privately owned textile equipment manufacturer that produced munitions and armaments parts during both the First and Second World Wars.

During the Great War the company produced artillery shell casings and detonators as well as grenade casings. During World War II the factory again turned some of its production to munitions and armaments. They manufactured aircraft wings plus the fuselages of Stirling Bomber planes in addition to being a leading supplier of Bofors anti-aircraft gun shells casings.

Brief History:

The origins of this company can be traced back to James Scrimgeour who owned a business in Albert Street, Belfast, which made spinning frames. When he got into financial difficulties in 1858 the firm was taken over by his manager, James Mackie. James originated from Dumfries in Scotland and had taken up work in the Scrimgeour’s Albert Street foundry in the 1840s.

James Mackie and his family c.1880s.

James Mackie steadily built up the business manufacturing flax cutters, bundling presses, twisting frames and later wet spinning frames. By the 1890s he had created a substantial export business (locally to be known as “Mackie’s”) which necessitated that the works move to significantly larger premises (Albert Foundry) in Springfield Road, Belfast. In company went on to become one of Belfast’s principal engineering companies and employers for just over a century.

In early September 1915, Makie’s opened a munitions department as part of its efforts to support the war effort. This department was split into two sections, one for the manufacture of shell casing and the other for grenade casings.  In  April 1918 an aircraft department is also recorded at the works. The latter closed in December 1918 while the company’s munitions department stayed in operation until February 1919 by which time Mackie’s had made over half a million shell casings and had expanded their Springfield Road works significantly to accommodate the additional wartime manufacturing activities.

Women workers producing shell casing at James Mackie & Sons Limited’s Munitions Department c.1916 to 1918.

Like many other such facilities in Britain at the time, the workforce for Mackie’s munitions department comprised mainly women. While many were recruited from the local textile mills there were also volunteer women workers several of whom appear to have been from the middle to upper classes and wanted to do “their bit” for the war effort.  From November 1916 the munitions workforce started to produce their own internal weekly magazine, known as “Makie’s Magazine” or “The Turret Lather’s Friend”.

During World War II Mackie’s again turned over part of their operations to manufacturing munitions and armaments. These included the fabrication of aircraft wings along with the fuselages of Stirling Bombers. They were also a leading supplier of Bofors anti-aircraft gun shells casings.

Workers from James Mackie & Sons’ Limited pictured behind one of the sterling Bombers they had helped to build c.1940 to 1945

After both World Wars Makie’s returned their focus to the manufacture of textile machinery. As time went on and the home market for textiles increasingly shrunk, due to the availability of cheaper overseas imports, the company turned their focus increasingly on supplying the growing international export market for their equipment. In 1955 the company even opened its own factory in India to supply machinery to the local Jute Mills.

The company was still owned and run by the Mackie family until the early 1970s at which time the family gave the company to its employees to be run as a workers cooperative. The company continued to produce textile machinery until its final closure in 1999.

For more on this company’s history click on the “Gramophone” image below where a web link will take the reader to an oral history recording about the works which is part of the BBC Radio’s “World War I at Home” Series.

Location Details:

Belfast, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.

Associated Token, Check & Pass Issues:

Type I

Image courtesy of Barry Woodside

Function:  Unknown (Note 1)

Material: Brass

Design: Uniface, un-issued.

Shape & Size: Circular,  30 mm

Obverse: Raised legend around upper edge reads . JAMES MACKIE & SON .  and around bottom edge ALBERT FOUNDRY within an outer beaded and raised edge border. In the centre field No………….

Reverse:  Blank

Date: 1890s (Note 3)

Maker: Unknown

Published References:  Barry Woodside On-Line Irish Token Catalogue. Antrim AN 40 – Type 6.


Type II

Image courtesy of Barry Woodside

Function:  Unknown (Note 1)

Material: Brass

Design: Uniface, un-issued.

Shape & Size: Circular,  Unknown, possibly 32.5 mm

Obverse: Raised legend around upper edge reads . JAMES MACKIE & SON . / LIMITED and around bottom edge ALBERT FOUNDRY within an outer beaded and raised edge border. In the centre field No………….

Reverse: A decorative wreath design comprising of a laurel (left) and an oak (right) spray all within an outer beaded and raised edge border.

Date: Late 1890s to 1910s (Note 4)

Maker: Possibly Henry Pasley of Sheffield (based on reverse design style)

Published References:  Barry Woodside On-Line Irish Token Catalogue. Antrim AN 40 – Type 5.


Type IIIA

Function:  Time Recording Check (Note 2)

Material: Brass

Design: Uniface.

Shape & Size: Circular,  34.8 mm

Obverse: Raised legend around upper edge reads . JAMES MACKIE & SONS LTD. .  and around bottom edge in three curved lines ALBERT / FOUNDRY / BELFAST. All within a raised edge border. In the centre field, an incusely stamped identification number 3215 located above a raised line.

Reverse:  Blank except for the incusely stamped identification number 215.

Date: 1940s to 1960s (Note 5)

Maker: Unknown

Published References:  Barry Woodside On-Line Irish Token Catalogue. Antrim AN 40 – Type 4.


Type IIIB

Function:  Time Recording Check (Note 2) (Note 2)

Material: Brass

Design: Uniface.

Shape & Size: Circular,  33.8 mm

Obverse: Raised legend around upper edge reads . JAMES MACKIE & SONS LTD. .  and around bottom edge in two horizontal lines ALBERT / FOUNDRY and below outer edge BELFAST. All within a raised edge border. In the centre field, an incusely stamped identification number 359 located above a raised line.

Reverse:  Blank other than for an incusely die stamped design comprising the legend DMU / 110 within an outer circle.

Date: 1960s to 1980s (Note 5)

Maker: Unknown

Published References:  Barry Woodside On-Line Irish Token Catalogue. Antrim AN 40 – Type 2.


Type IV

Image Currently Not Available

Function:  Pay Collection Identification Check (Note  2)

Material: White metal (zinc) alloy

Design: Uniface.

Shape & Size: Circular,  34.8 mm

Obverse: Raised legend around upper edge reads . JAMES MACKIE & SONS LTD. .  and around bottom edge in three curved lines ALBERT / FOUNDRY / BELFAST. All within a raised edge border. In the centre field, an incusely stamped identification number located above a raised line.

Reverse:  Blank

Date: 1940s to 1960s (Note 5)

Maker: Unknown

Published References:  None. 


Type V

Function:  Pay Collection Identification Check (Note  2)

Material: Brass with white metal surface plating

Design: Uniface.

Shape & Size: Circular,  33.9 mm

Obverse: Raised legend around upper edge reads . JAMES MACKIE & SONS LTD. .  and around bottom edge in two horizontal lines ALBERT / FOUNDRY and below outer edge BELFAST. All within a raised edge border. In the centre field a stamped identification number 17429 located above a raised line.

Reverse:  Blank

Date: 1960s to 1980s (Note 5)

Maker: Unknown

Published References:  Barry Woodside On-Line Irish Token Catalogue. Antrim AN 40 – Type 1.


Notes:

  1. Possibly a worker’s time registration or pay identification check.
  2. Identified from information contained in an Oral History Project video containing interviews and memories of female ex-Mackie employees from the second half of the twentieth century.
  3. This check dates to a time prior to the company changing its name to James Mackie & Son to James Mackie & Sons Limited. It is believed the company became incorporated in the late 1890s.
  4. This check dates to a time prior to the company changing its name to James Mackie & Son to James Mackie & Sons Limited. It is believed the company became incorporated in the late 1890s.
  5. Generally, more ornate die designs (e.g. the inclusion of a legend in curved lines of text as opposed to horizontal lines) are often indicative of check issues made up to the third quarter of the twentieth century. Hence this observation can often be used to attribute the dating of British checks and tokens.

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