National Records of Scotland

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William Denny (1815-1854)

William Denny (1815-1854)

Shipbuilder and shipowner

William Denny was the founder of William Denny and Brothers of Dumbarton, one of the most influential of the Clyde shipbuilders. His father, also William (1779-1833), was the first of the family to build ships in the town, aided by his oldest son John (1802-1838) and others. William junior and his brothers Peter and Alexander started the modern company in 1844, and when joined by another brother, James, gave the firm its modern title in 1849. The business was developed by the brothers, with technical advances that led to the establishment of standards that were accepted internationally.

Birth in 1815

William Denny was born on 7 June 1815, the son of William Denny and Christiane McIntyre. The entry in the Old Parish Register (OPR) for Dumbarton shows he was baptised on 10 June.

Baptism entry for William Denny

Baptism entry for William Denny in the OPR for Glasgow (115 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 496/3

1851 census

William Denny's marriage is not recorded in the Old Parish Registers. In this detail from the 1851 census for West Bridgend, Cardross in the parish of Dumbarton he is enumerated with his wife Mary, 27, who was born in Falkirk, Stirlingshire. Their two children, Mary aged two years and Christina aged six months, were born in Cardross. The household also includes John Govan, visitor and Agnes Rodger, the house servant. William Denny's occupation is given as ship builder, employing 300 men. The word carpenter has been crossed out!

1851 census record for William Denny

Household of William Denny in the 1851 census for Dumbarton (37 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1851/496/1, page 45

Testament of William Denny

National Records of Scotland, SC65/34/8 pp 5-8

William Denny's death in 1854 is not recorded in the Old Parish Registers. He died intestate at Woodyard House in the shipbuilding yard of that name (which was in operation until 1867). His inventory reflects his immediate shipbuilding interests and financial involvement in other industries. Another inventory in the name of William Denny, apprentice ship carpenter, 7 July 1871, who died suddenly in Glasgow, is that of his nephew (the son of his brother, James).

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