Gorbals City Of The Dead

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John Robertson
John Robertson (1782-1868) is recognised as the
Clyde’s earliest marine engineer and was responsible
for the engines of Bell’s ‘Comet’. He was born on the
10th December 1782 in Neilston, Renfrewshire, the son
of James Robertson, mill worker. John Robertson’s
career started at the age of fourteen when he became an apprentice to Mr Cuthbertson, a spinning wheelwright in Neilston. After his apprenticeship Robertson was employed as a turner at the Stanley Cotton Works in Perthshire where he worked for two years before moving to Glasgow. For the following eight years he worked in the machine shop of William Dunn at High John Street. Dunn of Duntocher was one of Glasgow’s most famous entrepreneur capitalists and his magnificent Irish granite monument is a feature of the Glasgow Necropolis Heritage Trail. With the death of his father in 1810, Robertson
inherited a small engineering shop in Dempster Street, Glasgow. Robertson first met Henry Bell in 1808 when he was installing a small steam engine to pump sea water for the baths at Bell’s Baths Hotel in Helensburgh. After their initial meeting Bell chose his engine to power the near complete ‘Comet’

Robertson’s own description of ‘The Comet’ was the
modest observation that it was “prettily painted in different colours, having the figurehead of a lady with
red cheeks and coloured dress”.
Being a kindly and generous man John Robertson was
prey to lenders and borrowers. His assets were tied up
in steam boats and they were gradually disposed of at a
considerable loss and by August 1826 he found himself
in over £2,000 of debt. He was declared bankrupt and became dependant on the generosity of a few good friends. John Robertson died at Carrick Street, Glasgow on 19th November 1868.
(Southern Necropolis)
and the
Comet Engine