John Macgregor lived from 24 August 1802 to 16 September 1858. He established a shipbuilding yard on the River Clyde and did much to pioneer the development of iron ships. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
John Macgregor was born in Fintry, on the north slopes of the Campsie Fells. He was the son of James Macgregor, a clockmaker, and Annie McNicol. When he was 14 the family moved to Comrie in Perthshire. Two years later they moved to Glasgow, where John Macgregor began an apprenticeship with the marine engineer, David Napier, who was said to be one of the best builders of marine engines in Scotland at the time. After completing his apprenticeship, Macgregor spent some time as seagoing engineer looking after the Napier engines on the SS Belfast which shuttled between Liverpool and Dublin.
While working for Napier, Macgregor met another engineer employed by the company, David Tod. In 1833 Tod and Macgregor formed a partnership to begin production of marine engines on their own account. The company grew quickly and by the end of 1836 they had opened a shipyard on the south bank of the River Clyde at Mavisbank. In 1845 Tod and Macgregor relocated to a larger purpose built shipyard at Meadowside in Partick. They became known as "the fathers of iron shipbuilding on the Clyde" and the company built a number of notable ships such as the City of Glasgow and the City of Paris.
In 1830, Macgregor married Margaret Fleming. Together they had seven children, of whom two boys and three girls survived. The family moved as Macgregor's fortunes improved. In 1848 they were living at Meadowside House in Partick when Margaret Fleming died. In March 1851 John Macgregor married Margaret York, with whom he had two further children. Macgregor died in 1858 at the age of just 57. When his funeral took place the shops in Partick were closed, the route was lined with thousands of spectators, the bells of the city churches were tolled, and the flags on the ships in the Clyde were at half-mast.