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George William Douglas





George William DouglasGeorge William Douglas (1859–1947) was a woollen and worsted dyer. He was born on 14 August 1859 at 26 Spring Gardens, Bradford, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, the son of David Maitland Douglas and his wife, Margaret, née McConnal. He was educated at Bradford grammar school and at the Yorkshire College, Leeds. His father was a manager and later a partner in the important merchanting establishment in Bradford of A. and S. Henry. Between school and college George worked in his father's firm and while there gained experience in technical and commercial matters, particularly textile materials and their distribution throughout the markets of the world. He accompanied his father on several visits to the United States. On leaving the Yorkshire College in 1878, George Douglas found employment with Edward Ripley & Son, dyers, of Bowling, near Bradford. The firm enjoyed a high reputation in the worsted trade. From very small roots it had progressed to being capable of handling almost every kind of piece-goods manufactured in the Bradford area, and some Lancashire cotton goods. Douglas rose rapidly in the firm, graduating to the position of general manager and junior partner.

The Yorkshire dyeing industry in the last third of the nineteenth century was facing immense competition from the continent, particularly Germany, and was struggling to achieve the standards the wool textile industry needed for its products to be competitive. In particular the invention and innovation of artificial dyestuffs was putting traditional dyers under much pressure. Douglas led the reorganization of the Ripley business and the redevelopment of the dyeworks, enabling the firm to cope with a wider variety of trade and to encompass broader technological innovation. He joined the campaign to reform the organization of the piece-dyeing industry in Bradford and district, where competition was severe and prices unremunerative. Short-time working was commonplace and standards were suffering. Douglas took the lead in the establishment of the Bradford Dyers' Association, formed to rationalize the local dyeing industry. In 1898 the association was founded, combining twenty-two of the firms engaged in the dyeing and finishing of textile piece-goods in the Bradford district, some ninety per cent of the total business. Edward Ripley & Sons was by far the largest in the amalgamation. The association was floated with a capital of £3 million. Douglas was appointed managing director, and he led attempts to restore remunerative prices for dyeing and to improve the quality of the output of the industry in order to allow it to face foreign competition. Economies were accomplished through the sharing of technical expertise and the centralization of organization and administration. Uneconomic works were closed and work was allocated according to the capabilities of various plants. A monopoly price situation enabled a very high return on assets in the early years of the association.

In the early twentieth century the association expanded rapidly, incorporating many other dyeing businesses in Yorkshire and Lancashire. By 1906 it employed about 7500 people, having in the previous year ranked as the seventeenth largest industrial company in Britain, in terms of capital employed. Douglas led the association through the First World War and into the textile depression of the inter-war years. He became sole managing director in 1909, and held that position until his retirement in 1946. From 1924 he was also chairman of the association. He was a founder member of the Society of Dyers and Colourists in 1884, serving as its vice-president from 1894 to 1912, and as president from 1912 to 1914. He was appointed an honorary member of the society in 1934. Although, in principle, he favoured free trade, he recognized the need for subsidies to help the dyeing industry in the 1930s, and campaigned for them. He also advocated industrial reorganization in the textile industry at that period to eliminate surplus capacity, maintain prices, and promote exports.

George Douglas was recognized as having a clear vision about the needs of the industry, and an alert, analytical mind in confronting its problems. He was described as an accomplished organizer and a thoughtful but determined businessman. He shunned personal publicity. He was reported to have been a substantial benefactor, but few details of his bequests were ever published.

Douglas married Charlotte Eliza Scott, sister of Alfred Angas Scott of the Scott Motorcycle company. She died in France in 1923.  They had 3 children: Muriel Scott Douglas (1892-1961) Geoffrey Scott Douglas (1894-1905) and (George) Keith Douglas (1904-1949).

From 1908 he lived at Farfield Hall, Addingham, Skipton, West Riding of Yorkshire, spending his leisure hours fishing and shooting on this estate. The property had a succession of tenants before he bought it, transforming the gardens and surroundings.  He died of a cerebral thrombosis at Farfield Hall on 26 November 1947, and was buried at Bolton Abbey church on 29 November.


George William Douglas Minnie, Amy & Ethel Douglas  Keith Douglas  Margaret Stuart Douglas  Ethel Maitland Douglas  David Maitland Douglas 
George William Douglas  Minnie, Amy & Ethel Douglas  Keith Douglas  Margaret Stuart Douglas  Ethel Maitland Douglas  David Maitland Douglas 
  George's sisters  George's son  George's mother  George's sister  George's father 




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Last modified: Monday, 25 March 2024