G.R.Stein

FOR a man who was to make such an impact on the brick-making business, John Gilchrist Stein made a less than auspicious start.

He quit his first job as an apprentice at Winchburgh Brickworks when bosses refused to give the 20-year-old Stein his father's job as works manager - and was sacked from his second post at a rival brick works after a row over royalty payments.

But when Stein parted company with Cumbernauld Pipe Works, it was not as a bitter young man. Rather, it was as an ambitious individual determined to go one better than his former employer, James Dunnachie, who owned Glenboig Union Fireclay Company Limited and Cumbernauld Pipe Works, and was to become the boss of one of the largest brick making concerns in Scotland.

Stein's next job as a salesman with Bonnybridge Silica Company paid 27/6d a week - but. he was still able to save enough from that to fund his real ambition to set up on his own.

In 1887, with financial help from his wife's family, Stein leased two acres of clayfields at Milnquarter on the outskirts of Bonnybridge. He mined tap-hole clay by open cast means and sold it to the steel industry. At the same time, work started building his first brick stove.

The costs of this project and his mining operations forced Stein to secure further investment, so he invited a local iron founder, Malcolm Cockburn, to join the business. This extra capital pushed Stein on his way, and in the autumn of 1888 he built and fired his first kiln which was capable of handling 5000 hand-made bricks.

Within six years, the Milnquarter works had expanded to include five conical kilns and business was brisk. In 1896, however, the money making partners had a disagreement - over the level of Stein's salary - and Cockburn sold out.

This left Stein to press ahead with his plans to develop Milnquarter and revolutionise manufacturing at the site by bringing in machines to make bricks instead of exclusively by hand.

He extended the business into Denny, leasing a bing of fireclay and ganister waste from William Baird and Company to produce compacted brick.

JOHN GILCHRIST STEIN devoted his life to a business that was ironically to kill him. A tee-totaller and non-smoker, he was a stern disciplinarian who had little interest in the church or politics.

But he was interested in the welfare of his ever increasing workforce and built them houses to live in and a football pitch and bowling green to play on when they were not working. He also ordered and paid for a hall his workers used as a canteen and recreation room.

In 1917, Stein and William Douglas from Douglas Firebrick Company helped form the Scottish Employers Council for the Clay Industries and Stein was its first president.

One of the council's jobs was to fix prices, and this time Stein made sure Glenboig bricks were priced the same as his own.

Stein had become the foremost brick manufacturer in Scotland when tragedy struck.

In 1927, while inspecting the Castlecary works, he tripped over a brick and grazed his shin. The wound turned septic and his leg was amputated, but it was not enough to save his life, the industry losing an eminent figure overnight and his death signalling the end of an era.