Speaking at the annual Family Business United Scottish conference, Lord Bruce explained that the Bruce family can trace its business activities – continuously – for almost 450 years. The origins of the family’s enterprising spirit were revealed in the 1570s when Sir George Bruce sunk the innovative Moat Pit on the northern shore of the River Forth at Culross, creating an offshore mining enterprise.
In addition to mining, subsequent generations were involved in shipbuilding, quarrying and minerals processing on a substantial scale. Alexander Bruce, 2nd Earl of Kincardine supplied sandstone from the Longannet quarry for building Maastricht Stadhuis (town hall) in the 1660s. His descendant, Charles Bruce, 5th Earl of Elgin supplied all the building mortar for Edinburgh New Town from the Charlestown Kilns which he established in the 1760s.
The family has always been aware of the social responsibility of business, as Lord Bruce explained. Planning a new settlement at Charlestown in the 1750s, the 5th Earl built a school for over 200 pupils. His urban experiment would become the progenitor for New Lanark.
In the 1930s, Edward Bruce, 10th Earl of Elgin used his position as deputy chairman of Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Co. to encourage fellow industrialists to establish the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI). Under his leadership the Council developed Scotland’s first industrial estate at Hillington. It was here that Rolls-Royce established an engineering factory in 1938 where 23,500 Merlin engines were produced for the Allied war effort.
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