Adam Hunter was born in 1869 — the same year that the British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s opened its first store in Drury Lane in London, and the great Victorian engineering project in Egypt, the Suez Canal, opened to shipping.
He shared his name with his grandfather (1814-94) and his father (1845-1918). Engineering also seems to have been a common thread in the family — his grandfather had been an engineer at Elgin Colliery, Dunfermline in Fife, Scotland, and his father was a civil engineer.
His grandfather had married Helen Chalmers (1813-89), and they had seven children — William (born 1835), Jean (1837-77), John (born 1840), Janet (1841-81), Adam (Hunter's father), Thomas (1849-59) and George Muir (1854-58).
Hunter's father had begun his working life as an apprentice pattern maker at Provost John Whitelaw's (born 1809) foundry in Dunfermline. On 22nd October 1866, he married Hunter's mother, Jane Campbell Johnston (1848-1927) at Anderston in Glasgow. They had moved to Crossford near Dunfermline by the time Hunter was born on 23rd August 1869. He was the first of the couple's nine children.
In 1870 Adam Hunter senior took a post as an engine pattern maker at McNab's engineering works at Greenock in Renfrewshire, by which time the family was living at 33 Ingleston Road in the town.
Five more children were born into the Hunter household at Greenock — Peter Johnstone (1871-1946), Sarah Clark (1875-1953), John Chalmers (1877-1921), William (1879-83) and Johnstone (1882-1946). They later moved to Cruickness at Inverkeithing in Fife, where Hunter senior was working as a civil engineer. Three more sons completed the family — Chalmers (1884-6), Campbell Johnstone (1886-1900) and Thomas Chalmers (1890-1954).
Adam Hunter junior finished his education in Greenock and embarked on an engineering career at the age of 16. In 1886, he started an apprenticeship that would see him working on the construction of the Forth Bridge
, where his father was in charge of the workshops. This groundbreaking project is the first large-scale use of steel in a bridge.
See also our feature on the building of the Forth Rail Bridge
main reference BDCE3
portrait of Adam Hunter
courtesy Roland Paxton