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Stewart Spiers or is it Speir?

Eion G. Scott

Recently a number of traditional mitre planes stamped SPEIR AYR or simply SPEIR have come onto the collector market. These planes appear in every way similar to those marked with the more traditional SPIER AYR. Is it possible that all of these planes, ie. those marked SPEIR, SPEIR AYR or SPEIRS AYR, were in fact made by the same person or firm?

Examination of early Ayr directories together with the 1841, 1851 and 1861 census suggests that this may in fact be the case. In both the 1841 and 1851 census and Macarter’s Directory for 1830 the family is listed as Speir. If this spelling occurred in just one list one could account for it as it as a ‘typo’ on the part of the census taker or Macarten. However the fact that it was used more than once suggests that it was one of the ways the family spelled their names ’til at least 1851!

Why and when the Spiers spelling was chosen over Speir is not at all clear. What seems clear is that planes marked Speir were in all probability made by Stewart Spiers, his father William or his American born nephew William Spier. Some of the planes are clearly early and some clearly late, ie. the infill is screwed in place rather than pinned in place or vice versa. Consequently, it is possible that any one of them could have made these planes that are stamped Speir. However given that the nephew William was born in America it seems quite likely that he would maintain the Speir spelling even if Stewart and his mother settled on Spiers. This would suggest that he, rather than Stewart, was the maker of at least the later ‘superior’ planes.

Appeared 1996 – Toolshop Auctions Catalogue

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