1861 - having served his apprenticeship at Chatham, was given responsibility for superintending the construction of HMS Achilles, the first iron-clad ship built at the Royal Dockyards. 1863 - appointed Lloyd's Surveyor on Clydeside. 1864 - appointed manager of Robert Napier's shipyard to replace John Elder, who had set up in independent business with Charles Randolph. 1869 - following the death of John Elder, he joined John Ure, J. L. K. Jamieson, and Mrs Elder as partner and manager in John Elder & Co. 1878 - following the retirement of Ure and Jamieson, became sole manager of the shipyard. 1885 - elected as the first MP to represent the Govan division of Lanarkshire. 1886 - converted his company to limited liability status, taking the name of the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, of which he was chairman. 1887 - created a baronet.