John Kennedy (judge at the Rainhill trials)
Born on 4 July 1769 at Knocknalling, Kirkcudbrightshire, a small farm
6 miles from New Galloway. In February 1784 John Kennedy moved to Chowbent,
near Leigh in Lancashire, to be apprenticed to William Cannan, who came
originally from the parish of Kells, and was the son of a neighbour of the
Kennedys. Kennedy's training covered the manufacture of textile machinery
including carding engines, jennies, and water frames. On completing his
apprenticeship in February 1791, he moved to Manchester and formed a partnership
with Benjamin and William Sandford, fustian warehousemen, and James M'Connel,
a nephew and former apprentice of Cannan, to manufacture textile machinery
and undertake cotton spinning. This partnership lasted for four years, the
active management of the business being undertaken by M'Connel and Kennedy,
the latter taking charge of the machine department. For some years the firm
was virtually the only business using Crompton's mule.
Kennedy was a skilled and inventive engineer, and has been credited with devising a crucial improvement to fine spinning machinery, called double speed, which enabled much finer thread to be manufactured. This made possible the mechanization of fine spinning. In March 1795 M'Connel and Kennedy formed a new partnership with their share of the profit from the previous partnership, and a little additional capital of their own, and moved to a new factory in the same Canal Street, where they remained for six or seven years. Then they built the first of their three mills in Union Street. This new partnership formed the basis for the rest of Kennedy's working life, which spanned the next three decades. Initially the firm continued to make cotton-spinning machinery for sale, but this part of the business ended around 1800, although it still manufactured for its own requirements. Thereafter the spinning side of the business became the sole activity, concentrating on the production of the highest quality cotton yarn.
Kennedy spent much of his later life following his technical and mechanical interests. He was consulted about the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, on the issue of the relative merits of stationary or moving engines, and was a judge at the Rainhill engine trials in 1830. He was an active member of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, and had four papers published in the transactions of the society on the state of the cotton trade (1815), the poor law (1819), and the influence of machinery on the working classes (1826), and a memoir of Samuel Crompton (1830). Although Kennedy was highly successful in business, Fairbairn's memoir depicts him as a rather retiring individual of a nervous disposition, prone, like his father, to depression, and whose greatest enthusiasm lay in the search for mechanical improvement. He died on 30 October 1855 at Ardwick Hall, Manchester, and was buried at Rusholme Road cemetery, Ardwick, Manchester. C.H. Lee ODNB.
See also Dendy-Marshall who included a portrait as Fig. 18, on page 1087. CFDM was incorrect to imply a relationship with James Kennedy who became Burys partner in the Clarence Foundry.
Dendy-Marshall, C.F. The Rainhill Locomotive Trials of 1829. J. Instn Loco. Engrs., 1930, 20, 1080 (Fig. 12) (Paper No. 269)