James Finlayson (1772–1852)

James Finlayson was a Scotsman who played a large part in establishing the textile industry in Tampere, the principal industrial city in Finland. He was born at Penicuik and was a member of the Society of Friends (Quakers). He had some experience of the textile industry in Scotland before he went to St Petersburg in 1817 with the twin objectives of establishing a cotton factory for Tsar Alexander I (1777-1825) and distributing Bibles in the Russian language. He visited Finland in 1819 and subsequently gained permission to build a water-powered factory in Tampere alongside the Tammerkoski rapids. At first he used the buildings as mechanical engineering workshops, producing textile machines for other companies, but from 1828 the factory was adapted as a cotton mill. He sold it in 1836 to a group of businessmen from St Petersburg on condition that they retained the Finlayson name, and after two years when he acted as adviser to the new company he returned to Scotland, living in Edinburgh, where there is a commemorative plaque on his house.

In its most prosperous years the Finlayson company at Tampere employed more than 3,000 people. Since 1995 its buildings have been adapted to new uses, and a particularly notable north-lit weaving shed of 1877, named Plevna, after the Siege of Plevna of that year in the Russo-Turkish War, now accommodates a public house and a cinema.