Arrol, the son of a cotton-spinner, was born in Houston, Renfrewshire
in 1839. He began work in a cotton mill at the age of 10 and
four years started training as a blacksmith. Arrol taught himself
mechanics and hydraulics at night school and by the age of 29
decided to start his own engineering business in Glasgow.
Arrol's company built a railway viaduct at Greenock and in 1878
secured the contract for the Caledonian Railway Bridge over
the Clyde. In 1882 was asked to construct the replacement Tay
Bridge that had collapsed in 1879. His company, Tancred Arrol,
also built the Forth Railway Bridge (1883-90); then the largest
steel bridge in the world. This was followed by Tower Bridge
in London (1886-94). Arrol's company also built bridges in Australia
(Hawkesbury Bride) and Egypt (Nile Bridge).
Arrol, who was also the Liberal MP for South Ayrshire from 1892
to 1906, died in 1913. One of the most successful of all railway
contractors, Arrol left £317,749 in his will.