Sir Robert McAlpine was born in 1847 in the Scottish village of Newarthill near Motherwell. From the age of seven he worked in the nearby coal mines, leaving at 16 to become an apprentice bricklayer.
Later, working for an engineer, he progressed to being a construction foreman before starting in 1869 to work on his own account at the age of 22. He had no capital other than that he could earn himself and his first contract involving the employment of other men had to be financed by borrowing £11 from the butcher.
From there, McAlpine enjoyed rapid success. In 1887, Robert took his two eldest sons, Robert junior and William, out of school to help him, with Malcolm and Alfred following soon after. Today the company approaches it sixth generation and 150 years of Family ownership and management.
Sir Robert died aged 87 in November 1934.