John Hastie, an engineer and millwright, opened a small works in Greenock producing sundry engineering products in 1845. In 1853 he patented the first self-holding steering gear and went on to produce hand-steering gears of the right and left hand screw principle. In 1870, the firm of John Hastie commenced making steam steering gears. The firm took on limited liability status in 1898 becoming known as John Hastie & Co Ltd. From 1903 the company devoted itself to the production of steering gear and was a pioneer in the 1910s in the use of electric hydraulic steering gear.
The firm remained privately owned until 1972 when it was acquired jointly by the Weir Group plc and Lithgows Ltd, although it remained an independently operated company. The company was finally dissolved in 1991.