The Allan Line

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Angus Mac Kinnon
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The Allan Line

Post by Angus Mac Kinnon » Thu Nov 07, 2013 10:57 pm

I have in the past written on the above subject but cannot find the article now - it may have been on an alternative website, it was some time ago I think. Anyway, a further bit of research carried out today throws up an anomaly so I thought I would share it.

This all stems from a long fascination I have had with an old mansion house near Gatehead, in South Ayrshire, by the name of Fairlie House or, as it was known by many, 'the hoose o' five lums'. My chief interest in the property and the Estate it lies in, is that the Estate had amongst its employees, a joiner-handyman by the name of James Allan, who was married to a Jean - nee Brown - a half-sister of Scotland national bard, Robert Burns. They lived in an Estate cottage along with their young son, Alexander.

This was the Alexander Allan who was later to become the Founder of one of the greatest shipping lines in our history, the trans-Atlantic Allan Line which carried passengers and mails to Canada until taken over by Canadian Pacific in 1909.

Alexander Allan was born in a cottage on the Fairlie Estate in 1780, a mile and a half from the village of Gatehead, and not in the North Ayrshire township of Saltcoats as has been claimed in many publications and even the normally well researched publication Memoirs and Portraits of 100 Glasgow Men alludes incorrectly that his birthplace was Saltcoats in its article of the eldest of Alexander's five sons - James Allan.

Alexander Allan, the founder, was apprenticed at a young age to the shoe-manufacturing trade in Kilmarnock after which he went to work for a James Nisbet, Master Shoemaker, of Loundonkirk, near Galston. Nisbett, who was to outlive his young journeyman by 2-3 years, was fond of telling stories of his now-famous ex-employee who had since become a famous ship-owner and a very rich man.

At the age of about 19 or 20 years, Alexander decided to relocate from South Ayrshire to the North Ayrshire township of Saltcoats to pursued his trade and also regain his health after developing some affliction in either an arm or leg.

However, until then, he had lived with his parents in the Fairlie Estate cottage, and indeed his parents are both buried in the old Churchyard in nearby Dundonald, the Parish which Fairlie House came under.

There can be little doubt that at this time he would come to know Robert Burns who used to stay overnight with his maternal Aunt, Jean Allan, (Alexander's mother) when on the business of reviewing/correcting the first draughts of his soon-to-be published Kilmarnock Edition works. He would also be well known in the nearby village Old Rome where he often ran messages for his parents.

Alexander the Founder, born 1780, died in 1854. His eldest son, James Allan, born 1808, died in 1880. All five sons were heavily involved in continuing their father's work, growing the Company, moving to large steamers, and their sons in turn followed suit.

Angus

N.B.
Fairlie House has had a few Owners since it was built in about 1800, by Sir William Cunninghame-Fairlie (believed to have been the 8th Baronet and acquaintance of national bard Robert Burns) and as may be seen it is a rectangular Regency construction mansion house of two storeys in height.
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Fairlie House - near Gatehead and Kilmarnock
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Angus Mac Kinnon

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Angus Mac Kinnon
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Re: The Allan Line

Post by Angus Mac Kinnon » Fri Nov 08, 2013 12:21 am

Many years ago, at least 25, I came across a little unofficial publication in the Dick Institute, Kilmarnock, which expanded on the story of Alexander 'Sandy' Allan, the creator of the great Allan Line, and a fascinating read it was as I recall. I searched hard for this today but could not find it at the Dick Institute Reference Library, nor in the Archival Records Genealogy and Registrar Centre at the Kilmarnock Kay Park's Robert Burns Monument facility - an impressive establishment with excellent and extremely helpful staff, who sourced for me an original publication of The Weekly Supplement & Advertiser for Galston, Newmilns, Darvel and Hurlford of 15th October 1886 from where I was able to extract good corroboration of the previous details from what I regard as impeccable sources.

Anyway, returning to the wee booklet that I was unable to find again, I recall from it the story of the young boy walking into Kilmarnock, often barefooted, to attend school, whilst living with his people at the Fairlie Estate. He would also walk from his home to the Ayrshire ports of Ayr, Troon, Irvine and Ardrossan in order to inspect the sailing vessels and talk to the Captains and crews asking everything he could think of on life on board and at sea. This was the start of his interest in a maritime future.

He sailed as Master at a very young age and in no time had invested in shares of his ship/s until he owned his own ship outright. He was reputed to be very strict and discipline on Allan Line ships was very high - especially where drinking was concerned. However, speed, efficiency and reliability was maintained to a very high standard on Allan Line ships and this went down very well with those who depended and profited from such high standards being maintained.

I will later post some other interesting details discovered during my visit to the Robert Burns Monument Centre.

Angus
Angus Mac Kinnon

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Re: The Allan Line

Post by mcmahos » Fri Nov 08, 2013 9:23 am

Amazing what the Search facility can bring up!!! :lol:

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Angus Mac Kinnon
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Re: The Allan Line

Post by Angus Mac Kinnon » Fri Nov 08, 2013 9:44 am

I omitted to mention that the father of Robert Burns, William Burnes, was also employed by the Fairlie Estate involved in gardening and landscaping activities around the Estate for a period of around 3-4 years, another reason why it's almost inevitable Alexander Allan and the Bard became aquainted.

Yes - research is greatly aided nowadays with the convenience of computers and the various choice of search engines, but yesterday's activities were mainly supported by a number of hours careful handling (cushion and white gloves job!) of original broadsheet 127-years old newspaper print.
Angus Mac Kinnon

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