The Allan Family: Scottish / Canadian Shipowners
"They left the world a better place."
Publication date: 5 June 2013. For purchases, see below.
Kilmarnock: Maureen Borland, 2013
290 pages. 28 B&W illustrations.
The story begins...
Robert Burns, a nephew of Jean Allan, wrote
Then may Heaven with her prosperous gales
Fill my Sailor's welcome sails ...
Alexander Allan ("Captain Sandy"), the founder of the Allan Shipping Line, was Robert Burns's cousin, the third son of Jean and her husband James.
The story begins with Captain Sandy's birth in 1780 in a small cottage in Dundonald, Ayrshire, and continues through the generations until the Second World War.
There is a coda in 1968, when Janie Allan, Captain Sandy's redoubtable granddaughter (see her picture on the right), died at her home near Spean Bridge a few days after celebrating her 100th birthday.
"In war and in peace the story has criss-crossed the globe – by sailing-ship, steamship, motor torpedo boat, yacht, liner, glider, rally-car and railway – and now it ends back in Scotland, a mere 130 miles from the little west coast town where Janie’s grandfather first went to sea."
The Allan family...
... were a strong-minded entrepreneurial family of sailors, from Captain Sandy who founded the dynasty and whose first small brigantine, the Jean, was launched from Ardrossan in 1819, to his sons who established the Allan Line as one of the great transatlantic shipping companies, his grandson Richard who took on the management of the Kaiser's racing-yacht, and to his great-grandson Bobby who commanded a squadron of torpedo-boats in Alexandria in 1942.
(After the war Bobby served as an MP under four Prime Ministers, became a prominent London businessman and was created Baron Allan of Kilmahew; it is said the only time the former torpedo-boat commander admitted having been scared was when sailing with his friend Sir Edward Heath.)
For well over one hundred years the Allans played a major role, in Scotland, Canada, Northern Ireland, Liverpool and further afield, not only in shipping but in railways, ship-building, banking, philanthropy and sport.
And much more: Janie was a leading Suffragette (and was imprisoned in HMP Holloway), a campaigner for agricultural labour colonies to support unemployed men, and active in the Scottish Council for Women's Trade.
Allans contributed to building up the commercial greatness of Glasgow and Montreal (Captain Sandy's son Sir Hugh had his own steam-yacht moored in Lake Memphremagog); they set up or supported charitable initiatives ranging from almshouses to sweet peas and from orphans to Girl Guides; most became keen sportsmen and women (yachting, of course, but also ice-skating, gliding and rally-car driving); some settled down and became land-owners; many became deeply involved in politics in Scotland, Canada or Westminster.
Allans found themselves personally involved in some of the most dramatic events of their time, such as the Boer War, the Redpath mansion mystery, the sinking of the Lusitania, and the Quintinshill railway disaster.
As a family, they displayed a passionate commitment to public service, enterprise, commercial development, and overcoming challenges. In their chosen walks of life, they fought to succeed—some by any means that came to hand!
Publication date: 5 June 2013.
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