William Robertson Shipowners Ltd.

S1509-54-Gem FlagS1509-54-Funnel 2William Robertson (1832-1919) was born in Paisley on the Clyde but grew up in nearby Renfrew, and began his working life in Renfrew as an office boy at the age of fifteen years for iron founders Henderson Brothers. He began to work for himself as a coal merchant four years later, and quickly realised he needed a coal shipping fleet to bring the coal in bulk to his customers. In 1852, he began operating the wooden scow Ellen on the Forth and Clyde Canal at Kirkintilloch, moving coal to Glasgow and Renfrew and down the Clyde to Dumbarton. The next two wooden scows, Gem and Ruby of 1854/55 and able to carry 60 tonnes of coal, began the ‘gem’ nomenclature for which his fleet became famous with names of minerals and semi precious stones.

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