The Allan Line of shipowners was founded by Alexander (Sandy) Allan, born on 26th February 1780 at the Fairlie Estate at Dundonald in Ayrshire as the third son of James Allan, a carpenter and his wife Jean Brown. His mother was the youngest sister of Agnes (Brown) Burns, the mother of Sandy’s famous first cousin, Robert Burns, the Scottish bard, whose family also worked on the Fairlie Estate, which lies a dozen miles inland from the coast between Troon and Irvine. In the summer of 1786, Robert Burns stayed at their cottage to avoid a writ from James Armour in consequence of his relationship with Jean Armour. The most famous works of Robert Burns are Auld Lang Syne, Scots Wa Hae, Comin’ through the Rye, the Banks of Doon and Tam O’ Shanter. Sandy Allan was apprenticed to a shoemaker in Kilmarnock, but quit in order to sail from Saltcoats (Ardrossan) as Mate, Master and later part owner of a sailing ship.
In 1806, Sandy Allan married Jean Crawford (1782-1856) and they had five sons, all of whom played a major part in the Allan Line shipping business. Sandy Allan founded the Allan Line of Sailing Ships in 1819 with regular sailings between Greenock and Quebec as Master of the wooden brigantine Jean, built at Irvine on dimensions of length 76.8 feet, moulded beam 22.6 feet, and depth of 13.4 feet. These sailings began on 9th June 1819, with the Allan family later beginning the Allan Line of Steamships in 1854 to give almost one hundred continuous years of shipowning until 1916, when the line was taken over by Canadian Pacific Steamships. The sailings of the brigantine were fitted in on the St. Lawrence between the Spring and Autumn as the ice prevented navigation for at least four months of winter. Cargo outward was coal, iron, herrings, sugar, spices and general cargo, and homeward Canadian supplies of timber, wheat, peas, flour, potash and general cargo were purchased and sold to merchants in Glasgow and throughout Scotland.
The five sons of Alexander (Sandy) Allan and his wife Jean Allan were:-
- James Allan (1808-1880), who joined in the management of the Allan Line of Sailing Ships, and was joined later by his younger brother Alexander as J. & A. Allan.
- Hugh Allan (1810-1882), who was settled by his father in Montreal at the early age of 16 years, working for a large shipbuilding company in Montreal, and with his younger brother Andrew in 1854 formed the Montreal Ocean Steam Ship Company and a number of friends, and more commonly known as the Allan Line of Steamships to Canada. He quickly settled into Montreal life, later owning a large mansion in the Golden Square Mile area of the city, with reminders of home in Scotland from the many street signs and carved stone faces of the Scottish bard Robert Burns, the first cousin of his father. He was later knighted for services to Canadian financial and shipping industries, having secured the contract for the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1871, but the ‘Pacific Political Scandal’ of 1873 led to its cancellation.
- Bryce Allan (1814-1874) became the manager of the Branch Office at Liverpool.
- Andrew Allan (1822-1901) began as a manager in the Glasgow office and later joined with his elder brother Hugh to form the Montreal Ocean Steam Ship Company.
- Alexander Allan (1825-1892) began as a manager in the Glasgow office in the management of the Allan Line of Sailing Ships, and the managers were later styled as J. & A. Allan with his elder brother James.
THE ALLAN LINE OF SAILING SHIPS
Capt. Sandy Allan soon bought out his co-owners of the brig Jean, with Greenock as the outward port of the line, and he moved his family to Greenock in 1824. The second ship of the line was the twin masted wooden brig Favourite of 296 grt and built in 1825 at Montreal and commanded by Capt. Sandy Allan. The third ship of the line was the wooden ship Canada of 330 grt built in 1831 as the first fully rigged Allan Line sailing ship by Robert Steele & Sons Ltd. of Greenock. She was commanded by Capt. Sandy Allan while James Allan succeeded him as Master of Favourite.
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