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A History of our Firm
Chapter XI - Gilmour, Rankin, Strang & Co., William Strang


GILMOUR, RANKIN, STRANG and Co.
LONDON.
Opened 1 January, 1852
Closed 31 December, 1889

The heavy financial transactions, the unsatisfactory agency of John and William Jaifray, the death of the former, the subsequent disappearance of the latter, and the general opening for developing a lucrative business in the world's centre were doubtless the motives that induced Mr. Rankin and Mr. Gilmour to initiate this concern. The popularity of Mr. Strang in Liverpool was undoubted, and his activity boundless. In addition to serving the requirements of the Glasgow and Liverpool offices, he quickly attracted to his firm a large agency business—particularly in ship consignments, not then the beggarly business it now is. He had also to handle the timber consignments, not only of the parent but also of the foreign firms, and of Price Bros., of Saguenay—a very large account, as, I think, this firm commanded the whole of that river's product. His firm collected all the Bills Receivable, and the Bills Payable were domiciled at their office 63 Fenchurch Street. This meant a good deal of detail, but otherwise the burden was not heavy, as Glasgow and Liverpool provided the wherewithal. The monthly cash statement or finance memorandum was prepared in Liverpool, and as Mr. Hill could have testified, required elaborate consideration. Mr. Rankin himself, till ill-health overtook him, personally and solely looked to it. The London staff was a small one.; at first it consisted of Mr. Sampson and Mr. Oliver only; then came James Hutchison and E. G. Price for- a time; later Mr. William Alexander from the Liverpool office replaced Mr. Sampson who left, with Mr. E. G. Price to be his manager. Mr. Hutchison left at the time Hutchison & Jarvie opened a branch house in London, and Mr. Price left to establish a direct agency for the Saguenay firm—it would have been infinitely wiser to have given the latter the partnership he asked for. During the later years not a little cotton business of Messrs. Harvey Bros. and Harvey & Sababathy passed through their hands. With Mr. Strang's failing health the firm closed 31 December, 1889.

WILLIAM STRANG
Born May, 1825
Entered P., G. & Co., 1837
Died 31 August, 1902

William Strang, born in Kilbride parish, adjoining Mearns, in May, 1825, entered Pollok, Gilmour & Co.'s office, Glasgow, in 1837, and the fact that he has not been given an earlier place is because he, being the founder of a firm, must appear under that firm's rotation. He was transferred to the Liverpool office on its opening, or shortly after, founding the London office of Gilmour, Rankin, Strang & Co. in 1852.

From the time he came to Liverpool his life must have been a busy one, as the work entailed upon the staff throughout was very heavy. He had an excellent business manner, and commanded the confidence and respect of everyone. Long after he left Liverpool enquiries for him were frequent from those he knew here. He lodged in modest quarters in Wesley Street with Donald Kennedy, and around that neighbourhood centred quite a community of young Scots, including William Main and John Lindsay, who were both in the office, and afterwards became Lindsay, Main & Co., of Adelaide; Donald Currie, who became Sir Donald Currie, Bart. (then a very junior clerk in Macfie & Sons, and afterwards with D. & C. Maclver, where he quickly rose to the top) ; W. J. Fernie also, who at times electrified these youngsters with financial schemes and projects such as in later years he put into practice, sometimes with marvellous success, at others with dismal failure.

On Donald Kennedy's marriage, Mr. Strang removed to a small house, No. 88 Lodge Lane, now demolished, but he soon thereafter went to London, and R. R. II became heir thereto.

In 1859 he married Miss Hutchison, daughter of Captain Robert Hutchison (Hutchison & Jarvie) and niece of Mr. Allan Gilmour, and by her had ten children, of whom are now living only Allan, John, and Walter in New Zealand, and Annie (Mrs. Taylor Young), till lately in Sydney, N.S.W. The two first-named sons were each for a short time associated with the Liverpool firm, but climatic conditions, which had proved so fatal to other members of their family, rendered residence in Australia advisable. The step has been eminently justified. They are prosperous and strong; the only disadvantage is that they are so far from home.

Allan, after being at Coopers' Hill, came to Liverpool in 1884. He had an experience of one or two voyages in the engine room of the St. Ronans, and then entered as apprentice with Messrs. James Jack & Co., engineers. On their closing he joined our office staff, wherein he was a willing worker, having a strong preference for the dock part. In 1887 he had a trip to India on one of the steamers, and visited some of the adjacent countries. His chest not being strong, he went to Australia in 1889. Ultimately, accompanied by his brother Walter, he went to New Zealand in 1891, and settled there.

John, after some experience with Alexander Harvey in London, joined our staff here in 1888, leaving again in 1889 to join in partnership William Alexander in Liverpool. This was hardly a successful venture, and, moreover, his health providing matter for consideration, he left Mr. Alexander in 1891, and joined his brothers in New Zealand.

To make the connection more clear, I may say that William Alexander was originally clerk with Bell, Gouldie & Co., our brokers; then clerk with Rankin, Gilmour & Co., subsequently manager with Gilmour, Rankin, Strang & Co., London, and on their closing became a partner of Alexander Harvey in London, who controlled Harvey & Sababathy, Bombay. At the date I name William Alexander had come down here and opened an agency for Sababathy, Bombay. The native was not only headstrong, but wily.

After Mr. Hoghton left for New Orleans, Mr. Strang became manager at the Liverpool office until, as before said, he went to London in 1852 to take the place of William and John Jaffray, who had not conducted the business there satisfactorily. There Mr. Strang quickly gathered about him a number of warm friends. Keen in business, he was too anxious to get the last half-crown per standard on the deals he vended. The timber trade was and is one of bills and very long credit, and this half-crown frequently meant just the difference between a sound and a shaky buyer—a good or a bad bill. In consequence dishonoured bills were somewhat numerous, dividends large or small had to be taken thereon, and the difference between these and the face of the bill represented a great deal more than the half-crown additional price he had obtained. In practice very thrifty, and in everything very straight, he was distinguished by a happy faculty for discussing any matter about which he had no desire to commit himself, in such a way as to leave you at the end of the discussion fairly satisfied, yet having achieved nothing. The captains who went to him with demands which he had no wish to concede, would say that without declining their requests he had been very nice and conciliatory, but that they could never manage to get any further. Of a most kindly disposition, he would take endless pains to serve his friends. He took great interest in the Royal Alfred Asylum for Aged Seamen, was vice- chairman of the Worcester Training Ship for Naval Cadets, and was an active member of committee of the Chichester and Arethusa Training Ships for poor boys. He also interested himself considerably in the affairs of his church. He was a valued member of Lloyd's Registry for Classification of British and Foreign Ships, and a director of the General Life Insurance Co., and of the Surrey Commercial Dock Co., and for some time chairman of the latter. He undertook many arbitrations for his business friends very successfully—indeed, his opinion on business matters was much sought for and valued. A martyr to gout, he had to be away a great deal from the office during the last years of its existence, and it was indeed from this cause more than anything else that he expressed a desire to retire on 31 December, 1889, when the house was closed. His family had scattered, but he continued to reside at Blackheath, and on their periodical visits to this country to receive them there. He died 31 August, 1902.


 


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