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A History of our Firm
Chapter XIII - Some Connections of the Firm:—John H. Pollok and William Pollok, Calcutta; and certain other Sons of Titwood, Mearns; also Hutchison and Jarvie, and Hutchison and Pollok, Ltd., James Rankin of Miramichi, Alexander Rankin junior, Duncan Gibb


SOME CONNECTIONS OF THE FIRM
JOHN HENDERSON POLLOK AND WILLIAM POLLOK,
CALCUTTA
About 1849 to 1852
AND CERTAIN OTHER SONS OF TITWOOD, MEARNS; ALSO HUTCHISON AND JARVIE, AND HUTCHISON AND POLLOK, LTD.

JOHN H. POLLOK
Born 17 October, 1826
Died 7 September, 1856

WILLIAM POLLOK
Born 31 July, 1830
Died 15 October, 1851

William Pollok, of Titwood, Mearns, was a cousin of John and Arthur Pollok.

His son, John H., was brought up in the office of Mr. Duncan Gibb of Liverpool. While he was there a suggestion was made that he and his brother William should open a branch of Pollok, Gilmour & Co. in London, but this suggestion was not acted upon. About 1849 he went out to Calcutta in one of Mr. Gibb's ships, the Baron Renfrew, as supercargo. Doubtless, the object was to see what were the prospects of establishing a business there under the aegis alike of Mr. Gibb and of Pollok, Gilmour & Co. At any rate, shortly after returning to this country he again went out to Calcutta, accompanied by his brother William, till then in Pollok, Gilmour & Co.'s office, and took up the usual merchant's business, having a sound foundation in the above-named agencies of Duncan Gibb and Pollok, Gilmour & Co. At that time Mr. Gibb was among the most advanced, and along with P., G. and Co., among the largest British shipowners. Ill-health befell both brothers, and they returned to this country, William dying shortly afterwards at Mr. Jarvié's house in Lodge Lane, Liverpool. So was closed what might have become a very useful eastern extension. Another effort was made to utilise the undoubtedly brilliant parts of John H. Pollok. He went out about 1854 to found the house of Pollok, Hoghton & Co., Mobile, whence on the occasions of Mr. Bryson's absence home, in the slack season, he directed the affairs of Hoghton, Rankin & Co., New Orleans. However, he too fell ill, had to return to this country, and eventually died at his father's house in Mearns.

Allan, another son of Titwood, born 1828, entered the Glasgow office, but died when only eighteen.

Thomas, another sop, born 1835, came to Liverpool in 1853 to enter his brother-in-law's (James Jarvie's) works and office. He alone of that family survived to a ripe age; consumption claimed the other members.

Messrs. R. & J. Jarvie had been established in the rope and machine-making business at Glasgow probably before the firm of Pollok, Gilmour & Co. was founded, and when, years afterwards, the necessity arose for the younger branches to push further afield, Mr. James Jarvie, the son of Robert Jarvie, came to Liverpool about 1840, where in conjunction with Captain Robert Hutchison, he built a rope- works, still running in Lodge Lane, and rented a sailmaking and rope-storing warehouse in Jordan Street. Sailmakirig business especially was then a much bigger thing than now. Whether at Glasgow or in Liverpool, the fortunes of Messrs. Jarvie and the firm were closely linked together.

Mr. Jarvie married first Janet Pollok, sister of the above named, and second, Agnes, sister of the writer. He died in 1880.

Captain Hutchison, born 1804, a brother-in-law of Mr. Allan Gilmour, had been apprentice, and at the age of twenty-three master in the P., G. ships, and in 1844, subsequent to his joining Mr. Jarvie, rendered conspicuous services, having accompanied and controlled the management of a large fleet of vessels sent out by the Liverpool firm to load guano at the newly discovered Ichaboe Islands. This incident is referred to elsewhere. He died in 1853. As time went on Messrs. James and Nedrick Jarvie, from Glasgow, and Mr. Thomas Pollok opened a similar business in London in 1862, and Mr. James Hutchison, a son of the before-named Captain Hutchison, and brother-in-law of William Strang, joined them about 1868. Mr. James Jarvie retiring about that date, the management was transferred to Liverpool, and the firms are continued to-day under the name of Hutchison & Pollok, Ltd., Liverpool and London.

JAMES RANKIN, OF MIRAMICHI
COMMONLY CALLED COUSIN JAMES
Born at Glasgow, 1818.
Married Miss McKenzie, 1858
Died at Halifax, 25 September, 1884

Though he actively played little part therein, I must reserve a place for him in this history, and not on account of my personal predilection for him —for it was a predilection shared, I think, by everyone.

A son of Arthur Rankin, of Glasgow, he accompanied my father and mother on the ill-fated Allan Gilmour, and was with them wrecked in the Bay of Fundy. Subsequently he joined the staff at St. John under his uncle, Mr. Robert Rankin. By his own account he had neither aptitude nor inclination for business, but he dearly loved the harbour, and if he could get a boat to scull about in and put himself aboard the ships, he would be oblivious to anything else. So strong was his liking that he went to sea, I believe taking French leave. Nothing was heard of him till Mr. Alexander Rankin found him in the autumn of 1843 in hospital at Quebec. He had accidentally received terrible injuries to the vertebrae, and he was to be a life-long invalid.

The next I hear of him is at Miramichi under the care of my good uncle there, a contented, cheery wreck of a young man, almost helpless, but endeared to everyone.

Miss McKenzie, who for many years did the honours of my uncle Alexander's household, ministered to him. He was my uncle's peculiar charge, and the office staff were devoted to him. What must it have been to James Rankin —inspirit so capable of taking and enjoying his part therein, but in constant pain—to see on summer days from his simple canvas-covered stretcher on the lawn, the busy activity of the harbour below? Time came when he, crooked and deformed, was able to get about again, but he never was anything like strong. He was ever most contented, and most interested in the firm's affairs. With all the old love of the sea and everything connected with it, he would potter around among the ships and the seafaring men; among the roughest crowd his presence seemed to carry a humanising influence.

His was a triumph for the open-air treatment before the period of its present popularity.

This went on until two years after my uncle Alexander's death, when he returned to this country, and afforded my brother Arthur and myself the opportunity of accompanying him. We had some rough weather on the Actaeon. I can recall the fire in his eye and his great joy when Benson, the old skipper, a bit of a driver, put the sail on her, and when the top-gallant masts were bending like whip shafts, James Rankin would watch the whole with keenest delight.

He remained some time in this country; his mother was still living, but the opportunities and the freedom to gratify in an unconventional and unfettered way his love of being in touch with shipping were not so great, so he returned to New Brunswick, the old seafaring restlessness still on him.

Miss McKenzie throughout all this time accompanied him, and it was to her care that his partial recovery was due—though there were few days on which he was not in pain. A kindly lady, she had her weaknesses ; one was, that she was the great grand-daughter of a great highland chieftain— McKenzie of that ilk. I remember her habit of wandering about the house at unseasonable night hours suspicious of fire. She never forgot the horror of 'the Mirarnichi fire.'

Late in life, on some whim of hers, James Rankin and she were married. It was simply, I suppose, that the idea pleased her, and he had no one else to provide for. For years she had been his devoted friend and nurse, and so continued to the end. They never lived long in any one place, sometimes at St. John, at other times at Miramichi, Pictou, Shediac or Halifax, N.S., but always among shipping.

His dark piercing eye, his face that looked so weather-beaten, his features refined and chastened by pain, his cheery manner, his gentle spirit that could only see the best side of everyone, are pleasant remembrances. Tender, true and trustful, he was indeed a type of the true Christian gentleman.

The Reverend John Watson wrote :-

'Blessed and honourable is that person whose tongue is obedient to the law of Christ and whose words are as a spring of wholesome water; who never puts the simple to confusion, nor flatters the great; who says no ill of any man except under the last compulsion of truth and justice; who delights to speak well of every man and bids the cast-down be of good cheer.'

Such was a true portrait of James Rankin— 'Cousin James.'

ALEXANDER RANKIN JUNIOR

My brother Alexander accompanied my brother Robert to school at Miramichi, and thence both went in 1845 to the Collegiate Institution, Liverpool, where he remained till the spring of 1849. Mrs. Strang in Upper Stanhope Street kindly undertook their care. Being somewhat delicate it was thought advisable he should not enter either of the home offices but go to Miramichi where he would be more in the open. There he was at once told off to the deal wharf to learn surveying or classing of the wood shipments, and also the delivery to the different ships. His description of his duties is interesting and illustrative of what probably all or almost all of the foreign partners had at one time or another gone through. He was at Miramichi from 1849 to 1852, and he writes:—

'I found it not an easy task—hours 5 a.m. till 7 p.m. Three-quarters of an hour allowed for breakfast, one hour for dinner. After tea, sometimes in the office till 10 o'clock or so making up the tally of the day's work. From December to May the hours were shorter, 6 till 9, but two or three times a week we had to get up at 4 a.m. to get twenty or thirty teams away laden with provisions for the lumber camps.

'In the spring of 1850 I was put on the beach and timber ponds, and was taught the use of the narrow and the broad axes—to line, butt, score and hew—in fact, make a stick of timber from the log. Sounds not difficult—but try. I found the injunction to mind what the foreman told me unnecessary —his language was bracing. The best axe men, and they were all selected, would square a log in an incredibly short time, and leave a surface as smooth as your cheek, and a square almost mathematical. Many a good ducking I got on the loose logs and timber in the ponds.'

At Bathurst, whither he went in 1853 after his uncle Alexander's death and some disruption in the Miramichi office, he had again out-door work. Thence he found his way to the New Orleans office, eventually returning to New Brunswick, where he married and settled down in St. John. Burnt out on two occasions of a general fire at St. John, he came to this country and resided in London till his death in 1912.

DUNCAN GIBB
Died 8 November, 1867, probably about 80

For a long time before Rankin. Gilmour and Co. had been established in Liverpool, Mr. Gibb had been the agent of Pollok, Gilmour & Co., and conducted, in addition to his own business, a very large one for them. In my Liverpool Directory of 1827 I find him described as merchant, of 67 Gt. George Street: office, 21 Water Street. He was still a young man when, as their agent, and upon their business, he was shipwrecked on Newfoundland, and during the nine days that elapsed before they were relieved, many of the ship's company died of cold and starvation. They were only able to exist on some small stores that were washed ashore from the wrecked ship, and these only continued to come ashore for a day or two. The last that so came was a barrel of apples, and therefrom the last dole of four each had been consumed, and all hope abandoned. They were rescued, not without much difficulty, and most hospitably treated by a tribe of Indians. One of their women had dreamt that there had been a shipwreck on that part of the coast, and was so persistent that she prevailed, a search party was sent, and the rescue effected. To the day of his death Mr. Gibb never failed to send yearly presents to that tribe.

He was the most advanced, and probably the largest shipowner of his time. Year after year he imported from Canada the largest ship of the day, and as they sailed into Liverpool the people lined the docks to see them go by. The first two of this class were, about 1830, the John Knox and the Covenanter. I cannot trace their dimensions from any records, but huge they then would be considered if only one-third of the SS. Lusitania, 762 feet by 88 feet by 57 feet.

His was a name in the Liverpool of those days; he was a keen politician and staunch Tory, a friend of Canning and Huskisson, and later of Gladstone in his younger days. He was present at the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, on the occasion of which Huskisson was killed. A man of doggedly strong opinions, he had many broad sympathies, and was always willing to help those who showed a disposition to help themselves. One of the best assets the young Scot of those days, coming up to Liverpool to find work, could have, was a letter of introduction to Duncan Gibb. His house at the corner of Parliament Street and Windsor Street, where the Toxteth Free Library now is, was a very hospitable one. There, too, on Sundays to dinner would gather some of the young Scots he had helped or was helping to find situations, and upon whom he was keeping a watchful eye. A Presbyterian of Presbyterians he hated cant. One day three young men from Greenock brought letters. of introduction to him, and were asked to dine on Sunday; questioned about Church, two were afraid to admit they had, as Roman Catholics, been to Chapel, but the third spoke up and said he had been to Mass. Mr. Gibb had no use for the first two, but the third, Donald Kennedy, he took into his own office and eventually made him his partner. A shrewd, legal-minded man, Donald Kennedy during a long life was ever a trusted and an interested friend of R., G. & Co. Twice Mr. Gibb was offered knighthood, an honour unusual to a mere merchant in those days, but on each occasion declined. The business history of Liverpool for the first half of the last century he had at his finger-ends, and he was at some pains to follow and guide the political predilections of the town.

During the latter years of his business career fortune did not favour him, and he withdrew to a small property in the Isle of Man some years before his death. To the last his memory and faculties were clear and keen, and he delighted in discussing the past. The writer remembers him telling a strange story, and, in the light of subsequent events, an interesting one.

It was how he had assisted Samuel Cunard, the founder of the Cunard Line, in his difficulties. Messrs. Cunard Bros., as already stated had been virulent but unsuccessful opponents of Gilmour, Rankin & Co. at Miramichi. Samuel Cunard returned to this country and worked at the idea of a subsidised steamship line to America. In the end he obtained the requisite financial assistance to build the steamers, and the Cunard Line was started. The time came when it became necessary for him to cross to the other side on business. Creditors here, who had in the meantime been quiescent, became troublesome. Residence within the debtor's prison of that day might be the prospect .of Samuel Cunard—afterwards Sir Samuel Cunard, Bart. So long as the creditors knew that he was in this country they were more or less content to await developments; it would be different if he went to reside abroad outside their reach. One day he had only avoided arrest at Prescott's Bank in London by escaping at the back door. Mr. Cunard invoked Mr. Gibb's assistance. Arrangements were made whereby he was enabled to come to some point between Chester and Eastham, and thence at night to the cottages at Shodwell on the river side below Eastham, a. very retired spot quite above the rush and traffic of the lower river. Thence next day he was quietly brought down the river by Mr. Gibb's boatman, shortly before the Cunard steamer slipped her moorings. It was well known thai he would try to get away on this steamer, and until the last moment people with writs were aboard. Ten minutes after she had left her moorings, and ere the holders of writs had reached the shore, the steamer slackened speed, the boat with Mr. Cunard aboard ran alongside and he got on board, no doubt to his intense relief, and to the ultimate great gain of the Cunard Line. There was a similar incident either before or after what I narrate above, probably after, for on that occasion Mr. Cunard embarked from a small boat on to the outward-bound steamer when off Holyhead.

I cannot say when Mr. Gibb first became the agent of Pollok, Gilmour & Co., probably about 1820, or before, but he of course lost the valuable appointment when the Liverpool house was founded in 1838. Thereafter the relations of the two firms were of the closest character and to mutual benefit. The frequent visits of the weird figure and the piercing voice of Mr. Gibb at our counter, or if Mr. Rankin were out, with coat tails uplifted discussing past memories before our office fire, are some of my earliest business recollections. He died 8 November, 1867.

A strong bond of union and of friendship ever existed between him and Mr. Rankin senior, also Robert Rankin II, a sympathy which death only ended.


 


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