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A History of our Firm
Chapter IV - Allan Gilmour & Co., Quebec, Allan Gilmour, Sir John Gilmour, Bart, John Gilmour, David Gilmour, James Gilmour

Opened 1828 Closed 1878

This firm was opened in 1828 by Mr. Allan. Gilmour, subsequently of Glasgow and of Montrave. He had, during the earlier part of the year, along with Mr. Allan Gilmour senior and Mr. Ritchie, made a very extended tour, with the view to posting themselves as to the capabilities of the several districts they went through, to meet the requirements, not only of their own firms, but also of the needs of the firms of the so-called lower ports —St. John, Miramichi, Bathurst and Dalhousie. A copy of a portion of his log on this tour will be found in Appendix II to this volume. In the light of to-day it is peculiar reading. Those were not the days of express trains opulently equipped with dining-saloons and sleeping-cars.

The firm's timber storage ground and pond was at Wolfe's Cove, just above Quebec (so styled because General Wolfe effected his memorable landing there), near the very high ground of the equally memorable Plains of Abraham.

In addition to the timber business, he established a shipyard, and entered upon a considerable building programme, which was continued by the firm down to 1870. Probably the most successful vessel turned out was the Advance, 1466 register— a leviathan of her day. The firm's business in lumber extending, they established another and very extensive deep-water cove at the extreme entrance to the port, on the Point Levis side of the river, named Indian Cove. It was from there that in later years the bulk of the business was conducted, though much of the preparation of the lumber was still done at Wolfe's Cove, and the timber was towed down on the tide by heavy row-boats, to be shipped at Indian Cove. In passing, it may be of interest to mention that in towing spars or tapered timber, instead of the narrow end being towed first, it was the butt or thick end, justifying the old adage as to the true sailing-ship model—'Cod's head, Salmon tail.'

It was at Indian Cove, the only place practicable on account of the lateness of the season, that the English troops were landed in the early winter of 1862, at the time of the so-called ' Mason and Slidell,' or 'Trent' affair with the United States. It was always the Cove that closed latest in the winter, and opened earliest in spring.

In what year the senior Allan Gilmour carried through his big 'corner' in timber, to which I have already alluded, I cannot tell.

After Mr. Gilmour came home to Glasgow, his brothers John and David Gilmour, who had been associated with him at Quebec since 1832, became partners.

The Gazette notice of date 2 June, 1857, refers to the death of David, and to the retirement of James Gilmour, and sets forth that 'the business heretofore carried on at Quebec under the firm of Allan Gilmour & Co., and at Montreal under the firm of Gilmour & Co., and the several subordinate establishments in Canada therewith connected, would be carried on by Allan Gilmour, Glasgow; Robert Rankin, Liverpool; John Gilmour, Quebec; Allan Gilmour, Ottawa.' Mr. John Gilmour was thenceforward the resident partner at Quebec, Mr. McNaughten being his right-hand man; and Mr. Nicoll, his co-equal, undertook the onerous duty of visiting this country twice each year to sell their output.

There were probably more changes in the constitution of this than in any of the firms, Montreal of course excepted, where the partners were from first to last identical with those at Quebec.

In 1828 it opened with Allan Gilmour senior, John and Arthur Pollok, Allan Gilmour and Wm. Ritchie as partners.

In 1838 Allan Gilmour senior retires, and John and David Gilmour, of Quebec, also Robert Rankin, are admitted.

In 1841 Mr. Ritchie retires, and Allan Gilmour (subsequently of Ottawa) and James Gilmour above named, are admitted.

In 1850 the Messrs. Pollok retire—by i January, 1858, the names of David and James had been withdrawn, the former by death, the latter being retired on account of irregularity of habits—the partners now remaining being Allan Gilmour, John Gilmour, Robert Rankin, and Allan Gilmour of Ottawa.

31 December, 1869, Mr. Rankin's name, by decease, is withdrawn.

31 December, 1872, Mr. Allan Gilmour of Ottawa retired.

25 February, 1877, Mr. John Gilmour died, and Mr. Allan Gilmour, Glasgow, all unwilling, becomes the sole surviving partner.

I say all unwilling, for I think there is not the slightest doubt that he had only remained in from a sense of loyalty to the two firms he had taken part in founding, and to his own brother. He continued his interest in the Canadian firms (to his monetary disadvantage) after he had retired from his own firm at Glasgow. Eventually he withdrew, as from 31 December, 1877, alike from Gilmour and Co. and Allan Gilmour & Co., in favour of Allan John and David Gilmour, Sons of John Gilmour; John David, son of David Gilmour; and Peter McNaughten, the Quebec manager.

This partnership was, I think, short-lived. John Gilmour, afterwards Sir John, of Montrave, about 1878 found it necessary to visit Canada, and there was a split.

The brothers Allan and David Gilmour joined together and assumed the management of the Trenton Mills, under the style of Gilmour & Co. The cousins John and John David joined together and assumed the management of Gatineau Mills, under the name of John Gilmour & Co.

Peter McNaughten retired. The business thereafter, as indeed it had been during the immediately preceding partnership, was largely, if not entirely with the United States in sawn lumber, and in articles and accessories manufactured at the Mills.

Allan died 19 May, 1903, and his brother David became established in the United States as a manufacturer of doors.

John David, usually known as Jack Gilmour, died 7 April, 1898, having previously sold his interest to a Mr. Hughson, and the business was carried on by Mr. John Gilmour and Mr. Hughson under the style of Gilmour and Hughson.

The Gatineau Mills business is therefore all that remains in the Gilmour name of the once well-known and extensive firms of Allan Gilmour and Co., Quebec, and Gilmour & Co., Montreal, and subordinate establishments—the Trenton concern having gone into liquidation.

Born 29 September, 1805
Married Agnes Strang, 1839
Died 18 November, 1884

Allan Gilmour was born at Craigton, Mearns, 29 September, 1805, and entered the Glasgow office in 1818, or 1819, at the same time as his cousin 'William Ritchie. It may be taken for granted their income and expenditure accounts were as restricted as was that of Mr. Robert Rankin. Allan Gilmour went to Miramichi in 1821. In 1824 he went tp Bathurst, N.B.—I understand more from a desire to learn French from the local padre than for any purpose of business there, and as French would be still more requisite to him in Canada. In 1825 he came back to Glasgow, and spent a year at Greenock learning ship-draughting, and in 1826-27 we hear of him in St. John, then the most advanced place in shipbuilding in the colonies, though now the industry is dead there. In 1828 he founded Allan Gilmour & Co., of Quebec. His dwelling- house was first at Wolfe's Cove, and subsequently at 'Marchmont' on the height just above it.

Full of resource, and of active habits, he would seem to have rejoiced in the amount of work he overcame. Early each summer morning he might have been found on his way up to Cap Rouge, some miles away, where the rafts, daily coming down for the market, were first boomed. Any fresh arrivals he would have personally gone over and inspected, to see if they worth purchasing, and perhaps eight o'clock would see him back for breakfast.

He had early qualified in ship-construction, in which he had great delight. Under his foreman shipbuilder, Mr. McCord, and subsequently Mr. Dick, he turned out many excellent specimens, certainly not lacking in strength, as their subsequent history showed, and for the special purposes of the firm, namely, the carrying of the largest cargo of timber practicable, they could not be excelled. This purpose entailed lines that did not add to their sailing capacity in light winds, but with a strong wind few craft could hold alongside such vessels as the Advance, and some of the others. They carried no figureheads. It is said that on one occasion when Allan Gilmour represented to his uncle, A. G. senior, the improvement in their appearance these would give, the answer promptly came, 'No, they won't thereby carry any more wood.' As to knowledge pertaining to the build and equipment of wooden ships, Mr. Gilmour was one of the most prominent and efficient shipowners of his day. He was frequently requisitioned to give evidence before Parliamentary Committees. I know of two, at any rate, that on the Navigation Laws, and again that on the Tonnage Measurement of Ships, but there were others.

He was a man of quick, possibly impulsive temperament, and of strong will; somewhat irreconcilable if thwarted, but whatever there was of haste in his temper it was generally quickly over.

As an instance of nerve, I have heard from our old captains that when, as he regularly did, he was examining the condition of the ships at the Clyde, and how they had been maintained, instead of doing so by walking along the stringer by the 'tween deck beams, he would skip down the centre line of the ship from beam to beam, spaced 4 feet apart, with unerring certainty, and equally unerring eye for anything that might be wrong. Of course, long practice on floating logs of timber would lend some facility to this work ; still, it showed a very strong nerve, as probably 14 feet lay below, and certainly nothing soft to fall upon; this too, when he was well past middle age.

He and Alexander Rankin were summoned to Glasgow at the time of the dissensions between Allan Gilmour senior and the Polloks, to confer with the Polloks and act for the other foreign partners. In the result he ultimately remained there to succeed his uncle in the active part of the management of Pollok, Gilmour & Co. In 1839 he made a further short trip out to Canada, but I do not know that he made a subsequent one. On this occasion he married Miss Agnes Strang, of St. Andrews, N.B. His dwelling-house at Glasgow was 18o St. Vincent Street, which is now given over to legal chambers. Much devolved upon him there, and yet his work cannot have been anything like so exacting as it was abroad. If he missed his moose hunting during the winter in Canada, he was able here to take an hour or two, once or twice a week, with his gun or rod, for he too, like his uncle, was a keen sportsman.

I remember in 1856 spending a summer holiday with the Hutchisons, by invitation, at South Walton, and Mr. Gilmour at that time (before the Twelfth) often came out to fish the Snipe's Dam, or the Hairlaw Dam. The tradition of us boys was that, keen for exercise, he had lead filled in the butt end of his rod, so as to give him more work. On one occasion we had got a loan from a neighbouring farm servant of an 'Otter,' and were working the illicit instrument with fairly satisfactory results on the Snipe's Darn, when our look-out man reported Mr. Gilmour as coming down upon us. We were scared to a degree, bolted for home, and regardless of supper went to bed. Much to our relief next morning there was only a very quizzical look and nothing said. Perhaps it reminded him of some of his own early escapades.

He had greater opportunities for enjoying the gun after he had rented Ardlamont, in the Kyles of Bute. He had no use for driven birds, nor yet for the breech-loader, but shot over and watched the working of his dogs, in the selection of which he took great care. To him the dogs were a part of the sport, and fair-doing required that the dog should have some little rest while the gun was being loaded, and not as with the breech-loader, be quickly rushed along after rapid re-loading. He probably took, at this period, somewhat more leisure than did his compeer, Robert Rankin, of Liverpool. In different ways they were each fond of the country, and of the land from which they had sprung.

Shortly before his death he acquired the estates of Lundin and Montrave in Fifeshire, which he bestowed upon his only remaining son, John, who, till ill-health supervened, lived, though in a different way, the strenuous life his father lived and loved.

He was a partner in all the concerns both home and foreign, until the date of his retirement (from all except those in Canada), 31 December, 1870; and he died at 4 Park Gardens, Glasgow, on 18 November, 1884.

I wish I had known more, and thereby could have written more about Mr. Gilmour. As a builder of the firm, and as regards share interest therein, he was co-equal with Mr. Robert Rankin.

Born 24 July, 1845
Married 18 September, 1873, at Quebec, Miss Henrietta Gilmour
Created Baronet, 1897
Died 21 July, 1920

The son, and only surviving member of the family of Allan Gilmour, Glasgow, John Gilmour was educated at Glasgow and Edinburgh Academies, and Edinburgh University. I do not think that he undertook any regular work in Pollok, Gilmour & Co.'s office, but from time to time kept himself posted with what was passing there. He entered the Argyllshire Volunteer Artillery, Kames Section, March, 1868, and was Second Lieutenant there for nearly six years, in fact till on leaving the neighbourhood. He joined the Fife Light Horse in April, 1874—a very distinctive and strong regiment—as Second Lieutenant; Captain, June, 1881; Honorary Major, June, 1890; Lieutenant-Colonel, October, 1895; Honorary Colonel Commanding, 1900. Then the regiment merged into the Fife and Forfar Imperial Yeomanry; he was their Colonel till 1904, when he accepted the Hon. Colonelcy. It will be seen, therefore, that his total commissioned service is over thirty-six years, not counting his Honorary Colonelcy after relinquishing active command in 1904. He therefore well earned his V.D.

He was out in Canada—sometimes on pleasure, and on other occasions on his father's affairs, and closing his partnerships—in 1868-69, 1872, 1873, 1877-78. In 1873 he married his cousin, Miss Henrietta Gilmour, second daughter of David Gilmour, Quebec, deceased. He succeeded to the Lundin and Montrave estates and South Walton in 1884 (about 4,500 acres) but long before that we find him actively engaged in all matters specially connected with his county, also in wider affairs connected with agriculture, stock breeding, etc. Especially into these latter matters he threw a great deal of interest, and at his own expense, and on a large scale, carried out experimental and research work, the information culled therefrom being freely at the disposal of all interested. He contested East Fife in the Conservative interest in 1885, in the Unionist interest in 1892 and in 1895. In the last two contests, in a distinctly Radical and Miners' Division he fought Mr. Asquith, the late Prime Minister, and the poll he made is indication of the esteem in which he was held in the county. His hearty, cheery manner endeared him everywhere. Had his politics been Radical it would have been a poor chance for any Conservative. His portrait, by Sir George Reid, was presented to him in December, 1886, by his political and other friends and supporters in the county.

He held many honourable positions, of which I may mention: Convener of the Commissioners of Supply for Fife; President of the Scottish Union of Conservative Associations; Member of the Royal Commission on Horse Breeding; Member of Royal Commission on Agriculture, 1893-97; a leading Director, and Hon. Secretary of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland; and also a Member of Committee of the Royal Agricultural Society in England. He took an active interest in the County Council of Fife, of which he became Chairman. In 1886 he was made Deputy-Lieutenant of Fife.

Sir John Gilmour was brought up to the use of the gun, was a keen sportsman, a good shot, and an enthusiastic stalker. Long ago an unfortunate accident, while out shooting, deprived him of the use of one eye. He was joint-master of the Fife Fox-hounds, along with the late Captain Middleton, for the season 1896-7. After the latter's death that year he became sole master, which position he held for six seasons. Of his fishing prowess on the Godbout I speak elsewhere.

It is hard to assess the value in a country district—removed so far as his sphere was from my own—of such an active and enthusiastic worker as Sir John Gilmour. Of him, as of Sir James Rankin, it may be said, he did as much for the county and country in which he lived as any man. Neither he nor Sir James Rankin lived to enjoy the leisure they had so well earned. He died 21 July, 1920.

Born 1812
Married Miss Caroline White
Made partner 1840
Died 25 February, 1877

Born 1815
Married Miss Matilda White
Made partner 1840
Died 1857

Born 1818

Made partner 1840
Died about 1850

Messrs. David and John Gilmour, Quebec, and James Gilmour, Montreal, were brothers of Mr. Allan Gilmour. Their mother, I am told, had three sets of twins; and one account claims that John and David were twins, but I have authority for the dates given above. Scotch parents were strangely persistent in repeating the name of a deceased child, and it seemed part of their creed to stick to family names. I believe these three, with Mr. Allan Gilmour, were the male portion of the family of John Gilmour of Craigton, Mearns, that survived infancy. Though one account makes it 1830, I believe that David and John went out to the Quebec concern in 1832, and as their brother James, with Allan Gilmour of Shotts, went out to the Montreal concern in the same year, it would seem likely they all went in one party. Under their brother, Mr. Allan, at Quebec, Messrs. David and John would not find their work lacking. The Quebec business had so developed that there would be plenty of work for them at the booms and the office. Whether Mr. David took any part in the shipyard I do not know—Mr. John did. This work was mostly conducted in the winter months when other business would be closed, and labour cheap.

Mr. David I have heard spoken of as a very capable, light-hearted, attractive man, quick in despatching his work, also quick-tempered like all the Gilmours of that period. His death, through sudden illness at Rutland, on his way to New York en route for England, about 1857, was a heavy loss to his firm. His widow, afterwards Mrs. Farquharson Smith, died 4 June, 1904, at Thorngrove, Worcestershire, then the home of her youngest daughter, Mrs. Walter Chamberlain.

Mr. John was in manner more reserved. He was not a man that you readily got much further with. Outside of his home he immersed himself in his work and seemed somewhat careworn, severe and suspicious. His death occurred shortly after the McDuff defalcations. Neither Mr. David nor Mr. John had the old prospecting to do that Mr. Allan had in former days undertaken with such zest, but each winter—if not wanted on this side—they undertook visits to the Camps, and weary work shoeing over the snow it must have been. Combined therewith, however, they had a good deal of Moose hunting. Like all the Gilmours they were of wiry constitution and keen hunters, and the day's work snow-shoeing they would put in would put to shame most of our modern sportsmen. On the ground a hole scraped in the snow, with some fir boughs over it, was good enough bed for them. Human warmth below, and the heat from the breath, would ensure an effective breathing hole above should further snow fall.

Of Mr. James, at Montreal, I only gather he was a genial soul—for his own good a too convivial one; of his work I know nothing.


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