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George Burns, His Times and Friends
Chapter VII. Shipping; And Other Matters


Although we wish to keep George Burns before us for the present in his business relations, we must not forget to record some of the events of this period of his life in other aspects.

For example, two months after his marriage, there was great excitement throughout Scotland owing to the visit of King George IV. to Edinburgh. Strong efforts had been made to induce His Majesty to visit Glasgow’, but these were unsuccessful; consequent!}’, the Glasgow people went to Edinburgh, and George Burns had the advantage of accompanying his father-in-law’, Dr. Cleland, who wras the historian of the Royal Visit.

Edinburgh had not seen Royalty in State since the days of the Scottish monarchs, and under the guidance of Sir Walter Scott she stirred herself up to give to the King a right loyal welcome. Although the proclamation of the civic authorities recommending all the citizens to dress in uniform costume—viz., blue coats, white vests, and nankeen or white pantaloons, with the emblem of St. Andrew’s Cross on the left side of the hat in the manner of a cockade— was not universally obeyed, a large number of people adopted the dress, and every other proposal seems to have met with unqualified favour.

The King landed at Leith on the 15th of August, IS‘22, and it was estimated that 500,000 people—a seventh of the whole population of Scotland—were present in Edinburgh to welcome him. Everywhere the people were singing the song that Sir Walter Scott had written :—

“The news has flown from mouth to mouth,
The North for ance has bang’d the South,
The deil a Scotsman’s die o’ drouth,
Carle, now the King’s come!”

That night, the King being at Holyrood, bonfires flamed from Arthur’s Seat, and there were the most splendid illuminations that Edinburgh had ever seen.

1 well remember (says George Burns) seeing Sir Walter Scott, who was slightly lame, going about everywhere throughout the day, and taking the greatest possible interest in all the processions. I knew him very well by sight, having seen him many times when he was a clerk in the Court of Session in Edinburgh. lie used to sit among the barristers, but it is quite possible that lie was writing something other than the legal minutes.

On the 17th of August, the King held a grand levee in Holy rood Palace, and in compliment to the country he appeared in complete Highland costume made of the Royal Stuart tartan, which, as a curious old book published in 1822, giving an account of the proceedings, says, “displayed his manly and graceful figure to great advantage”! Sir William Curtis, a very portly gentleman, with whom the King was on intimate terms, also appeared in the same costume, and when he and the King met, they burst out laughing at one another in uncontrollable merriment. The costume did not suit the figure of either of them!

After his marriage, George Burns, unlike many young men, not only resumed his work in the Sunday school, but continued it in conjunction with his wife, and at the same time they took an active interest in many religious societies. Mrs. Burns, who from childhood had been conspicuous for her philanthropy and benevolence, was a woman of powerful intellect, combined with unusual energy, and threw into everything she undertook a cheerful vigour of manner which exercised a moving influence among her fellow-workers. One of the institutions of their new life was an evening meeting held generally once a week in their house, at which a minister of some denomination—it did not matter to them which, provided he were a good man— would take the lead in reading the Bible and expounding it, concluding the short service with family worship. Christian work has multiplied so greatly in all large cities, that it would be almost impossible to organise such a meeting now; but George

Burns and his wife found it infinitely agreeable and useful. It brought around them a circle of friends with many of whom they were intimate to the end of their days. Moreover, George Burns was in frequent attendance at meetings of Committees, and he became acquainted with many estimable men, both ministers and laymen, who soon became associated in his family intercourse.

Among these was I)r. Caesar Malan, the well-known Swiss divine—“the first publicly to raise from the ground the tarnished banner of the Church of Geneva, and from the pulpit of Calvin boldly to proclaim, without reserve and without compromise, that Gospel whose echoes scarcely lingered within his temple.”

We first became acquainted with Malan (says George Burns), in the house of our intimate friend James Duncan, in the year 1822. He was very strong upon the Doctrine of Assurance, and I hail not been in his company many minutes before he introduced the matter. I parried the attack, when he put the question to me,

"Have you been in Edinburgh, and have you seen King George IV.? ’ I replied in the affirmative; on which lie said, ‘Very well, you have assurance of that—why not have equal assurance of faith in Christ?’ He greatly disturbed the tranquillity of my niece, Rachel Burns, the daughter of my brother, Dr. John Burns. Our intimacy with Malan lasted many years, and was continued both in Scotland and in Switzerland. Over the garden gateway leading to his beautiful house in Geneva, there was this inscription, 'As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’ And truly in his son, Major Malan, and others of his family, this text has been fulfilled.

Another friend in this period was the Rev. Mr. Russell, of Mutliill, near Crieff, in Perthshire. George Burns knew him intimately, and often stayed at the Manse at Muthill, where he had the greatest possible enjoyment in his society. Mr. Russell was a singularly absent-minded man, and painfully sensitive.

On the occasion of my first visit to the Manse (says George burns), Mr. Russell took a candle in his hand, and walked with me to show me to my bedroom. "We stood talking a long time—a sweet and comfortable talk it was—and when he bade me good-night, lie took up the candle, in his absent-mindedness, and left me in the dark. He soon returned with it, and I was pained to see how distressed he was at the simple occurrence. He was an unusually experimental Christian man, and of a very loveable nature—wholly unlike his father, of Stirling, who was a godly man but extremely austere. He once rebuked his wife so severely for kissing him on a Sunday, that she never repeated the offence!

When Dr. Chalmers was moved from Glasgow to St. Andrew’s in 1823, the Town Council of Glasgow nominated and invited Mr. Russell to succeed the great preacher at St. John’s. It was a fatal invitation. In the struggle to decide whether to accept it or not, the sense of responsibility weighed so heavily upon him that his health broke down, and before a decision was come to, he died. Dr. Chalmers said to me, ‘God ended the trial by taking him Home.’

In the Levitieal law, it was enacted that ‘‘when a man hath taken a new wife, lie shall not go out to wav, neither shall he he charged with any business he shall be free at home one year, and shall cheer up his wife which he hath taken.”; No such merciful law was in force in George Burns’ time, and three months after his marriage we find him again upon his travels.

Here are a few passages from the daily letters written at this period :—

Aberdeen, Saturday Sept., 1822.

I give you many thanks for your kind letter sent under Mr. Monteith’s frank, but I had not time to answer it by to-night’s post, I shall not remain one minute longer than I can avoid from your dear embrace. I think this journey has increased my love for you more than ever, and I with gratitude ascribe to God the blessing 1 enjoy in our mutual fondness and mutual cause for it. Pray God that the effect may be an additional devotedness to Him and His service wrought in us by His blessed Spirit, overruling our mercies for this purpose. . . .

Aberdeen, Monday.

I am sure you have the strongest reason to believe that 1 have no wish ever to be separated from you, but in the course of Divine providence this cannot be avoided, and to all that is appointed me I desire to be obedient. When I return I will delight to tell you how inexpressibly thankful I am that we are married. . . .

Ill the following year several long journeys had to he undertaken, and in one of his letters he touches on the philosophy of separation :—

London, Oct. 1, 18*23.

... It is a refreshing thing to meet with the people of God when travelling, and when such is the case we ought to he ever inclined to turn the conversation towards heavenly and improving subjects. I hope both of us feel disposed to acknowledge the hand of our Heavenly Father in all the events of life, and draw all our consolation from the belief that wherever we are, or however separated from those we love and the comforts of their society, that He is ever mindful of us and watching over us for good. I wish humbly to place you, and all that concerns me, with confidence at His blessed disposal. I am to dine to-day at Mr. Randall’s. Battersea, but fear the enjoyment will be of a different sort from yesterday’s. 1 pray God to keep me watchful, and humbly dependent upon the supply of His grace to keep me from evil.

When that letter was written, events were ripening which were to alter the whole course of George Burns’ business and social life.

Hugh Matthie, of Liverpool, was the father of the Liverpool and Glasgow shipping trade, and, in conjunction with his partner, Mr. Theakstone, owned six sailing smacks which were employed in the coasting business. The whole of the Glasgow and Liverpool trade was in the hands of three companies, each company owning six smacks. There was a Glasgow Joint Stock Company, whose agent in Glasgow was James Martin, his brother Thomas being agent in Liverpool; a private company, managed in Glasgow by one David Chapman, and in Liverpool by William Swan Dixon ; and the Liverpool firm of Matthie and Theakstone, whose agents in Glasgow were John and Alexander Kidd. In 1824, one of the Kidds died, and very shortly utter, his brother followed, stricken down with fever. On the circumstance bjnsr discussed in the office of Messrs. Burns, Mr. James Burns —who, as we have said, was by no means a pushing man, but rather prone to hold back his partner, and was rarely given to making suggestions for the advancement of the business—said to George in a casual kind of way, “How would it do for us to get the agency of the Liverpool smacks?” “Anything will suit us,” answered George, and, in his usual prompt manner, sat down on the instant, and wrote to Messrs. Matthie and Theakstone, to whom he was personally known from his visits to Liverpool, making formal application for the agency. In due course a reply was received: “Our Mr. Matthie intends to he in Glasgow in the course of a few weeks, and will call and see you.”

It was never a habit of George Burns to let the grass grow under his feet, and he at once set to work to get support, a rumour having reached him that Messrs. Fleming and Hope, an old and well-known firm, had entered the field in competition.

A week or two passed, and then came a day when the foundation-stone of a new Lunatic Asylum was to be laid, and there was to he a grand Masonic procession and other festivities. George Burns, who never missed an opportunity of seeing what was to he seen, had arranged to meet his wife and take her to a window reserved for them. Just as he was starting, and the premises in Miller Street were being closed, who should come up but Mr. Hugh Matt hie.

George Burns did not give up a sight of Giant’s Causeway to please Mr. Hodgson, his travelling companion in Ireland; nor did he give up the enjoyments of the day to please the active, businesslike, influential Scotchman, Mr. Matthie. So he explained where he was going, and Mr. Matthie said, “Oh! go by all means, and I’ll call again to-morrow.” Next day he came again, and had a long conversation, in the course of which he said that Messrs. Fleming and Hope were supported in their application by a round-robin of recommendations from the most influential people. “But I look to personal fitness as of the first importance,” said the shrewd Hugh Matthie in parting. “I am not •going to make any appointment at present; when I do, it will be given to the best and most capable .man I can get. I will come and see you again.” When he left, George duly reported the matter to his brother, and said jokingly, “I like the idea of personal fitness—it looks hopeful.”

After a time, Mr. Matthie returned with the announcement that he was prepared to give the agency to Messrs. Burns, and proposed very liberal terms, namely, 61 per cent commission on all freights— payments to be guaranteed by the agents. “Now,” said Hugh Matthie, in his short but genial way, “having settled that, I want to tell you that there is a young man in Kidds’ office named Hutcheson, who has shown great ability in bringing up liis affairs in proper state; he may he useful to you: take him or not, just as you think tit, because I lay on my entire responsibility. There is another good man we have as our agent in Greenock, Mr. Archibald Black, a very zealous, competent man—he also may be useful; hut I say again, you can continue his services or not, as you please.”

Without any hesitation Mr. Hutcheson was taken into the business in Glasgow, and Mr. Black’s services were continued in Greenock. Hew premises were immediately secured at 42, Millar Street, formerly occupied as a dwelling by William Con®, and in which his worthy nephew, now Sir Michael Connal, was horn. On taking the lease of other premises a little farther down the street, George Burns drew up the agreement, when Mr. Mc-Naughten, the owner, having read the important* clauses in the lease, looked up knowingly and said,

“Ah, George Burns, you have mistaken your calling —you should have been a lawyer.”

The die was cast, and the lot in life of George Burns was fixed. The idea of Ownership had never entered his mind, but from that day forth he threw himself heart and soul into the shipping business, in which he was to make his permanent name and fortune; while James Burns continued to manage the produce business—a branch which was kept up as long as he lived, although it dwindled down to a mere department of the Burns’ fleet. Henceforth the produce business was carried on under the style of “J. and G. Burns”—the shipping 'business under that of “G. and J. Burns,” in the two separate premises. There is nothing more to he said of the former firm in connection with this narrative; and with regard to the latter, as George Burns was in every important movement “the firm,” we shall speak of him, as far as possible, individually.

Not long after the brothers had been installed in the agency, George Burns negotiated for the purchase of Mr. Theakstone’s share in the six smacks owned by his firm, he having retired from business. The negotiations were successful, and George Burns thus became a shipowner for the first time, and an equal partner with Matthie, who was well pleased with the arrangement.

Another step, even more important than that from the produce trade to shipping, was taken that same year. George Burns embarked in steam navigation between the Clyde and Belfast — the cradle of the coasting steam-trade of the British Isles.

The Clyde, and Steam, are subjects which seem to warrant a slight digression here.

The Clyde in the vicinity of Glasgow was, as we have seen, a scarcely navigable stream in the beginning of the century. George Burns remembered when it was possible to wade across it among the stones at some distance below the foot of the old Broomielaw Bridge, when the fishing-limits stood upon its bank.

In 1768, Mr. John Golborne, of Chester, had suggested that rubble jetties should be run from the banks towards the middle of the stream, to concentrate the diffused waters into one channel, instead of allowing them to meander into many tortuous channels and shallows, varying from fifteen inches to two feet in depth, and that the main channel should be deepened by ploughing and dredging, lames Watt, “the father of the steam engine,” reported favourably on the scheme; in 1770 an Act of Parliament was obtained for deepening the river and, in the course of a few years, there was a depth of from ten to twelve feet of water at spring tides from Glasgow to Dumbarton.

There is a story told of an adventurous navigator who, towards the end of last century, built a vessel of thirty tons burthen for the purpose of exploring “the wee bit burn ca’d the Clyde,” and who, as a reward for his enterprise and daring, was presented with the freedom of the city on reaching Glasgow.

In 1805, when the Swallow, a brig of sixty tons burthen, came up to the Broomielaw—or Brennnie-haw as it used then to be called—the people, who had never seen a square-rigged vessel on the river before, thronged the wharf in thousands for several days to gaze on so remarkable a sight.

In 1806, a heavily laden schooner, of a hundred and fifty tons burthen, came direct from Lisbon and discharged her cargo at the Broomiclaw. Step by step, under the guidance of Rennie, Telford, and other celebrated engineers, and through the energy and intelligence of the Corporation—and in later years the “Clyde Trust,” chosen from among members of the Corporation and other citizens of Glasgow — improvements were effected, until the shallow, tortuous stream became transformed to a great navigable highway, the source of the extraordinary rise and prosperity of the city.

Another and closely allied source of prosperity was steam. In 1781, John Fitch, an American engineer, said to some men he employed, “ Well, gentlemen, although I shall not live to see the time, you will, when steam-boats will be preferred to all other means of conveyance, and especially for passengers.” When he retired, the men said one to another, “Poor fellow! what a pity he is crazy!” He was not crazy, but disappointed, because many schemes he had projected for propelling vessels by steam, had failed. He became a despised, unfortunate and heart-broken man, and died by his own hand in 1798. But he was one of the pioneers of steam navigation— he sowed that which others reaped; and when the history of Heroic Failures conies to be written, his name will stand prominently forward.

The Clermont, plying on the Hudson in 1807 with passengers and goods between New York and Albany, was the first steam-boat in the world that was regularly and continuously engaged in passenger traffic.

Robert Fulton, the owner,*did not claim to have been the inventor, but he claimed to have been the first to combine the inventions of others, and to successfully and continuously run a steam-ship.

Fulton, although he made practical the dream of Fitch, gained little for himself. He died in 181b, a poor man, “done to death by the persecutions of jealous and narrow-minded rivals.” But his influence spread and the success of the Clermont soon led to the introduction of steam vessels into other countries for the purposes of passenger traffic.

One day, when George Burns was a youth of seventeen, his etye caught sight of an advertisement in a Glasgow paper, of which the following is a portion :—

“Steam-passage Boat, the Comet, between Glasgow, Greenock, and Helensburgh, for passengers only.

“The subscriber having, at much expense, fitted up a handsome vessel to ply upon the river Clyde, between Glasgow and Greenock, to sail by the power of Wind, Air, and Steam, he intends that the vessel shall leave the Broomielaw on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays about midday, or at such hour there* Says Mr. Burns, “ My old and valued friend Dean Erskine of Ripon told me that when, at this time, he went to visit the United States, he was entrusted hy the British Government with despatches. It was in war time, and, in case of surprise, he always sat on his despatches ready to cast them into the sea if necessary. He became acquainted with Fulton, and ever after spoke of him in terms of great admiration.” after as may answer from the state of the tide, and to leave Greenock on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in the morning to suit the tide. . . .

“Henry Bell.

“Helensburgh Baths, August 5, 1812.”

George Burns was down at the Broomielaw that day, in good time to see the novel sight of the Comet steaming away from the quay. She was only 40 feet in length of keel and 101 feet beam; her engines, which cost £192, were four-horse power, and her draught of water four feet. She was not much to look at, and yet so wonderful a sight had never been seen in Europe before.

By degrees the public began to appreciate the value of steamers. Dr. Cleland, in his “Annals of Glasgow” published in 1817, says: “It has been calculated that, previous to the erection of steamboats, not more than fifty persons passed and re-passed from Glasgow to Greenock in one day; whereas it is now supposed that there are from four to five hundred passes and re-passes in the same period.”

With the same keen interest that he had watched the experiments in gas in his schoolboy days, George Burns watched the progress of steam, the great power which was to revolutionize the state of the whole world — little dreaming, however, that he would play an important part in its development.

Soon after he had become a partner with Hugh Alatthie, some people in Belfast proposed to form a company for steam vessels to trade between that town and Glasgow; and George Burns, who was well known in Belfast, was asked to join and take the a Jiffy. In many quarters a strong prejudice still existed against steam, and there were some good people to be found who did not hesitate to declare that it was flying in the face or Providence to encourage it. An event, which appeared to be an argument in their favour, occurred in the very year in which George Burns embarked in the enterprise, the original Comet having been wrecked in 1820, when rounding Craignish Point on her journey from Port William to Glasgow7. Among those who sympathised with Henry Bell on that occasion was George Burns, who knew him personally, and who, by the by, when he was staying at the Baths in Helensburgh, kept by Mrs. Bell, had heard her say “she could get on very well if it were not for Henry and his wood bills continually coming in.”

A second Comet was built by poor Bell, but in October, 1825, she collided with the Ayr steamer off Gourock, and sank with seventy souls.

In the face of facts and prejudices such as these, it was an anxious time for George Burns; hut, like all far-seeing men, he felt satisfied that steam would carry all before it, and, as he said, “eat its way” into every branch of trade—and therefore he determined to stand by steam.

Many were anxious to have the agency of the Glasgow and Belfast line of trading steamers, which was a new and important shipping connection. But, despite the strong opposition of one Mr. Stirling —who used every endeavour to oust his opponent, greatly to the annoyance of George MacTear, the Belfast agent—Mr. Burns was confirmed in the agency. It came to him as the result of his knowledge of the Irish people,—or rather of their knowledge of him when he was in the produce business, and many of these old friends gathered round him and promised their consignments. MacTear was a man of a temperament which could not be ruffled. "When Mr. Stirling’s persistency had reached a point which would have sorely tried the temper of most men, George MacTear only took a snuff, and said in his calm and quiet way, “I wish Stirling were in heaven!” Nor was he ruffled when, the company having decided that the steamers should sail on Sundays, Mr. Burns came down with a most emphatic protest and positively declined to have anything to do with the arrangements under those circumstances. As he remained firm, the obnoxious decision was removed. Soon the whole machinery was in working order, and goods and passengers were being conveyed in large and swift vessels between the Clyde and Belfast.

W hen George Burns had determined to stand by steam, he was anxious to see it introduced into every branch of the trade. “We must either adopt it, or be driven out of the field,” was the burden of his cry.

It will be remembered that there were eighteen smacks in the Liverpool trade. The idea occurred to him that it would he a good thing to combine with James and Thomas Martin, who; were agents for a Joint Stock Company owning six of these vessels; and by clearing them away, and the six for which he was agent and lialf-owner, a good opening would thereby be made for steam. The Martins heartily concurred, but their hands were tied by their company, and it was twelve months before they succeeded in getting a few leading men connected with it to join them. Meanwhile George appealed to his partner, James, hut he only got from him the usual answer —“I’ll neither make nor meddle with it.” Upon being hard pressed by his more energetic brother, he went so far as to say—and it was another of his well-known phrases—“It is against my judgment, but you can do as you like.”

So George went to Liverpool to consult with Mr. Matthie. He was particularly kind and friendly, but he was getting old. He had amassed a fortune, and at his time of life he had no ambition for embarking in any new venture, especially such a venture as this, which must of necessity involve great labour and anxiety. At first Hugh Matthie said “No.” But George Burns was not a man to “take No for an answer;” so, yielding to his influence, Mr. Matthie modified his position so far as to say, “I’ll take an interest in it/’ and eventually he said, “To please you, I will go into it.”

The twelve smacks were bought and dispersed— some to St. Petersburg, some to the Lisbon trade, and some were sold; a co-partnery was entered into, and the management was placed under the union of Mr. Hugh Matthie and Mr. Thomas Martin— the style of the firm being I Matthie and Martin” for Liverpool, and “G. and J. Burns and J. Martin ” for Glasgow.

On the 13th of March, 1829, the first vessel of the new Glasgow Company steamed down the Clyde. Hugh Matthie had proposed, as a compliment to George Burns, that it should be named the Doctor, after his brother, Hr. John Burns, who was then one of the most popular men in Glasgow, and the first Professor of Surgery in the University; hut George thought it would he better to name it the Glasgow, and this was accordingly done. She was followed the next month by the Ailsci Craig, and the following year by the Liverpool.

George arranged the sailing day of the first vessel, the Glasgow, to he Friday—despite the sailor’s superstition with regard to that day ; although his object was not to fight a superstition, hut to establish a principle, namely, the avoidance, as far as possible, of sailing on Sunday. When Hugh Matthie heard of this arrangement, he wrote back at once to say that it would never do, as the whole of the canal traffic from Stafford and elsewhere arrived in Liverpool on Saturday. “It would be far better,’’ be said, “to sail on Saturday, and, if you think it necessary,” he added, sarcastically, “provide chaplains!” At that time he was always in the way of saying to Mr. Martin when letters came in the morning, “What will ‘King George’ have to say to-day?” He was dumbfounded when he heard what “ King George” had to say in reply. It was a frankly worded letter, saying that “ he thought very well of the suggestion about providing chaplains, and that he and his brother would pay the entire expense of the experiment.” The letter arrived in the usual course. Mr. Matthie was sitting in his private room on one side of the table, and Martin on the other. He read the letter, and threw it across to Martin saying, “The fellow takes me up in earnest.” Mr. Martin replied, “Did I not say you had better not try that game on with Burns?”

At once the novel idea was carried into effect, and a chaplain was appointed for each of the steamers. Captain Hepburn, in command of the second vessel with a chaplain on board, was jeered by the people on the Broomielaw, as he sailed away, the would-be wits bantering him on “Sailing in a steam chapel,” and so forth. But the ridicule soon died away, while the boon and the blessing remained. The institution of chaplains continued until the year 1843, when the Tree Church started off from the Established Church of Scotland, which made such a draft upon licentiates for the ministry, that operations had to be suspended;

but a succession of missionaries was employed to visit the seamen on shore in Glasgow, and part of the duties formerly performed by the chaplains was thus carried on. A mission-room was specially built for this object on premises belonging to Messrs. Burns, near the Broomielaw — where Dr. Love’s chapel originally stood—and on Sunday evenings the services of the highest class of ministers in Glasgow were enlisted, amongst them being the late Dr. Norman Macleod, of the Barony Church, and Dr. Eadie, of the United Presbyterian body. On weekdays the room was used for various social purposes, and from time to time entertaining lectures were given.

With splendid steamers, good captains, an excellent system of business, and a wide influence, the Glasgow Company carried everything before it. There was a powerful Manchester Company in existence, who owned two steamers, the William Hushisson and the James Watt, but they soon saw that they could not hold their own against the rival company. One day the Ails a Craig, a vessel of the Glasgow Company, left Liverpool at much about the same time that the James Watt steamed away. Great was the astonishment of the captain of the latter vessel, while slowly steaming on to Glasgow, to meet the Ailsa Craig merrily steaming back!

This put the finishing stroke to the competition. The Manchester Company (or the Huskisson Company, as it was sometimes called) proposed to hand over the whole concern to the Glasgow Company, on a suitable arrangement being made. This, after some opposition from one of the partners, who threatened to throw the matter into Chancery, was accordingly done, and thus the whole of the Liverpool and Glasgow trade came into the hands of George Burns and his partners, with the exception of one very small steamer called the Enterprise— concerning which there is a tale to tell.

David Maclver of Liverpool was the agent in that city for the trade of the Enterprise, and when he heard of what the Burns’s were doing, and of the success that v7as attending them, he determined that he would widen his field of action, add ship to ship, and break up the monopoly. To this end he set out for Glasgow to see if he could not get some men of wealth and position to join him in originating an opposition. When he reached Glasgow, he found to his dismay that G. and J. Burns had, in the interval, purchased the Enterprise, which he had counted upon as the nucleus of his scheme!

David Maclver waxed vToth. But he was not a young man to he beaten, and although “he was,” as he said, “fairly thrown on his hack,” so soon as he recovered himself, he went to work with the energy which only exasperated men can sometimes employ. His first step was to go to the agents of the six remaining smacks in the trade, in the belief that, as the hope of their gains had gone, they would join heartily in the opposition. They had plenty of animus, but no capital. However, it occurred to them, that if they and Maclver could get hold of James Donaldson, a cotton broker, said to be “rolling in wealth,” and enlist his interest, something might be done.

Application was made to Donaldson, the idea exactly shaped itself to the bent of his fancy, and war began. There was a vessel, the City of Glasgow, lying for sale at Greenock. She had previously been entirely employed, along with the Majestic, in carrying passengers between Liverpool and Glasgow—a venture which had not proved successful; but on consulting Mr. Robert Napier, afterwards the well-known engineer, he said he would convert the holds of the vessel, so as to make it a freight carrier. This was done, and so it came to pass that the City of Glasgow was the first vessel in opposition on the Liverpool trade.

The new company was styled "The City of Glasgow Steam Packet Company.” Thomson and McConnell were appointed the Glasgow agents, and Maclver the agent in Liverpool. But he did not confine himself to Liverpool: he had vowed that he would, if possible, drive the Burns’s off the seas ; and he was constantly on the vessels, backwards and forwards, urging on “extra coals, extra pressure, extra speed.”

New vessels were put on—not only on the Liverpool line, but on the Ayr line, where the Burns’s were working a steam service apart from their partner liar fin. The opposition was certainly formidable, but

“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men Gang aft a-gley.”

David Maclver’s ship cooled down; neither the fleet of the new company, nor its reputation, nor its management, could compete with the Burns’s, and the balance-sheet did not present the favourable aspect anticipated.

There have always been certain original men in the world, with marked individuality of character, who have been able at an important crisis to step in and adjust the most unfriendly relations. When Sir William Walworth, for instance, struck down the rebel Wat Tyler, and his followers were in consternation and panic, the young King Richard II. is reported to have cried, “I will be your leader!” and thus to have won over the belligerents, who forthwith laid down their arms.

Comparing small things with great, this was the attitude of George Burns in the crisis of the “City of Glasgow” opposition Company. He boldly stepped in and said in effect, “I will be your leader. It is of no use to be unfriendly; let us amalgamate and make one common purse by dividing a certain proportion of the revenue derived from the general trade. You shall have two-fifths, and we will have three-fifths and the control of the concern.”

Strange to say, the terms were accepted, and David Maclver was the first to yield. He, and the agent for the smacks, and Donaldson—all of them carried out their part of the arrangements honourably on the one side, as the Burns’s did oil the other, and between them all there remained for the future the most friendly and confidential relations.

At the end of the first year the sum of 1:4,000 was paid to the City of Glasgow Company, and, in acknowledging it, Maclver said to George Burns, “It was very good of you to pay it to us. I’m quite certain we should never have paid it to you.”

Referring to these times, Mr. Burns says :—

Mr. Maclver became an intimate friend of the family, and he told my wife that so determined was his opposition to me, that he had travelled in the City of Glasgow backwards and forwards between Liverpool and Glasgow, going down himself into the engine-room to superintend the firing of the furnaces, in order that he might leave nothing undone that should make it possible to conquer me. I think nothing can show more strongly the friendly footing on which he stood with us than this freedom of speech.

We will not weary the reader with details of the Liverpool trade, of the Irish trade in which there was an opposition almost as fierce, of the origin and progress of the West Highland trade, of the Dundee and London line, or the line between Liverpool and Malaga and other ports. Points of interest in each of these will arise in the course of the narrative, but all these branches of shipping will fade into insignificance before one which was looming in the distance, and was to mark the zenith of the business career of George Burns.


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