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From the Clyde to the Mersey

Online exhibition

As the 2014 Commonwealth Games get underway in Glasgow, we highlight  some of the historic links between the two great port cities of Glasgow and Liverpool. These documents and photgraphs from the Maritime Archives and Library show the Glasgow merchants who made Liverpool their home, the emigrants who passed through the city on their way to a new life and the ships built on the Clyde, destined for the Mersey.

Select each thumbnail to see a larger image and read about each one below.

1 Allan Line Sailing Bill, 1911. Archive reference DX/596/17/3 2: Poster advertising the Quickest Sea route between Glasgow & Liverpool, G and J Burns, 1897. Archive reference DX/980 3: Photograph of Lusitania entering Canada Graving Dock. Archive reference MDHB/0518 4: Cover of passenger list of RMS Appam, Elder Dempster and Co. Archive reference: DX/738 4: Passenger list of RMS Appam, Elder Dempster and Co. Archive reference: DX/738 5: Photograph of Peter Lawson and family, emigrants to Chicago, 1890. Archive reference DX/2355 5: Page from Pencil Diary by Peter Lawson, describing his family's journey from Liverpool to New York on the Cunard Line vessel RMS Etruria, 1890.  Archive reference DX/2355

1 Allan Line Sailing Bill, 1911 

The Montreal Ocean Steamship Co, (popularly known as the Allan Line) was founded by Hugh Allan in 1854 to provide a regular steamship service from Liverpool to Canada. The origins of the line can be traced back to his father, Captain Alexander Allan, who began sailing his ships out of Ayrshire and Greenock in 1819. As the business expanded, Captain Allan’s sons established permanent offices in Glasgow, Liverpool and Montreal.  

2 Poster advertising the quickest sea route between Glasgow and Liverpool, G and J Burns, 1897

George Burns of G and J Burns of Glasgow is known in shipping circles as one of the founders of the Cunard Line. However, originally he and his brother James ran a fleet of coastal steamers, trading in the highly competitive trade between Glasgow and Liverpool.

Note the names of the steamers, Spaniel and Pointer on the poster - the company named all their vessels after animals. Other vessels from this year included Gorilla and Dromedary.

3 Photograph of Lusitania entering Canada Graving Dock

Lusitania, one of the most famous Liverpool ships, was built at John Brown and Co, in Clydebank.  She was one of the many Liverpool ships supplied by their yard.  The Cunard Line in particular had many of their ships built there.

4 Passenger list of RMS Appam, Elder Dempster and Co

Elder Dempster and Co were a Liverpool shipping company who traded primarily to West Africa. Alexander Elder (born in Glasgow in 1834) the brother of the eminent Glasgow shipbuilder, John, was a founding partner of the company.  Many of his company’s vessels were constructed in his brother’s Fairfield Yard in Glasgow.

5 Diary page and photograph of Peter Lawson and family, emigrants to Chicago, 1890

During the 19th century Liverpool was the most popular port of departure in Britain for travel to the United States and Canada.  Emigrants arrived from all over Britain and Europe, including many Scots who chose to travel to Liverpool to join their ship.  

The Lawson family emigrated from  Glasgow  to Chicago in 1890.  They travelled to Liverpool to board a ship to New York, taking time out before their voyage to have their photograph taken at Richard Brown’s photographic studio in Bold Street.

They left Liverpool on the Cunard Line vessel RMS Etruria, on 25 October 1890. As they arrive in Queenstown Peter Lawson laments on how the sight of the Irish coastline "carries ones thoughts to Dear auld Scotland..."

Transcript of the page shown above:

"...the first night having been claimed as victims by the demon seasickness, among that many were unfortunately included the whole of the Lawson family (Willie excepted) to a greater or lesser degree, however by the time we lay to opposite Queenstown we were all in a key to get on deck and enjoy the beautiful scenery as we passed along the Irish coast, which to a great extent carries ones thoughts to Dear auld Scotland seeing the little white washed, thatched roofed houses dotting the country here and there. No sooner were we lying in the roads than off came several boats each containing several peasants with various..."