Aitken and Lilburn - The Loch Line of Glasgow.

The company was started in 1867 by Wiliam Aitken and James Lilburn, who used the business methods of bygone years (visiting intending shippers daily and personally supervising the loading and dispatching of vessels) to great effect long after other had given up the practice. The Loch Line clippers were held up by seamen as examples of what well run and comfortable ships could and should be. The Line carried first, second and third class passengers The usual route was to load general cargo and passengers at Glasgow and then sail to Adelaide. The ships then sailed to Melbourne or Sydney where they loaded wool or grain, generally for London. Fares charged at the end of the 19th century were £40 to Melbourne, £42 to Sydney and £76 for a return trip.

Business commenced with the chartering of the Clan Ranald (eventually bought and renamed Loch Rannoch) the Ben Nevis and the Loch Awe - some 25 ships were added to the fleet over the next 30 years

In 1873 a second company, the General Shipping Co., was formed with a different group of investors, but also managed by Aitken and Lilburn. Originally, the Glasgow Shipping Co. was intended to serve Melbourne and the General Shipping Co. to serve Sydney but over time the two companies merged and were only distinguished for shareholding purposes. The company never changed to steamships but persisted with sail and from 1900 consistently ran at a financial loss. The ships usually managed one round voyage to Australia per year and half of this time was unprofitably spent in port, loading, unloading or waiting for cargoes. Experimental homeward voyages via San Francisco, South Africa and New Caledonia proved unprofitable, the service finally closed in 1911 and the remaining ships were sold.

Despite the excellence of the standard of maintenance of the fleet and the skill of the masters and crews, the 'Loch Line' had a reputation for misfortune, with no fewer than 14 of its 25 ships being wrecked or lost without trace. Some of the 'Loch Line' vessels were sadly more famous for the manner of their demise than for their careers. At the end, only 5 ships remained under the Loch Line flag - the Lochs Garry, Torridon, Broom, Etive, and Carron.

It should be noted that there were also in fact two other, arguably less famous, 'Loch Lines' - one based in Dundee and one in Liverpool - beware of confusion!

 

Loch Line (Aitken and Lilburn) ships:

Ship

Built

 

Wrecked/lost/sold

Place

 

 

 

 

 

Loch Rannoch

1868

 

1907

 

Loch Ness

1869

 

1908

 

Loch Earn

1869

 

1873

North Atlantic

Loch Katrine

1869

 

1910

Cape Howe

Loch Tay

1869

 

1909

 

Loch Leven

1870

 

1871

Bass Strait

Loch Lomond

1870

 

1908

New Zealand

Loch Laggan

1872

 

1875

Southern Ocean

Loch Ard

1873

 

1878

Cape Otway

Loch Maree

1873

 

1881

unknown

Loch Vennachar

1875

 

1905

Kangaroo Island

Loch Garry

1875

 

1911

 

Loch Long

1876

 

1903

Chatham Islands

Loch Fyne

1876

 

1883

unknown

Loch Ryan

1877

 

1909

 

Loch Sloy

1877

 

1899

Kangaroo Island

Loch Shiel

1878

 

1894

Milford Haven

Loch Etive

1878

 

1911

 

Loch Sunart

1878

 

1879

Ireland

Loch Moidart

1881

 

1890

Nieuwe Diep

Loch Torridon

1881

 

1912

 

Loch Broom

1885

 

1912

 

Loch Carron

1885

 

1912

 

Loch Nevis

1894

 

1900

 

 

 

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