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G & J Burns

In 1818 James Burns along with his younger brother George established a merchants business in Glasgow with business in London and Ireland as J&G Burns. Inspired by George's interest in shipping, in 1824 they obtained the vacant local agency for the Liverpool shipping company of Mathie & Theakstone who owned sailing ships running between Liverpool and Glasgow. One of their employees was David Hutcheson, who had transferred over from the previous agency. Shortly afterwards Theakstone retired and the Burns brothers became Mathie's business partners and therefore owner of their first ships. Burns was keen to use paddle steamers instead of the sailing smacks which the company operated and a replacement programme was initiated.
George looked after the shipping side and James concented on the merchant side of the business.


In 1825 the Glasgow & Liverpool Steam Shipping Company was formed under the ownership of the Burns brothers, Mathie and erstwhile competitors the Martin bothers James and Thomas.  J Martin and J&G Burns was the trading name adopted for the Glasgow end of the operation, with Mathie & Martin (later Martin & Co) running the Liverpool agency work. A separate company, the Belfast & Glasgow, was established to operate services to Belfast.

In 1834 sailings were advertising paddle steamers on their Glasgow routes as follows :  
Glasgow & Liverpool : Manchester, Clyde, Liverpool, Glasgow and Ailsa Craig
Glasgow & Belfast : Antelope, Belfast and Fingal
Glasgow & Newry : Eclipse
J Martin & J&G Burns were listed as Glasgow agents with Archibald Black at Greenock, Mathie & Martin at Liverpool,  G,T&J McTear at Belfast and I Reid at Newry

In 1830 the City of  Glasgow Steam Packet Company was formed in partnership with James Donaldson and Liverpool-based David & Charles MacIver with Burns owning a 60% share.
MacIver had bought the 1822-built City of Glasgow in 1824 and it was repurchased for the new company and used from 1832-1834..
Further purchases : John Wood (1831-1836), Vulcan (1833), City of Glasgow (1835-1841), Brenda (1844-1845), Tartar (1844-1851), Tarbert Castle (1844-1851), Commodore (1838-1851), Admiral (1840-1851).
As well as its forthcoming role in the establishment of what was to become the Cunard line, the MacIver family opersated steamers on their own account, established the City of Liverpool Steam Navigation Company and were active in deep sea shipping operations throughout the nineteenth century.

Burns also developed substantial local interests in Scotland, entering the market in 1835 and dominating services from Glasgow to the West Highlands before selling out to David Hutcheson (whose company later became David MacBrayne when the latter took over Hutcheson's business) in 1851.  They also exited local Clyde services at the same time, disposing of the fleet of the Glasgow Castles Steamship Company, which they had purchased in 1846 and the Railway Steam Packet Company, the company set up to provide connections to the new Greenock railhead of the Glasgow, Paisley & Greenock Railway in 1841 which had also been purchased.

In 1839 Burns and MacIver agreed to invest in what became the British & North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, alongside Canadian shipowner Samuel Cunard and Clydeside shipbuilder Robert Napier.  Cunard had won a Royal Mail contract to supply mails to Halifax and Boston from Liverpool but needed extra capital to finance the necessary vessels. (Britannia, Acadia, Caledonia and Columba). Following the buying out of smaller investors, the shares in the company were held in equal share by the Burns, MacIver and Cunard families. George's son John became the controller of the company from 1860 (and became Chairman of what was to become Cunard Lines) and was followed by his sons George A and James.
In 1879 it became the Cunard Steamship Company with new investors aboard to counter competition from the White Star Line (with which it was to merge fifty years later). 

The family's own shipping interests were vested in the G&J Burns company which operated alongside the shipping agencies and other investments in shipping companies. In this guise it retained its dominance over links between the Clyde and northern Ireland.

The Burns company became part of Coast Lines which was first formed in 1919. Burns & Laird was formed in 1922 as a subsidiary bringing together two of Coast Line's new purchases. 
MacBrayne's company serving the west highlands later became part of Coast Lines. Burns & Laird vessels were well known, sailing from the centre of Glasgow (the Boomielaw) to Northern Ireland and overnight services to Dublin until the mid 1960s, carrying passengers and cargo. A further service was operated from Ardrossan to Belfast and the ferry Lion was built at Birkenhead for this run in 1967. The company later became part of the P&O corporate structure



Adder was the largest, last paddle steamer on Burns' Belfast service from the Clyde, but was soon made obsolete and was sold for use in Argentina

From the 1850s Burns bought screw steamers as well as paddle steamers and Racoon of 1866 was their final paddle steamer until Cobra (1889, which was not accpted and returned to the builders) and Adder (1890) built by Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering for Burns' Ardrossan to Belfast service. This made Adder the only paddle steamer in Burns' service, lasting until 1906 when she was sold for use in Argentina

Why a paddle steamer so long after Racoon ?  Possibly it was due to pressure from the builders, Fairfield Engineering of the Clyde attempting to enter the market (as they were soon to try in London and in Liverpool) where they had not been a supplier before at a time when they were achieving considerable success with other paddle steamer operators. Possibly the ship they were offering was quicker than the screw steamships in the Burns fleet and thus suited to the day service from Scotland to Belfast. The fact that Adder was sold in 1906 and replaced by a turbine steamer indicates that speed was of the essence for the crossing.

Ayr (1825-1831)
Built by J Wood at Port Glasgow
95.10 ft : 71 GRT
Engine by J Nielsen of Glasgow
J&G Burns of Glasgow
Notorious for ramming Comet (II) in 1825 with considerable loss of life on the Comet, with the Ayr not remaining to assist
After being sold had various owners at Liverpool, Dublin (St George SP Co), Cork and Bristol
Converted to a sailing ketch in 1860 and wrecked in the Bristol Channel in 1862

City of Glasgow (1825-1831)
Built in 1822 by Scott & Sons at Greenock
123.5 ft : 191 GRT
Purchased from Robert Napier & Co by David MacIver of Liverpool in 1824

Glasgow & Liverpool  Steam Shipping Co
After private ownership in 1831 and 1832 the ship was bought by The City of Glasgow Steam Packet Co
Re-sold in 1834
Scrapped in 1855

Fingal (1826-1835)
Built by Wm Simons at Greenock
132.8 ft : 396 GRT

Engine by David Napier at Glasgow
J&G Burns of Glasgow
Glasgow-Belfast trade
Sold to Northern Ireland owners in 1835 and survived until 1859

Eclipse (1828-1837)
Built in 1826 by Lang & Denny at Dumbarton
108 ft : 174 GRT
Engine by Robert Napier at Glasgow
Glasgow to Belfast (Newry in 1834)
Bought from David Napier and sold to owners at Liverpool
Later used at Greenock harbour. Scrapped in 1856

Glasgow (1829-1837)
Built by John Wood & Co at Port Glasgow
130.9 ft : 286 GRT  (
Lengthened to 148.6 : 214 GRT in 1834)
Engine by Caird & Co at Greenock
Glasgow & Liverpool  Steam Shipping Co  (Burns & Martin : Glasgow registry)
Sold to the Dundalk Steam Packet Co in 1837 for Liverpool to Dundalk run


Ailsa Craig (1829-1838)
Built in 1825 by R&A Carswell at Greenock.
113.8 ft : 297 GRT.  (Lengthened to 134.6 ft)
Engine by McArthur at Glasgow.
Built for Ailsa Craig Steam Yacht Co
Bought by the Glasgow & Liverpool in 1829
Later served for Great Yarmouth owners until 1846


Belfast (1830-1837)
Built in 1829 by John Wood & Co at Port Glasgow
116.8 ft
Engine by David Napier at Glasgow

Operated by the Belfast & Glasgow Steam Boat Co (managed by Martin and Burns)
Sold to the admiralty in 1837 and as HMS Prospero was lengthed and survived until 1866 as a tender

Liverpool (1830-1835)
Built by R Steele & Co at Greenock
137.5 ft : 330 GRT
Engine by Caird & Co at Greenock. Rengined to side lever in 1841
Glasgow & Liverpool  Steam Shipping Co  (Burns & Martin : Glasgow registry)
Sold to the City of Dublin SP Co / Peninsular SN Co (P & O from 1842) and operated between London/Liverpool and Spain
Broken up in 1845 after damaged through stranding off Spain

Clyde (1831-1836)
Built by McMillan & Hunter at Greenock
153.2 ft : 342 GRT
Steeple engine by David Napier at Glasgow

Glasgow & Liverpool  Steam Shipping Co  (Burns & Martin : Glasgow registry)
Sold to the London & Havre Steam Packet Co
Destroyed in 1840 by fire

Manchester (1832-1838)
Built in 1832 by R Steele & Co at Greenock
153 ft : 501 GRT
Engine by Caird & Co at Greenock
Glasgow & Liverpool  Steam Shipping Co  (Burns & Martin : Glasgow registry)
Sold to the Berwick Shipping Co in 1838

Antelope (1833-1845)
Built in 1833 by R Barclay at Glasgow
Built for Burns and Martin's North British Steam Navigation Co
Transferred to the Glasgow & Liverpool in 1844
Resold to Brownlow & Co at Hull in 1845.
Scrapped in 1856



Gazelle (1833-1834)
Built in 1832 by Muress & Clark at Greenock
135.9 ft
Engine by Caird & Co at Greenock
First owner was J Fleming of Glasgow
Glasgow & Liverpool  Steam Shipping Co  (Burns & Martin : Glasgow registry)
Sold on to the Hull Steam Packet Co
With the Tweed Shipping Co from 1842-1865

Eagle (1835-1839)
Built by R Steele & Co at Greenock
164.1 ft : 640 GRT
Engine by Caird & Co at Greenock
Glasgow & Liverpool  Steam Shipping Co  (Burns & Martin : Glasgow registry)
Sold to the Dublin & Glasgow Steam Packet Co in 1839

Rapid (1835-1839)
Built by Hunter & Dow at Glasgow
135.3 ft : 398 GRT
Engine by David Napier at Glasgow
Belfast & Glasgow Steam Shipping Co
Sold to the Berwick Shipping Co
From 1846 registered with Malcolmson at Waterford
Scrapped in 1852

Unicorn (1836-1840)
Built by R Steel & Co at Greenock
162.9 ft : 649 GRT
Engine : Side lever by Caird & Co at Greenock
Glasgow & Liverpool  Steam Shipping Co  (Burns & Martin : Glasgow registry)
Built for service between Liverpool and Glasgow
Transferred to the British & North American Royal Mail SP Co in 1840
Transferred to Canada in 1845 , registered at St John, New Brunswick and later registered at Halifax NS, New York NY, San Francisco CA then later Australia and Hong Kong

Actaeon (1837-1842)
Built by R Steel & Co at Greenock
685 GRT
Side lever
Glasgow & Liverpool  Steam Shipping Co  (Burns & Martin : Glasgow registry)
From 1842 with the Royal Mail Steam Packet Co which ran services to the Caribbean after establishment in 1839

Achilles (1839-1842)
Built
R Steel & Co at Greenock
586 GRT
Engine by Caird & Co at Greenock
Glasgow & Liverpool  Steam Shipping Co  (Burns & Martin : Glasgow registry)
With P & O from 1845
Scrapped in 1856

Fire King (1842-1846)
Buil tin 1838 by R Thomson at Troon
175 ft : 525 GRT
2 side lever engines by R Napier at Glasgow

Built as a private yacht but in the ownership of Robert Napier by 1840 for resale to the Ayrshire Railway Co
Operated from Ardrossan to Liverpool and Fleetwood
Taken over by G&J Burns in 1842 and registered with Glasgow & Liverpool in 1844
Sold to a London-based owner

Orion (1847-1850)
Built by Caird & Co at Greenock
210.6 ft : 899 GRT
Side lever 14 and 14 in x 81 in
Glasgow & Liverpool  Steam Shipping Co  (Burns & Martin : Glasgow registry)
Wrecked in 1850 off Portpatrick with loss of 41 lives including John Burns, George's brother and business partner

Lyra (1848-1857)
Built by Robert Napier at Govan
218.7 ft
Steeple engine 34 in x 84 in
Glasgow & Liverpool  Steam Shipping Co  (Burns & Martin : Glasgow registry)
Sold to Londonderry Steamboat Co
Wrecked off Fleetwood in 1861

Camilla (1849-1853)
Built BY Caird & Co at Greenock
189.4 ft : 529 GRT
Two side lever engines by Grendon, Mackay & Co at Drogheda. Engines removed in 1850 and put in PS Laurel and replaced
Glasgow & Liverpool  Steam Shipping Co  (Burns & Martin : Glasgow registry)
Sold to the Royal Main Steam Packet Co in 1853
In the ownership of the Brazilian Government from 1859 as Guardia Nacional sailing from Rio de Janiero to Buenos Aires (Argentina)
Scrapped in 1905

Laurel (1850-1854)
Built by Caird & Co at Greenock
187.4 ft : 428 GRT
Two side lever engines by Grendon, Mackay & Co at Drogheda ex- Camilla
Glasgow & Liverpool  Steam Shipping Co  (Burns & Martin : Glasgow registry)
Sold in 1854
Scrapped in 1867

Elk (1853-1859)
Built by Wm Denny & Bros at Dumbarton
208 ft : 548 GRT
Engines by J&G Thomson at Govan
First registered with the Clyde Steam Navigation Co (Burns) and later the Glasgow & Belfast SP Co (Burns)
Wrecked off Bangor Co Down in 1859

Lynx (1854-1869)
Built by Wm Denny & Bros at Dumbarton
213 ft : 548 GRT
Engine by J&G Thomson at Govan
Registered to G&J Burns
Glasgow to Belfast service
Sold in 1869 to a South Wales owner (CRM Talbot, landowners of the "new" industrial town of Port Talbot) for conversion to a private yacht

Stag (1854-1864)
Built by Wm Denny & Bros at Dumbarton
208 ft : 548 GRT
Engine 57 and 57 in x 66 in by J&G Thomson at Govan
Glasgow & Belfast Steam Packet Company
Sold to the Atlantic Steam Packet Co of the USA and renamed Kate Gregg and used for blockade running
Later owned by Argentinian interests

Leopard (1857-1860)
Built by Wm Denny & Co at Dumbarton
223.9 ft : 691 GRT
G&J Burns
Used as a blockade runner in the USA and lost in 1863

Panther (1857-1859)
Built by R Steele & Co at Greenock
223.6 ft : 702 GRT
Engine by Randolph, Elder & Co at Govan
Sold to Wm Denny in part exchange for a new vessel
Resold to Italy and renamed Plebiscito

Giraffe (1860-1862)
Built by J&G Thomson, Govan
Length 270.2 ft : 677 GRT
Engine : Oscillating
1862 : Sold for blockade running in the USA as Robert E Lee
1863 : Taken by the US Navy and renamed USS Fort Donaldson
1865 : Sold for use in Chile as Isabella
1866 : taken over by the Chilean navy as a supply ship and renamed Concepcion


Wolf (1863-1871)
Built by R Napier & Sons, Govan.
Length 242.7 ft : 763 GRT :
Engine : Oscillating (compounded in 1873). 
1867 : Sank in Belfast Lough in 1867 after a collision.
1869 : Raised and renovated, reemerging with one funnel only
1871 : Sold to the London & South Western Railway.
1896 : a seamen's hospital and quarantine centre at Southampton then Liverpool.
1900 : Scrapped

Roe (1864-1865)
Built by Caird & Co at Greenock
236.6 ft : 559 GRT
2 cyl oscillating
Glasgow & Belfast Steam Packet Company
Glasgow-Belfast
Sold to the Barrow Steam Navigation Co
Scrapped in 1887

Buffalo (1865-1881)
Built by Caird & Co at Greenock
241.1 ft : 686 GRT
2 cyl oscillating
Glasgow & Belfast Steam Packet Company
Glasgow-Belfast
Sold to the Barrow Steam Navigation Company and renamed Donegal

Llama (1865-1881)
Built by Caird & Co at Greenock
Glasgow & Belfast Steam Packet Company
Glasgow-Belfast
Scrapped in 1881

Camel (1866-1881)
Built by Caird & Co at Greenock
243.2 ft : 701 GRT
2 cyl oscillating 58 and 58 in x 72 in
Glasgow & Belfast Steam Packet Company
Glasgow-Belfast

Sold to the Barrow Steam Navigation Co and renamed Londonderry
Scrapped in 1904

Racoon (1866-1880)
Built by J&G Thomson at Govan
252.3 ft : 831 GRT
2 cyl 61 and 61 in x 72 in
Glasgow & Belfast Steam Packet Company
Sold to the City of London for cattle transport
Scrapped in 1907


Cobra
(1889)
Built in 1889 by the Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. of Govan
Length 264.8 ft : 847 GRT
Engine : Compound diagonal 50 and 92 in x 66 in
Built for G&J Burns' Scotland to Ireland (Ardrossan-Belfast) service
1889 : Returned to builders
1890 : Liverpool & Llandudno Steamship Co as St Tudno
1890 : New North Wales Steamship Co
1890 : Nordsee Dampfschiff Gesellschaft as Cobra
1892 : Albert Ballin
1904 : HAPAG
1919 : French government
1921 : Mahr & Bayer of Wismar, Germany
1922 : Scrapped


Adder (1890-1906)
Built in 1890 by the Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. of Govan
Length 280 ft :  976 GRT 
Engine : Compound diagonal 51.5 and 93 in x 72 in
Built for G&J Burns' Scotland to Belfast service (from Ardrossan from 1892) service
Sold in 1906 to Mr S Lambruschini of Buenos Aires and renamed Rio de la Plata
Substantially altered and with deckhouses fore and aft and an observation deck above.
Lost in 1918 sailing from Buenos Aires to Santos



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