THE late Chairman of the Clyde Trust is descended from the
refugees mentioned in the autobiography of the late Duke of Argyll, as having
fled in Covenanting times from Ayrshire and the persecution of the dragoons, to
the safe remoteness of Kintyre. Born at Campbeltown in 1830, and educated at the
grammar school of that town, he migrated to Paisley in 1843, removed to Glasgow
two years later, and at the age of 17, entered the counting-house of the agency
for the Allan Line of clipper ships, sailing between Glasgow and Canada. In 1853
he joined the service of the managing owners, becoming afterwards a partner of
the firm, and ultimately chairman of the Allan Line Steamship Company.
Within his experience many changes and developments have taken place. Soon after he entered the business, the firm proceeded to add a fleet of steamers to their clipper line, and their first screw vessel, the Canadian, was launched in July, 1854. From that date to this the fleet of steamers has constantly grown, and has carried the mails between Great Britain and the Dominion. In the character of its steamers the Allan Line has always kept abreast of the times. It was the first to introduce the turbine method of propulsion on an ocean-going steamer. An interesting article from his pen in the Syren and Shipping Illustrated for 28th March, 1906, on "The Canadian trade as it was and is," recounted many highly interesting reminiscences of this development.
For many years Sir Nathaniel devoted part of his time to the public service, especially in connection with shipping affairs. He has given evidence before Shipping Committees and Royal Commissions of the Houses of Parliament, and he has taken part in much of the legislation of his time on his own subject. For two years he was a member of the Committee appointed to suggest the life-saving appliances to be carried by vessels. He also took an active part in the enquiry, conducted under the late Sir Francis Jeune, which settled the load-line regulations for the shipping of the kingdom. He was one of the founders of the British Corporation for the assignment of load lines and the survey and registration of ships, being its first chairman, and occupying that position for many years. He was also, on the invitation of its Council, made the first Scottish Chairman of the Chamber of Shipping of the United Kingdom.
Outside the arena of shipping he has taken a share in several burning economic problems, notably on Fiscal policy, on the great currency question of India, and on the bi-metallic heresy, and he has published numerous interesting and instructive pamphlets on these and other subjects.
But the public undertaking to which his services have been most continuously devoted is the Clyde Navigation Trust. With that great corporation he was connected for twenty-seven years, and upon the reconstruction of the Board he became its first Chairman, the position having been held previously by the Lord Provost in right of office. Upon the occasion of the opening of the Rothesay Dock at Clydebank by the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1907, the King conferred on him the honour of knighthood. He retired from the Trust at the close of the year, and a few months afterwards he was made an LL.D. of Glasgow University.
In 1898 Sir Nathaniel purchased the estate of Shieldhill, near Biggar in Lanarkshire, and since then he has found his chief recreation in remodelling the old mansion-house and improving the condition of the policies and farms on the property. Among other additions he has erected a hall for Sunday services and winter lectures, and a reading and recreation room for the tenantry. In this and other philanthropic work he has the warm assistance of his only daughter, Miss Dunlop.
Index of Glasgow Men (1909)