Robert S. Allan

Chairman of the School Board of Glasgow

Photograph of lithograph portrait of Robert S. Allan

Robert Smith Allan (1857–1932) was 'a well-known Glasgow shipowner and educational administrator', director of the Merchants' House and 'Convenor of the Educational Committee of the great 1901 Glasgow Exhibition'. 1 His grandfather, Alexander Allan Senior (1780–1854) founded the Allan shipping dynasty, of which Robert's father, Alexander Junior (1825–1892) was senior partner in J[ames] & A[lexander] Allan, who shipped grain, goods and mail between London, Liverpool, Canada, the U.S.A. and South America. 2 Robert's maternal family were 'George Smith & Sons', owners of the 'City Line', in which Robert was also a partner. 3 The scale of these enterprises was colossal: in 1876, Smith's ordered 'the largest amount of tonnage built on the Clyde ... for one firm', and in 1884, Allan's was the largest privately-owned, and sixth-largest overall, merchant fleet in the world. 4 Robert's parents both left estates of over 500,000 each, enormous sums for 1892. 5

Robert formed R. & C. Allan, shipowners, 121 St Vincent Street, Glasgow, with his youngest brother Claud Andrew Allan of Kilmahew Castle (1871–1945) in 1892–3. He was also a director of the African Lakes Corporation, with interests in Nyasaland (Malawi) during and after the First World War. 6

Allan was deeply committed to educational provision, and joined the Glasgow School Board as finance convenor in 1894, becoming Board Chairman from 1903. In addition, he chaired Glasgow's Teacher Training and Secondary Education Committees, worked with mentally-disabled children's charities, and sat on the Glasgow & West of Scotland (later Royal) Technical College Board from 1900 to 1931. 7 His sisters Jane Allan and Mrs Eliza Lauder were also involved in philathropic education and welfare projects such as the Queen Margaret College Settlement.

His wealth also enabled him to indulge in yachting, and to campaign vigorously against drink, promoting total abstinence. 8

Notes:

1: Glasgow Herald, 27 March 1857, p. 5; 15 February 1932, p. 13.

2: 'James Allan, 1808–1880', Ch. 2, in Memoirs and Portraits of One Hundred Glasgow Men, Glasgow: James MacLehose, vol. 1, 1886, pp. 5, 7; birth, death and will information, www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk [accessed 1 October 2012]; Glasgow Herald, 4 April 1892, p. 6.

3: 'George Smith 1803–1876', Ch. 82, in Memoirs and Portraits of One Hundred Glasgow Men, Glasgow: James MacLehose, vol. 2, 1886, pp. 281–4; Scotsman, 28 March 1910, p. 9.

4: Scotsman, 29 December 1876, p. 6; 'James Allan, 1808–1880', Ch. 2, in Memoirs and Portraits of One Hundred Glasgow Men, Glasgow: James MacLehose, vol. 1, 1886, pp. 5, 7.

5: Glasgow Herald, 24 March 1892, p. 6; 13 May 1892, p. 6.

6: Birth information, www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk [accessed 12 October 2012]; Glasgow Post Office directories, 1880–1910; Glasgow Herald, 15 February 1932, p. 13; Scotsman, 13 November 1915, p. 5; 3 June 1932, p. 10. African Lakes Corporation archival material is held at the University of Glasgow Archives UGC193.

7: Glasgow Herald, 2 April 1894, p. 1; 5 April 1894, p. 4; 9 June 1909, p. 5; The Times, 9 June 1909, p. 14; Scotsman, 11 October 1912, p. 11; Glasgow Herald, 15 February 1932, p. 13.

8: Scotsman, 15 February 1932, p. 7; Glasgow Herald, 15 February 1932, p. 13; George Eyre-Todd, Who's Who in Glasgow in 1909, Glasgow: Gowans & Gray Ltd, 1909, p. 3.