George Miller

Client

George Miller (1839–1923) was one of at least eight sons of a Glasgow straw hat-, umbrella- and stay-maker. His elderly father died in 1850 and his mother, unusually for the time, took over the all-female workforce of his father's firm, which numbered 80. 1 By the early 1860s, George and his half brothers, William and Joseph, were involved in producing and exporting 'turkey red' fabric for textiles. 2 His elder brother Alexander Miller, living in British Guiana (Guyana) and most likely exporting sugar, was in partnership with George in Glasgow, where they shared their mother's business premises. 3 The brothers formally established Alexander Miller, Brother & Co. around 1869, and moved to their own premises. 4 They joined the developing palm oil trade in the Niger Delta in West Africa in the 1870s–90s, frequently in collaboration with Jaja of Opobo, an innovative local ruler who personally pioneered the indigenous export of palm oil directly to Britain, bypassing the European middlemen. In an industrial city such as Glasgow, palm oil was a vital machine-belt and engine lubricant. 5 The Millers established their own trading ‘stations’ or ‘factories’ along navigable rivers during the 1870s, as well as building their own fleet of ships for the Oil Rivers (now Nigerian) trade. 6 Complex and shifting alliances of both Africans and European trading houses saw the foundation of the United African Company in 1879; it became the National African Company in 1882, with both brothers as sometime directors. 7

In Glasgow, he lived in Winton Drive, in the exclusive Kelvinside, at a house named Lyndhurst. He later purchased a 238-acre estate in Hertfordshire, Newberries. 8 When he died, George left 915,011. Newberries was inherited by his only son. He had also fathered eight daughters. 9

Notes:

1: Birth, death and probate records viewed at www.ancestry.co.uk and www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk, accessed 22 November 2012; Glasgow Herald, 4 February 1850, p. 2; Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1852–3, p. 238; 1866–7, (giving separate business and home addresses) p. 248.

2: Birth, death, will and census records, www.ancestry.co.uk and www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk [accessed 24 November 2012]; Scottish Textile Heritage Online, [accessed 24 November 2012].

3: The Colonist, 23 December 1865, p. 2E, 'The Colonist: B.M.D. Announcements', Transcription by I. R. Veecock, Guyana Genealogical Society, at www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nyggbs/Colonist/1865Colonist.pdf [accessed 22 November 2012]; A., G., and Mrs James Miller, 56 Brunswick Street,Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1866–7, pp. 246, 248; 1871–2, pp. 268, 271.

4: Glagow Post Office Directory, 1868–9, p. 252; 1869–70, p. 257–8.

5: Martin Lynn, Commerce and Economic Change in West Africa: The Palm Oil Trade ..., Cambridge: University Press, 2002, pp. 132–5; Ghillean Prance and Mark Nesbitt, The Cultural History of Plants, New York: Routledge, 2005, p. 341; Toyin Falola, The History of Nigeria, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999, pp. 51, 56–7; 'Jaja of Opobo', Gale Encyclopedia of Biography, 2006, unpaginated, online resource by the Gale Group, Inc., at www.answers.com/topic/ja-ja-of-opobo [accessed 25 November 2012].

6: London Standard, 29 March 1872, p. 3; Martin Lynn, Commerce and Economic Change in West Africa: The Palm Oil Trade ..., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002, pp. 145–6, 166; Scotsman, 21 October 1874, p. 4; Glasgow Herald, 28 March 1876, p. 6.

7: Assa Okoth,'The Scramble and Partition of Africa', A History of Africa 1855–1914, Nairobi: East African Educational Publishers 2006, pp. 113–14; 'U.A.C. History', U.A.C. of Nigeria, plc company website, www.uacnplc.com/company/history.htm [accessed 22 November 2012]; The Times, 16 April 1883, p. 11G.

8: The Times, 2 February 1934, p. 4G; 15 February 1934, p. 26C; 21 February 1935, p. 10A; 10 May 1935, p. 12A.

9: The Times, 3 December 1923, pp. 13A, 15C; Birth, death, probate and census records, www.ancestry.co.uk [accessed 15 November 2012].