The Cellardyke Echo – 30/12/2021 – Issue 320

1915

Mr Robert Ray, son of the Rev James Ray, has just returned from South Africa. It is his intention to offer his services in some capacity to the authorities.

It is now generally known that one of our local drifters, operating in the Mediterranean, was instrumental in saving the lives of 390 of the passengers on board the emigrant ship Ancona, torpedoed by the Austrians.

Information came to the town on Friday that Private James Dick, 1/7th Black Watch, had been severely wounded while coming out of the trenches recently. He is now lying at the Base Hospital. Private Dick is the son of Mr John  Dick, fishermen, Urquhart Wynd.

Cellardyke Native’s Career

LIFE STORY OF THE LATE MR JOHN WILLIAMSON.

Last week we briefly commented on the death of Mr John Williamson, J.P., and the following sketch of his career is taken from a current issue of the “Journal of Commerce,” Liverpool;

A familiar figure in Liverpool shipping circles has been removed by the death of Mr John Williamson, J.P., of Claughton, Grange, Birkenhead, after a lengthy illness extending about twelve months. Mr Williamson was a prominent shipowner, having established the sailing-ship firm of Williamson, Milligan & Co., which, some 30 years ago, was one of the largest sailing-ship owning firms in the country. He was. also an ex-director and deputy Chairman of the Cunard Line, an ex-member of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, and closely associated with the numerous associations and institutions which are working for, and interested in, the development and progress of the shipping trade of the port. Mr Williamson was of a very kindly and genial disposition, and his philanthropy was very bountiful, but of such a character that none but himself knew to what a great extent it reached. He was a most conspicuous figure; on account of an accident which befell him when 14 years of age he was lame for the remainder of his life, and had to depend on crutches. It appears that while on visit to his grandfather’s house, boylike, he was climbing up a flagpole apparently depending upon the flag halyards for his support when, unfortunately these carried away and he came down to the ground from a good distance, so severely injuring his knee that he was maimed for life. He, however, did not allow this physical disability to hamper him in his career, for, being blessed with a strong measure of determination and energy he devoted himself ungrudgingly to business, and so successful did he become that he secured many of the prominent positions which it is possible for the shipowner and merchant to occupy.

The deceased gentleman was born at Cellardyke, and, like his brother, the late Mr Stephen Williamson, was educated at the Anstruther Burgh School and Madras College, St Andrews. Their grandfather was a shipowner, farmer, and maltster. Their father at first followed the sea, and eventually commanded a brig belonging to his father, but afterwards settled ashore as a shipowner.

Mr Williamson came to Liverpool in 1849 and began his business life at 20 years of age. He could look back on a long career of active and successful work, his most notable work, in addition to tint connected with his own firm of Messrs Williamson, Milligan & Co., shipowners and merchants, of Preeson’s Row, Liverpool, of which he was the founder in connection with the late Mr W. C. A. Milligan (which has been some years extinct,) and Milligan & Wilson, of Buenos Ayres, was a director and deputy-chairman of the Cunard Line. It was in this connection that he was better known in shipping circles of Liverpool. He became a director of the Cunard Line at its formation as a public concern in 1880, and remained on the directorate until 1902. During his long association with the Cunard Company, Mr Williamson witnessed many changes in ship construction. The evolution of the steamship while he was on the board covered the building of such giants in their day as the Semis, Umbria, Campania, Saxonia, Ivernia, as well as the laying down of the Coronia. Carmania, and the preparation for the plans of the Lusitania and Mauretania. When leaving the directorate after 23 years’ indefatigable and useful service he was, with the exception of Mr Beavan, the only one who had held office in that capacity from the company’s formation. On his retirement, he was presented with a beautiful silver gilt bowl by his co-directors and a massive silver-plated loving cup with double handles mounted on an ebony stand, the cup hearing the following inscription : “Presented to Mr John Williamson, J.P., on his retirement from the board of the Cunard Company after upwards of 22 years’ close association with the management of the Company, by the undermentioned heads of departments and Commanders of Cunard ships, etc., as a small but very sincere token of their esteem and affection.—December 31, 1902.”

Mr Williamson was elected a member of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board in 1878, and served on the Warehouse, Traffic, Pilotage, Marine, and the Docks and Quays Committees, and was Chairman of the Special Committee which was appointed to inquire into railway charges. He did not seek re-election in 1889. During his association with the Dock Board he took a leading part in connection with the dredging of the bar and other important matters vital to the interests of the port He was a member of the Committee of the Liverpool Shipowners’ Association for a long time and it’s Chairman for some years. Mr Williamson was a member of the Committee of the Shipowners’ Mutual Indemnity Association, and was one of the leading founders of the Association, and was one of its Chairmen.

On his retirement, he was the recipient of a handsome silver cup as a mark of the esteem and respect of his colleagues. He was also a member of the Committee of the Chamber of Shipping of the United Kingdom from its commencement, and one of the leading founders; was its first Vice-President, and the second year its President. On that occasion, and for many years after, he submitted statistical tables bearing on the relation of tonnage to exports and imports, which were so much appreciated by the Chamber that they appointed him a member for life—the only such honour conferred by the Chamber.

For many years he was on the Committee of Lloyd’s Register of Shipping, London and Liverpool, and for some time the Chairman of the Liverpool Underwriters’ Association, and was honorary secretary to the Committee of inquiry into the condition of the merchant seamen from 1870 to 1880, when its labours ceased after accomplishing good and useful work. Mr Williamson was also on the Committee of the school ship Conway for a long period, and for some its Chairman, and also on the Marine Board for some time. Mr Williamson was a director of the Standard Marine Insurance Company, since its formation, and for many years its Chairman, and was a director for some years of the Asiatic and Eastern Steamship Company. Besides, he acted in connection with many other associations and committees, in deputations to Board of Trade, Admiralty, etc. In public and private life he was an indefatigable worker, and his life was a useful and valuable one to the community. He had resided in Birkenhead from 1850, and was perhaps the oldest ferry contractor at Woodside. He was for some time one of the Birkenhead Commissioners, but did not enter the Council on the incorporation of the borough. He was one of the first batch of Magistrates appointed, and always took a hearty interest in the affairs of the borough, having been presented to His Majesty the King in March, 1914. He was about 40 years on the Committee of the Schools of Science and Art, and for a long time its Chairman, and took a prominent part in getting the Corporation to take over the schools and work them; the result justified this action. He was also for a long period on the Committee of the Albert Memorial Industrial Schools. It was one of Mr Williamson’s usual and daily customs not to take luncheon, but to abstain from food from the time he partook of breakfast until dinner in the evening. He was a moderate smoker and a temperate man, but not a teetotaller. Mr Williamson was probably one of the oldest subscribers to “The East of Fife Record.” He leaves one surviving son.

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