Captain Sandy Allan (1780-1854) was born in 1780 on Fairlie Estate, Dundonald - one and a half miles west of the village of Gatehead.
Sandy was apprenticed to a shoemaker in Kilmarnock. He worked ten hours per day, except Sundays. In 1800, when he was employed as a journeyman shoemaker near Galston, Sandy moved to Saltcoats, intent on learning to be a ship's carpenter, but gave it up to go to sea. He was soon sailing as mate to Captain Wilson of Saltcoats. Within a few years, Captain Sandy Allan had served as Master and part-owner of several small ships trading out of Saltcoats.
During the Peninsular war, the 175 ton brigantine Hero, with Captain Allan as master, was chartered by the government to transport troops and goods to the continent to supply Wellington's army. By 1814, Sandy Allan had established a reputation as an excellent mariner and shrewd businessman.
A new ship was needed and on the 5 June 1819, the Jean sailed from Greenock for Quebec with Captain Sandy Allan as master. Within a few years, the name of the Allan family was synonymous with North Atlantic shipping and remained so for over 100 years.
Under the direction of Sandy, the Allan line progressed from wooden sailing ships to iron-built steamships, from a one-man operation to a leading transatlantic company. The Allan Line continued to expand throughout the second half of the 19th century until by 1884 it was the seventh-largest shipping line in the world and the largest privately owned. Captain Allan made his last trip as a ship's master in 1839. It was 20 years since his first Atlantic voyage in the Jean and he was almost 60 years of age. He went into semi-retirement but still took an active interest in the company.
He died on18 March, 1854, aged 74. In his progress from shoemaker to seaman, ship's mate to shipping magnate, he had made his fortune and established a dynasty. At the same time, he had done a great deal for Scotland's commercial interests and for the Clyde as a shipping centre.
The Allan Line
Although Alexander Allan began his shipping days in 1819, it would be many years before his sons would form a major shipping company. In 1840, the Cunard Company was founded followed, in 1852 by the Allan Line. Sailing from Glasgow and Liverpool, the ships of the Allan Line probably carried more immigrants to Canada than any other line.
A few of the old wooden sailing ships of the Allan Line were used by some of the early emigration schemes. These ships, however, soon gave way to the new, larger, iron steamships.
The Allan Line was taken over by Canadian Pacific in 1909.