John Latta ( 1867-1946) was born on 9 May 1867 in Old Cumnock, Ayrshire. He had his early schooling in Cumnock before proceeding to Ayr Academy and then to the Greenock firm of Craig and Scott.
John, who was the chairman of Lawther, Latta & Co. Ltd, ship owners and merchants, at his death, first went into the shipping industry in 1883 and soon afterwards introduced steamships into the nitrate trade. As chairman of the Nitrate Producers' Steamship Company, he managed his own fleet. He was an individualist and a strong believer in free trade.
In 1896, John Latta married Ada May, daughter of the late J Y Short, of Ashbrooke Hall, Sunderland. Thus he formed an alliance with the family of shipbuilders, Short Brothers Ltd, Sunderland, who built most of the large cargo carriers with which the steamship company engaged in general trading. In November 1904, he was one of the British ship owners presented to King Edward VII in recognition of services to their country.
The company's fleet was also of the utmost importance in the wars of 1914-18 and 1939-45, and at the end of the First World War, his services were recognised by his being created a baronet.
Sir John Latta, 1st Bart, of Portman Square, was knighted on 9 February 1920.