Robert Brown was born in 1770 in Linlithgow, son of James Brown, a merchant there, and Jean Cuthel. It appears he moved first to Glasgow, where he married, and then to Leith.
Robert Stodart Wyld published in 1889 his family memoirs. RSW was the brother of my great great grandfather George Wyld. RSW's aunt Isabella Wyld was married to Robert Brown.
"...When Mr. Brown became unfortunate in business, he left Glasgow and came with his family to Leith, as agent for the Australian Shipping Company, then newly started, with a view of encouraging trade between Leith and this colony. Australia was then very little known except as a penal colony. My father was one of the original directors of this company; and it was through his influence that Mr. Brown got the appointment we have mentioned...
"...The Australian shipping company ... was planned about the year 1824, by Mr. Forrest Alexander. It did not prove successful ... after, I suppose, ten years, the Company closed its business with a serious loss, and with a lawsuit brought against the directors by a number of shareholders ... after the Australian Company broke up, Mr. Brown sent his second son, Thomas, to Sydney, while he remained in Leith, and shipped to his son the goods. Thus was started a business that was destined by and bye to become one of the largest and most lucrative in Sydney. It did not, however, attain any great dimensions under Thomas Brown, who had the merit of starting it; he was too timid. After his brother John, however, who had been educated as a law agent, joined him in 1832, it made a start. They became great tea brokers, as well as merchants ... "
It also seems to be that through the Australian Company the Browns and Mackellars became connected. Duncan Mackellar captained one of their ships, and more about the Australian Shipping Company can be read on the following page about Captain Duncan Mackellar. RSW also mentioned beforehand that he had an appeal to the House of Lords and an association with John Campbell, later Lord Chancellor:
"While he wandered through the Courts of Law at Westminster, listening to the pleadings of the barristers, he formed a very high opinion of a young Scotchman, John Campbell, and he insisted that his agent should secure him as his counsel. The agent objected that this could not be done, for Mr. Campbell had never yet pleaded in the House of Lords. Mr Brown was, however, steady to his point; the result was that Mr Campbell accepted the fee offered him; he pleaded in the House of Lords, and gained the cause; the judgement was given in favour of my uncle Brown. The young man, I need scarcely say, was afterwards Lord Chancellor &c.; andit was my crotchety uncle Brown who first introduced him to the Court over which he afterwards so worthily presided."
There are records of various court cases involving the Australian Company with Robert Brown involved. For example there is a Court of Session case in Scotland December 21st, 1833, Urquhart v Brown. Alexander Urquhart, Pursuer. - Robertson. Robert Brown (Manager of Australian Compay), Defender. - Cuninghame. In the Scottish Jurist there is a report of a case of 19th December 1834: Archibald Lumsdaine Suspender, v Robert Brown, Manager of the Edinburgh Australian Company, and William Alexander, W.S., Chargers.
I also found the following in Studies in Scottish Business History by Peter Lester Payne:
"If the bounty scheme had been in operation or if wool had been available as a return cargo when the Australian Company was struggling to survive in the later 1820's, it would almost certainly have overcome its difficulties. The last recorded act of its Leith manager, Robert Brown, was to petition the Colonial Office in 1835 on behalf of the partners, asking for some form of compensation for their losses on the unpaid passages of working class emigrants taken out in its ships before the bounty scheme came into operation. The plea was unavailing, and the verdict on the 'Leith Company' must be that it was premature.(31) Robert Brown to Lord Glenelg, 20th July, 1835, CO 384/39, f. 168."
Apparently, the official name of the company was the "Australian Company of Edinburgh", and was formed 31st October 1822; established by Act of Parliament 28th May, 1824.
For further information about the company Scotland and Australia, 1788-1850: Emigration, Commerce and Investment by David Stirling Macmillan, Scotland, 1967 has an extensive history. Here are some references to Robert Brown:
"The officers of the Australian Company in Scotland were to be a 'Manager of the Establishment', a secretary, a cashier, and an accountant, with other officers, clerks, and storekeepers. In Australia there were to be agents, full-time officers of the company. All of these, together with the captains, mates, and 'stewards' or pursers of the company's ships, were to be appointed by the committee of management. The contract specifically stated that the key position of manager in Scotland was to be held by Robert Brown of Virginia Street, Glasgow.
"Brown was active as a 'home trader' in Glasgow in 1803. The Burgess Roll, on which he was entered in 1813, described him as 'merchant and guild brother, son to the deceased James Brown, merchant of Linlithgow. The old burgh of Linlithgow was at this time fast declining in importance, its trade almost completely fallen into the hands of the merchants and shipowners of the new port of Grangemouth, and Robert Brown possibly moved to Glasgow for this reason. He had been admitted to the Merchant House of Glasgow as a guild brother in June 1804,and was later engaged in the flourishing trade with the Baltic and German ports. In March 1809 he joined with sixty-two other Glasgow merchants in presenting a petition to the Treasury through the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, asking for improving warehousing and customs facilities at Grangemouth. By 1818 he was engaged in the thriving emigrant traffic to Canada, in the capacity of agent for the vessels of James Ewing of Strathleven, West India merchant and shipowner. The emigrant flow to Canada was at its height in 1819, and fell off in the following year, as did trade generally. Brown experienced the same fate as hundreds of others in 1820. He was bankrupted, but was able to obtain a discharge with the assistance of James Wyld of of Gilston, who may have been a relation. The straits in which so many Scopttish shipbrokers found themselves was indicated by numerous bankruptcies. John Broadfoot, whose pioneering work in organizing emigration has already been mentioned, and who was to be Brown's main rival in the Australian trade from Leith, had gone bankrupt in 1819, and made his composition in January 1820, exactly a year before he dispatched his first emigrants in the Westmoreland.
"Brown's knowledge of the emigrant traffic may have brought him to Wyld's attention, or they may have met through the formation of the London, Leith, Edinburgh and Glasgow Shipping Company in May 1820. [Infact Robert Brown's wife, Isabella Wyld, was James Wyld's sister, which is actually how they would have known each other - ADB]. This was an important merger of the Edinburgh and Leith Shipping Company and the Edinburgh, Glasgow and Leith Shipping Company, aimed at reconciling the commercial interests of the two great Scottish cities...
"Brown was to prove himself an extremely capable organizer. By the contract of the Australian Company he was empowered to conduct its business and affairs in accordance with the 'bye-laws, rules and regulations' laid down by the committee of management..." (pp 157-159)
My name is Alasdair Broun and I was born and brought up in Scotland, son of a clergyman and a freelance journalist. I took up genealogy as a hobby when I was 17 and I went on to write a PhD thesis in philosophical psychology ... more >
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