Allan, Sir Hugh

Sir Hugh Allan, shipping magnate, railway promoter, financier (b at Saltcoats, Scot 29 Sept 1810; d at Edinburgh 9 Dec 1882, buried at Montréal). Allan immigrated to Montréal (1826) and obtained employment through relatives as a clerk in a general merchandising firm. Ten years later, Allan became a partner, and with financing from his father and brothers in Scotland, bought steamers and sailing ships to extend the firm's shipping business. As president of the Montréal Board of Trade (1851-54), Allan persuaded the Canadian government to use mail contracts to subsidize regular steamship lines between Montréal and Britain (1853). Allan, with technologically advanced ships built in Clyde, Scot, and the help of Conservative political friends, was able to wrest the contract from competitors in 1856.

By the 1870s, Allan's company, the Montreal Ocean Steamship Co (popularly known as the ALLAN LINE), also obtained government contracts to carry passage-assisted immigrants. Taking advantage of the Québec government's subsidies for colonization railways, Allan expanded into railway building. An Allan-organized syndicate, including some Americans, obtained the contract to build the railway to British Columbia that was promised that province when it joined Confederation. Meanwhile, Allan had contributed some $350 000 to $360 000 to the Conservative election fund. Suspicions that Allan had bought the railway contract led to the PACIFIC SCANDAL and Sir John A. MACDONALD'S only period as federal Leader of the Opposition.

Allan's interests included new communications technology, manufacturing and mining. He was a director of 2 American telegraph companies, president of the Montréal Telegraph Co (1852) and an early participant in the Canadian telephone industry, selling the Montréal Telegraph Co's "telephone plant" to the newly established Bell Telephone Co for $75 000. Allan owned coal mines on mainland Nova Scotia, and factories for textiles, shoes, iron and steel, tobacco and paper in central Canada. He used his banking and insurance interests to secure favourable press coverage through generous loans to editors.

Although a Presbyterian, he successfully cultivated the leading French Canadian clergy, and once had a priest relieved of his parish duties to participate in a campaign to obtain municipal subsidies for an Allan railway. Allan was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1871. See alsoRAILWAY HISTORY; SHIPPING INDUSTRY.