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British Industrial History

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Charles MacIver

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Charles MacIver (1812-1885)

1845 Death of David MacIver who superintended the Liverpool branch of the British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Co.

His brother, Charles MacIver, took over.[1]


1886 Obituary[2]

"Charles MacIver.

A man little heard of outside his own sphere, considering the important part he played in building up England’s noblest industry, has just passed away. On the last day but one of the old year Mr. Charles Maclver died at his winter residence in the Island of Malta. The original firm of Burns and Maclver has ceased to exist for about three years, and since then the deceased has taken no part in the management of the Cunard Co. It was to Mr. Maclver, however, that a large part of the success of the premier Atlantic line was due; a line which during nearly thirty years of service could boast that it had lost neither a passenger nor a letter. This immunity from accident was no doubt due to the excellent discipline maintained in every vessel of the company ; a discipline and organisation which extended through all branches of the Cunard service. Passengers were apt to complain at times that they were somewhat unceremoniously ordered about, “bull-dozed” the Americans call it—and were in fact, treated too much like children at school. There are many amusing tales told of the struggles of refractory and indignant passengers, rebelling against the beureaucratic rule of captain or purser, and their subordinates. Sensible people, however, were glad to exchange a small amount of personal dignity for the sense of increased safety that resulted from this unbending discipline, and indeed it used to be proudly asserted by one of the company’s old skippers — probably a direct descendant of the renowned Barney Buntline—that the safest place a mortal could find was a Cunard steamer in the middle of the Atlantic :

“ A strong nor-wester’s blowing, Bill. Hark ! can’t ye hear it roar now ? Heavens how I pities them unhappy folks ashore now.”

Mr. Maclver was born at Port-Glasgow in 1812, and when a lad was sent over to be under an elder brother who was already established in Charlestown. He did not stay in America long, returning to England in a few years, when he settled in Liverpool and devoted himself to the shipping business. It i was soon after this that the celebrated coalition was formed by which the Cunard Company was constructed on a basis of the coasting steamship lines. The history of the voyage of the Britannia in 1840 from Liverpool to America has been too often narrated to require repeating, and the mighty results to which it was pioneer are a tale not yet fully told."


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Sources of Information

  1. The Engineer 1901/02/15
  2. Engineering 1886/01/08