Arthur Anderson (businessman)

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Arthur Anderson (1792, Shetland – 27 February 1868, London) was a Scottish businessman and Liberal politician. He was co-founder of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O).


He was born at Böd of Gremista, in Lerwick, and as a boy worked on the beach preparing fish. The Crown attempted to press gang Anderson but Bressay man Thomas Bolt persuaded the Royal Navy to wait until he had finished his apprenticeship before his impressment in 1808. Anderson was discharged 10 years later in London. Like many Shetland men, he was left destitute 600 miles from home in London after his service to King and country during the Napoleonic wars. Anderson eventually became a clerk in the London shipping firm of Brodie McGhie Willcox where he became a partner in 1822. They developed the shipping business between Britain and the Iberian peninsula, at one stage shipping guns and the British Legion to fight Portuguese conservatives and Spanish Carlists during their internal wars of the 1830s.

They followed this with a regular steamship service in 1830, called the Peninsular Steam Navigation Company, which soon became P&O. Despite cash crises, it expanded operations to Hong Kong and Australia, supported by government mail contracts. At his death in 1868 P&O had the largest commercial fleet of steamships in the world.

He moved to Streatham, London, and was Chairman of P&O from 1854 until his death; other chairs included the coal transport company the Union Steamship Co[clarification needed] and the Crystal Palace Co.

He served as a radical Liberal MP for the Orkney and Shetland constituency

He also founded the Shetland Journal, the Shetland Fishery Company at Vaila, and encouraged fish exports to Spain and business between Shetland and the UK mainland.

He endowed Lower Norwood Working Men's Institute, the Anderson Educational Institute in 1862 [1] (later and currently known as Anderson High School and a home for the widows of fishermen in Shetland.

He was buried at West Norwood Cemetery.

His nephew James Anderson, who worked in P&O, was married to the medical pioneer Elizabeth Garrett Anderson.


  1. ^ Irvine, James W. (1985). Lerwick; The Birth and Growth of an Island Town. Lerwick: Lerwick Community Council. p. 126. ISBN 0-9509669-1-6. 

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Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Frederick Dundas
Member of Parliament for Orkney & Shetland
Succeeded by
Frederick Dundas