Sir William Mackinnon, 1st Baronet
Sir William Mackinnon, 1st Baronet (13 March 1823 – 22 June 1893) was a Scottish ship-owner and businessman who built up substantial commercial interests in India and East Africa. He established the British-India Steam Navigation Company and the Imperial British East Africa Company.
He was born in Campbeltown, Argyll, and after starting in the grocery trade there, went to Glasgow and worked for a merchant who had Asian trading interests. Mackinnon went to India in 1847 and joined an old schoolfriend, Robert Mackenzie, in the coasting trade, carrying merchandise from port to port around the Bay of Bengal. Together they formed the firm of Mackinnon Mackenzie & Co and Mackinnon chose to make Cossipore the base for his own activities.
In 1856 he founded the shipping company Calcutta and Burma Steam Navigation Company, which would become British India Steam Navigation Company in 1856. It grew into a huge business trading round the coasts of the Indian Ocean, extending its operations to Burma, the Persian Gulf and the east coast of Africa, from Aden to Zanzibar, where Mackinnon founded the Imperial British East Africa Company, chartered in 1888. The company, supported by the United Kingdom government as a means of establishing British influence in the region, was committed to eliminating the slave trade, prohibiting trade monopoly, and equal treatment for all nations. In 1889 Mackinnon was made 1st Baronet of Strathaird and Loup.
Mackinnon promoted Henry Morton Stanley's Emin Pasha Relief Expedition, first enlisting Stanley, then writing to government ministers including Lord Iddesleigh, the Foreign Secretary, and enlisting friends to form a committee which could oversee the expedition and meet more than half the cost.
In 1891 he founded the Free Church of Scotland East African Scottish Mission. He died in London in 1893 and was buried at Clachan in Kintyre, near his home, Balinakill House. He and his nephew, Duncan MacNeil, left bequests which were used to start the Mackinnon MacNeil Trust with a mandate to "provide a decent education to deserving Highland lads".
The trustees purchased the former estate of James Nicol Fleming on Keil Point, Southend, Kintyre, including Keil House, and set up the Kintyre Technical School. After only nine years a fire destroyed the building and the school, renamed Keil School, moved to Helenslee House in Dumbarton where it continued until 2000.
Following the closure of the school, and the sale of the land, the Mackinnon Macmeill Trust was able to continue to help young people and exists now to give bursaries to students from the Western Highlands and Islands going to university. The Trust is still chaired by a member of the Mackinnon family
The papers of Sir William Mackinnon (PP MS 1) are held by Archives and Special Collections at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London.
- J. Forbes Munro, Maritime Enterprise and Empire: Sir William Mackinnon and His Business Network, 1823–1893 (2003)
- John S. Galbraith, Mackinnon and East Africa 1878–1895 (Cambridge 1972)
- Sir William Mackinnon
- Kintyre Magazine
- BI Ship (British India Steam Navigation) site
|Colonial Head of British East Africa, later Kenya
George Sutherland Mackenzie