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© copyright Kevin Quick

John Samuel Swire (1825 - 1898), merchant and shipowner

Significant events in Swire's life are outlined below:

  • 24th December 1825 born in Liverpool. John was the eldest son of the merchant John Swire and his wife Mary Louisa Roose. His father ran an import - export business from Liverpool that he had founded around 1816
  • 1832 the business became John Swire & Sons
  • 1847 Johns' father died and the business was split equally between John Samuel and his brother, William Hudson Swire (1830 - 1884)
  • 1849 in the American west
  • 1854 travelled to Australia where he worked in diggings in New South Wales and founded a Melbourne branch of the family firm.
  • 15th November 1859 having returned to Liverpool, John married Helen Abigail Fairrie, daughter of Adam Fairrie of a notable sugar refining family. The couple had the one child, John.
  • 5th May 1862 John's wife tragically died at sea on holiday in the Bay of Smyrna.
  • 1865 John was an initial investor in the Ocean Steam Ship Company - Blue Funnel Line - a firm he was to maintain a close relationship with.
  • 1866 John travelled to China, establishing a branch of the firm in Shanghai in a partnership with Richard Shackleton Butterfield (dissolved two years later). The firm of Butterfied and Swire was known as 'Taikoo'. Swire subsequently established a branch in Yokohama, Japan before returning to Britain in 1867
  • By 1867 the company been steadily growing with the brothers establishing a presence in New York and Australia, and broadening the range of goods traded. The company also moved its head office to London
  • 1868 Taikoo became the Blue Funnel Line's agents in Shaghai
  • 1870 Taikoo became the Blue Funnel Line's agents in Hong Kong
  • 1872 Swire raised the capital in London to form the China Navigation Company (CNC) which was to operate on the Yangtze River. Initially CNC had two ships
  • 1876 John bought out his brother's share in the business
  • 18th October 1881 John married Mary Warren daughter of George Warren a Liverpool shipowner. The couple had one son, George.
  • 1883 CNC had twenty ships
  • 1884 John moved with his family to Leighton House, Leighton Buzzard, where they were asscoiated with many philanthropic ventures. John also had a love for riding to hounds.
  • 1894 CNC had twenty nine ships and was the largest shipping fleet on the Yangtze
  • 1st December 1898 John died at his London home, 31 Pembridge Square. He was buried at All Saints' Church, Leighton Buzzard on 6th December 1898. At his death John still had control of the company.