Solway Plain - past and present by the Holme St Cuthbert History Group



John Stronach was born at Rafford, Morayshire, a small village in the far north of Scotland. He came to Silloth in the 1860s, one of many Scots attracted to the new town and port which was being energetically promoted by the Edinburgh-based North British Railway. By 1865, he had established a slate and timber business on Wampool Street.

John Stronach and his family
John Stronach married a local girl, Jane Johnstone, in 1866.
 They are seen here with three of their children.

In 1862, the North British took-over the railway and docks from the original Silloth Bay Company. The old company had used one of their shareholders, John Carruthers, as a shipping agent and broker but, soon after the take-over, John Stronach seems to have replaced him.

John’s work as a merchant led naturally to him becoming a broker. He would have been closely involved with the sourcing and import of slates, timber and other cargo. He would have known the local buyers. By 1871, he was acting as agent for the Phospho-Gauno Company Ltd, arranging the import of their fertilizer which came from the Pacific Ocean via London. He became an agent for the Westminster Insurance Company and, in 1878, established a branch of the Cumberland Union Bank in the town.

Recreation of John's desk
John Stronach’s desk, re-created for the dock’s anniversary in 2009 by Liz Elliott,
 the present manager of the firm.

John’s work as a broker involved him in dealing with a great variety of people. These would include builders and other merchants, the captains of vessels, port and customs staff, stevedores and ship owners. 

On a typical day, he might draw up a contract between a ship owner and a merchant, arrange for stores to be supplied to a ship, inform an importer that his cargo was due on the next tide and issue insurance. He would keep a list of the vessels due, noting their current position from Lloyd’s List. He came into business at a time when communications were being revolutionized by the Electric Telegraph. He was a frequent visitor to Silloth Post Office which handled the Cables and Telegrams traffic at that time.

James Stronach and family
James Stronach (1869 – 1927) with his family.

John Stronach retired in 1903 and his son, James, continued the business.


Stuart Stronach

Arthur Stronach

James died in 1927 and his two sons, Arthur and Stuart, ran the business together for the next forty years.

The brokerage was sold by the family in the late 1960s but John Stronach & Sons continues in business today as a subsidiary of Carr’s Flour Mill.

Stronach's original business cards


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John Stronach