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Ralston and Smith

Shipbuilders and Shipowners, Ayr c.1790 to 1806

See also The Bequest of Captain John Smith

From David McClure, February 2001: Robert Ralston and Robert Smith engaged in shipbuilding on the Newton bank of the River Ayr from about 1790 until the death of both of the partners in 1806. Some papers of the business survive because of a later dispute between Susan Ralston and her curators.

Robert Ralston married Janet Eaton on 21st January 1790 in the parish of St. Quivox and Newton. Their daughter Susana (elsewhere Susan) was christened on 13th July 1795 in the same parish. Robert Ralston later married Jean Simpson.

Robert Smith was admitted a freeman of the burgh of Newton in 1801; his eldest son Robert followed him in 1802. Robert Smith died in May 1806. His trustees were John and Dr. Robert Smith. John Smith ran the business with Robert Ralston until the death of the latter in November 1806.

Susan Ralston’s curators were William Eaton, presumably her uncle, and her stepmother Jean Ralston. The former may be the William Eaton who is found as both Sheriff Substitute and JP.

Among the ships produced by the partners were the following (brigs unless otherwise indicated): Brittania, Chance, "supposed" Caledonia (type unknown), Countess of Darlington, Eliza ("Messrs Connel’s ship" – type unknown), Favorite, Hercules, Hero, Jane, Juno (recorded first as a brigantine and then a brig), Lady Mount Stewart, "supposed" Margaret ("R. Muir’s sloop"), Margaret Bogle ("Bogle and Cos’ ship" – type unknown), Maria and Charlotte ("a beautiful vessel for the West India trade"), Neptune, Ocean, "supposed" Penelope ("Robt. & Geo Denestons’ Ship" – type unknown), Unity (a sloop), Victory (type unknown), and "sloop William (for Outfits)". There was also an unnamed "elegant schooner … the property of R. A. Oswald Esq."

In most of these ships the partners retained shares, with the balance being taken by others. The ships operated mainly in coastal trade, visiting ports on the west coasts of England and Scotland and the east coast of Ireland, but some also made voyages to the Baltic and the east coast of Canada.

I have studied the log books of a number of the ships, and also a report prepared by an accountant for the Court of Session. I would welcome further information in two areas in particular: first, concerning Robert Ralston and Robert Smith and their connections; secondly, sources of contemporary illustrations of the types of ships they built. If you have information in these areas, or concerning Ralston & Smith and their ships in any other way, please contact me.

From Guilia Greenall, 26 May 2005: Your posting was 2001 and I may have nothing of any use but I believe Agnes Nancy Ralston who married James McClymont in Maybole around 1820 sailed with her husband to Australia on a ship which I was told was built by her family.

The ship was the Amity I was told. Her father was Gavin Ralston. I have no real detail apart from that and it may be more a hinderance than a help.

From Peter G. Bolt, 30 May 05: you mention a brig Brittania built at Ayr. Can you give me more details of this? I am interested to know if it is the same brig of 296 tons that sailed from Falmouth 15/2/1792 co owned by John ST Barbe and Wm Raven, the master, sailing for Sydney and three years sealing and trading.
From David McClure: Ralston and Smith's Britannia was not built until 1802 and appears to have traded for them until 1811, so it cannot be the brig that sailed from Falmouth in 1792. I looked for all R&S's boats in Lloyd's Registers. Britannia was one I did not find. The nearest was a Britannia first listed in 1805 with a home port of 'Ayre', reported as captured in 1806. I did not look for a Britannia before 1802. It is a common name.

From David Toms, 18 July 2005: The post From Guilia Greenall, 26 May 2005 was very interesting as James and Nancy are my gt gt gt gt grandparents. James and Nancy established the Ship Inn at Newcastle (NSW). James died in 1828 and is buried in the Cathedral grounds in Newcastle (NSW) Australia. Nancy remarried the Rev Henry Carmichael and is buried at Seaham, NSW.

From B. Huntley, 3 July 2006: I am looking for the history of C Connel & Co, Victorian shipbuilders in Glasgow. As your website mentions the ship Eliza of " Messrs Connel's " is it possible there is a connection and you can give me a lead ?

From David McClure: The Eliza in question was built by Ralston and Smith for Messrs Connel c. 1800. I have no information identifying Messrs Connel.

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