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McIlwraith McEacharn Limited

Australian, 1875 - 1964

Institution: McIlwraith McEacharn Limited
McIlwraith McEacharn & Company Limited were founded in London in 1875 by two Scottish sea captains, Andrew McIlwraith and Malcolm McEacharn.

In 1876 they were contracted by the colonial government to provide six ships for two years to take British migrants to Rockhampton and Townsville. The iron barques, of 600 to 800 tonnes, were clipper built and all prefixed SCOTTISH. When the contract lapsed in the 1880s, the ships carried wool and passengers.

The company pioneered the export of frozen meat with the first successful refrigerated shipment of frozen beef, lamb and butter to Britain in 1879 on the chartered steamer STRATHLEVEN.

The company opened its first Australian office in Melbourne in 1885, and in 1888 joined other companies to form the Bellambi Coal Company Limited to develop coal mines on the south coast of New South Wales.

McIlwraith McEacharn built up extensive bunkering and agency businesses, buying shares in Mount Morgan mining and forging associations with Castlemaine Brewery, Brisbane tramways and Burns Philp.

In 1958 a number of Australian shipping companies formed a consortium, Bulkships Limited, to buy and operate a fleet of specialised bulk carriers. By 1963 Bulkships Limited had become a partnership between McIlwraith McEacharn and the Adelaide Steamship company. The two companies merged their coastal shipping fleets to form Associated Steamships Pty Ltd, and commissioned the world's first container ship. They also formed Seatainer Terminals Ltd in partnership with P & O.

McIlwraith McEacharn bought out James Patterson and Huddart Parker in 1961. In 1992 McIlwraith's major shareholder, TNT, sold the company to the US - based mining company Cyprus coal.