P M Duncan: The Gem Line
P M Duncan started working as a clerk for John Brown, coal merchant and shipowner, in Dundee in the 1840s. In 1850 he started on his own as a shipping agent with an office at 13 Dock Street, the domed building shown in the photographs at the corner of Dock Street and Commercial Street. By 1861, he is listed as coal merchant and shipowner and his son, James, has joined him in the business. He built up a fleet of half a dozen sailing ships and, in buying the Harvest Queen in 1869 had one of the first steamships in Dundee.
In 1882, the firm was appointed managers of the Gem Shipping Line of Dundee. This fleet of steamships was busy on the flax run between the Baltic ports and Dundee but, a search in the Mariners and Voyages section for any of the vessels, will show they also found plenty cargoes from Spain, Greece and the Middle East. The fleet of the Amethyst, Beryl (in photograph), Diamond, Garnet, Jasper, Opal, Ruby and Sapphire were, bar the last, built in Dundee at either Gourlays or W B Thompson's yard.
P M Duncan died in 1893, aged 67, and his son managed the Gem Line until it was dispersed in 1910. James died in Bristol in 1936.
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© Douglas MacKenzie
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