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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 CLC/B/123-31
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1872-1970
Level of description: Collection
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Extent: 65 production units.
Name of creator(s): Gray, MacKenzie and Co Ltd | general merchants and agents


Administrative/Biographical history:

Gray, Dawes and Company, London agents of the British India Steam Navigation Company Limited, established Gray, MacKenzie and Company as a partnership in Basra, Iraq, in 1869. In common with its associated firm, Gray, Paul and Company (launched by Gray, Dawes in Bushire, Persia, in 1865), Gray, MacKenzie and Company acted as shipping agent for British India steamers plying between India, the Gulf ports and Europe. In fact, the two partnerships acted as one company, maintaining one set of accounts and a close correspondence.

Their business quickly expanded into the import of British and Indian goods (including cotton, coffee, guns and rice) and the export of silk, wood, specie, oilseeds and, especially, dates. They also operated as insurance agents, lighterage contractors and ship repairers. From the 1860s onwards, branches of Gray, Paul and Company opened at Lingah, Bander Abbas (both in Persia) and Bahrein, while Gray, MacKenzie and Company established an off-shoot at Mohammerah (modern Khorramshahr) in Iraq.

In 1920, it was decided to continue more closely earlier cooperation with the shipping agents Lynch Brothers Limited, by combining the resources of all three firms (Gray, MacKenzie and Company, Gray, Paul and Company, and Lynch Brothers Limited) as the Mesopotamia Persia Corporation Limited. Earlier joint activity had included the formation of the Persian Transport Company to operate a concession on the River Karun in Persia and proposals to launch the Ottoman River Navigation Company on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Iraq. The new corporation took over the entire operations of Lynch Brothers Limited and secured a monopoly of navigation rights on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers from the Imperial Ottoman government.

Mutual cooperation ended in 1936 when the component firms reverted to their separate identities. Gray, MacKenzie and Company and Gray, Paul and Company were thereupon transformed into one limited liability company registered in Britain: Gray, MacKenzie and Company Limited.The new firm increased the number of its branches and its dealings in local produce and mail. It was also heavily involved in the expanding oil industry of the region. An appreciation at this time that existing dock facilities were inadaquate prompted the establishment of 2 subsidiaries: Busreh Slipway Company Limited and Bahrein Slipway Company Limited.

In July 1957, in the period of company restructuring engineered by the third Earl Inchcape prior to the launch of Inchcape and Company Limited (see the Inchcape Group introductory note in CLC/B/123), Gray, Dawes and Company Limited increased its shareholding in the firm to 50.42%. Gray, MacKenzie developed as an important port manager and operator in the Gulf into the 1970s, providing technical engineering services for oil field supply bases.

In London, the firm shared the offices of Gray, Dawes and Company: 122 Leadenhall Street (1936-61) and 40 St. Mary Axe (1961-88).


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of Gray, MacKenzie and Company Limited, general merchants and agents in the Persian Gulf, including partnership agreements; articles of association; correspondence; legal papers; financial accounts; annual reports; papers relating to property; historical notes; papers relating to Euphrates and Tigris Steam Navigation Company Limited, Bahrein Slipway Company Limited and Dilmun Navigation Company Limited.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English and Arabic.

System of arrangement:

Records arranged by MS number, assigned during cataloguing at the Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section.

Conditions governing access:

Access by appointment only. Please contact staff.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to this collection rests with the depositor.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The archives were deposited in the Manuscripts Section of Guildhall Library in 1987-88 by Inchcape Plc together with those of other companies in the Group. They were catalogued in 1988-9. The first volume of board of directors' meetings minutes 1937-44 [Ms 27696/1A] was presented to Guildhall Library in November 2007. The Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section merged with the London Metropolitan Archives in 2009.

Allied Materials

Related material:

This collection is a sub-fond within the Inchcape Group fonds. See CLC/B/123 for a list of all the companies represented in this collection and a history of the Inchcape Group.

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
January to May 2011.

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