About Alexander Balfour, of Liverpool
Alexander Balfour was a Scottish merchant and founder of the Liverpool shipping company Balfour Williamson. Balfour ran the Liverpool side of the business, while his partners worked in Chile.
Balfour was born in Leven, Fife, the son of Henry Balfour, a foundry owner. He was educated at the High School of Dundee and St Andrews University, and in 1844 moved to Liverpool, where in 1851 he founded Balfour Williamson with Stephen Williamson and David Duncan.
He was a committed philanthropist, and founded the Duke Street Home, to provide better conditions for sailors, and orphanages for seamen's children. As a committed supporter of the Temperance Society he also set about buying up ale-houses turning them into cocoa rooms for sailors. He was a founder of orphanages for seamen’s children as well as the Seamen's Institute.
He bought a country estate at Mount Alyn, at Rossett, south of Chester, where died in 1886.
References, Sources and further reading
-------------------- In August 1844 when he was 19 years old, Alexander left Dundee for Liverpool where a Spanish merchant gave him his first job. He had been going to the Cross Church in Dundee where the Minister was the Rev. John Roxburgh whose wife, Catharine Grey, was a niece of Old Alexander the Provost. Their daughter Jessie, was six months old when Alexander left to go to Liverpool and he said, when he was shown the baby in her cradle "That will be a nice wee wife for somebody some day." Of course, he married her twenty years later.
Born: September 2, 1824. Leven-Bank, Leven, Fifeshire, Scotland.
Died: April 16, 1881. Liverpool, England.
Alexander Balfour, merchant, poet, and missionary to the poor was the eldest of three sons of Henry Balfour, and Agness (nee Bisset) Balfour. Henry Balfour was owner of a foundry in Leven, not far from the shore of Largo Bay.
Alexander was educated in the parish school of Leven. His teacher was Rev. Thomas Cutler, a licentiate of the Church of Scotland. He later attended the Academy School in Dundee, and while there lived with his grandfather and namesake, Alexander Balfour (1765-1855), who was referred to as 'the old Provost'. After graduating, Alexander attended St. Andrew's University, Madras College, Dundee. He entered as an apprentice, into his grandfather's business in Dundee: A. Balfour & Co., publishers. In a diary dated 1868 it was noted, Alexander Balfour came to Christ while attending Bible classes led by Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne (1813-1843), Minister of St. Peter’s Established Church in Dundee. However, his conversion had taken place many years before, in November 1850.
In August 1844, Alexander left Dundee and relocated to Liverpool, England. He became a clerk in the offices of Manuel Blandin, a Spanish merchant in the Mexican trade. Blandin offered him a partnership, but Balfour opted instead to join the firm of Graham, Kelly & Company. While in Liverpool, Alexander Balfour lived with his younger brother, Robert Balfour in Wilton Street. Alexander, his brother Robert and a fellow-lodger Robert Gibson attended the Canning Street, Presbyterian Church, in Liverpool. Alexander Balfour became a Sunday School teacher at Grange Lane, Birkenhead under the Rev. James Towers. In 1855, Balfour established a Sabbath School at the Dock Cottages of the Canada Engineering Works, Birkenhead, where a large number of Scots were employed. Balfour went into business for himself as a merchant in Liverpool, and survived the financial crisis of 1857-1858.
On March 23, 1864, Alexander Balfour married Jessie (nee Roxburgh) Balfour, third daughter of Rev. Dr. Roxburgh of Glasgow. Their marriage took place in Free St. John's Church, Glasgow. By 1866, the couple had given birth to a daughter. In 1869 the Balfours purchased a home knownas Mount Alyn in Denbighshire, not far from Liverpool.
There on August 15, 1870, a son, Alister Balfour was born. The child only survived five and a half years.
Alexander Balfour was connected to the Young Men's Christian Association of Liverpool. He donated large sums for construction of, and supervised the building of, a new home for the Association in Mount Pleasant, the cornerstone for which was laid by Dwight Lyman Moody (1837-1899) during one of his visits to England. Balfour also contributed large sums for the construction of a YMCA Gymnasium in Myrtle Street, Liverpool and served as president of the Liverpool YMCA for fifteen years. Balfour began a program of relocating needy Liverpool children to a YMCA Home in Knowlton, Quebec, Canada, and he traveled there to inspect the facility.
Alexander Balfour with John Williamson formed Messrs. Balfour, Williamson & Co., Liverpool and became owners of a fleet of merchant ships. Balfour took great interest in the spiritual welfare of his seamen. In March 1873, one of his ships, the SS Chacabuco, was lost at sea off Great Orme's Head with only three survivors. That incident affected Balfour greatly, and he wept for the loss of his men. He personally traveled to the family homes of the lost seamen, to break the news and share in their bereavement. By 1874, Liverpool had become infested with 'public houses', and as Balfour was anti-alcohol, he led in the campaign to reduce the menace and prohibit sales on Sunday. In 1877, Balfour became a member of the Liverpool Council of Education.
Alexander Balfour kept a record of the ancestry of his family on a flyleaf of the family Bible. Balfour was related to James Wilson of Caskardy, Scotland. James Wilson emigrated to America and became a judge in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Wilson was a delegate to the Second Continental Congress, which drafted and passed the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776. James Wilson was buried in the graveyard of St. James' Episcopal Church in Lancaster, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Alexander Balfour's biographer and long-time friend (1) mistakenly believed that James Wilson wrote the Declaration of Independence, which of course was written by Thomas Jefferson. On one of Balfour's trips to America he was presented with a copy of the Declaration of Independence, said to be from the first one hundred copies made. Balfour cherished the document and hung it in his office in Liverpool.