In 1750 James Finlay (1727-c1792) established the firm of James Finlay & Co in Glasgow, Scotland. He operated in a number of overseas and UK markets, entering into a number of trade agreements. After his death, his son, Kirkman Finlay (d. 1842), one of the most influential merchants of his generation, became senior managing partner of the firm. The other co-partners were; William Finlay, John Wright, James Frederick Gerock, Leitch & Smith per Archibald Smith, David Russell, John Gordon, Gordon & Co and Alexander Gordon. In 1798 the company purchased mills at Ballindalloch, Balfron, Stirling, Scotland, and soon became major textile manufacturers, later purchasing additional mills at Catrine, East Ayrshire, Scotland in 1801 and Deanston, Perth & Kinross, Scotland, in 1808 . The firm also established many trading connections overseas, initially in Europe, but later further afield. These trading operations were facilitated by a staff of travelling agents and by the formation of branch establishments in major trading centres. These establishments included Finlay & Co (Manchester, England, 1799 ), John Thomson & Co (Heligoland, 1807 ), Struthers, Kennedy & Co (Malta, 1809 ), Finlay Hodgson & Co (London 1809 ). Also acquired was Easton, Alston & Co, exclusive exporters of cotton and other goods to Nassu, New Providence, Bahama Islands, for the supply of Spanish, West Indies and South American markets. This connection led to the establishment of houses in the USA at New York, New Orleans and Charlestown. In 1816, they were the first merchant house in Scotland to open up direct connection with India, opening up a branch with Ritchie Steuart & Co , in Bombay.
Gradually the company's trading activities outstripped their textile manufacturing business and in 1844 the works at Ballindalloch, Stirling, were sold. In 1858 the company merged with Wilson, James & Kay . Their Indian business connections were strengthened in 1862 when Finlay Clerk & Co was established in Bombay, known as Finlay Muir & Co from 1870 when and a branch was opened in Calcutta. In around 1882 the firm began to diversify into tea estate management and by Finlay, Muir & Co 1901 was managing extensive tea estates in India and Sri Lanka. The Assam, Sylhet, Cachar, Dooars, Darjeeling and Travancore estate covered over 270,000 acres, 77,000 acres of which were planted with tea. At this time the firm employed 70, 000 native Indians and a large staff of superintendents, managers and assistants from Scotland. They were the leading Indian tea suppliers in the UK market. In 1909 the company became incorporated as a limited liability company, James Finlay & Co Ltd , with head offices at Nile Street, Glasgow. Two jute mills for spinning and weaving jute were established on the banks of the Hooghly River near Calcutta. The last tea estates in India were sold to Tata Tea Co , Bombay, in 1982. In 2000, James Finlay plc has its main tea growing interests in Kenya, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and, in conjunction with the Commonwealth Development Corporation, Uganda. The group trades worldwide in black tea, instant tea and decaffeinated tea. It packages tea in Sri Lanka for a number of international customers (including Taikoo Sugar), and in Bangladesh for the local market. In the UK, a subsidiary, George Payne, does private label packaging of black tea and coffee. Since 2000, the company became a fully owned subsidiary of the Swire Group and continues to trade as James Finlay & Co Ltd .