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 (d1842), one of the most influential merchants of his generation, became senior managing partner of the firm.
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.
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 Lankra. In 1909 the company became incorporated as a limited liability company, James Finlay & Co Ltd, with head offices at Nile Street, Glasgow. For a more detailed administrative history see the full James Finlay & Co collection description.
One of the functions of James Finlay & Co, as an agency house, was to supply a steady stream of young Scottish men to the colonies. Because James Finlay & Co oversaw this, records pertaining to the various overseas agency and subsidiary companies are catalogued here, not under the foreign company or tea estate (with a few notable exceptions). See UGD 91/1/7/2/3, UGD 91/1/7/5/2, UGD 91/1/7/6/3.