James Finlay & Co, Glasgow, was established in 1750 and has developed into a hugely successful international business. After 250 years the company represented a diversity of interests from cotton, oil and gas, and investments, but it is best known as being a highly reputable tea merchant. From 1881 the company started to manage tea estates in The Assam, Sylhet, Cachar, Dooars, Darjeeling and Travancore estate, which covered over 270,000 acres, 77,000 acres of which were planted with tea. The company opened new tea estates in Africa in the 1930s, which not only are still in operation today, but they represent the core part of Finlays present trade.
The increased international growth of the company has resulted in the University of Glasgow Archive Services holding a huge rich diversity of records. These include: minutes and economic papers from the five main subsidiary companies Amalagamated Tea Estates Co Ltd, Anglo – Amercian Direct Tea Trading Co, Chubwa Tea Co Ltd, Consolidated Tea and Lands Co and Kenan Devan Hills Produce Co Ltd; an estimated seven metres worth of photographs, which are a priceless series of visual documents showing the working practices of Finlays employees; and diaries and letters from British expats communicating the most marvellous stories. The collection even holds records representing incredibly recent events, such as the Swire Group takeover of Finlays in 2000.
The challenge is an exciting one, around a month ago I started the task of identifying and cataloguing records contained within 70 full banker boxes. The company has grown and invested in so many differing unique business opportunities that it is not always obvious what the records are! They are extremely valuable and represent not only important source material for international audiences, but one of the best known and successful Scottish businesses. We are working very closely with the Preservation Manager and assistant to ensure these records are safely repackaged and secure their longevity for future generations of researchers.
I shall be posting regular tweets regarding cataloguing progress and interesting finds under the hashtag #Infinlaytea available @GUArchives. While the project aims to publish a new catalogue by early next year, there is already a huge quantity of records that have been previously catalogued. If you would like to view this material, or have any enquires regarding the collection or the cataloguing project please contact Archive Services on firstname.lastname@example.org
I am extremely excited to be working on such an important project and rather enthused to be given the opportunity to share some snippets along the way.
There is more historical information available at http://www.finlays.net/about-finlays/history and http://www.gla.ac.uk/services/archives/collections/business/features/finlay/
Categories: Archive Services