The Turnbull family of Whitby owned thirty sailing ships and 150 steam and motor tramps in three fleets based at Whitby, Cardiff and London and employed more than six thousand seafarers over a long period of 180 years until the last ship was sold in 1991. Thomas Turnbull (1819-1892) was a prominent citizen of Whitby and owner of the Whitehall shipyard on a bend of the River Esk in the town. He built his first wooden sailing ship in 1852, and on 20th June 1871 the first steam powered iron tramp was launched for his trading fleet by his wife Emma Alice Turnbull. In early 1869, he had recognised the importance of the Baltic Exchange in London for the chartering of his fleet, and had despatched his third son Reginald March Turnbull of 21 years of age and his cousin of the same age, Robert Turnbull Scott, to London to establish a branch office. They worked as clerks for three years in a shipbrokers office before entering business in January 1872 as Turnbull, Scott & Company at 85, Gracechurch Street as ship and insurance brokers with the main aim of finding charters for the Whitby tramp fleet.
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