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William Crichton, His life

The beginning

William Crichton was born 29 mars 1827 in Leith in Scotland. His father George was a shipowner, and his ships operated the route Leith-London. His mother Gifford Allan also came from a shipowner family.

William had two older brothers, Alexander and Edward, who went to the Royal Navy school in Camberwell, London. William therefore got his education in Scotland at the Hill Street Institution in Edinburgh. He worked in different engineering industries between 1841 and 1848. After that he was working as an engineer at see.

To Finland

1850 he got an offer from a Mr Cowie in Turku in Finland to move there and take the job as managing director. How the contact was established is unknown. This was a big chans for the young William to make a career.

Finland was then a self gouverning part of the Russian empire. Turku was a little town with only 13000 inhabitants at that time. William wanted to go to Russia itself since the opportunities there were better, but Finland seemed to be close enough, at least for a while. Cowies company built the first steam-engines in Finland.

In Turku William met his wife to be in 1852. Annie Elisabeth Owen was then only 19. She was the daughter of Samuel Owen Jr. Her grandfather, Samuel Owen, had moved from England to Stockholm in 1806, and had started building steam-engines in Sweden already in 1809. Annie Elisabeth was a beautiful young lady. William proposed to her in 1853.

In 1854 William had started his new employment in Helsinki. He wanted to go to Russia and the violent Crimean war broke out and took him to Russia quicker than expected. In the war Russia and Great Britain were enemies. William planned to go to England and wait till the war was over. He was arrested the day before his departure to England, because he was a British citizen.

In Russia

William was sent to the Russian capital Saint Petersburg. He was imprisoned for a few days before he was sent to Moscow. He got permission to speak to the head of the prison. William told him that he had contacts close to the tsar Nicolai the first.

Williams granduncle Sir William Crichton was the tsars personal doctor (fortunately), and after a few days he was sent to his granduncle in Pavlovsk near Moscow. He was well taken care of there. His contacts saved him from being deported to Siberia. William also managed to get the Owen family from Turku moved to Pavlovsk. There, insida Russia during wartime, he met his dear Annie Elisabeth again.

In Pavlovsk William was introduced to general Wilson. He was the owner of the Alexandroffskij industries in Kolpino outside Saint Petersburg.

The Crimean war came to an end. The war could have ended in tragedy for both William and his beloved, but his fortunate contacts not only saved his life but also gave him a new employment, this time in Russia.

In 1854 William and Annie married in the english church in Saint Petersburg. The British community in the Russian capital was well seen. It consisted in 1850 of 3400 persons. Saint Petersburg was a very international city at that time.

William was most successful in Saint Petersburg, working for his old friend general Wilson, and he became acquainted with officers in the Russian army and other important persons.

Annie and William lived a good life in the Russian capital. Four of their children were born during that period.

Back to Finland

In 1862 William got a letter from Turku from an old acquaintance Mr Julin, who offered him to buy his prosperous company Cowie & Eriksson. William payed him 32810 Rubel in silver and the name of the company was changed to Wm Crichton & Co.

The family moved to Turku in Finland. William became managing director of his company. Now he took advantage of the many contacts he had made in both Sweden, Finland och Russia over the years. He got many orders for both warships and civilian ships from Russia.

Tsar Alexander the seconds reforms led to good times for industry and trading. Williams company grew and in the late 1870s he bought the shipbuilding company Åbo Skeppsvarfs AB in Turku. William was respected in Russia, and he got both the Great Goldmedal in 1860 and the Great Stanislaw decoration in 1877.

In 1862 William was appointed HM British vice-consul for Turku and the Åland-Islands. All his life William kept his British citizenship, contrary of many other British emigrants to the Russian empire.

In 1882 Wm Crichton & Co was Turku´s biggest company with 1000 workers. His company was growing and prospering when William suddenly died in 1889 only 62 years old. He left his wife and 12 children ( two more died young ). The youngest child Fanny Julia was only 10 years old.

None of the children seemed interested to take over from the father, therefore Williams friend and colleague John Eager took over the company.

The family

William was as strict at home with the childrens upbringing as he was efficient and hard-working. He came from a presbyterian home himself. At home the family celebrated the Scottish sabbath. William brought over from England governesses to educate and raise the children. Many of the boys were also sent to bording schools in England.

In Turku the family house was situated on Östra Strandgatan 56. That long wooden house is still there. Today the building houses offices, but William´s and Annie´s portraits are still hanging in the lobby.

Annie lived till 1924. The children married and got children of their own. Many moved away to England, the USA and Sweden. Williams oldest daughter, his dear Louisa Gifford married a Finnish nobleman Harald Otto Edward Fock. They got five sons, and their descendants are now living in Finland and Sweden.

William Crichton got a street named after him in Turku, Crichtongatan in Swedish or Crichtonkatu in Finnish. You can find it in Turku close to the harbour on the same side as the medieval castle of Turku, not far away from it actually.



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