Sir William McKinnon, 1st Baronet of Strathaird and Loup and founder of the British India Steam Navigation Company purchased the original Balinakill House as part of the estates of Balinakill and Loup in 1867. He built the existing house 20 years later with quarried stone which was shipped to West Loch Tarbert and hauled up from the shore on a horse drawn railway system . The existing house was completed in 1893.
Sir William Mackinnon, 1st Baronet (13 March 1823 – 22 June 1893) was a Scottish ship-owner and businessman who built up substantial commercial interests in India and East Africa. He established the British India Steam Navigation Company and the Imperial British East Africa Company.
He was born in Campbeltown, Argyll, and after starting his working life in his father’s grocery trade he moved to Glasgow to work for a merchant who had Asian trading interests. MacKinnon went to India in 1847 and joined an old schoolfriend, Robert Mackenzie, in the coasting trade, carrying merchandise from port to port around the Bay of Bengal. Together they formed the firm of Mackinnon Mackenzie & Co. At around the same time Mackinnon chose to make Cossipore the base for his own activities.
In 1856 he founded the shipping company Calcutta and Burma Steam Navigation Company, which would become British India Steam Navigation Company in 1862. It grew into a huge business trading round the coasts of the Indian Ocean, extending its operations to Burma, the Persian Gulf and the east coast of Africa, from Aden to Zanzibar, where Mackinnon founded the Imperial British East Africa Company, chartered in 1888. The company, supported by the United Kingdom government as a means of establishing British influence in the region, was committed to eliminating the slave trade, prohibiting trade monopoly, and equal treatment for all nations. In 1889 Mackinnon was made 1st Baronet of Strathaird and Loup.
Mackinnon promoted Henry Morton Stanley’s Emin Pasha Relief Expedition, first enlisting Stanley, then writing to government ministers including Lord Iddesleigh, the Foreign Secretary, and enlisting friends to form a committee which could oversee the expedition and meet more than half the cost. Sir William became great friends with Stanley who met his first wife at Balinakill and who attended Sir William’s funeral in Clachan in 1893. KIng Leopold of Belgium is also known to have visited Balinakill and preparations were underway for Queen Victoria to visit at the time of Sir William’s death.
In 1891 he founded the Free Church of Scotland East African Scottish Mission. Sir William, who had always been concerned for the educational welfare of his compatriots, along with his nephew, Duncan MacNeil, left bequests which were used to start the Mackinnon MacNeil Trust with a mandate to “provide a decent education to deserving Highland lads”.
The trustees purchased the former estate of James Nicol Fleming on Keil Point, Southend, Kintyre, including Keil House, and set up the Kintyre Technical School. After only nine years a fire destroyed the building and the school, renamed Keil School, moved to Helenslee House in Dumbarton where it continued until 2000.
In 1941 Keil School was temporarily moved to Balinakill House due to the bombing attacks on the Glasgow area during World War II, and remained there for the duration of the war. A reunion of some of the former pupils of this time took place at Balinakill in June 2013.
On Sir William’s death at age 70 in June 1893 it was written that ” His record is one of which any man could be proud. His victories were those of peace and they have indeed been great and beneficial. His name was known and his influence felt in almost every part of the World”.
Sir William is buried at Kilcalmonell Parish Church Cemetery, Clachan, near his beloved Balinakill House.
………..and an interesting story from the times of the original Balinakill house ;