The origins of the company go back to the early 1850s when Alan C. Gow and his partner James Mc Gregor were acting as voyage brokers in Glasgow. In 1867 Gow bought his first sailing ship, The Estrella de Chile, to operate on the South America trade route. By 1868 Alan C. Gow & Co. had been established, with Gow as manager and partnered by Mc Gregor.
The company began the practice of naming their ships with the prefix “Glen”. First came The Glenavon, acquired in 1868. The following year the sailing ship Glenaray joined the fleet and the company began to advertise their services as “Glen Line”. Another ship, The Glengyle was purchased in 1870.
The Suez Canal had opened in 1870 and this motivated Glen Line into moving their home port to London to operate their ships in the China tea trade. By 1876 the company’s fleet was eight vessels.
In 1880 James Mc Gregor had become senior partner and the company name was changed to Mc Gregor, Gow & Co., though the company was still better known as Glen Line. South America sailings ceased in 1889 and the company concentrated on the India and Far East routes.
James Mc Gregor died in 1896 and his son Alan became the senior partner. Alan Mc Gregor initiated a period of consolidation for the company. The older vessels were sold and replaced by larger ships with a greater carrying capacity. The company was incorporated as Glen Line Ltd. in 1910.
In 1911 Glen Line Ltd. was acquired by Elder Dempster & Co. Ltd.
In 1920 Glen Line was amalgamated with Shire Line although ownership of the vessels remained with the original owners. In 1931 the Kyslant shipping empire, which owned Elder Dempster and the Glen and Shire Lines, collapsed and in 1935 Alfred Holt & Co. purchased the Glen and Shire Lines and the ships were re-registered at Liverpool instead of London. In 1972 the name of the owning company became Ocean Transport & Trading Co. and in 1974 it joined forces with William Thomson’s Ben Line to operate Ben-Ocean services.
By 1978 the last of the Glen Line ships had been sold. In 1990 the name and corporate assets of Glen Line Ltd. were purchased by Curnow Shipping Ltd.