Obituaries are a good source of evidence for revealing the lives and interests of a number of the key Scottish agricultural implement makers. They reveal information such as how their careers developed, their training, and their relations with the local communities.
Detailed obituaries of one of the members of the Sellar family of Huntly were published in a number of local newspapers. Those of Mr R. H. N. Sellar, Huntly, a well-known member of that important family of plough makers are worth quoting at length.
A lengthy one was published in the Aberdeen daily journal of 31 July 1918:
“We deeply regret to announce the death of Mr R. H. N. Sellar, Vice-Convener of Aberdeenshire, and senior member of the well-known form of Messrs G. Sellar and Son, agricultural implement makers, Huntly and Alloa. The sad event took place at his residence, Battlehill, Huntly, at a quarter to ten o’clock last night. Mr Sellar had not been in robust health for some time, his illness taking a serious turn about three months ago, but after an operation in a nursing home in Glasgow he was able to be removed to Bridge of Allan. After a short residence there he returned north about five weeks ago. He was 58 years of age. Mr Sellar had lived a very active business and public life, and the sincerest sympathy of a very wide circle of friends will go out to his widow and family in their great sorrow.
Mr Robert Hunter Nicol Sellar was the eldest son of the late Mr George Sellar, and was born in Huntly in 1859; the other members of his father’s family still alive being-Miss Sellar, Polwood, Huntly; Mr James Sellar, solicitor, Penang; and Mr John Sellar, who is in business in South Africa. He was educated at the Huntly Parish School, under the late Rev John Macdonald, best known and still remembered as Dominie MacDonald, and afterwards at Aberdeen University. Returning to Huntly to join his father in business, he received a thorough training in all its departments.On the death of his father in 1884 he became head of the firm, and by his personal energy and enterprise extended its ramifications and added to its high reputation in the agricultural world. Implements, designed, patented, and manufactured by the firm, have long enjoyed a high reputation. Indeed, not only in the north, but in the home and colonial markets, and in many countries abroad. “Sellar, Huntly” is a name that stands everywhere for merit. Mr Sellar was also himself personally well known, having travelled extensively to further the interests of his business. About five years ago a considerable part of the Huntly establishment was transferred to Alloa, where a large business was successfully established. The war has brought with it many improvements in agricultural machinery, and the Sellar centres have been prominent in war-time features of the industry.
Besides attending closely to the demands of his business, Mr Sellar found time to play an active and acceptable part in public life, which, in certain spheres, was by no means confined to the district of Huntly and the county, but was of a national character. In his native town he served on the School Board for nearly 30 years, and sat for five years at the Town Council, being elected a Councillor and Baillie in 1898, and retiring in 1903 owing to the pressure of business. His deepest interest undoubtedly lay in the domain of education. Soon after his father’s death, he was elected a member of Huntly School Board, an on the retirement of the late Mr John Wilson, factor, in 1909, he was appointed chairman, a position he occupied to the last. The extension and development of the local schools were greatly due to his personal efforts and initiative; and the handsome Gordon Schools, in their present splendidly equipped state, might almost be said to be a memorial to his educational service to the Huntly district.
In 1898 Mr Sellar entered the Aberdeen County Council as representative of the burgh of Huntly in succession to Colonel W. A. Mellis, but latterly he represented the electoral division of Cairn, Glass, and Huntlt. In 1902 he was appointed Chairman of the Huntly District Committee in succession to Mr John Wilson, and continued in that post until his death. The interest he showed in, and the grip he was able to take of the business which came before the Council gave him an assured position amongst the members, and in July, 1909, following upon the death of Provost Hutcheon, Turriff, he was elected Vice-Convener of the County. The duties of that office, as, indeed, those of every post he was placed in throughout his public career, were discharged with zeal and acceptance, while making himself conversant with all phases of local government, he showed himself invariably to be a man of prescience and broad outlook. Mr Sellar, who was also convener of the Lands Valuation and Finance Committee of the County Council, was elected Chairman of the County Committee on Secondary Education, and also Chairman of the Aberdeen Provincial Committee for the Training of Teachers-selections which testify to the confidence of those with whom he was associated. Not without cause was it humorously suggested that the Secondary Eductaion Committee and Mr Sellar were practically synonymous terms, and his energy, tact, and business capacity in dealing with the difficult and complex questions which came before those bodies were readily acknolwledged. He held those offices throughout important periods of educational development, and in each revealed an enthusiasm and foresight worthy of the best educational traditions of the north-eastern area of Scotland. His six years’ tenure of office was marked by the erection of the magnificent new Training Centre at Aberdeen. He was a member of Sir Henry Craik’s Committee which reported upon the salaries of Scottish teachers several months ago.
The North of Scotland College of Agriculture was another institution in which Mr Sellar rendered useful service. He was one of the original governors, and had been vice-chairman for some years, and was chairman of the Central Studies and Staff Committee, whose work whas much to do with the success of the College throughout the north. He manifested a deep interest in the promotion of the educational side of the various branches of forestry, and in 1911 he was appointed to a Forestry Committee of Inquiry for Scotland. This Committee recommended the purchase of Ballogie was a forest area for the north of Scotland. That the scheme was not gone on with is matter for regret, as the purchase price of the ground would have been more than met by the timber which it has yielded during the past four years.
Amongst Mr Sellar’s most recent appointments was that of chairman of the County of Aberdeen Local Food Control Committee. He was a Justice of the Peace for the County and a Hon Sheriff-Substitute.
A specially warm corner in his heart was reserved by Mr Sellar for Huntly and its institutions, and his untiring, educational services for it have already been alluded to. He was Chairman of the Jubilee Cottage Hospital Managers, and Chairman of the District Nursing Association. He took a keen interest in the welfare of Huntly United Free Church, and or over thirty years had been its treasurer. In politics he was a Moderate Liberal, and held the office of the Huntly Liberal Association.
Mr Sellar leaves a widow and a family of three sons and one daughter, one son-Lieu J. M. Sellae, of the KOSB- having been killed din the war. Mrs Sellar is a daughter of the late Mr Thomson, of Messrs Glegg and Thomson, Aberdeen. The eldest son, Mr Robert Thomson Sellar, after being in Canada for some years gaining business insight, returned home a few months ago, and has been associated with the management of the firm.”
The Aberdeen press and journal also published a further one on 6 August 1918. This time, the Rev A. S. Laidlaw of Huntly UF Church referred to him:
“The loss occasioned by the death of Mr Sellar, he said, was very great when they thought of the manifold and distinguished service of which his life was full. He was a pillar of that church, a conspicuous figure of the community, an eminent public servant in the county, and a man of growing importance, even in the national sense. Graces of person were accompanied by intellectual and practical qualities of a very high order; he had a wise and understanding mind; he could think on a large scale and arrive at clear conceptions, and this he knew his own mind and could trust his judgement. It was this characteristic that marked him out for leadership. If he were to compare him with any well-known personage in public life, it would be with Mr Joseph chamberlain. Neither went to councils wit confused, unseeing minds, to pick up some ideas in the course of the debate. The business was mastered, and, naturally, people of less thorough habit of mind could usually do little else but follow.
At the early age of 24 he was called to the his father’s place in the management of the family business, and speedily made his power felt. His grasp, initiative, and organising faculty enabled him to build with splendid success on the foundation already aid. The School Board ws the gateway by which he entered on public service. he developed a strong interest in education, especially in its administrative aspect,and by close study qualified himself to deal with its problems with an expert’s knowledge and authority. His accession to the County Council greatly enlarged his sphere of action nd influence. With the coming of the war the scope of his labours was further enlarged and became more than provincial, even national.
He has no more than fully matured his powers by experience of affairs and knowledge of men. If he had been spared, its seemed clear that he was only coming into his kingdom. If not greater, more conspicuous, service lay before him, and honours would have come. He had the consciousness of power, which was bound to be a spur to ambition; and it is certain that no matter with what body of men he might be called to work his weight would be felt, and high responsibilities would come to him.
All the while he was assiduously developing, and on a large scale, the business of his firm. The transferrence to Alloa was a heavy and courageous undertaking, hard upon which, unfortunately, came the unforeseen complications produced by the outbreak of war.
In his long association with the leader they had lost he recalled only one occasion when a very important decision was reached, which defeated a cherished scheme of his. A smaller man would probably have taken offence, and perhaps withdrawn himself and his support on which a great deal depended, but he accepted the ruling and played a leading part in carrying to completion the plan adopted.
The reference closed with an expression of sympathy for the bereaved family.”