A farewell to “One of the grand old men of the Borders”: Thomas Fairgrieve

Obituaries can provide much information about the men and women behind the making of agricultural implements and machines, their businesses as well as their wider contributions to the communities in which they lived. We also get to read about their characters and sometimes their temperaments.

One of the well known makers was Thomas Fairgrieve of Thomas Fairgrieve & Sons Ltd, Stow. In the early twentieth century Thomas was a millwright, engineer and cycle agent at the Cockholm Works, Stow, Midlothian. By 1914 he was joined by his sons in his business, which became known as Thomas Fairgrieve & Sons.

While the business continued to be a millwright and engineer, it also started to act as an implement and machine agent. In 1904, it had held the agency for Richard Hornsby & Sons Ltd, Grantham. A big change came in the mid 1920s, with the appointment as an authorised Ford dealer. From 1925, the business was listed in directories as “Thomas Fairgrieve & Sons (authorised Ford dealers), Cockholm Works, Stow, Midlothian”. It became a company limited by guarantee in 1938, becoming known as Thomas Fairgrieve & Sons Ltd, until it was liquidated in 1977.

The business continued as a Ford and Fordson dealer. During the Second World War it had the government contract to supply local farmers with Fordson tractors – if any broke down they had to be repaired within 24 hours. With the Ford’s association with Ransomes – and the FR range – it became a Ransome agent in the mid 1960s. In 1965 its other agencies included New Holland, Simplex and County.

An obituary of Thomas Fairgrieve was published in the Jedburgh gazette of 25 July 1941. It provides details of Thomas, his reputation, his training and development, his interests and his family life:

“Late Mr Fairgrieve, Stow

One of the grand old men of the Borders, Mr Thomas Fairgrieve, managing director of the firm of Messrs Thomas Fairgrieve & Sons Ltd, Stow, has passed away, aged 80 years. He has left behind an honourable memory.

Mr Fairgrieve was born at Stow on August 20, 1861, and he served his apprenticeship as an agricultural engineer and millwright with the late Mr James Thomson, in that lovely village by Gala Water. He worked with various engineering firms in Glasgow and Leith, and also served as a sea-going marine engineer for several years. In 1888 he returned to his native place, and started business on his own as an agricultural engineer and millwright. His high skill and experience as a craftsman allied to enterprise and integrity, earned for him an ever-increasing confidence and popularity, and the business became very successful.

A keen volunteer, he was present at the famous Wet Review and also at the Jubilee celebrations. He was a keen bowler and curler, and a good sportsman in the full meaning of the term. Kindly and upright, he was highly esteemed by all who knew him.

He celebrated his golden wedding in 1933, and he is survived by his wife, two daughters and three sons, the latter being co-directors with him in the business. Sympathy is extended to them.”