Elgin Central Engineers: an important expansion in 1967 – part 2

As we have noted, one of the important names in agricultural engineering in the north of Scotland was Elgin Central Engineers. In 1967 the business underwent a significant expansion with the opening of its works at Moycroft, Elgin.

The Aberdeen press and journal carried an extensive feature of the business, and its development, in its pages of 15 November 1967. Today we will meet some of the leading figures behind the business through that article. We quote at length:

“Six who head a fine team: their zeal has made “Elgin Central” a by-word in remote places

Elgin Central Engineers Ltd is a household word among many of the crofters and farmers of the North and North-east, yet many of them have never met the staff nor visited their premises, old or new, or, for that matter, even been in Elgin. They only know the firm by repute.

So who are the men behind the great organisation, the directors and the managerial staff?

They are all experts in their own specific field, some with many years’ service with the firm. But perhaps the predominant factor is their age, because a progressive firm must have youth on its side as well as experience.

The chairman and managing director of the firm, Mr Norman S. Matheson, son of the founder, is a London chartered accountant, but takes an active interest in the business and pays monthly visits to Elgin, where he has family as well as business connections. He was apprenticed in Aberdeen and went to London in 1932, where he runs his own accountancy practice and other business interests in Bloomsbury Square.

In his younger days he was a keen rugby footballer and played for Aberdeenshire and the London Scottish. He was a founder-member of the Exiles Rugby Club, who play their popular annual match against an Aberdeen and North Select XV every Christmas. His sporting activities are now confined to golf.

Senior director is Mr Robert L. Prentice, who, among his many friends, is regarded as “Mr Elgin Central Engineers”, for he joined the staff in 1944 and became a director the following year.

He belongs to Lanark, and was brought up on a farm. He served four years in a bank, gaining valuable commercial experience, and studied at the Royal Technical College, Glasgow.

He had his own tractor business in Lanark for a time, and during the war went to Elgin as engineer in charge of the D.O.A.S., tractor and engineering section.

He is responsible for developing new products, and it is greatly due to his efforts in the past that the firm has grown in strength and popularity. His work is his hobby, but when he relaxes he likes to spend a quiet hour or two in the garden.

Mr Norman Black, a director, is one of the longest serving members of staff, having started in the workshops 27 years ago, Before that he worked with another Elgin firm, now next door to Moycroft, and joined the Central garage for further experience in the motor trade in 1940.

From 1943-46 he served with the Royal Navy, and on rejoining the firm was appointed foreman in charge of the agricultural department. From this post he transferred to the sales department, and eventually became manager. He was appointed to the board of directors six years ago.

Mr Peter Forbes, sales director, handles the industrial side of the business. He joined the firm 16 years ago. Brought up on the land in Banffshire, where his father farmed near Aberlour, Mr Forbes served with the R. A. S. C. during the war, and for some years worked with an Ellon engineering firm before joining the sales staff in Elgin. He has been a director for two years.

As a Royal Highland Agricultural Society ploughing champion he has judged international ploughing matches in Scotland and England, but his winter spare-time interests are now confined to curling.

Mr William MacDonald, director and general manager of the car and commercial department at High Street, has been with the firm 2 ½ years but has had wide experience in the motor car trade.

Of Perthshire farming stock, he was transport manager with the Foreign Office in Germany after the war, and in 1949 joined a Ford distributorship in the south of Scotland on the sales side of their agricultural branch.

He moved to the Ford Motor Co. in 1952 as a trainee and subsequently was appointed area representative, covering the North of England and Northern Ireland.

Six years later he joined a Perth firm of Ford distributors from where he went to Elgin.

Mr MacDonald is a graduate of the Institute of Transport and an associate member of Agricultural Engineers, being currently on the council.

Secretary and financial accountant of the firm is Mr Graeme Cunningham, who belongs to Larbert in Stirlingshire. He joined the firm a year ago and previously was with the Reekie Group of engineering companies in Fife. He is a certified accountant.

Off-duty he is a keen member of the Round Table, and enjoys a round of golf.

Mr Fred R. Anderson (35) is sales manager of the engineering department on the manufacturing side. As a qualified draughtsman he is responsible for designs for farm layouts, mechanical feeding and handling equipment, grain drying and distillery plant. He belongs to Angus and was educated at Morgan Academy, Dundee.

Mr John McClement (30) is service manager, and his job entails the full supervision of the workshop staff, which numbers 63.

He joined the firm two years ago, but before that gained valuable experience with the Ford Motor Co. at Basildon, Essex; and with the Uganda Government in East Africa in a similar post to the one he holds now.

Mr George Stuart (29) is sales office manager and has been with the firm for 14 years. He joined as a storeman graduated into the sales department and administration side, and has held his present post for a year.

In charge of stores is Mr Robert Harrold 928), parts sales manager, who has been with the firm for 8 years, with a break for national Service.

He started as a message boy but after “demob” was taken back as assistant parts sales manager. He took over full control early this year.

Mr James Clark is works foreman and has been with the firm for 21 years. He is a farmer’s son and holds Ford diplomas for service and repairs of Ford tractors.

Mr Sandy Milne (43) is foreman in charge of industrial equipment in particular combines and balers. He is the man in constant contact with farmers and owners of plant and has been nearly 25 years with the firm. He belongs to Banff.

The major part of new developments in the manufacturers of implements has been carried out at Pinefield, in premises situated behind the car sales centre.

The man in charge of the work here is Mr George Henderson (42), who served his time as a blacksmith at Tarves Smithy, Aberdeenshire. He has had experience in all kinds of blacksmith’s work, from horse-shoeing to wrought iron designs, but now he does welding and repair work for both car and agricultural departments, as well as the production of new projects.”