The north-east of Scotland had some prominent implement and machine makers that were known well-beyond the boundaries of that district; some were known world wide as well as their manufacturers.
We can meet the makers and their manufacturers through a range of evidence, including show reports and business records. Obituaries also provide a range of evidence, and give us a good opportunity to meet the men and women behind their companies, their achievements as well as their role within their wider communities.
We have looked through a number of newspapers to find obituaries of a number of prominent implement and machine makers from the north-east of Scotland before the end of the First World War. Many of them would have been known to one another.
The late Mr J. W. Barclay, CA (died November 1902) The Aberdeen press and journal notes:
“A cablegram, received by his father on Saturday, announces the death, on 10th November, of Mr James W. Barclay, CA, only surviving son of Mr Morison Barclay, of the well-known firm of Messrs Barclay, Ross, and Tough, agricultural implement makers, seed merchants, etc, Carmelite Buildings, Aberdeen, a nephew and namesake of Mr J. W. Barclay of Glenbuchat, formerly MP for Forfarshire. Mr Barclay died at sea on his way home from Buenos Ayres, and the cablegram was despatched from the first telegraph station passed in the Pacific. He was on the way home to see if the change would restore him to health, which had broken down under a recent strain of work in Buenos Ayres. He had been there for about four years, and had kept his health wonderfully well, although formerly he had been far from robust, it was after his health had broken down in London that he was induced by medical advice to go to Buenos Ayres. Mr Barclay, who was about 33 years of age, served his apprenticeship as an accountant with Messrs James Meston and Co., CA, Aberdeen, and after he had himself qualified as a chartered accountant, set up business in London, where he met with remarkable success. The strain proved too great for him, however, and, as stated, he was induced to go to South America, where he held a good appointment in connection with one of the railways. Deceased was a genial, clever, and capable business man, who made many friends by his hearty manner. While in Aberdeen he took a great interest in athletic sports. He was not married. Much sympathy will be felt for his relatives in their unexpected bereavement. It may be mentioned that Mr Barclay’s other son, who was an engineer on board a steamer, died at sea about four years ago when crossing the line.
Death of Mr William Anderson (died June 1911). The Aberdeen press and journal notes:
“Mr William Anderson, of the firm of Messrs Barclay, Ross, and Tough, seedsman, implement makers, etc, Balmoral Buildings, Green, died at his residence, 24 Leadside Road, Aberdeen, yesterday. Mr Anderson, although 83 years of age, and in somewhat failing health for the last years or so, continued to take a keen interest in the business of the firm with which he had been associated since its commencement in 1871. Prior to that he had been with Mr Morrison Barclay, and also with the late Mr J. W. Barclay when the latter gentleman had an agricultural business in the city before his election as MP for Forfarshire.
Mr Anderson’s great hobby was Arctic exploration, and so keen was he on this that he took part in three expeditions to Greenland aboard whaling and sealing vessels. At one time he was there when the vessels Lady Franklin and Eric went to look for Franklin, the intrepid searcher for the North-West passage.
Mr Anderson was a well-educated man. He received his early education in the Strichen School, having been a native of Lonmay. Early in life he acquired a knowledge of drawing, and this proved of considerable advantage to him in later years with agriculture, however that his chief interests were concerned. He was very keen in business, and proved himself an intelligent and active servant to the firm.
Mr Anderson is survived by a family of two sons and three daughters. All are in Aberdeen, with the exception of one daughter, who is in Glasgow.”
Death of Mr James Reid, engineer, Peterhead (died April 1914)
Buchan observer and East Aberdeenshire advertiser notes:
“Many kindly memories will be stirred by the announcement of the death of Mr James Reid, retired engineer, Peterhead, which took place on Friday last at the residence of his sister, 10 Castle Street. Mr Reid, who was 77 years of age, retired from active work about six years ago, and enjoyed excellent health for a few years, but latterly he suffered from a cancerous trouble in his throat, which ultimately caused his death. Mr Reid was a son of the late Mr Peter Reid, builder, Peterhead, and served his apprenticeship as an engineer with Messrs Robert Mitchell & Son, of the Peterhead Foundry, and he remained with the firm until it gave up business over thirty years ago. Since that time up to his retirement he worked continuously with the firm of Messrs James Simpson & Son, agricultural engineers and implement makers, Peterhead, by whom he was held in the highest esteem and respect, both for his capabilities as a craftsman and for his personal character. He was a skilled tradesman, careful and thorough, and his workmanship could always be depended on for soundness and durability. Many men now occupying responsible and important positions as engineers in some of the leading steamship lines, notably the Orient and Pacific, and in other engineering capabilities, readily express their great indebtedness for their success in their craft to the thorough training given and the kindly interest shown in them by Mr Reid in the engineering shop at Peterhead, and the kindliest of thoughts of the old man will mingle in their hearts with the sincerest of regrets at his decease.
For many years Mr Reid was a leading spirit in the musical affairs of the town. Well versed in music, and possessed of a splendid voice of very extensive range, he and his brothers, John, Peter, and David, each of whom was musically gifted, formed a quartet of singers such as is seldom met with in one family. He and his two elder brothers with a few others were the originators of the Peterhead Choral Society, and he maintained his connection and interest in that body for a lengthened time, and he was a not infrequent soloist at the concerts. In the ‘seventies he was leader of psalmody in the Free Church, St Peter Street, and his choir of those days is still spoken of with admiration by elderly people. He was also for some time psalmody leader in the Parish Church. In disposition Mr Reid was quiet and retiring, but with friends he was genial and affable, and he had a vein of humour which his associated enjoyed. His death will be regretted by all who knew him. He was predeceased by his wife a number of years ago, and is survived by a grown-up family of four sons and four daughters. The funeral took place to the Old Churchyard yesterday in presence of a large and representative attendance.”
Robert Tough (died April 1918) Aberdeen press and journal writes:
“The death took place last night at his residence, 14 Whinhill Road, Aberdeen, of Mr Robert Tough. Mr Tough was well known in agricultural circles throughout the north of Scotland, his firm of Messrs R. Tough and Sons, seed and implement makers, Imperial Place, Aberdeen, having a large connection throughout Aberdeen and the north-east.”
On 1 May 1918 the Aberdeen press and journal provided a more extensive obituary:
“As briefly reported yesterday, the death of Mr Robert Tough, of the firm of Messrs R. Tough and Sons, seedsmen and implement makers, Imperial Place, Aberdeen, occurred on Monday night at his residence, 14 Whinhill Road, Aberdeen. He was a native of Foveran, and before joining the well-known firm of Messrs Barclay, Ross, and Tough, Aberdeen, he represented Messrs Ben Reid & Co., and Messrs John Milne and Co., Dyce. About three years ago he started business on his own account.
Mr Tough, who was of ine physique, had an attractive personality. In agricultural circles in the northern-eastern counties and in a much wider area he was exceedingly well known. He was an expert salesman, and was always ready to give the very best advice to his customers. For many years Mr Tough represented Messrs Barclay, Ross and Tough at the national shows of England, Ireland, and Scotland, and he did much to extend that firm’s business ramifications among farmers in the United Kingdom for threshing plants and certain kinds of farm machinery. He was predeceased by Mrs Tough about two years ago.”
R. H. N. Sellar, Huntly (died July 1918) The Aberdeen press and journal writes:
“Vice-Convener of County
Active business and public life
We deeply regret to announced 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, Battleby, 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 1857, 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 his 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, and on the retirement of the late Mr John Wilson, factor, in 1902, 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. Mellie, but latterly he represented the electoral division of Cairnie, Glass, and Huntly. 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 Committees 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 Education 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 acknowledged. 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, had been vice-chairman for some years, and was chairman of the Central Studies and Staff Committee, whose work has 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 as 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 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 deep interest in the welfare of Huntly United Free Church, and for over thirty years had been its treasurer. In politics he was a Moderate Liberal, and held the office of President of the Huntly Liberal Association. Mr Sellar leaves a widow and a family of three sons and one daughter, one son-Lieut J. M. Sellar, of the K.O.S.B.-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.”