The “Provost” of the Scottish agricultural implement trade: John Marshall, Maybole

In 1916 the death of John Marshall of Alexander Jack & Sons, Ltd, Maybole, marked the end of an era in the Scottish agricultural implement trade. As we saw in an earlier post, John Marshall, or Provost Marshall, was one of the “giants” in the trade (

The Scottish Farmer set out his importance and his eminent life in his obituary on 18 March:

“The Provost” is dead! In the agricultural implement trade there was only one “Provost”, and when the word was uttered nothing further was required to identify the person.
Few men in the West of Scotland lived a more strenuous and honourable life than John Marshall, managing director of the well-known firm of Messrs Alexander Jack & Sons (Ltd), Maybole. Although so long identified with the west county, Mr Marshall was nota native. His home was Auchtermuchty, in Fife. There he was born on 15th October, 1839. He came to Maybole on 12th March, 1870, to enter the service of the firm of which he eventually became the head. He died there at Laurel Bank on Sabbath, 12th inst. Mr Marshall was assumed as a partner of the firm of Alexander Jack & Sons, in February, 1876, and on the death of his father-in-law, in the following year, he became sole partner.
The business of the firm expanded in leaps and bounds during the intervening years, until it is now one of the most extensive businesses of its kind. The firm specialised in farm carts, ploughs, potato diggers, and manure distributors, but indeed there was no department of agricultural engineering and implement-making which did not engage their attention. Mr Marshall was a consummate business man. He had the commercial instinct thoroughly well developed. He was an expert salesman, and in making contracts for the raw material of his expanding business he exhibited great foresight and keen business acumen. He was an admirable judge of men, and in large measure the secret of his success as a business man lay in his choice of those whom he gathered around him as heads of departments. He had a fine gift for assimilating ideas, and could take in the points of new designs and inventions as few were able to do. But his forte undoubtedly was the commercial side; there he was supreme, and the remarkable growth of the business of the firm was largely due to this feature of Mr Marshall’s character. In view of advancing years, and to ensure the perpetuity of the firm, and its widespread business, the firm some years ago was floated as a limited liability company (private), but to the very last Mr John Marshall was its mainspring and head.
In spite of his keen interest in the business of his firm, Mr Marshall contrived to devote a large proportion of his time to public duty. He was one of the most public-spirited men, not only in the town of Maybole, but throughout Ayrshire. He was a Burgh Commissioner for eighteen years, and filled the Provost’s chair for three full terms-nine years in all. He represented maypole in the County Council of Ayr for many years, with two breaks; was a Parish Councillor, and for five years chairman of the Parish Council filling the position of a member for 25 years; and for 22 years he was a member of the School Board. At the close of his third period of service as Provost of Maybole, in December, 1894, Mr Marshall was entertained to a public dinner, and was made the recipient of a handsome testimonial rom his fellow-townsmen. This function took place in the Town Hall, which had been built and opened free of debt during his terms of office, and he was the leading spirit in securing the gift of a public park for Maybole from the late Mr James Baird of Cambusdoon. He also successfully carried through other schemes of public improvement. In spite of all these local activities, the Provost found time to devote to the affairs of the Ayrshire Agricultural Association, in which he was keenly interested, and he also acted for more than one term as a director of the Glasgow Agricultural Society. His last public appearance in the city was on the recent occasion of the district meeting of members of the Highland and Agricultural Society, when he moved what proved to be the unanimous nomination of Mr Duncan Wallace, of Messrs John Wallace & Sons (Ltd), as a director of that body. His last public duty was sitting for two consecutive days asa a member of the Advisory Committee under the Military Service Act in Ayr. Withal “the Provost” was a keen sportsman. For thirty years he followed the Eglinton Hounds, and was a generous giver to all worthy objects. He was an elder in the Parish Church. He travelled extensively, making frequent trips to the United States and Canada, in which businesses and pleasure were combined; and in 1908, accompanied his only daughter, who survives him, he made a trip round the world. Those who knew Provost Marshall can readily believe that he was one of the first to join the volunteer movement, when it was revived in October, 1859. He then joined the Glasgow Warehousemen’s Company. He retired in 1864, but was thereafter present, first, at the memorable review before Queen Victoria in the Meadows, Edinburgh, in August, 1881, and again, among the veterans, before King Edward VII, in September, 1905.
The funeral of this public-spirited citizen, who so worthily played his part, took place on Wednesday. It was the largest funeral seen in Maybole within living memory.
Mrs Marshall predeceased her husband by a good many years. We tender our respectful sympathy to Miss Marshall in her bereavement.”

What a “giant” in the Scottish agricultural implement and machine trade!

The photographs were taken at the Ayrshire vintage rally, July 2016.