John White and Son Ltd. (UK) – Three centuries of industrial history were marked at the weekend as Scotland’s oldest family firm said a big thank you to employees old and new.
The amazing story of Auchtermuchty-based John White & Son (Weighing Machines) Ltd began in 1715 when blacksmith John White made a “particularly fine” beam end scale. Now, in its eighth generation of change and innovation, the business continues under managing director Edwin White, his wife and fellow director Tio White, director Joyce Onuonga, and their loyal workforce.
Around forty people attended the reunion, including the previous managing director, Edwin’s brother John. After 1996 John was at the helm of a separate firm, John White Automation Ltd. Edwin said that the day had been “amazing” and that having so many former employees present had brought recent history to life. “These craftsmen made many wonderful products and brought us into the present age, and our younger employees have been able to meet them as they move things forward. It has been incredible not just as a reunion, but as a milestone. It’s my privilege to be here when the past meets the present. We will carry on at the front of technology, developing products and looking for new markets.”
Two of the guests are in their 90’s, one of them John Davidson, who joined the firm as a 15 year old apprentice weighing machine mechanic and went on to maintain and make many different products. “Except for a few years in the army I spent my entire working life with Whites, retiring in 1989 after almost 50 years. It was heavy work at times, lifting 56lb weights around the workshop. The biggest change was going from mechanical to electrical, which took a bit a getting used to, but we were taught on site. One of my lasting memories is going out all over Fife to service machines – often on the company motorcycle. Sometimes there would be two of us going to repair to a weighbridge, and that could take about a week. It’s hard to believe that a firm can go on for 300 years. It has played a very big part in community life.”
The oldest man in the room was 91 year old Alec Peebles, who also joined the firm at 15 in 1938, and spent ten years working in the foundry section before moving across town to Auchtermuchty’s other foundry business. “At that time foundries were hot and sweaty places, and it was hard work with a lots of sparks, fire and noise. During the war we made pieces for the ministry, and afterwards the work included parts for large marine engines.”
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