Steel Life – by Alan James

Calm before the Storm

Just prior to the Fort George project in 1980 that I mentioned in the August Micron I was married to Ainsley who, at that time, was a music teacher based in Forres. On our way back from honeymoon Sandy Dow, the MD of William Reid (Forres) Ltd., managed to get in touch with me to “ask” if I would drop in past to sort out a new sawmill building that we were building for James Jones near the Teanininch Distillery at Alness.  At that time James Jones was expanding and was also in the process of building a new sawmill at Waterford, Forres (what goes around comes around!).

Big bucks

At that time, I was partly involved in a green field site job. It was the building of the Port Gordon Maltings bringing in over a million pounds for William Reid – not small change for the early 80s! The project was being managed by my immediate boss Graham Harvey. The purchase order was a simple bit of paper with the agreed price and no terms or conditions. Graham had it framed and mounted at the William Reid reception at the Greshop Workshop.


William Reid (Forres) Ltd., was a company owned by farmers who were all directors of the company. In 1988 the farmers were bought out by Mr Ewan Buchanan whose hobby was sailing and he was very interested in the pontoons that William Reid fabricated and installed. He split up the company with the agriculture side of the business remaining as William Reid (Forres) Ltd., and the engineering and fabrication departments became William Reid (Engineering) Ltd. At that point I was promoted to Projects Director and joined the other four directors.

He quickly expanded the company by adding Storetec whose MD was Jim Lister and one of their staff members was James Attridge senior. Storetec provided storage and handling systems for bulk materials like grain, silage and powders.

Also, at that time Ewan added the Newmill Engineering Company which was based next to Johnston’s of Elgin and had a foundry and also serviced distilleries.  By that time William Reid had 100 employees and my responsibility, at 35 years old, was for all the projects undertaken by the enlarged company.

To be continued…

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