|Thomas Hutchison (2 September 1881 - 25 July 1965) was born
at the farm of Hardslacks of Cruden, sixth son and seventh child of George
Hutchison and Ann Sangster.
TH had 54 first cousins - not an easy herd for the amateur genealogist to
corral - while to this day, second and third cousins also identify
Like all his siblings he attended Hatton school to the age of
14, when he assumed farming duties at home. A heavyweight athlete, he was
practicing throwing the heavy hammer when he slipped and fell, injuring a
vertebra. He spent 12 months in a plaster cast and a felt support, nursed by
his sister Ann.
His ruminations during that period influenced his career. He conceived a
steely hatred for the existing landlord/tenant system; having watched his
father waste his strength with the physical effort of clearing stones from
his fields, building walls, extending and improving cultivations, only to
have his rent increased to absorb most of the productivity gain.
(his landlord at the time was Mrs Murdoch, grandmother of the present Mr
Rupert Murdoch, the media tycoon.)
So, while many lairds and factors were numbered among his close friends,
and he was regarded as an outstandingly able farming advisor nothing would
persuade him to the life of a tenant farmer.
Instead, he became an immensely energetic, outgoing and cheerful
representative of the farm machinery industry to which he devoted the rest
of his life.
His brother William, older by four years, had for some time supplemented
his income by selling, on commission, farm supplies such as fertilisers and
feeding stuffs, and this experience led to him becoming a full time
representative of Barclay, Ross & Tough, Agricultural Engineers and Seedsmen.
WH recommended that his younger brother, Tom, be also engaged as a sales
representative, and in 1902 this was agreed. Tom moved into lodgings with
his brother at the home of Mrs Mitchell, at 10 St Devenick's Terrace, Cults,
Aberdeen. He proposed to stay for three weeks and actually remained for 11
And what years they were! During that time, with the help of the Deeside
Railway and his bicycle, later to be replaced by a succession of Ford Model
"T" cars, he swept the whole of the Deeside farming community, lairds,
factors and tenants, into the ambit of Barclay, Ross & Tough, winning many
friends and loyal customers.
Morrison Barclay died in 1906, and my impression is that TH borrowed £500
from his father's cousin Tom Hutchinson (sic) of Braemar to buy this
interest in the business. Robert Tough died, I think about 1913, leaving Mr
Robert R. Ross and TH as managers.
On 19th November 1913 he married, in the Palace Hotel, Aberdeen, Eleanor
Ann Mundie, also from Cruden, and so established a 50 year partnership which
raised two of a family. They moved into 4 St Swithen Street, Aberdeen. The
building was a low cost but effective conversion of the photographic
workshop of the illustrious George Washington Wilson, whose business had
collapsed after his death. One of the two upper apartments became the
Hutchison home for 10 years.
In 1924 the family moved - all of 200 yards -
to 5 Gladstone Place, Aberdeen, where the two children - Tom and Eleanor -
grew up and graduated from university.
His back kept him a civilian during
the war years 1914 - 1918, which he devoted to promoting improvements in
farming practices - use of white clover and selected grass strains;
selective breeding of swede and turnip seeds for his "Balmoral" range of
seeds, application of internal combustion engines to replace muscle power,
etc. The manufacturing facilities at Craigshaw works were applied to the
production of new designs of implements and machinery.
In 1920 the
partnership was converted to a limited liability company - Barclay, Ross &
During the1920's the business continued to grow and prosper
despite the depression in farming which inhibited progress greatly. However,
Mr Ross was keen to retire and a particularly attractive offer for all of
the shares from Imperial Chemical Industries, Ltd. was accepted.
ICI was keen to include this prosperous, widely known and admired firm in
their new venture - Scottish Agricultural Industries, Ltd.
Te next few
years were less than idyllic. SAI was not a well managed business. BR&H
contributed a major proportion of the group's profits, albeit contriving to
employ a high proportion of working capital to do so. Salaries were held
down so that TH earned less than half his accustomed income while receiving
little credit for his profit contribution and being castigated for using
Nil desperandum! He acquired a mastery of the art of
short-term trading on the stock exchange, to the extent that (perhaps to the
chagrin of his senior colleagues) his income was much in excess of his
TH acquired, in 1937, the delightful "Drumgarth" house at
Pitfodels, which became a byword for hospitality and good fellowship.
Statesmen and civil servants; farmers and industrialists; academics and
(particularly) students and graduates foregathered there. Weekend after
weekend the crowded dinner table would be entertained to an endless
succession of comic anecdotes about early days in farming and the card
tables would giggle to snatches of forgotten music hall songs - "There's a
hole at the bottom of the sea" "The village pump", "The green grass grew all
round". No one ever heard the full version: only the key lines.
years made severe demands. By now a leading figure in the farm supplies
industry the fragility of Britain's food supply kept him away from home a
great deal, entailing a punishing schedule of work, to the extent that by
1942 he was ordered to take 3 month's rest. That had a magical effect in
restoring his energies which thereafter never flagged until his retirement.
By this time there was a reconciliation with SAI and he became a director of
the company in 1942.
In 1946 his services to the nation were recognised by
his appointment as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. (OBE).
For the next three years the world shortage of food and the excitement of
the mechanical revolution in farming with the spread of tractors and
combines kept him at the centre of affairs. "Drumgarth" remained busy though
quieter with the departure of the younger generation.
TH retired from
business in September 1949 after 46 years' service to the farming industry,
aged 67. He promptly set off on a glorious sweep across Canada and the USA
where he was feted by the heads of the great international companies -
International Harvester; Ford Motor Company; Massey Harris, etc., and
lavishly entertained and cosseted by his nephews, nieces, in-laws and their
families from Montreal to Los Angeles and back via Vancouver, Winnipeg and
Sadly, his retirement was not a success. He had been too
single-minded for too long and he had lost his constituency. He interested
himself in a variety of projects -
He wrote a book on
"Machinery on the farm" - not greatly esteemed at the time but now accepted
as a minor, specialist classic.
He became involved in the activities of the Chamber of
Commerce on whose behalf he paid another visit to Canada and America in
1954, this being amore muted trip than his earlier visit.
Several other small ventures occupied him, including the
affairs of James Simpson & Son (Peterhead) Ltd, of which Garth Hutchison is
He had lost his touch in stock exchange trading and his
stock brokers fleeced him mercilessly. The steady erosion of his wealth by
economic mismanagement hurt him badly and entailed a progressive withdrawal
from affairs. "Drumgarth", being now much too large for two elderly people,
was sold in 1954, and the golden wedding in 1963 was celebrated in their
comfortable apartment in Hamilton Place, Aberdeen, where they welcomed a
steady stream of old and new friends.
On 25th July 1965 he died in the
Watson-Fraser nursing home, Aberdeen following a seven week series of
largely unnecessary and ineffective operations. His funeral service was
attended by some 1000 persons.
Despite his keen application to
business he had time for many voluntary roles: as trustee of his church; as
secretary of the Royal Northern Agricultural Society; as a director of the
Royal Highland and Agricultural Society; as honorary lecturer to the North
of Scotland College of Agriculture; as vice president of the Chamber of
Commerce. He also made several broadcasts about his familiar fields.
of clay? Let him who is without sin...
TMH. December 2003.
||The Mundies are a mystery to me.
Mother had one sister, Margaret Gatt (Aunty Gatty) who lived with us until
she married Alex Jamieson in 1927 and went to Malawi where she died in 1929.
Two brothers died young, but the third became a highly regarded accountant
in Canada, Manager in Winnipeg of Uncle James Hutchison's firm - Riddell,
Stead, Graham and Hutchison.
The problem is that while Mother denied that she had any relatives other
than those I've mentioned, the records show that she had at least four
uncles and indeed I have met one of her cousins whose existence she denied.
TMH. October 2003.
For me the most important fact was that she was always there for me when
I was young. If I had a headache, a chesty cough, she always had an answer,
be it aspirin or a real fire lit in my bedroom. She was the solid foundation
in my life.
I’m sure she must also have been a great help to father when he was
building up his business. For many years, before BR+H joined SAI, father
would often appear for lunch accompanied by a totally unexpected business
contact. A meal was always produced, and privacy to talk.
I remember especially Aberdeen Agricultural; Show, when mother spent
hours making sandwiches which later appeared in the BR+H tent.
The annual Christmas party for the staff was held at 5 Gladstone
Place…followed by dancing
EIMH. May 2004.