An Arbroath maritime institution will not be resting on its laurels as it marked its 50th year in a challenging industry.
Mackay Boat Builders, as it is known today, was founded in 1967 by Bob Mackay, Clem Jolly and Jean Gerrard, and their descendants along with staff past and present gathered at the yard on Wednesday to mark the occasion and swap stories.
Starting out from a base at 18 North Grimsby and carrying out work on the harbour slipway an early report of the venture described business as “brisk” and revealed that they had applied to open a yard and were looking to take on three more workers and an apprentice.
That apprentice was Duncan Crosbie, who along with the second apprentice, Harry Simpson, would later becomes company directors.
Duncan said: “I’m glad to see it’s still going. I was working with a good set of boys all the time and it was a hard apprenticeship but a good one. They were very good bosses at Mackays, good men to learn from, both of them. I hope it continues.”
Harry added: “A tear in my eye to see it still on the go after 50 years and I am sure that the directors who are no longer with us would be proud to see it still on the go. It’s moved on another generation and I’m happy to be here today to see it.”
A number of descendants of the original directors also attended.
Willie Mackay, son of Bob, told the Herald: “I feel proud to come down and commemorate the 50th anniversary. It’s great business for the town and it’s attracted a lot of work over the years. Harry and Duncan have continued the success of the business. I’m happy to see how this business has thrived since the 1960s and hope there’s many many years like it. It’s great to see it thriving.”
Jean Gerrard’s son Sandy was also celebrating the occasion. He said: “It doesn’t really feel like 50 years and I have memories of all this starting up.
“Harry and Duncan have done a really good job of it in difficult times the boatbuilding business is not something easy it is a traditional craft and they’ve diversified and done more things.”
Louise Smith and Ewan Jolly, children of Clem, recalled happy times in the yard. Ewan said: “Things have changed but nothing has changed. I have some fond memories of wandering through the yard. It’s great to see it still going after 50 years.”
Louise added: “This is where we grew up and we have fond memories, it gives you a nice warm feeling, we spent many happy hours in the yard.”
Naval architect Maurice Napier has had dealings with the Mackays since 1970 and designed 12 of their vessels and been involved on many others. He said: “As well as doing work on fishing boats and other craft they’ve built up an excellent reputation for restoration work on historic ships. They’ve done a lot of work for example on the Discovery in Dundee and the Reaper from Anstruther.”
Current directors are siblings Paul Simpson and Lynn Cameron. Paul said: “Our business is diversifying and we now have a blacksmith coming to work with us so we’ll be starting doing gates and railings as well. We’ve worked on the Waverley in Glasgow, the Unicorn, the Sir Walter Scott on Loch Katrine, the Discovery and we’re going to work on the Falkirk Wheel in the next couple of weeks. The historic ships like the Reaper are all good to work on.”
Lynn added: “It’s 26 years I’ve been here, more than half my life and more than half the life of company. It’s changed and developed so much. The whole harbour is thriving but different than it was then. One thing I’d like to say, people say nothing happens at the harbour but it’s totally thriving with smaller and different types of boats. Taking over my Dad’s and Duncan’s mantle is an honour. Hopefully we keep going for the next 50 years and thrive like we are and have been.”