Clydeside apprentice to Captain of Industry

Clydeside apprentice to Captain of Industry

Born: December 5, 1930 Died: August 10, 2014

Loading article content

John Caldwell Macfarlane, who has died aged 83, was born with a link to the First World War in that his father served as a young officer in the HLI. Euan, as he was always known, was educated at Glasgow Academy where he was captain of the golf team for his last two years and was a competitor in the Scottish Boys' Championships.

On leaving school, he began an engineering apprenticeship with Fairfields, studying for qualifications in the evenings. He was part of the team which built the Empress of Britain, was present at her launch and sailed in her as a Junior Engineer Officer.

At the end of his National Service, he returned to Fairfields who sent him to Harwell to study nuclear energy propulsion for merchant ships. It was while in Oxfordshire he met and married his wife Anita. Returning to Scotland, he set up home in Bearsden.

He caught the eye of Sir Alfred Owen who appointed him to take charge of the Rubery Owen factory, manufacturing petrol tanks for the Hillman Imp production lines at Linwood. This was a move into management, an entirely new discipline, for which it transpired Mr Macfarlane was eminently suited.

In 1968, he took over at the Shotts plant of Cummins Engines where during a time of strident militancy in manufacturing engineering, his easy-going style and unfailing good humour and courtesy resulted in excellent relations with the trades unions. Cummins asked him to move to their main UK manufacturing plant at Darlington which was his base even when he was appointed vice-president & managing director - Europe with reponsibilities stretching as far as India.

He held this position until 1990 when he served for a further two years as non-executive chairman. On moving to Darlington in 1976 he made his home in Barnard Castle, his residence until the day he died. He was a governor of Barnard Castle School from 1981 and chairman from 1988 until 2008.

Mr Macfarlanefirmly believed in keeping a balance between a busy working life, family responsibilities and his witness as a practising Christian.

As an example, returning from work on a Friday evening, he ran a Crusader class in his home and then at 9pm would set off to drive to his caravan at Aviemore so that his children could be involved in Scottish competitive sport on Saturday morning. In Barnard Castle he put his energy into the Methodist Church and was soon enrolled as a lay preacher in the Circuit, serving for 12 years as senior circuit steward and conducting at the last count over a thousand church services.

He was a member of the Darlington Branch of the Gideons and inevitably was chairman there for the maximum term. He was a Director of English Estates Industrial Corporation for 14 years and sat on numerous trade bodies and charitable trusts. He was greatly in demand by virtue of his wisdom as to what to do and his ability to get things done without ever appearing to be stressed. Perhaps his biggest role in retirement was as chairman for eight years of the Prescription Pricing Authority, responsible for payments to chemists in England and Wales.

Mr Macfarlane never lost his attachment to Scotland and exchanged his caravan for a cottage at Dulnain Bridge to which he made frequent visits. He and his wife skied extensively in Scotland as well as in Europe. He also maintained his membership of the Nethybridge Golf Club. He is survived by Anita, his wife of 55 years, his sons Steven and Angus, his daughter Dr Stella Rider, who is a GP in Boroughbridge, and by five grandchildren