Lawson of Dyce
Food Processors -
they used every part of the pig except the squeal
Sausages are the Boys!
Robert Pelman Wilkie
the driving force behind Lawson of Dyce
- Women Pleating Sausages into bunches.
Wilkie, was the driving force that made Lawson of Dyce a household name
in the period after the 2nd World War, he died at a nursing home in Banchory
at the age of 92. Bob Wilkie or ''RP'' as his colleagues
knew him, joined Robert Lawson and Sons in Dunfermline as a
salesman at 19. It was a relatively small firm in the provisions trade
and shortly thereafter moved to Dyce to develop the business. After war
service in the RAF, Wilkie rejoined the firm and married Elsa Sorenson,
the Danish daughter of the Factory Manager. From Dyce he developed sales
of the Company's products throughout the hinterlands of Aberdeenshire, Banff,
and Moray. There were no multiple supermarkets in those days, just hosts of
Grocers and Butchers. He then moved to Inverness and broadened the sales
territory throughout the North, the West Coast and Outer Isles. His thirst to
develop business was insatiable; he was subsequently moved back to
Dunfermline, established as Factory and Area Manager. Through establishing a
sales team and an efficient distribution system, business expanded throughout
Edinburgh and the Borders. He was appointed a Director responsible
for all sales and distribution of the Lawson business in the late 1950s.
His contribution to the development of the business was 2nd only to FD
and Robert Lawson. The respect the Lawson of Dyce name began to
enjoy within UK provision and meat trade was due in large part to Wilkie's
energy, enthusiasm, and loyalty. In the years from 1946 to 1975,
when Wilkie retired, the firm dominated the Scottish Market with a turnover of
£40m per annum. At one point it was the largest Employer in the Aberdeen area.
Wilkie had great ability to choose and manage people; in doing so he established
a superb team of salesmen and distribution workers. The word marketing seldom
entered his vocabulary. He either liked a product or he didn't: often with
words in a broad Fife accent, ''I could sell that'', or ''I couldnae sell
that''. When the occasion arose, he exuded charm. His greatest achievement, he
maintained, was to secure the Marks and Spencer account. In the early
1960s, during one of his frequent visits to London, he was informed that
Marks and Spencer was set to Retail Food Products. The Director,
responsible was no less than Marcus Sieff, later Lord Sieff,
chairman of Marks and Spencer. Wilkie, immediately jumped into a taxi to
the retailer's offices in Baker St. He was confronted by a formidable
Commissionaire who inquired of his business. Wilkie replied: ''I've come to see
Mr Marcus Sieff''.
''Have you an appointment''?
''Look,''replied Wilkie, ''I wouldn't have come all the way from Aberdeen if I
had no appointment.''
He was duly met at the lift door by a Personal Secretary.
''Mr Wilkie, there
must be some mistake. I have no record of making an appointment for you to see
Mr Sieff.'' Turning on the charm,
Wilkie said: ''I know that, my dear, but I
have travelled all the way from Aberdeen to see him.''
She disappeared down the
corridor. On her return, she said: '' You are very lucky, Mr Sieff is in
his office this afternoon and is prepared to give you a few moments of his
time.'' Returning north, the incident was forgotten, until 3 months later he
received a letter inviting him to Baker Street. Wilkie recalled: ''When
Frank Lawson and Marcus Sieff met, they hit it off, just like
that.'' Within 4 years Lawson's was supplying £80,000 of products per
week, that was when a Pork Pie was 6d and a packet of Bacon 2/6d.
In his youth, Wilkie was a fine tennis player, competing at the
Osborne Tennis Club, Aberdeen. He once played the legendary Fred Perry.
In his own words, he did not win the game. Latterly he developed a penchant for
golf. He was a modest man and lived a modest life. On reflection, he never
really realised how good he was, nor appreciated the contribution he had made to
the well-being of so many people. His wife predeceased him in 1999. He is
survived by 2 daughters both of whom live in Australia. Robert Penman Wilkie,
Businessman; born on August 12, 1910, died August 2, 2003.
Lawsons was taken over by Unilever and subsequently pig
slaughtering and curing ceased in 1973 with the loss of 600 of the 1400
workforce and no consideration for the Local Pig Farmers.
The route of the
ran under the south side of the now demolished
Lawson's of Dyce
meat processing works.
Lawson of Dyce, this was bought by Walls and
is now only a label on some products. The factory at Dyce was open the last time
I was around.
The company in Dyce who took over
old factory, was
MacIntosh of Dyce.
Grampian) Pig Producers Ltd was
founded in 1979 following the collapse of meat processor Lawsons of
Dyce. “We started out of a crisis,” he says. “We lost some 50% of
Scotland’s pig slaughtering and processing capacity, so we got together a few
farmers to form a marketing group.” Thirty years later Gordon McKen is now
running a hugely successful pig marketing business out of a small office in
Huntly, 40 miles north-west of Aberdeen, that supports almost 130 farmer members
across Scotland and Northern Ireland.