In 2022 Gordon Timber is celebrating 160 years of trading – a significant commercial achievement, and a great inspiration to the business community in the current climate. As this potted company history reveals, the secret of its success has been in moving with the times, responding effectively to challenges, and astute diversification, as markets have changed to reflect new consumer needs.
Interestingly, the business did not start out in timber; its beginnings were announced from Steamboat Office, Nairn, on 5th Feb 1862 by Hugh Mackintosh, son of a prominent ship-owning family; the notice in the local paper stated that he was commencing business as a Coal & Lime Merchant.
The Gordon brothers, John and James, from Croy arrived on the scene early, joining Mackintosh in the 1870s. The business developed, shipping pit-props milled from timber sourced in the woods of Moray Firth Estates to the collieries of the North East of England, returning with coal for the households of Nairn and Nairnshire.
Hugh Mackintosh became Provost of Nairn in 1888, but ill health forced him to hand over the management of the business to Junior Partner John Gordon, who took over the firm under his own name in 1908.
The company owned several schooners, including The Nairnshire, The Lossie & The Mary Nish. Shipping was a dangerous business and the Mary Nish came to grief in 1915. In March, she was stormbound with many other ships in Sunderland, and Nairn was “out of coal”. With a sudden break in the weather, seven of the ships sailed – but they were hit by a freak gale as they left port and most were lost. The Mary Nish with new sails turned turtle with 180 tons of coal aboard – Captain McLeod and crew were all lost. One of them was a man from Riga called Peter the Russian. His next of kin were never traced and his wages remain in the firm’s hands to this day.
In 1927, the firm moved from its site in Harbour Street, Nairn to Balblair Road and had diversified from coal and timber into a wide range of farmers’ requisites and oatmeal milling. John Gordon’s son RJR Gordon joined the firm in 1936, and was instrumental in modernising the oatmeal milling operation following a serious fire in the old mill in 1944.
The present Chairman, RD Gordon, joined in 1957; by 1965, the firm’s agricultural interests had been dropped and the coal business was sold. To enable the business to concentrate solely on timber, an ongoing programme of investments ensued, with new mills being built in 1966, 1976 and 1985.
The current Joint Managing Directors, Ronald and Scott came into the family firm in 1987 and have continued to move the business forward, enjoying the support of a strong management team and a highly skilled workforce.
Gordon Timber is confident that the combination of distinguished history, business acumen and strong leadership will ensure another 160 years of success.