In November 2017 William Johnston & Company Limited celebrates 50 years since its incorporation and half a century of steady growth and service to a variety of industry sectors throughout the UK and overseas.
William Johnston & Company was established in the 1940s by William Johnston who operated latterly from St Vincent Street, Glasgow. In 1967 he retired and sold the business to the McKnight family who formed William Johnston & Co. (Engineers) Limited as a company on 8 November 1967. The company grew rapidly and moved to bigger premises in Glasgow. Modern machines were purchased and staff numbers increased steadily over subsequent years.
The Inverness factory was opened in 1973 and also grew quickly, moving to newly built premises in the Longman Industrial Estate in 1982 which were extended in 1985 to cope with further expansion.
In July 2004 the company changed its name to William Johnston & Company Limited and the head office and factory moved to the present location in Thornliebank Industrial Estate. At that time the McKnight family members started to withdraw from day to day involvement in the business and began the process of transferring ownership to the directors and managers who own it today.
Half a century ago the industrial landscape was quite different from today. William Johnston set up his business to manufacture and supply gaskets and joints to the traditional heavy industries which dominated the Central Belt of Scotland, ship building, steel making and the manufacture of steam locomotives.
As these and other industries faded away (as did most of the company's local competitors) the directors and management took William Johnston & Company in new directions, widening the customer base to the whole of the UK and beyond.
The company adapted to new markets in the water and gas utilities, commercial vehicle building, aftermarket automotive and light engineering. New product lines were introduced, particularly a range of specialist fasteners to combine with gaskets in kits for the pipeline industry, and also valve and pump packings and snowplough blades for the highway authorities.
Each decade of the company’s existence has provided challenges and opportunities. For example in the 1970s the company:-
• Designed and introduced the first the 2 lug (Mickey Mouse) gaskets to the pipeline industry
• Opened a branch in Inverness
• Developed, in conjunction with the Gates Rubber Company, EPDM gasket material which is today the universally approved sealing product for drinking water applications in the UK
• Set up its first distributorship in Hong Kong
• Imported its first bulk quantities of bolts, nuts and washers direct from Taiwan
• Located in Tradestson, Glasgow until relocating to its current premises in Thornliebank Industrial Estate in 2004.
Today, around 75% of the products manufactured and supplied by the Glasgow factory are delivered out with Scotland to the rest of the UK, Ireland, Europe and around the world. The company counts amongst its main customer base FTSE 100 listed corporations and multi-nationals and holds distributorship appointments for international brands such as Flexitallic, Teadit and Garlock. The company has established distributors for its products in Ireland and Hong Kong and exports to Europe and North and South America.
The Inverness factory was originally set up to support the construction of oil platforms in the inshore waters around the Highlands. As that declined, the business diversified into supplying products to the whisky distilling industry along with the local construction and engineering sectors and today is the only manufacturer of gaskets in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. It is also a main supplier of specialist fasteners to that area.
For the last 50 years William Johnston & Company Limited's philosophy has been to invest in people, plant and a robust supply chain, to provide a quality product backed up by superior service and technical support to a loyal customer base. Hopefully this approach will sustain the company for the next half century and beyond.
Other than the incorporation of William Johnston & Company, 1967 was notable for :
• Glasgow Celtic becoming the first UK team to win the European Cup;
• The UK applying to join the EEC, which became the EU;
• The Summer of Love;
• Winnie Ewing winning the SNP’s first Westminster seat in Hamilton;
• The release of the Beatles album “ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”
• The Ford DFV engine arriving and winning in Formula 1;
• The luxury liner Queen Elizabeth 2 being launched on the Clyde;
• BBC radio being restructured as Radio 1,2,3 & 4 and local and regional stations;
• Billy-Jean King winning the Ladies title at Wimbledon