William Johnston & Company Limited Celebrate 50 Years In Inverness

In the early 1970s Scotland was experiencing the early stages of its ‘Oil Boom” with rapid exploration and development of oil and natural gas fields in the often raging North Sea, the main base for the servicing and support of these being in Aberdeen.

 It was there that the global oil majors and their multi-national suppliers headed to establish bases to work alongside local businesses, often previously  fishing operations, to exploit the hydrocarbon resources lying offshore which required oil rigs and miles of pipelines to get them ashore and beyond to refineries and markets.

In  April 1973, Glasgow based William Johnston & Company Limited which was already the leading independent gasket manufacturer in Scotland, intending to benefit from the “Oil boom”, established a branch in modest premises  in Anderson Street, Inverness which is nearly 100 miles to the west of Aberdeen. Why Inverness? 

The company had its origins and main customer base in the shipyards on the River Clyde and the heavy industries of steel and locomotive manufacturing  in the West of Scotland. Many of these customers took their skills and resources to the Moray and Dornoch Firths (these being inland and mainly calm seaways lying to the north  of Inverness)  where the oil rigs were built prior to being floated out to the North Sea. With these customer connections and by establishing the only gasket manufacturer in the Highlands, the company enjoyed early success and growth assisted by recruiting as Branch Manager, William Ross, an experienced Inverness local.

In 1982 the company moved to brand new premises on Seafield Road in the Longman Industrial Estate, Inverness where, after being extended and upgraded over the years, it remains today, operating a business which is somewhat different to the one set up 50 years ago. 

As the construction of oil rigs declined the business diversified into selling products to the whisky distilling industry and today counts almost all the globally recognised brands among its customers. As whisky production has grown so has the engineering sector which supports it and William Johnston & Company Limited supplies  a variety products for the installation of copper distillation stills and the myriad of pipes and processes associated with these.  

The population of Inverness has also expanded rapidly over the past 25 years so the construction and infrastructure sectors have grown to meet the demand for housing. These rely on the Inverness branch as the only  manufacturer of gaskets in the Highlands and Islands for quality products, including a wide range of specialist fasteners, and high levels of customer service.

The North of Scotland can be very inhospitable in winter and William Johnston & Company Limited have been key  suppliers of  rubber snow plough blades to the various roads authorities to enable them to keep the main highways, which are so vital for communications and delivery of goods to remote Highland areas, free of snow.

 Billy Hardie, company Director, who has been with William Johnston & Company Limited for forty-two years and has worked in the Inverness branch since 1985 said,  “It is a privilege to live and work in the Highlands and Inverness in particular; a privilege born of the pioneering spirit of our early Directors.

Fifty years on we retain our USP as the only gasket cutting facility in the Highland and Islands, which is a definite advantage but we take particular pride that our sustained growth and influence is as much a product of our customer service and in depth knowledge of the area and people – with all their nuances.

This branch has flourished as we embraced the Company’s ‘can do’ ethos to diversify into new markets and products, such as performance plastics, tank lid and door seals, insulation goods and a wide range of standard and specialist fasteners to cope with shifts in demand over the decades. We see this as a necessity when operating in a very large geographical area with very few OEMs and myriad small, diverse and fluid industries.

I’m not sure if those Directors back in1973 had planned to have the long term presence in Inverness we have enjoyed but the current Board do and we look forward to many more years supporting this beautiful part of the United Kingdom, its industries and people.”