Allan came from a farming background, and he knew what it meant to work hard seven days a week and having few holidays.
At school he enjoyed art and technical subjects and, when it came to leaving school at 15 years of age, his father advised him to obtain a trade. At that time, career choices were either a plumber, joiner or stone mason. For Allan, the choice was masonry, because it was different, and he thought it would put his art skills to some use.
It was a 4-year apprenticeship with John Fyfe Ltd commencing July 1966 at Seaforth Road in Aberdeen. The pay was £2-5s-0d which was not enough to cover lodgings at £2-15s-0d, so his parents made up the difference with a little extra to ensure there was sufficient to take the bus home to Alford at the weekends.
Like most apprenticeships, the first 6 months was not easy, but eventually it became enjoyable. At the Technical College he was the first John Fyfe apprentice to be top of the class which earned him a £2-0s-0d bonus. The incentive was there to study hard and, with a combination of day and night classes, he gained his National Certificate in Construction. After 2 years in the workshop, Allan was given the opportunity to spend the afternoons in the drawing office. This then progressed into learning more about pricing, etc.
Allan never quite completed his apprenticeship as he was sent to other departments within John Fyfe (Kemnay Quarry and Denny Stirling Concrete Works). A Manager’s position at Seaforth Road Granite Yard became vacant and, at the age of 21, Allan accepted the position. It was a daunting position to be given at such a young age, but it was exciting to have the responsibility for what was recognised as one of the oldest established Granite Merchants in Aberdeen.
Fortunately, with John Fyfe’s reputation, there was no shortage of prestigious projects and having good contacts with stone fixing companies throughout the UK, made the earlier days easier.
John Fyfe, being a member company of Aberdeen Construction Group (ACG), made several acquisitions during the 1970 and 80’s – Charles McDonald, George Stalker, William McKay and Granite Supply Association. This brought the total amount of employees to over 100. The four Granite Yards were all Aberdeen City Centre based.
In 1985 it was decided to relocate to a new purpose built facility at Westhill. During this time Allan became a director of John Fyfe Ltd and also President of the Granite Guild in London (now an honorary member).
During the next 10 years, ACG was acquired/merged with other Groups – Raine, Evered, Bardon and, eventually, Aggregate Industries. Bardon also had other Stone companies being Waterhouse Denbigh and Pisani. It was with Bardon that a decision was made to sell all non-core activities (anything that was not in quarries and concrete products) and the Stone Businesses were placed on the Market.
After some negotiation Allan left John Fyfe in 1998 with a deal to acquire the business of Fyfe Memorials. It was a twist of fate that the Pisani business had been sold 2 years earlier and it made sense that Allan joined up with them for stability and comfort of working with a team he knew well, and now traded as Fyfe Glenrock.
For the next 10 years, the Pisani Group had operations in Greece, Italy, Bulgaria and India. Several high-profile projects were secured by being part of the Group – the Scottish Parliament Edinburgh, Chelsea Creek London, Weston-Super-Mare, Transport Museum Glasgow.
However, the Credit Crunch in 2009 brought the Pisani Group into financial difficulty due to high levels of borrowing within Greece and a New Pisani London showroom. For 8 years it would continue to trade, but in 2017 it was decided to place the Group in administration and the Fyfe Glenrock/Memorials business was for sale.
Having had nearly 8 years of Pisani austerity, the Fyfe Glenrock business needed support with machine maintenance, investment and better standards of Health & Safety.
Leiths Group acquired Fyfe Glenrock/Memorials in July 2017.
It has not been easy to bring Fyfe Glenrock back to the levels that it used to be, but, with Leiths support, this can be achieved with investment and training of skilled tradesmen which has been the backbone of many successful projects.
As for what to do in retirement, Allan has many DIY projects at home that need to be completed, especially his water feature that he started nearly 30 years ago! He may also take up curling again, a sport that both he and his wife enjoyed playing in their younger days. What he is most looking forward to is travel both home and abroad with his wife Fiona and spending time with his family.
Parting after 56 years will be sad for Allan, albeit finally his apprenticeship will be over.