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Scotland’s Oldest Family Firms

Family Business United continues to champion the family business sector and has republished the findings from the inaugural research undertaken back in 2013 to identify the oldest family firms in Scotland.  With the oldest family business dating back to 1715 with a 305 year history to date, and the cumulative trading of the oldest 15 family firms being 2,855 years, there are some great examples of family firms that have stood the test of time.

As Paul Andrews, founder of Family Business United explains; “These businesses have been around for many years and have certainly managed to beat the curse of ‘rags to rags in three generations’ that is often referred to.  In fact, these family firms have managed to survive an industrial revolution, world wars, the creation of the internet and much more besides.  What they clearly all have in common is the ability to remain relevant as a business over time, innovating and evolving throughout their journey in order to survive.”

“There is a real mix of businesses represented too, from time to luxury jewellery and weighing machines to luxury cashmere.  Collectively they represent great ambassadors for the Scottish family business sector and we look forward to seeing their continuing journeys unfold too,” concludes Paul.

Rank Family Business Location Year Founded Years Trading
1 John White & Son Auchtermuchty 1715 305
2 D & J MacEwen Ltd Stirling 1794 226
3 Johnstons of Elgin Elgin 1797 223
4 J Hewitt & Sons Ltd Livingston 1806 214
5 Christies of Fochabers Fochabers 1820 200
6 James Banks & Sons Perth 1831 189
7 James Jones & Sons Larbert 1838 182
8 Laings of Glasgow Glasgow 1840 180
9 Royans of Elgin Elgin 1850 170
10 RT Stuart Ltd Fife 1857 163
11= James Porter & Son Glasgow 1858 162
11= Campbell & Company Beauly 1858 162
13 Smith Anderson Group Kirkcaldy 1859 161
14 James Donaldson & Sons Glenrothes 1860 160
15 John Gordon & Son Ltd Nairn 1862 158

At John White & Son they are proud to provide the best weighing solutions for their customers, building a reputation for innovation and engineering excellence.  John White & Son, based in Aucthermuchty, was under the ownership of the White family until recently when the business was passed on to Joyce Onuonga who now runs the business with her sons, retaining the family ownership and looking forward to the next stage in the family business journey.

D & J MacEwen is the second oldest family firm in Scotland but remains the oldest under direct ownership of descendants of the founding family.  Although the business has changed from a grocers to a property management company, the directors all remain from the original MacEwen family, and the business has remained owned and run by the same family throughout each adaptation and iteration. Some of the properties that the company manages today are those that were the grocers original premises from the past.

J. Hewit & Sons Ltd. are the one-stop manufacturer and supplier for all bookbinding requirements, whether it be leather, materials, equipment, tools or sundries.

Johnstons of Elgin, is a woollen mill in Elgin, Scotland. The mill was established in 1797 and the same mill produces cashmere garments today. The original mill produced linen, flax, oatmeal and tobacco but Alexander Johnston, its founder, introduced textiles and phased out the original products.

As a garden centre Christies of Fochabers have a huge variety of plants (shrubs, herbaceous, heathers, alpines, fruit trees, soft fruit, climbers etc) but the business is much more than just a garden centre and continues to evolve today.

One of Scotland’s oldest retail businesses, James Banks & Son is still run by the same family. The business was founded by James Banks, in 1831, manufacturing and retailing ropes, cords and nets for farming and commercial salmon fishing.  Grandson James Banks took over the firm on his return from the first world war, closing the rope manufacturing and diversifying into alternative lines including tents, camping equipment and canvas products.  David Banks, former Scottish Ski Champion, joined the company in 1950. He started skiing in 1952 and rebuilt the shop in 1961 to incorporate a snow ski department. In 1971 the firm moved into larger premises to accommodate the increasing business. The partnership of David and Muriel Banks were later joined by their daughter Rona, on her retirement from international ski racing. She now manages the present company. The family have been fortunate with their staff, some of whom have been with them for many years and this experience proves invaluable to their customers.

James Jones Ltd is one of the largest, most efficient and innovative timber processing groups in Europe, offering the widest range of sawn timber products.

In an industry where heritage and reputation count for so much, the famous and long established name of Laings is renowned as a guarantor of quality in fine jewellery and watches. Now in its 6th generation of the Laing family, the business is an iconic brand at the heart of Glasgow’s vibrant retail scene.

Royans of Elgin is one of Scotlands oldest butchers businesses, having been founded in 1850 by the grandfather of the present owner, Jim Royan. Jim is the only retail butcher in the UK to have been invited to judge the supreme championship at the Royal Smithfield show on two occasions!

Stuarts is a sixth generation family bakers and butchers with shops and outlets serving Fife and the surrounding areas.  Stuarts started out as a bakers, but began sourcing meat in the 1960;s to guarantee the quality of the filling in their speciality pies and consequently became Stuart’s the Bakers and Butchers.

James Porter & Son have been Glasgow diamond jewellery and watch specialists since 1858. They now offer a wide range with a collection of designer watch brands and quality conflict free diamond Jewellery.

Campbell’s retail emporium is an experience in itself with a truly original and characterful charm to its rustic and vintage appearance. The alchemy of the original fixtures and fittings from 1858 with the contemporary products sold today makes for both a unique appearance and experience.

Smith Anderson are the UK’s leading paper bag manufacturer, operating from a custom built facility in Kirkcaldy, producing over 60 million paper bags per week.

James Donaldson & Sons is a family of businesses specialising in the processing, manufacturing, merchanting and distribution of timber and associated building products.  James Donaldson & Sons has been operating for over 150 years and is still within the Donaldson family over six generations later. Throughout time, JDS has grown exponentially through innovation and acquisition – having invested in key businesses that compliment the group’s current capabilities.

Gordon Timber, based in Nairn in the Highlands of Scotland, have a long history of supplying high quality softwood timber. Founded in 1862 and, since the late 1880’s, managed by four generations of the same family, the company is now recognised as one of the top sawmilling companies in the UK.

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