Obituary: Ian Galloway, businessman

Ian Galloway, businessman was an innovator and progressive operator in the red meat industry. Picture: Contributed
Ian Galloway, businessman was an innovator and progressive operator in the red meat industry. Picture: Contributed
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Born: 21 June, 1940, in Aberdeen. Died: 29 Februar,y 2016, in Stirling, aged 75.

With the death of Ian Galloway, Scotland has lost one of its leading businessmen and the Scottish red meat industry one of its most innovative and progressive operators.

For five decades, Ian headed up Scotbeef, which is now Scotland’s largest meat processing business with plants in Bridge of Allan, Queenslie, East Kilbride, Annan and Inverurie. From those modern premises Scotch beef and lamb is supplied to the UK’s biggest supermarkets. The family firm with a £300 million plus annual turnover is also the country’s largest red meat exporter with long term customers in a number of European countries as well as further abroad.

Both Ian’s father and grandfather were heavily involved in meat processing and retailing, leaving him with one career path. He joined the family business of JW Galloway in 1956 straight from school and his father who was concerned about his own health wanting Ian to gain as much hands-on experience as possible. This grounding in business started with a short spell behind the shop counter and was followed by travelling round the family owned shops ensuring everything was all right.

A couple of years later, his father sent him on a round the world trip so that he could broaden his knowledge of the meat trade. To make sure Ian concentrated on business and was not diverted from that priority, he was sent alone; the theory being he would spend his time with the industry people he met. In a feature of his life, many of the relationships he made on that trip he kept to the present day.

The knowledge and experience gained on these trips helped the company build the first driven-line meat-processing plant in the UK, and, in 1962, Scotbeef, a wholly owned subsidiary of JW Galloway was founded.

Also in the early 1960s, he spent time in Europe learning how the meat industry operated on the Continent and, in a pioneering move he opened up the export trade for Scottish beef and lamb. This side of the family business continues to the present day and, as an example of the importance he placed on long term relationships, some of his 1960s customers in France and Italy continue to deal with the firm.

By the mid-1970s the firm of J W Galloway had 56 shops throughout Glasgow and the Central belt. In addition, the company owned two processing factories and employed a total of 1,100 staff.

He was already supplying Marks and Spencers with canned meats, and they developed together Controlled Atmosphere Packing of fresh meat. This together with their, at the time unique, cold chain distribution system enabled fresh meat to be extended to many more stores.

This was the final link that encouraged Ian to come out of retailing which was fast losing market share to the multiples, and concentrate on meat processing.

Fifty years later, Ian proudly celebrated the Golden Jubilee of trading with Marks & Spencer in yet another example of his ability and enthusiasm for retaining business links; albeit today’s demand has changed and includes some of the finest cuts of Aberdeen-Angus beef and the best of Scotch lamb.

His link with Marks and Spencer also provided sponsorship for the Scottish national premier meat exhibition, the Scottish Winter Fair carcase competition.

This prestigious event is staged at Scotbeef’s Bridge of Allan abattoir and attracts entries from all over Scotland.

Ian was always a strong supporter of the Winter Fair and in 1993 he was made Honorary President of the Scottish National Fatstock Club; the long established organisation that runs the event. This recognised his energy in reviving an organisation that had, temporarily, plateaued.

Thanks both to his determination and the support of a strong management team, led by his son Robbie, who has been responsible for much of the companies operations for the past decade, they have been able to increase their customer portfolio to include major new players such as Aldi.

Another example of Ian’s determination came in 2001, some five years after Europe shut the gate on importing beef and lamb from the UK on account of the BSE scare. There followed five years of wrangling before the European politicians came up with a complex list of demands that would have to be met before the export market would be re-opened. Although it was not immediately commercially viable to do so, Ian was so determined to regain markets that he dedicated his factory in Strathaven to supplying beef and lamb for Europe. He was rewarded for his efforts in 2011 with the Queen’s Award for Excellence

His efforts in promoting red meat from this country also saw him awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Royal Highland Agricultural Society in 2000. This was followed by being nominated President of the Highland show in 2006.

In 2001 he was awarded a CBE for services to the Scottish Meat Industry and more recently, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Glasgow Vet School and an Honorary Fellowship from Scotland’s Rural College

Ian was a businessman of the old school, who learned his trade at the sharp end. Much of management philosophy behind the growth of the company was based the basic good sense he learned from his father. None was more important than the dictum of keeping good links or relationships with those you were dealing with, be they farmers, retailers or employees. Those who worked closely with him occasionally witnessed his volatility but they also recognised this was often caused by his determination to see things done properly.

He never courted publicity and he had little time for consultants preferring his own instincts. Once confronted with some new management theory, he countered it by stating, “I don’t like bullshit. It’s the one part of the animal I’ve never been able to sell.’’

In his private life, Avril and he celebrated their Golden wedding in 2013. While he was always a very committed businessman, his great joy in later life was his family’ especially his ten grandchildren.

His main non-business interest was in country sports where he was considered a very good shot, a skilful angler and an accomplished stalker

His is survived by Avril, son Robbie, daughter, Suzie, son in-law James, daughter in-laws Nicki and Alison and ten grandchildren. His son James predeceased him in 2002.