Bishopbriggs firm reaches half century

As a lad growing up in Auchinairn, all John Watson dreamed about was putting a lorry on the road.
Staff at John S L Watson with the Watson family.Staff at John S L Watson with the Watson family.
Staff at John S L Watson with the Watson family.

Fast forward five decades and John is still the driving force behind a family-run Bishopbriggs firm that has become one of Scotland’s most respected companies.

John S L Watson, based at Crowhill Road, celebrated a half century on May 13.

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John started the firm in 1968 after securing his first lorry, a Dodge D308, which had been involved in a smash. Ever the hands-on entrepreneur, John donned his customary dungarees and had a new cab fitted.

His second lorry was also in need of a fair amount of TLC and John enlisted the help of father-in-law Alex Hamilton, who hand-painted the lorry from top to bottom.

At the time, John’s father, Jimmy Watson Snr, was transport manager with Wm Carmichael of Port Dundas and he joined his son’s growing empire in the mid-70s as the number of lorries expanded. It was a real family affair as John’s mother, May, took care of the basic book-keeping, with John’s wife, Susan, taking over as financial manger as the business. His sister, Netta, joined as office secretary.

In the 80s the demand for lorry-mounted cranes grew and the company diversified into this sector. John was one of the first hauliers in Scotland to provide a Moffat Mounty forklift service.

John’s son, Jimmy, worked in the business as a young lad, studying at Stevenson College and completing his apprenticeship as a mechanic and lorry driver.

In the 90s, demand for clamshell tippers prompted a shift in direction again. It was during this time that John’s father was involved in a serious accident involving a delivery vehicle to the yard, sustaining an injury from which he tragically never recovered.

John decided not to keep growing the haulage side of the business and to reduce the fleet from 18 wagons to two.

Jimmy said: “My dad was adamant there would be no more lorries. We’re now operating seven lorries, with clamshell tippers remaining our main business today.”

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John still puts in a driving shift and proudly wears his dungarees.

He said: “It has been an unbelievable 50 years, but I’m proud to say that my family has been with me every step of the way – and every mile of the road. Three generations have been involved in creating the company, with a fourth coming up.”

“As a wee boy, all I wanted to do was put a lorry on the road.”