Hammer time: Perthshire’s Iain Smith Auctioneers debuting new premises after 2018 fire

Perthshire’s Iain Smith Auctioneers is looking forward to resuming operations at new premises next week – nearly four years after watching its previous building go up in smoke.

The firm, which is based at Perth Airport, is bouncing back after the 2018 blaze with a new split-level auction hall in a vast hangar that it says is 100 yards from the rubble of the previous property and one of the biggest auction halls under one roof in Scotland.

A record 2,000-plus lots will go under the hammer at the inaugural three-day sale starting January 26, a quarter of a century after the firm relocated from the Fair City to its airport when local businessman Morris Leslie acquired the transport hub.

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The auctioneering company’s founder and boss Iain Smith said he learned his trade selling everything from pigs to property for one-time Perth companies Hay’s and Macdonald Fraser – adding that he refused to let a combination of the fire and the pandemic destroy his life’s work.

Mr Smith hails the reopening as a major milestone, saying he refused to let the fire and the pandemic destroy his life’s work. Picture: contributed.
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He said: “This is a major milestone after operating from temporary premises in the aftermath of the blaze. I’ll never forget watching firefighters battling in vain to save the original auction hall and everything I had worked for since starting up with a £3,000 loan from an auntie.

“Thanks to fantastic support from [Morris Leslie], we were up and running from alternative premises within a matter of weeks and we leapt at the opportunity to move into a unit which is around five times bigger.

“We have been very fortunate post-lockdown. I know many businesses have suffered badly but an online presence has meant we have been getting busier and busier.

Business has trebled over the last two years so we desperately needed the bigger auction room. It’s ideal given the scale of auctions taking place every three weeks.

“We now have nine full-time staff, with four of our porters enjoying more than 80 years’ experience between them. We are all looking forward to the first of our regular three-day sales, with most of the 37,000 square feet of floorspace already filled.”

Global appeal

Mr Smith handles everything from country and townhouse clearances to sales of engineering and garden machinery from Central Scotland to Aberdeenshire – and says his auctions regularly attract buyers from across Europe, the US, China and Australia.

“It never fails to amaze me what can be turned up during a house clearance. It can be quite exciting,” he said. “I recall selling a spectacular seven-foot carved oak eagle after clearing the abbey at Fort Augustus. It went under the hammer for £10,500.

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“Sometimes you unpack items which have made several house moves, still wrapped in yellowing newspapers dating back to the 1950s or earlier.

“There are always surprises. One recent sale saw a Yorkshire collector travel north to make sure he secured Robert ‘Mouseman’ Thomson’s oak carvings of a barn owl and hawk. Those fetched £8,500.

“Among the more unusual items going under the hammer next week are a letter sent by courier for a payment of 240 Francs signed by Napoleon Bonaparte and a Chinese wedding sleigh. These are first for me – and we are anticipating four-figure bids from home and abroad.”

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