Sir Donald McCallum: Industrial leader

 

An MP, in the nature of his responsibilities, gets to know the boss of a factory which employs hundreds of his constituents at a high technical level pretty well. For 17 years, from 1968 to 1985, when he was the general manager of the important Scottish House of Ferranti's, and in direct charge of the new huge, then state-of-the-art factory at Crewe Toll in Edinburgh, I had monthly dealings with Donald McCallum. He was quiet, softly spoken, somewhat taciturm, a technically supreme and managerially competent leader of industry.

The union officials and shop stewards would acknowledge that McCallum was straight and always courteous to them, and would punctiliously honour any agreement. McCallum was, equally, accorded respect by his senior managerial colleagues, some of whom, like Bill Gregson, were themselves heavyweights in the UK's industry affairs. McCallum commanded authority in Scottish industry.

Born and brought up in Edinburgh, McCallum had an excellent grounding in mathematics at George Watson's College and completed a BSc at Edinburgh University, where he was not only taught by, but taken under the proverbial wing of, the Tait Professor of Physics, the great German-Jewish Nobel Prize-winner, Max Born. Born recommended McCallum to the Admiralty Signal Establishment, where he participated in cutting-edge work in the detection of U-boats. McCallum told me years later that his time at the ASE had imbued him with a sense of urgency and decisiveness which held him in good stead throughout his industrial responsibilities; "career" is not quite the right word to associate with McCallum.

On demobilisation, after a short period at the Standard Telecommunication Laboratories, McCallum chose to be close to his parents' home and return to Edinburgh to join the then small but go-ahead firm of Ferranti's. Here he was spotted by John Toothill (later Sir John), who had been the dynamic general manager since 1943.

Toothill, author of the seminal Report on the Scottish Economy (1961), which bears his name, leant heavily on McCallum, as he acknowledged, for both background information and proposals. The flamboyant Toothill and the reserved Baptist McCallum worked effectively in harness. Eric Jamieson, physicist and marketing manager for Ferranti and a company director, recalled, "Donald McCallum was thought by all of us who worked for him to be a superb boss."

As one of McCallum's successes, a decade later, in the three-year position of president of the Scottish Council of Development and Industry, I was often advised by the experienced and wise secretary of the SCDI, Alan Wilson, "This is the line that Donald McCallum would have pursued."

Apart from being an authoritative manager of a significant business, McCallum's other achievement was his contribution to technical education. Chairman between 1984 and 1987 of the Scottish Tertiary Education Advisory Council, he had also given huge service as a member of the Court of Heriot-Watt University, and during the development of Napier Polytechnic (1988-93), which became Napier University.

A few weeks after I took my parliamentary seat in June 1962, I asked a Question about industry in Scotland to Basil de Ferranti, MP for Morecombe and Lonsdale and the young Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aviation. A few days later, Basil observed to me in the Commons corridor, "If you don't believe me, go and ask Donald McCallum." I did – and went on asking him questions for the next 30 years.

Donald Murdo McCallum, electrical engineer and businessman: born Edinburgh 6 August 1922; Admiralty Signal Establishment 1942–46; general manager, Scottish Group 1968–85, director, 1970–87 Ferranti plc; chairman, Laser Ecosse 1990–95; CBE 1976, Kt 1988; married 1949 Barbara Black (died 1971; one daughter), 1974 Margaret Illingworth (died 1997), 2007 Jill Morgan; died 18 October 2011.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Voices
Ed Miliband and David Cameron are neck and neck in the polls
election 2015Armando Iannucci: on how British politics is broken
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power