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.

Sport
footballLIVE City face Stoke, while Warnock returns to Palace dugout
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
books
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

Day In a Page

Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference