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.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
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

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
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