David Ritchie, great grandfather to two of the present Ritchie directors (David – Company Secretary and Robert -Agricultural Sales Director), took over Gateside Smithy, just outside Forfar when he was 29 years old.
David’s two sons, James (originally a veterinarian) and David both became blacksmiths and decided to leave country blacksmithing and develop agricultural engineering at Whitehills in Forfar.
The repair of implements took up most of their time with an increasing demand on sheet metal products such as Potato Baggers and Fodder Wagons.
Staff had increased to four, with David’s eldest son Robert (whose looks defy his age) joining the firm at the age of 14.
Repair work still took priority over the manufacture of new implements, however additional new products were introduced such as Pig Feeders and Food Troughs.
For the first time, non-family employees were invited into the business. War started and practically all efforts were put into implement repair.
George Ritchie (David’s youngest son), who went to St. Andrew’s University to study medicine, joined the RAF upon the start of the Second World War and was then subsequently persuaded to join the family business.
First product catalogue published. With the war now over, more emphasis was put on manufacturing new implements than repair. The product range at this time included tractor carts, end or side tipping, stack bosses, knife sharpening stands, oil tanks, lime spreaders, corn bins, water troughs and sheep dippers, many of these being novel products for the time. All of the non local deliveries were made by the railways leaving from Forfar Station.
Ritchie had begun selling through the Ritchie dealer network throughout the UK. The product range increased to include a wide range of poultry, cattle, sheep and pig feeding and handling equipment. Robert (Bert) Ritchie was managing the business at this time.
As a strategic move to address the so called ‘Beeching Cuts’ of the railway networks, Ritchie’s first delivery truck was introduced and covered the whole of the UK! A door to door service was then available to the customers, which was so successful that a second vehicle was added by the spring of 1966.
Land at Suttieside Farm purchased from Forfar Town Council. Originally developed as a storage site for finished products, the first factory was built by 1973 for fabrication work only.
At this time the product range continued to broaden with the introduction of bale handling equipment. This was a necessary development as having been predominantly in the livestock sector, a quieter summer season was experienced due to the seasonality of the livestock product range.
Under the Conservative government, the UK entered the ‘Common Market’ by signing the ‘Treaty of Rome’. This sent the Agriculture industry into a volatile state and forced the company to look at alternative markets.
The ‘Burke’ trophy was awarded to Ritchie at the Royal Show, Stoneleigh, for the ‘Transfer Weight Bale Transporter’. This machine revolutionised bale handling and was instrumental in the continued success of the business. Other Ritchie agricultural products have been recognised by various show societies with ‘awards of merit’ and silver medals being presented.
By the early 1980`s the search for new markets had lead into the blossoming Offshore Industry. This subsequently took Ritchie into the industrial gas supply industry, fabricating a range of gas cylinder handling equipment.
By the early 1990s Ritchie ingenuity had advanced enabled the company to become the leading supplier of gas handling equipment in the UK.
Additional ground was purchased at Forfar both in 1990 and 1995 totalling approximately 7 acres to allow for further expansion.
Forfar Galvanisers Ltd was established with a state of the art plant being constructed at the Suttieside site.
As part of the company’s strategic growth plan, Ritchie Hua Engineering Ltd was established as a joint venture between Ritchie Limited and Weihai Gaosai Metal productions Co Ltd, to design and manufacture products in Asia.
The company opened a facility in the West Midlands specifically designed to manufacture lower cost agricultural products close to one of the significant market centres and raw material suppliers.
Today Ritchie employ over 140 people between the Forfar and West Midlands factories manufacturing and supplying equipment around the world.
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