Memories Of The Lynwood Workshop  > 

Memories Of The Lynwood Workshop

 (by Bob MacLean)

John MacLean ran 'The Lynwood Workshop' which was located in the stables behind the Lynwood hotel, now called The Village Inn. Where the workshop once stood is now additional bedrooms.

John thrived on finding efficient solutions to demanding engineering challenges; he relaxed by listening to comedy from Round the Horn and the Goons on radio to watching Laurel and Hardy on television or at the cinema. He loved animals and owned several dogs - one of them, Rover used to peep his car or van’s horn to gain his attention if he left him alone too long.

His interests included spending time with his many associates to discuss a wide range of current affairs, playing dominoes and telling jokes. One of them related to an asylum inmate who had to pass a simply test to gain his freedom. Despite his response that he would go blind and not deaf as expected if his ears were cut off, the institution had no alternative but to let him go as he successfully argued that he would be unable to see as his “bunnet” would fall over his eyes. 

He enjoyed telling his grandchildren stories and making them matchbox and matchstick models of sailing boats etc. Several of them are still looking for the fairy at the bottom of the garden.  

John was unassuming, never took himself too seriously and was appreciative and humble in his successes. He would have hoped that his enduring legacy is the young men he trained who carry his skills and memory on long after he has passed.

As a young man, John enjoyed a range of interests including camping, boxing, ballroom dance coaching and motorbike and car racing.  

John as a Young Man                              John and his friend preparing for a race       



He was employed in or associated with public works throughout his working life. This included the construction of airport runways during the Second World War and excavation of shafts and tunnels for the London Underground. He spent several months in Holland helping to repair war damaged buildings and gave away cigarettes and clothes to his newfound Dutch friends. In 1946, employed as a Plant Manager / Forman Fitter with Edmund Nuttall, he was, together with his wife Rose and children Robert and Heather, transferred to their Loch Sloy Hydro Electric project. 

After spending about two years on the Loch Sloy scheme, taking into account his wife’s love of such a scenic location and his desire to establish roots, John started and developed his own business in Tarbet, initially manufacturing the Tara Air Cock Valve, one of his own inventions. After a few years, he left the facility close to the Post Office and relocated his growing business to the outbuildings of the Old Manse in Teighness, Arrochar.

Photographs of John McLean at his Workshop in Tarbet and Arrochar


The workshop equipment included a range of centre, capstan and turret lathes and milling, drilling and cutting machines. A separate welding and foundry facility accommodated a range of advanced gas and electric welding equipment and an air-assisted coke fuelled forge to produce aluminium and white metal castings.   

John was rapidly recognised as a highly skilled engineer and inventor capable of producing cost effective solutions to meet the demands of an ever-increasing group of discerning clients including Dumbarton County Council, the Forestry Commission the Hydro Electric Board. Innovations he worked on ranged from a machine to produce cheap energy, an ante jack knife device for articulated lorries to a lighting system for aircraft landing in low visibility conditions.

The increase in sales for the above valve together with orders for a growing and diverse range of mechanical engineering products and related activities listed below gave many local young men an opportunity to gain a range of engineering and machine shop skills.

  • The development and manufacture of other valves

  • Hard welding procedures to renew / rebuild rock excavator’s teeth and other pioneering welding techniques

  • Aluminium and white metal casting and machining

  • Complex metal turning and threading

  • Steel fabrication including fire escapes, car and van trailers and gates

  • Major refurbishment of pumps and other equipment for Dumbarton County Council

  • Repairs to racing cars before the Rest and be Thankful hill climbbilly MacDougal playing the accordian

  • Essential maintenance to dramatically improve the performance of the electrical components at the transatlantic  telecom base station in Argyll

  • Repair of horse drawn metalwork and winches for the Forestry Commissions

  • Various other fabrications to meet industry challenges or provide engineering solutions


The following photographs include several of the young men that John employed. All were encouraged to acquire turning, cutting, welding, milling, drilling, grinding and other skills to cope with the varied demands made by the company’s customers. An independent welding inspector carried out periodic tests and where appropriate issued certificates. Several of the apprentices augmented their training at a Technical College.

The photographs include Ronnie Macdonald, Billy MacDougal, Jim McDermid, Raymond Walsh and Donald McEacheran. As there are currently none available of the many other apprentices and managers, we would welcome any that you may have for possible inclusion.



  A very young Ronnie is on the left with Jim McDermid.






                                                                             Raymond Walsh


Photographs of the Patented and other Products, Innovations and Workshop

The TARA Air Cock Valves



Aircraft Landing Light                                                                    



John’s engineering business thrived and at its peak operated both a day and night shift. Many of the young men who worked with him gained a variety of essential technical skills that allowed them to achieve or surpass their personal engineering objectives.

The following is a testimonial provided by Dougie McGilvray, who was one of John’s young apprentices and now Managing Director of Weldex, the company he established in 1979 and developed to become the largest UK based crawler crane hire company:

As a young boy travelling to the Primary School at Tarbet, I used to pass the Workshop of McLean Burne & Co next door to the Tarbet Post Office and often wondered what type of work was undertaken there. Little did I know then that it would play a major part in my adult life. As I progressed through my School years and moved onto travelling to Helensbugh for schooling, McLean, Burne & Company moved to Lynwood and set up their workshops in the old stables.

Being friendly with Robert and since my home was only some 200 yards from Lynwood I spent many hours watching John instruct and train his apprentices in the field of mechanical engineering. Although the premises were small, John had them well set out with Lathes, Milling Machines, Drills, Buffs, Welding Machines, Profile Cutter and a Forge.

On leaving school I went to work in Glasgow as an Apprentice Engineer but this came to an end when the apprentices went on strike on the Clydeside, John heard that I was out of work and offered me a Job I accepted this and became one of the many Arrochar boys to be trained by John MacLean. During my time working for John he also employed some people from Alexander and Dumbarton, Here was a company from a small village employing and training people from the industrial area of Scotland many of whom went on to work Worldwide be it with the Merchant Navy or in the Construction or Civil Engineering Industries.

While working for Jock I found him to be a very dedicated man who did everything possible to pass on his vast knowledge of mechanical engineering to all that were employed by him. At one time, there was a requirement to work two shifts in the workshop. Although the men were working 12 hours per shift, it was not unusual for Jock to work 20 hours and still manage every Thursday to put on his business suit and take his faithful friend Rover with him to go and canvass for more contracts to keep his workforce employed.

I personally never did finish my apprenticeship with McLean Burne and Company as I went on to do other things but when I left Arrochar at the age of 22, I found that it was not so easy to get employment.

I then phoned Jock to see if he would give me a reference he immediately sent me one stating that I had been employed by him for three and a half years during which time I had gained a vast knowledge of engineering, this piece of paper turned out to be my passport to the future. From a man who would do anything possible to help others.

Like so many others I owe so much to Jock McLean a man that had great foresight, Engineering talent and ambition and started a Company that gave so much to many people. 

The inhabitants of Arrochar & Tarbet should be very proud to have had such men as Jock McLean, Jimmy MacTavish and Jimmy Ross who had the courage to start up their own companies and train so many young people and give employment to so many local people.”

Operating world wide, on and offshore, Weldex offer tailored lifting solutions from simple hire to comprehensive consultancy packages. Weldex also hire, supply and certify all types of rigging and lifting equipment.  



After retiring, John and Rose initially relocated to Clynder and then Helensburgh. In this photo, he is playing cards with his grandson also named John McLean. His other grandchildren are Ross, Samantha, Calum, Lesley and Lynn.



John would have been very pleased with his grandson’s achievements. Continuing the tradition, he gained a degree in mechanical engineering and is now a senior engineer with Aston Martin.

Here he is with a development version of the latest James Bond's DBS in the Spanish Sierra Nevada. Together with his company’s technical and business objectives, he is currently involved in testing their latest models in Glen Shee, Scotland.     


John died on the 19th of July 1986 and is buried close to his grandson Calum in the Arrochar cemetery  (John is number 108 and Calum is number 153)


This article was written by Bob MacLean - John MacLean's son.

See also  Rivers At Work (video)  and  The Loch Sloy Hydro Electric Scheme