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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
Aluminium and white metal
casting and machining
Complex metal turning and
Steel fabrication including
fire escapes, car and van trailers and gates
refurbishment of pumps and other equipment for Dumbarton
Repairs to racing cars
before the Rest and be Thankful hill climb
Essential maintenance to
dramatically improve the performance of the electrical components at
the transatlantic telecom base station in Argyll
of horse drawn metalwork and winches for the Forestry Commissions
Various other fabrications
to meet industry challenges or provide engineering solutions
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
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.
very young Ronnie is on the left with Jim McDermid.
Photographs of the
Patented and other Products, Innovations and Workshop
The TARA Air Cock
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
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:
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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,
John died on the 19th of July 1986 and is buried
close to his grandson Calum in the
(John is number
and Calum is number
This article was written by Bob MacLean -
John MacLean's son.
At Work (video) and
Loch Sloy Hydro Electric Scheme