Sidelight on Strathendry - 1957
Strathendry Factory, situated in the Leven Valley, a short distances from
the town of Leslie, was taken over in 1927 by Thomas De La Rue & Company,
and has since played a large part in the ever-growing prosperity of this
neighbourhood. Originally, Strathendry was a paper mill, and a pioneer in
bonded stationery. When De La Rue's decided to move their fountain pen
factory from Bunhill Row, London, this was the site they chose, and the old
paper mill was re-deployed for the manufacture of pens.
The Strathendry Works circa 1950 - previously owned by J A
Weir since 1869
Some thirty skilled workers were brought from London to form the nucleus of
a business which has brought trade to Leslie and sent its workers all over
Britain. To house these workers, the Leslie Town Council built Maryfield
Crescent site, and young persons were trained as goldsmiths and hand
turners, thus forming a pool of trained personnel which has since supplied
factories in Birmingham and London with skilled assistants.
Up to the time the factory got going, pens were the product of individual
skill and were hand produced. Mass production of pens was started at
Strathendry, and the way paved for highly skilled tooling work which up till
then had been unknown in the district. This progressive policy adopted by De
La Rue's proved a boon in World War Two, since the trained personnel was
available for an immediate switch to work of national importance and peace
time production was shelved in favour of stepping up the war effort.
Automatic lathes were working at high pressure and the first Spitfire seat
in laminated paper was produced for the Royal Air Force. Even during this
period of high priority Government work a few fountain pens still managed to
find their way out of the factory.
Shortly after this, another important use was found for Strathendry when De
La Rue's, the premier banknote printing house in Britain, called upon their
Scottish factory to assist with the production of banknotes when their
London factory was razed to the ground through enemy action. Another
department was quickly begun in the factory, which brought with it all the
security problems which are synonymous with the printing of banknotes for
foreign countries. It was a daily occurrence for sealed containers carrying
notes produced in the factory to be removed by armed security guards.
When the war ended, the task of reconstruction had to be faced and the
factory redeployed for peace time production. Within a very short time
Strathendry was again able to supply the world with the famous "Onoto" pen.
A further sidelight on the factory appeared when gas appliances and
infra-red heating panels were produced there, but as the engineering work of
the factory and pen production increased there was no longer any room for
the manufacture of heating appliances, which has since been transferred to
This year has marked a new milestone in the history of Strathendry and given
impetus to trade-in the vicinity. To produce their new pen, De La Rue's have
installed machines which can manufacture a fountain pen of extreme
durability and a lustre and finish which is unique. The most modern
injection moulding machines, worked by a skilled personnel, are operating
day and night to supply parts for the newly designed fountain pen which
contains a self-cleaning, visible ink supply, and a filling system operated
by means of a plastic piston simpler and more efficient than anything yet
seen in this country.
The large commitments of the Company, both home and export, have ensured a
condition of full employment for everyone. In addition to these main
products, space is still found in the factory for dealing with a proportion
of the Government€s armament programme, and for various light engineering
jobs for many of the biggest industrial Companies in the country. A further
part of the factory is given over to the production of golf accessories, and
golfers all over the world might well be surprised to know that most of the
fittings of a golf club, such as ferrules, caps and grip collars come from
this versatile factory. Moulded plastic golf tees in bright colours, which
are practically unbreakable, are also produced here, and have largely
replaced the old wooden tee.
Socially, the factory's welfare department is active in promoting sports of
all kinds, and in arranging parties of workers from Strathendry to visit
other parts of the United Kingdom and take part in many annual functions
which De La Rue's organise for the several factories under their control.
This year the Leslie football team won for the first time the "Aird Cup"
which is competed for in a knock-out competition confined to teams from the
various branches and divisions of the Company.
Charity appeals in the neighbourhood get a ready response from the factory
workers, and in the recent Old Folk's Week a concert party toured the town
in a decorated lorry and raised a goodly sum to help the Old Folks' Fund.
A sing and dance routine in the back of Mr Mowbray's
fruiterers' lorry to raise funds for the Old Folks' Fund - 1956
Today, the ancient burgh of Leslie is expanding and becoming well known for
the part it is playing in the national economy and for its contribution to
the export drive and for this happy state of affairs Strathendry Factory has
been in some measure responsible.
Text taken from a booklet "The
Burgh Leslie 500 years a Burgh"
Production of all Onotos at Strathendry ceased on 28 February
Long service awards - on the left is Alex Moore, Manager, two
Directors, Mary Fiet on the right standing next to John Hughes, Supervisor.
A section of the Assembly shop, showing
engraving and polishing machines
Working on gold mounts on the left is Betty Alexander (Mrs
Blackwood) with Grace McAndrew behind her; on final polishing in the
foreground is Mary Fiet with Jean Nichol behind.
Production at Strathendry began with Onoto pens, although a
number of other items were made over the years. These included Spitfire
seats and munitions cases made in the Capstan lathe shop above.
The polishing machines at the Onoto pen factory, where the
engraved vulcanite bodies and caps were buffed. This is a pre World War Two
picture as company issue overalls stopped being supplied at the beginning of
the war when rationing came into force.
De La Rue provided various leisure facilities for their
employees, including a field for football and hockey at The Hazels. They
also sponsored the upkeep of the putting green on the Back Braes.
Concert parties by De La Rue employees raised money for many charities in
A concert rehearsal in the works canteen - far left Derry
Moore standing next to his father Alex the works manager.
On the right is George Webster killed in a cycling accident
going to work on a Christmas Day. As well as working at Strathendry he was
the trainer/coach for the Work's football team.
In the top picture - Ian Donachie, far right, the last person
known to have worked at Strathendry on pen production.
Christmas party 1955 - on the left is Alf Cotton one of the
original workers from Bunhill Row. The young lad under Punch and Judy,
facing the camera, is William Fiet.