Allan Richardson Apprentice at Beithcraft Furniture.
I began my apprenticeship as a cabinet maker at what was then the West of Scotland cabinet works in Beith. However, it was always known as Balfour’s. Most of the cabinet works in Beith made dining room and bedroom furniture and it is often said that it was a great shame that they didn’t get together and make furniture that was different from one another, rather than compete. Stevenson and Higgins were renowned for kitchen type chairs and as early as 1905 they were exporting lift cabinets to Australia. The boardroom table in Glasgow Chamber of Commerce was made by Macneill Brothers. It is a magnificent walnut table with matching walnut chairs. It will seat about 24 people and the burr walnut used for the top came from President Jackson’s Estate in the USA, so this also adds to the interest of that particular piece of furniture.
The pulpit in Trinity Church in Beith is a good example of craftsmanship at its very best. It is made in oak and the carving and cabinet work on the pulpit is of the highest standard. This was made by Macneill Brothers in 1926. Just a few years ago Beithcraft vans were seen throughout the length and breadth of Britain, in the heydays of the late 60’s and early 70’s. Beithcraft also showed at most of the trade exhibitions such as Earl’s Court in London which was one of the most prestigious shows.
My father was the sales director at Beithcraft and before that, my grandfather was a cabinet maker. I am very proud that I did my full apprenticeship in Beith. Now I head the family business of Hampton and McMurray in Glasgow. Beithcraft is still talked about today in the furniture trade. It frustrates me that most of the furniture that I sell nowadays comes from Newhaven, High Wycombe and Bedford, furniture which was very similar to the type that was made in Beith. It is a tragedy that we can no longer boast of furniture made in Beith.
Allan Richardson (51)
Interviewed by Claire Greenwood and Sandy Bruce on 2nd September 1993.