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Famous Scots - Engineer Glasgow J H Carruthers

Mr J H Carruthers started the company J H Carruthers in Polmadie in Glasgow in September 1887.  Today the company called Konecranes UK has been based in East Kilbride since 1959. Not many companies today can say they have been in business, without a gap in trading, for 120 years! Names may have changed over the years, but the company’s prowess in engineering has continued to grow.

The company started life as general engineers and pump makers and expanded into factories in Parkhead, which concentrated on pumps, and Lambhill where they built cranes.

The company even serviced Alvis motor cars during the depression of the 1930s to keep people in work during what was an extremely difficult time.

The Second World War was a key turning point for the company as the company was commissioned to make pumps and deck head seals for naval ships as well as tanker pumps for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

It was around this time that they also started to sell cranes to be fitted inside ships that were getting bigger and more technologically advanced and this progressed into the manufacture of cranes for land based activities.


The company was profiting from the ship building boom that accompanied the war and in the years afterwards thanks to the prolonged increase in merchant shipbuilding and the need for cranes to build the vessels.

However by 1967 the shipbuilding industry was not what it was, competition was fierce on the pump side and J H Carruthers stopped producing pumps to focus on making cranes. The plants in Parkhead and Lambhill were shut down when the company made the move into East Kilbride in the late 50s when current managing director Gordon Adie and his family moved into the town.

The East Kilbride Development Corporation offered workers housing as an incentive to move to the new town and many took up the offer. Gordon's father was works manager at the factory before Gordon himself started out on the shop floor as an engineer in 1974. J H Carruthers was a private company from its inception in 1887 right up until 1972 when it was bought by the Burmah Oil Company.


Burmah Oil was bailed out by the Bank of England in 1974 when the company lost its tanker fleets in the midst of the global oil crisis but only in exchange for the company's shares in BP.

In 1981, in response to the crisis, Burmah Oil sold off all of its non-core assets which included the East Kilbride company as well as big names such as Halfords.

There followed a management buyout for control of the company and in 1985 Kone OY, a Finnish company responsible for the manufacture of elevators, cranes and travelators bought ten per cent of the company. In May 1989 Kone acquired 100 per cent of the company and the name was changed to Kone Carruthers. When Kone Cranes separated from the Kone Group in 1994 the company became part of Konecranes International (KCI).
And then on January 1, 2000 the company changed to Konecranes UK LTD and is part of the biggest crane and material handling supplier in the world. Konecranes has 96 outlets in 46 countries throughout the world and last year had a turnover of just under £1billion. The 250,000 sq ft East Kilbride factory had a turnover of nearly £16 million last year, a far cry from the first full year of accounts in 1888 when J H Carruthers recorded a turnover of just £257.

Amazingly in the company's 120-year history it has never once recorded a loss, a staggering statistic given the many turbulent times it has lived through. The Peel Park business is one of the biggest crane companies in the UK and produces an unsurpassed range of overhead cranes that range from a load capacity of 80kg right up to mammoth 600 tonne cranes.


In the 1960's a team of over 400 staff in East Kilbride would produce between 90 and 100 cranes a year. These days just 80 staff are producing an average of around 300 a year and they are using less of the factory work space.
Konecranes UK build, supply and modernise cranes for over 20 different industries but their six main businesses they cater for are; steel, aluminium, power, shipbuilding, waste-to-energy and paper industries.

The East Kilbride operation is divided into three divisions; a quarter is responsible for smaller 'off-the-shelf' cranes, a quarter for the modernisation of existing cranes and then the remaining half is responsible for the design and manufacture of bespoke cranes.

Konecranes UK recently won a contract to modernise cranes in Barrow-in- Furness that are involved in the manufacture of nuclear submarines. The £8.3 million deal has come about due to new legislation that requires cranes that are involved in nuclear handling to be reassessed and upgraded and Konecranes UK, who built the original cranes are expertly placed to do just that.

Another big growth area for Konecranes UK is the waste-to-energy market where household waste and refuse is collected, burnt and the steam generated used to generate electricity. Konecranes UK have developed and produced a fully automated crane that can work 24/7 if needed to pick up waste and deposit into the furnaces. With no driver, the cranes costing around £2.5 million per project, can work around the clock and is the company's hardest working and most technologically advanced piece of equipment available.

The company builds cranes mostly for the UK and Irish market but has exported to many countries around the world including Nigeria, Belgium, Holland, Cyprus, the Middle East, Iceland and Norway amongst others. Normally the split between home sales and exports is 80/20 favouring the home market but last year it was closer to 60/40 due to the large number of overseas contracts won by the company.

Headstone Photograph

Further Information



Cemetery: Craigton

  Berryknowes Road

Town: Glasgow

Region: Glasgow and Clyde Valley

Country: Scotland


Please Note, the marker on this map indicates the Cemetery location, not the location of a particular grave. is a privately owned website with no affiliation to any Local Councils.