John Rutherford and Sons

For almost 100 years they were the main employer in Coldstream


The family business of John Rutherford & Son were the life blood of many families in Coldstream for almost 100 years. Mr. John Rutherford, a Chrinside man, married an Ayton girl Margaret Dickson at Galashiels in 1885.  They were to start a business that would last almost 100 years In 1899, Mr. John Rutherford surveyed a tiny site at Home Place in Coldstream then he went home to discuss the possibilities of renting it with his wife. That survey and the subsequent lease of the premises, 12 square feet, marked the birth of an agricultural engineering firm which later covered a total of several acres in five different sites. The first workshop to be rented was at Home Place  next to a grain store and stables. It is ironic that the first small workshop was eventfully part of the large and extensive parts department of the agricultural business. Agricultural engineering has progressed at an unprecedented rate in this last 100 years John Rutherford was at the fore front of this enterprise. Things were difficult in the early days. Even in a shop of 12 square feet there was still room to move about and plenty time to look for work. Going out to work in those days was done by horse and cart. Problems cropped up regularly. If there was turning work required, it had to be done five miles away on a lathe driven by a windmill. When the volume of work increased Mrs. Rutherford helped her husband with it. To work on a lathe became a regular thing for her; she could also keep the forge going when needed. Margaret lived to be over 100 years old. Success in those early days for the firm meant early mornings and many late nights. Eventually looking for larger premises was of prime importance as the demands for his trade were now going from strength to strength. It was to Abbey Road just off the Market Place that they moved to. It was a large building with a workshop and eventfully utilized as a joiners shop. Lathes and drilling machines were installed in the workshop,  now it was possible to repair the implements or machines without going out onto the farms. Their son William Rutherford started his apprenticeship with his father in 1902. Also at this time they employed there first journeyman. Steam, at this time, the most popular form of motive power, was being replaced by the oil engine and the farm machinery was being used to a widening extent, in particular with the introduction of the grain binder. The binder or mower had come in to use in the early days of the company, pulled by  horses but it was not very reliable and after needed repaired. The evolution of farm machinery at this time being responsible for the natural progression into agricultural engineering. Looking back Mr. John Rutherford would later recall it often took longer to get to the job and to get home than it did to do the repair, the horse was the only method of transport. He was soon joined by his other son Henry, who would move out in 1911 and manage branch of the firm in Earlston. But for our interest we will stick to the Coldstream branch of the family. About the same time that he moved to Earlston, his brother William took control at Coldstream. Throughout the First World War and in the years that followed there was a boom in engineering. William Rurtherford was one of the pioneers of motoring in Berwickshire. A few years later in 1920 they returned to Home Place, this time to much larger premises its exact location we are not sure but there was a small row of houses  next to the school called Waterloo Place, it is thought that they were incorporated into the work shop. With the firm approaching its quarter of a century, John S Rutherford the founder retired from active participation in the business, and full responsibility for the business at Coldstream fell on the shoulders of William Rutherford, the eldest son, who had been in the business from almost the start. They acquired the lease of a building in Dalkeith and the firm opened up activities in that area. Much had been accomplished by the firm in the twenty five years since its foundation. The Fordson tractor was to be one of the most popular tractors in the Borders, Rutherfords were sharp to see its potential and were appointed distributing agents for Fordson in Berwickshire. The American wheel type tractors came into vogue and quite large numbers of these were distributed by the firm. The Case model was the one Rutherford’s distributed very successfully. Tractors with American style wheels came onto vogue  quite a large number of these were distributed by the firm. The Case model was the one Rutherford’s successfully distributed. Already war clouds were gathering on the horizon and the  agricultural industry began to prepare for an even bigger effort. Messrs Rutherford expanded again, this time at Kelso where a business belonging to Story was purchased. It was in 1940 J R & S brought the first Combine harvester to the borders West Learmouth farm at Cornhill purchased two Note the Caterpillar tractor was also introduced to the Borders by J R & S. The company now bought the premises in Duns Road and was employing almost 200 people. The family was making further plans to expand. The first car workshop run by family was the “Coldstream Garage” which they bought  from Mr Carmichael. It was a building complete with petrol pump next to Forsyth the Bakers and opposite the War Memorial. They were agents for the Roots Group of cars, and B P petrol.  Joe Hastie was foreman and went on to be manager and head car sales man In 1949, the next move was to purchase the Station Garage in Cornhill from Mr. Thomas Swan this gave Mr. William Rutherford a challenge to upgrade the workshop and build a bespoke showroom and office. This Garage complex would be home to two very prestigious brands of car BMW and Saab. Their tractor department at Cornhill was the agent for International Harvester. In the late 50s Rutherfords acquired a workshop and lock up garages known as The Glen Esk Garage from Lex Welsh to open up as a Ford dealership.   The workshop at 42 High Street was constructed in part of the East Church. The previous owner Dr George Henderson, who lived over the top what is now the show room. Alex Campbell the workshop foreman lived in that very nice flat for a number of years. Also purchased was part of the Glebe field in front of Trafalgar House where they built a filling station and a car showroom. They cut down two or three very large chestnut trees in front of the filling station. The lock up garages that were on the opposite side of the road were taken down and rebuilt in Tom Fultons yard in Nursery Lane. Rutherford’s donated the land the lock up garages was on to the town council to make  a car park as we see it now. The Ford dealership was without doubt one of the best agencies in the Borders with two very good salesmen in Joe Hastie and Bert Retie. They also had very competent men in their workshop, Alex Campbell, Norman Lauder, Peter Hermison to name but three   Mr. William Rutherford was a founder member of the Scottish Agricultural Machinery Association, which was closely connected with the invention of the magneto-starting mechanism and also introduced the chaff and cavers blower as a labor-saving device. Mr. John Rutherford was responsible for bringing Caterpillar tractor from America The days of expansion slowed down after they had BMW and SAAB at Station Garage. They had come a long way. The family continued to run the business right up until 2000 when it ceased trading in all the workshops and garages. Like many other large farming based enterprises Elders of Berwick, Hendersons of Kelso they were taken over by the sands of time.  

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