Firms mark centenary of chemical production on world-famous site

It's true to say chemicals have left an indelible mark on the town of Grangemouth. In fact for the past 100 years or so one particular road has been home to a long line for firms involved in the manufacture of chemicals.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 11th October 2018, 2:14 pm
Updated Thursday, 11th October 2018, 3:17 pm

Some of those companies are now in the process of celebrating this major milestone for the world -renowned Earls Road and three of them, Fujifilm, Chalachem and Syngenta, have gone so far as to commission talented Grangemouth High School pupils to design a logo highlighting the big one hundred.

The year-long birthday party was launched at the start of the month with a special presentation to the winner of the logo design competition.

Syngenta site manager Andrew Tomb said: “The organising committee asked Grangemouth High School pupils to design a suitable logo and from more than 40 entries Callum Whyte’s design was chosen.

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“His logo represents the simple message but cleverly incorporates all the main colours of the three companies involved.”

Artist Callum earned himself a £100 voucher and Grangemouth High coined in £500 for school funds.

And this is just the beginning of a 12-month programme of events in the community to remember the first 100 years of Grangemouth chemical manufacturing.

The birth of the chemical industry in Earls Road dates back to 1919 when James Morton opened Scottish Dyes on the 80-acre site.

There was a huge demand from the textile industries for dyes that didn’t fade and Grangemouth went from strength to strength producing them.

In 1926 the firm became part of the British Dyestuffs Corporation which helped form the famous Imperial Chemicals Industry – ICI – two years later.

During World War Two manufacturing and developing efforts also incorporated the production of drugs and medicines with a dedicated medicines facility opening its doors in 1953.

Earls Road enjoyed a royal visit in 1955 when Queen Elizabeth, crowned three years earlier, was taken on a tour of the site.

Agrochemicals began to play a bigger part in the industry in the 1970s as operations grew to include the manufacture of insecticides and fungicides.

Of course, Grangemouth’s chemicals industry has experienced some major changes over the past century and has seen a host of different companies coming and going, including ICI, Zeneca, Avecia and Kemfine.

In an industry which has to change with the times and technology, the 1980s saw major restructuring at the site as firms tried to cope with increasing competition from the Far East and India where they were developing similar products.

Further restructuring took place in the 1990s, with the commissioning of new plants at the site but a major reduction in staffing numbers required to run them.

ICI split into two firms in 1993 and the once huge site was gradually reduced, with most of the old sheds coming down.

The old red brick buildings on either side of the main entrance, which used to house the offices and laboratories, are still there, but the old ICI recreation club has given way to a distribution centre for Asda.

Now the remaining Earls Road firms are each working hard on the their respective futures in the industry, while together taking time to honour the past.

Mr Tomb said: “Fujifilm, Calachem and Syngenta will jointly commemorate this landmark year with a series of events for the community and this will include a special garden party at the Jupiter Urban Wildlife Centre for staff and their families.

“There will also be a family fun day at Falkirk Rugby Club, an update on the 100 years for John Blackie’s history of the chemical industry book, a bring your family to work day and open day site visits to our sites, an old picture display of the chemical industry of the past at the Grangeouth Heritage Trust and lots more events in the pipeline.”