In the beginning… David Hall Harrison was born in 1884 and brought up in the town of Leith near Edinburgh. He left school at the age of fourteen to serve an apprenticeship with one of the several shipbuilding companies in Leith. Over a period of about ten years or so he worked for Cran and Somerville as well as Ramage and Ferguson and Henry Robb. Leith, in those days, was a hotbed of shipbuilding activity but sadly this great industry disappeared and with Edinburgh incorporating Leith into the city in the 1920s, the east of Scotland was not renowned for its manufacturing like Glasgow and the districts around that large conurbation. My grandfather died at the age of sixty some seven years before I was born.
As a result of a milling machine accident he lost half of the index and forefinger on his right hand. He also lacked a sense of smell, which was especially helpful to my own father who could share a smoke with Bob Wilson, the workshop foreman, without getting into bother. My grandfather decided to make his future with the very young motor car and by 1920 had joined John Croall and Son in Castle Terrace in Edinburgh where the Department of Social Security now stands. John Croall and Son were agents for Rolls-Royce, Essex and Dodge vehicles and ran a fleet of Dodge taxis. Grandfather was service manager which was much more of an engineering job than it is today, with no offence to our very many excellent service managers of today; it is just that the job has changed sometimes beyond recognition with the latest developing technologies making present working unrecognizable from those early days. A major annual service may well have entailed removing the body from the chassis and stripping and overhauling many components such as road springs, steering boxes and 'decoking' the engines, sometimes a week's work.
Other than Rolls-Royce who had very good replacement parts availability, many parts had to be manufactured which of course often entailed visiting the blacksmith and other specialist manufacturers, dotted around Edinburgh. Servicing, repairing and overhauling was indeed a major cost of owning a vehicle in those days and reliability, which we now take for granted, was quite uncertain. In 1923 my grandfather was 'head-hunted' by a family friend, Frank Holmes, who was sales manager of Vincents of Reading. He pressed my grandfather to move down and take over the responsibility of service manager with Vincents. There were some advantages, a move to a bigger firm, some notable customers and, I expect, a somewhat higher remuneration. So, he succumbed to the bait and off the family went, lock stock and barrel, to Reading. It didn't take many months for grandfather to realise his mistake. Things didn't work out either as promised or expected and so he had a dilemma, having moved everyone and everything so far from home in Leith. We need remember that a move to Reading in 1923 may be like emigrating today. Another family friend, Harry Harris by name, heard of grandfather's troubles and visited him and promptly advised him to get back to Edinburgh, where he was well known for his engineering skills, and set up in business for himself. A lot of serious thinking and some sleepless nights followed and the questions of premises and finance and, of course, somewhere to live were faced. Without the help of the same Harry Harris we undoubtedly would not have the business we have today. Harry wouldn't lend grandfather any money but he offered to stand guarantor for up to £400 at the bank.
And so, in 1925 David Hall Harrison came up to Edinburgh, found small premises in Dean Street between Stockbridge and Comely Bank, a furnished flat at 16 Comely Bank Terrace and he opened a bank account with the British Linen Bank, 69 George Street. On 15th October 1925 he started business, trading under the name 'D HARRISON' MOTOR ENGINEER, at 69 Dean Street, Edinburgh. The telephone number was Edinburgh Museum 2662. David Harrison died in 1946 aged 60 years and so 29 year old young David "Sonny" took over during the next 25 years he expanded the business adding a good number of franchises including Jaguar, Daimler, Austin, Morris, MG, Wolseley, Land Rover, Rover, Triumph Rootes and then Chrysler and Armstrong Siddeley which was, I believe, his favourite. It was against the backdrop of poor labour relations in manufacturing industries including the car business that the early 70s became difficult and when the oil crisis of 1974/75 arrived father had the foresight to look for another strategy.
We ceased trading at Haymarket in September 1976 and bought the small Ford Dealership in Peebles in November that year and signed for 110 cars for our first full year of 1977. Ford was a company on the move and 1977 was their first full year as market leaders. In 1988 we completely rebuilt our facility at Peebles and have worked to grow our business and then in 1999 we opened a branch point in Galashiels giving us good coverage into the heart of the Scottish Borders. We are committed to providing high quality service at prices people can afford just the same as my grandfather did all these years ago. Our simple Mission Statement "Committed to Customer Care" sums us up. In November 2012, since the lease at Galashiels was coming to an end, we decided to merge the two businesses at Peebles bringing some of the staff to Peebles and we are looking forward to consolidating our business and continuing to look after all our customers throughout the Borders and beyond.
During 2014 we embarked on an exercise to understand how we were perceived by our customers introducing our Judge Service questionnaires. We were delighted to find that our customers are fiercely loyal and extremely happy with the services provided by our staff. This initiative also led us to re-brand our company as Harrisons and introduce our new company logo which has been well received by all.
The name may have changed but our heritage, integrity and commitment to our customers remains.