Dick Chapman


Q: What is your principal professional skill?
A: Well engineering is my main thing; agricultural engineering as well but if you were to go for agricultural engineering nowadays you couldn’t make a living because there’s not enough work doing that kind of work
When I took over from my father in 1985 every farm you’d see around here had somebody in it … and now I think we have two,  that’s just what happens. You can’t make a living, not doing agricultural repairs.. So … we’re just getting bigger in forestry.

Q:And is that still expanding, the forestry side?
A:It is yes. But the thing about it is as the bigger ones are getting bigger the smaller ones are disappearing it’s the same as the farming … The saw mill side of it’s huge.

Q: And are the things that you are making for that industry changing?
A: Ah yes, equipment that we are making is all run by computers now. We’re just doing two projects at the moment …one for the box making  place at Airlie Mill… and it’s totally computerised, it prints all the boxes itself. All it needs is for someone to lay the box onto the machine and it does all the rest itself.

Q: So who does the computer side of it?
A: Well they do it themselves … we just do the engineering bit, but we’ve got to go together with them first because I need to know what they need and they need to know what I need. So you’ve got to work together before it works as well, well that’s just technology isn’t it, it’s got to move on.

Q: And how long have you been working in this business?
A: … I would maybe go to school for two days a week because I’d just be at home helping my father … my father came here in 1945 and that’s the year that I was born so I’ve been here all my life. I worked with him up till 1985 then he retired and I took over … and well, I’m still here.

Q: And you take pride in your work?
A:That’s right yes, well in our line of work here we start from the very scratch from designing the  equipment first and then we manufacture, we paint it and go on to site install it and we’re there to  commission as well. My men they’ll go onto site install the stuff, get it all going and they can see the thing working. I mean how many places can do that now?

Q:Do you go back to maintain work?
A: Oh yes we do we do maintenance work as well. There’s nobody else doing it , that’s the thing.

Q: What are the biggest changes in the profession over that last few decades?
A: Oh well it’s just more technical. When I started, my father was shoeing horses here then,  well that was back in the 60′s. So there were still farmers here using horses for their farms, you see.

Q: So would you make the shoes here?
A: Yes we made the shoes here. My father would be making the shoes and my mother, she’d take all the bookings. you’d just get all your shoes in the morning with a list of names for where you were to go the next

day – all over the country … a lot of running about. It was a sociable kind of job.

Q: And what about young people coming into the profession – is that still happening?
A: We have two young lads here… since they left school, that’s the best time to take them, when they leave school, they start learning then.
…It’s fine giving the loons a job. Jobs are hard to get. Its a interesting job, because your travelling about a lot. every day, you’re raking about somewhere.

Q: What personal satisfaction do you get from your work?
A: That’s what its all about, when I finish a job when you’re on to site and you get the thing all going, that’s your satisfaction, when you see it all working  that’s my satisfaction.

Q: Do you see the young lads getting that?
A: Oh yes…. when they’ve finished a job and you get to site and get the stuff all in and you get it all going and it just finishes off the job. And a lot of people will say to me, there’s not a lot of places in the country that can do that. Usually stuffs all made and bought in and you just install it you see, but its a different thing if you have to make it and put it in and see it working.

Q: What about internet and broadband – how has that changed things for you?
A: Ah, well, I don’t do that, I’ll get email and I’ll phone back…..i just speak over the phone These emails nowadays everything takes so much longer to do because if somebody phones me needing something to be made … we just chat on the phone for about ten minutes and that’s it all finished with. He doesn’t need to phone back and I don’t need to phone him.

Q: But does Heather use it a lot in the office?
A. She does everything with email . There’s still a lot of stuff that comes in with emails, drawings and different stuff….we buy things on line here… The Internet is a thing of the future, there is no question about it.

Q: What would be your dream commission?
A: Every machine we make is a challenge because we have to design it. We built a pointing machine for pointing posts … it must do about 3000 posts a day. A real challenge, it was quite an interesting job.

And are you still enjoying it?
Oh yes, and I’m 68 now.

Hardgate Smithy
AB34 4XQ