Sales rep proves there’s no substitute for experience

Eddie McLean

PLANT veteran Eddie McLean is settling into his new sales role at Arvill Plant & Tool Hire at the age of 78.

Eddie, who left school in 1955, made the switch to the Airdrie-based firm earlier this year and has already been credited with generating a significant amount of new business. He is working with commercial director Hayley Shevill and using his experience and extensive contacts to great effect, securing deals with the likes of Advance Construction, Marshall Plant, CM Steel and Fankerton Plant.

Eddie said, “On a typical day I’ll go and look for work, go onto sites, talk to agents about what type of plant they need. I tell them what we can do and what we can’t do. I’ve always been straight with people; I never tell a lie. Nobody likes a liar in this game.

“I left school when I was 15. I left on the Friday and was in the shale mines on the Monday. I was there for seven years until it shut down.”

Eddie, who lives in Bathgate, was involved in the construction of some of the country’s most important motorways, including the M8, M73 and M74. He also had a spell as a lorry driver before embarking on a career in plant in the early 1960s when he joined another Airdrie firm – Fidelity. He spent over quarter of a century there and also had a stint with Nixon Hire, which involved the hiring of equipment to the Queensferry Crossing project.

Eddie’s wife, Mary-Ann, is 64-years-old and looking forward to retirement, despite her husband having no plans to join her. Eddie also has three daughters, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He admits his family “just laugh” and that his wife “says I can do what I want”.

He was recruited to Arvill by owner and MD Arthur Shevill, who founded the business in 1985. Eddie admits the lure of being part of a family business was one of the things that persuaded him to take on a new role in his late 70s. “If you need something done urgently, I can get an instant decision,” he explained. “That’s what I like about it.”

Not surprising considering his work life has spanned 63 years, Eddie has seen some incredible changes over the decades concerning issues like health and safety and the increased use of technology in machines. Employee conditions have also changed dramatically. Recalling a story from early in his career, he said, “When the motorways were getting built, we didn’t have any cabins to go and have our tea in. We used to stand in a circle underneath tarpaulin. It was great craic and there was a lot of loyalty.”

Eddie admits he still gets a buzz when a new machine arrives and would encourage young people to consider a career in the industry – provided they’re happy to travel for work. “It’s a great game,” he said. “But if you don’t like being away from home, don’t do it. I was machine-daft.”

With skills shortages affecting the construction industry and constant talk about how to attract new blood into the sector, the use of older workers could be one potential solution to help alleviate a labour shortage.

Eddie believes some workers in the industry have been forced to retire and have been a major loss. “I’ve met a couple of people who had to retire and I think it broke their hearts,” he revealed. “One guy who was 65 had tears flowing – so I’ll carry on for him.

“I’ve no thoughts of retirement – I just love working.”

Hayley Shevill, commercial director at Arvill told Project Plant, “Eddie’s cheeky quick wit and years of experience within the industry make him well respected and an instant hit with everyone he meets.

“Moreover, Eddie’s strong work ethic and zest for life has in turn spread a real sense of happiness across all of our team members here at Arvill. Eddie is an invaluable fount of knowledge, who has brought several new business opportunities our way and continues to do so. We are so delighted he has chosen to work with us.”