Influential figure in whisky packaging industry Born: July 30, 1936; Died: October 9, 2016 JIM McLaren, who has died 80, was a well-known and influential figure in the whisky packaging industry. Not only was he the founder and boss of McLaren Packaging (which now has a turnover of more than £15 million ) he was for many the heart and soul of whisky packaging in Scotland
Noisy, feisty, fastidious, fair and fun, Jim McLaren was above all else an unstoppable force of nature whose energy and strident voice and opinions were the engines that drove his company to its extraordinary success.
He had been born the son of a spat-wearing chocolate salesman in a small seaside house in Gourock and his first memory was of being a terrified fiveyear-old sheltering from the cacophony as over a thousand bombs were dropped on nearby Clydebank, a raid so awful that it forced Churchill to ban its reporting. In the aftermath, the McLaren family moved to the Borders.
Leaving school at 15, young Jim’s first job was working a 70-hour week as a farm labourer, followed by time as a stable lad for the Buccleugh Hunt where he was to acquire his lifelong love of horses.
National service was followed by his first marriage to Margaret Macintosh which sadly only lasted five years but produced a son, Stewart.
At 21, he got a job at the renowned packaging firm of Bowaters where he learnt every skill from administration to selling before striking out on his own at 43.
He set up a business both making and innovating a huge number of different types of packaging, though he mostly concentrated on mid-wifing the whisky industry from heavy wooden crates to ever more intelligent types of cardboard.
Since its establishment, McLaren Packaging has grown from a staff of five to 140 across three sites in Port Glasgow and Stirling.
Pre-tax profits in 2015 were £1.56 million.
Horses were his passion. He took up serious jockeying when he was 36, and was still at it when he was 69, making him the oldest licensed amateur jockey in Britain.
Along the way he picked up a huge number of injuries and the treasured memory of winning a race in which the Princess Royal was competing.
He is also remembered for his practice of rising at 5am so that he could exercise his horses before charging into work to exercise his lungs, and indeed for once riding to an event facing backwards for the sheer daft joy of it. Possibly the only time in his life that he was backward at coming forward.
Other than his horses, his chief joy was his family – he married Jennifer Hughes who gave him two sons Donald and Michael, both now stalwarts in the family business. Jennifer is no wilting flower and when Jim arrived at the hospital late for the birth of their first son his excuse that he had been busy with a difficult delivery was met by a robust response.
Jim McLaren’s final illness was mercifully short, but in a brief moment of lucidity he was able to advise his two sons to always try and keep overtime payments under control. Telephone 0141-302 6000 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org