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Grantown housebuilding firm celebrates 100 years in business

AW Laing is celebrating its centenary year
AW Laing is celebrating its centenary year

A Grantown housebuilding firm has reason to celebrate this year as 2021 marks 100 years since the firm AW Laing began.

The family-run business, now being served by its fourth generation of Laing, reached the milestone with a celebration held in the town earlier this month.

AW Laing, who employ around 30 people locally, have quietly gone about their business.

So much so that for Geoff Laing, the fourth generation of Laing at the firm, he didn’t even realise the anniversary had crept up.

Tragedy amongst triumph

In 1921, AW Laing began trading under the name as Willie Laing took over a joinery firm run by former provost of Grantown, Alan Macpherson-Grant.

Mr Laing, who hailed from nearby Eile, later had two sons, John M Laing and Alastair W Laing.

Alastair would join his father’s firm, with John, who was more of an academic, pursuing further education at Edinburgh University.

Occasionally, during breaks from his studies, John would help out with the family business.

John would later be called up to serve during the Second World War and was tragically killed in the battle of Dunkirk.

His brother Alastair would also go on to serve from 1939 to 1946 before returning home to aid in the family business.

Third generation delivered brothers at the helm

Alastair would go on to have two sons, Ron and his brother William.

William was the first Laing to go straight into working life at the firm, however, emigration to South Africa led to Ron, who now heads the business, returning to Grantown in 1975, a move that soon turned permanent.

The firm is now in its fourth generation. Pictured are Ron, left, Geoff, centre and William, right.

Ron joked: “We thought we would only come home for a year and see how we got on.”

At the time, the firm had around 10 joiners on the books.

Many workers have remained with the firm for lengthy spells, with the workforce growing to 30 now.

The firm specialise in timber frames for houses, as well as delivering bespoke designs for clients, delivering a finish to the highest possible specification.

In fact, the manufacturing of timber frame houses came after responding to a newspaper advert that led to an affiliation with Scandinavian builders, changing the way the firm operated.

AW Laing has also been heavily involved in aiding in the construction of affordable homes across the region.

‘We have always tried to maintain the family firm ethos’

Now celebrating its fourth generation, AW Laing is a well known name, with a recognisable base on Grantown High Street.

Ron said: “Without doubt it is interesting looking at the way it has all evolved through the four generations.

“Throughout that time we have always tried to maintain the family firm type ethos. We have always taken a personal interest in both employees and sub contractors.

“With employees, we have had some who have come through two generations.

“In fact, we currently have one family where there are three generations of working for us just now.

“We strive to try and achieve the kind of results the customer and architect want.

“We take great pride in our work. Our workers are fantastic and ensure the same effort and finish goes into every project.”

‘It is definitely a big milestone’

Geoff, who moved from Edinburgh to Grantown in 2005, has said working alongside his father has been an honour.

He added: “We get on really well in terms of our working relationship.

“We have always gelled well. We seem to know what the other thinks most of the time.

“I remember when my uncle retired my dad said they made a good team. I feel like we have continued that.

“You never really think of the 100 years. I have seen others reach it and have thought it is a big achievement,

“When you do it yourself and you see what it means to other folk, it is definitely a big milestone.”

Geoff and Ron Laing are currently at the helm of the 100-year-old firm

Employees form part of the AW Laing family

Over the years, changes to building regulations and the rise of the internet has delivered challenges for the firm.

However, with their early forte into the Norwegian way of building homes, AW Laing have been well suited to adaptations and instilling renewables into builds.

Now celebrating 100 years, the firm plans to continue as it has for the previous century.

Geoff added: “We will continue as we have done. It is business as usual. I don’t think we can really grow much more than we already have.

“Since we became a national park things are a bit tougher and there is less land. But that is where it is good we have diversified and we do so many different things now.

“It gives us lots of options.

“My mother has always said that everybody who works for AW Laing is part of the family, and we have always maintained that.”

A family firm ethos has been maintained over the years with the workforce expanding to more than 30

As part of the centenary celebrations, a four-piece Strathspey reel, honouring the four different generations of Laings, was performed by renowned piper Ross Ainslie at the firm’s workshop.

A celebratory video has also been composed by local musician Hamish Napier, who also composed the reel.