Angus hit the headlines again during the D Day invasion, supplying seals for the 25 miles of fuel pipeline under the channel.
In the year 1788, 43 years after the departure of Bonnie Prince Charles, the state of religious tolerance in Scotland left something to be desired. It was then no surprise that William Angus, a Scottish businessman should travel south to live his life in Tyneside and transfer his business there; Geo. Angus and Company, one of Tyneside’s notable companies.
Angus started in Clayton Street, Newcastle with a leather works, using this wonderful natural material both for cosmetic and industrial purposes, and this business remained until the 1960s. Among the products were specialized industrial leathers and fire hose – a product which later transferred to a large factory at Bentham in the Yorkshire Dales and became the leading fire hose material internationally. In addition, they would supply fire extinguishers, fire engines and fire floats to order. Angus fire hose, wet or dry, was only half the weight of conventional hose strangely enough.
After the war, Angus opened a factory at Walker making hose, tubing, specialist high-pressure hose, conveyor belts and other rubber goods. This proved to be such a thorn in the cold flesh of Dunlop that it eventually led to a takeover. Apart from its diverse production, Angus was essentially a sales led organisation having significant and profitable outlets all over the world.
Strangely enough as a company engaged in the fire industry, Angus have experienced an inordinate number of fires themselves.
Fluid Seal Division – once on the site of B&Q on the Coast Road, Wallsend, played a key role during war time, making seals for the motor, aircraft and engineering industries, and of course the armed services. It was set up in 1937 by a joint agreement with Freudenberg of Germany to manufacture seals in the newly invented oil resistant nitrite synthetic rubber. Angus Seals controlled the undercarriages of all our Spitfires and Hurricanes. In 1939, the German MD and Works Manager were interned overnight and Angus continued under their British assistant Tony Proctor. Chairman Graham Angus realising the strategic situation went to Germany and bought two large consignments of this oil resistant rubber and shipped them home through Naples and Hamburg. Only the Naples consignment got through and was confiscated by the government as “the only source of oil resistant rubber in the country”! It was all hands to the pumps when in 1943 the Fluid Seal Works suffered a disastrous fire. Government officials swarmed to the rescue and production was restarted at a Team Valley site within 48 hours. Angus hit the headlines again during the D-Day invasion supplying all the seals for the 25 miles of fuel pipeline under the channel.
Manufacturing in America, Canada, Italy, Japan, South Africa, India and Russia, the influence of Angus was worldwide. Its success became too much for the great lethargic Dunlop whose President Sir Ray Geddes barged in unannounced to the Angus boardroom declaring “we are going to take you over”. Dunlop succeeded but only at about three times the original asking price.
Staff training was good – especially good when on the retirement of Col. Graham Angus he endowed an annual scholarship for staff between 25 – 35 years, to travel anywhere in the world on a scholarship for up to six months following a business project. I was the first of about fifteen winners and spent my time studying the rubber industry in the U.S.A. and Canada.
The rest, as they say, is history – a steady fall in business, a steady lack of imagination and development, falling of performance curves followed by the inevitable bankruptcy of the aging giant of the parent company. Where once 3,500 plus at the Coast Road Division held a worldwide business, now but handful remains. The final edict must have been to “Do It Yourself” for the existing site is now B&Q.