harry diamond's memoir

can you get me into the papersI spent seven happy years with the gas board and was then persuaded by a friend in the advertising business to join his small agency to head a Public Relations department. A couple of years after I joined the company it was bought over by the Rex Stewart advertising group, which in its time was an important part of the advertising industry in Scotland, but which has gone now. Rex Stewart had a Public Relations company with the rather pretentious name of International Image Consultants which was where I met an enterprising, energetic young man named Tony Meehan. One day Tony was handling the publicity for a Soviet dance company who had come to Glasgow and was wondering how to attract some attention to their performance that evening. Eventually he dreamed up the idea of having them give a wee dance in Buchanan Street, one of Glasgow's smarter shopping areas. I was busy at that time devising ways of bringing attention to the plight of Soviet Jewry in the course of communal work for the Jewish community in which I was also engaged so I suggested I should get some of my co-religionists to stage a protest near the dancers and send out a press release to alert the news media. The Russians arrived to do their dance and some of my protesters appeared with posters reading LET MY PEOPLE GO. The stunt turned out even better than we had hoped when the protesters joined in the dancing. Tony later founded the Public Relations firm of TMA Communications and became a Visiting Professor at Glasgow Caledonian University. I enjoyed consultancy work but it tended to be a bit precarious. There was pressure to acquire as many clients as possible in order to build up the company's fee income and Rex Stewart certainly knew how to get the most out of a client. The company had several divisions, advertising, Public Relations, design, photography, printing, and each one charged the client for its work. I don't know how many fees it got out of each client but I felt uneasy about the whole thing.I may have been extraordinarily lucky but I had a good relationship with all my clients and formed genuine friendships with some of them. One of them was Eric McKellar Watt, chairman and founder of McKellar Watt Limited, which at that time was Britain's largest privately-owned sausage and pie making company. Before my rabbi bars me from synagogue I should say there is nothing, as far as I know, in the Five Books of Moses to prevent me from promoting non-kosher sausages as long as I don't eat them! I doubt however if that will get me off the hook! Eric McKellar Watt was badly injured in the army in the 1939-45 war and while he was in hospital doctors told him he would never drive a car again so one of the first things he did when he started in business was to buy a semi-automatic Lanchester and drive himself round local butchers to sell his sausages. The day he came home on sick leave from the army hospital both legs were in plaster from hip to toe. The transport arrangements the army had made to get him home from the railway station seemed to be him to be too slow and ponderous so he tipped a porter to get him a battery-operated luggage truck which he clambered on to a drove himself along the long crowded platform to a taxi rank. After he was demobbed and before he got his car he had difficulty in getting round the city because of his war wounds so he developed the habit of stopping tramcars by standing in their path. When the driver stopped he clambered aboard, explained he had a bad leg and rode on the driving platform until he reached his destination. I was recommended to Eric by Murray Ward, his managing director, who was a friend of mine. I had been doing a lot of work for another sausage manufacturer, Adams of Dalkeith, and was beginning to irritate McKellar Watt with the amount of publicity I was getting for a major rival.

Murray made an appointment for me to see Eric, a well-built, square-jawed man with dark horn-rimmed glasses, and we had a longish talk which started off rather badly. He told me, "Right, this is what I want. I want a mention in the Financial Times at least once a month and regular features in the food trade press and the Scottish business pages." I listened to this for a few minutes and without saying a word got up and walked to the door.

"Where the hell are you going?' said Eric.

"Back to my office. I've never heard such rubbish in my life."

"Really?" said Eric. "Then what are you going to do for me?"

"I don't know yet. Right now the only thing I know about your company is that you make sausages and pies. When I know a bit more maybe I'll be able to answer your questions."

Eric and I had a long talk and I went away. A couple of weeks later I went back with an article I had written about him. Eric worked quietly for some minutes on the pages, scoring out chunks here and there and rewriting bits. Eventually he handed it back and without looking at it I tore it to shreds, leaned over his desk and dropped it into his wastepaper basket.

"What the hell are you doing?" said Eric.

"I gave you a perfectly marketable product and you ruined it," I said. "I don't tell you how to make sausages and pies so don't you tell me how to write for newspapers."

Eric looked nonplussed for a few seconds. "Aye, that's all very well but look at some of the things you said about me."

"Were they untrue?"


"Then leave the damn thing alone."

"Well, what do we do now? You've torn it up."

I reached into the inside pocket of my jacket and produced another copy of the article and, "I've met people like you before," I said. "That's why I came prepared. Let's start again only this time I want you to correct only matters of fact."

Eric smiled wryly, flipped a knob on his intercom and said to Murray Ward, "That's a cheeky bastard you sent me."

"Yes Eric," said Murray and switched off his intercom.

A few weeks later my secretary came on the phone to say Mr McKellar Watt was on the phone in a state of great excitement.

"Come for lunch," said Eric.

"Not today, I've got too much on."

"Come for lunch, it's important." Eventually Eric persuaded me to drop everything and go to the factory for lunch. At the end of the board room table was a pile of magazines containing my article about him. He said he had been bombarded all morning with calls from other food companies congratulating him. Eric McKellar Watt and I were firm friends from that day. I had started off the article about Eric:

"Beneath the tough, unyielding exterior of Eric McKellar Watt beats an even tougher, unyielding interior. Other men known for their strength, poise and confidence have emerged from sessions with Eric McKellar Watt white, trembling, and sapped of all vitality. Ena Simons, his secretary, regularly dispenses hot black coffee to the victims as they reel out of his line of fire.

Eric Watt works hard to maintain this man-of-granite image. He does it mostly by alighting on an inconsistency and probing it, worrying it, hammering it, and going back to it until it is either explained to his satisfaction or is made to vanish in a verbal cloud of sulphurous contempt.

His attitude stems solely from his uncompromising insistence on the highest possible standards and because his people know this, there is an atmosphere of bouyancy and confidence among the team of young executives who work for him.

They know that behind the steely glare is a shrewd, hard-working, highly efficient, generous man who knows how to achieve commercial success and is prepared to share the fruits of that success with anyone who is willing to work with him."

One of his directors told me Eric asked him to come to his office to collect a Christmas gift. Instead of the bottle of whisky or piece of glassware he was expecting he got the keys for a new Ford Consul.

During a conversation with Murray Ward one day he said there was abolutely nothing happening in the company at that moment that I could write about. On the way out of the factory I passed a man putting drops from a test tube into a sausage-mixing bowl. He explained they were experimenting with whisky-flavoured sausages! The story went round the world.

Several months later I said to Murray, "What happened to the whisky-flavoured sausages." Murray jumped up, closed the door of his office, and said in a hushed voice, "Oh, for God's sake don't say anything about that. It was a disaster!"

"Wait a minute," I said. "Let me tell everyone it was a disaster. A lot of people will want to know what happened, especially in the food trade. I want to tell it in such a way that people will say this is an enterprising company with a sense of humour and confident enough to admit they tried something which failed."

"O.K." said Murray so I wrote another story which again went round the world. It ended with the quote from Eric, "After all, who wants to drink their whisky out of a sausage!"

Another favourite client was Alfred Littman, an Englishman, whose factory in East Kilbride made shirts for Marks & Spencer. Alfred was a first-rate artist and always carried a small tin box of water colours, a pill bottle filled with water, a tiny brush and a waterproof black pen with which he produced beautiful paintings in seconds. Some of his paintings were done in taxis between business appointments and he even claimed to have done one while driving, although he admitted he was stuck in a traffic jam at the time. I still have two of Alfred's paintings in my home.

Students of Glasgow School of Art were commissioned to paint pictures round the walls of his factory to make it congenial for his staff, mostly women, to work in and he cordoned off a section of the factory where workers could go for a smoke as they obviously couldn't smoke while they were sewing shirts.

At the end of our contract period he wrote to the managing director of my company, "Mr Diamond has had many remarkable successes and the job has been well and thoroughly done. We now have more staff than we need and a long waiting list, due to the work done by Mr Diamond....."

Another client was Clark Hunter, a marvellous, kindly man who ran a metal drum factory in Paisley and was an authority on Robert Burns. He was also a director of Bydand Distillers, owners of Fettercairn Distillery in the Howe (valley) of the Mearns, near Laurencekirk in Kincardineshire, for which I did some work. Fettercairn is deep in the heart of an area where illicit distillers in ye days or yore waged a constant war against the Government gaugers (excisemen).

The man in charge of operations at Fettercairn was John Scott Livie, a big man in every sense of the word, for whom I developed great respect. It was Livie who inspired a piece of promotional literature I wrote in 1983 for another whisky company (see Chapter 15)..