David Ritchie took over Gateside Smithy, Forfar in 1870 when he was 29 years old. David had two sons, James and David who both became blacksmiths with their father at Gateside. This continued until 1915 when they decided to leave country blacksmithing and develop into agricultural engineering at Whitehills, Forfar.
The repair of implements took up most of their time with an increasing demand on sheet metal products such as Potato Baggers and Fodder Wagons.
In 1922, the staff had increased to four, with David's son Robert joining the firm at the age of 14.
Repair work still took priority over the manufacture of new implements, however additional new products were introduced such as Pig Feeders and Food Troughs. During 1938 for the first time, non-family employees secured employment in the business. War started and practically all efforts were put into implement repair.
In 1946, George Ritchie who was a pilot with the RAF joined the business. With the war now over, more emphasis was put on manufacturing new implements with our 1st product catalogue being published in 1948.
The product range at this time included tractor carts, end or side tipping, stack bosses, knife sharpening stands, oil tanks, lime spreaders, corn bins, water troughs and sheep dippers. All of the 'non local deliveries were made by the 'Railways' originating from Forfar Station.
Ritchie stand at the Royal Highland Show 1949
It was about this time that Ritchie began selling through the dealer network throughout the U.K. The product range increased to include a wide range of poultry, cattle, sheep and pig feeding equipment.
During 1965, Ritchie first delivery truck was introduced, covering the whole of the UK. A door to door service was then available to the customers, so successful that a second vehicle was added by the spring of 1966.
Much of the focus at this time was on the pig sector. Space for further expansion at the Whitehills site was limited. Land became available 1/3rd of a mile away at Suttieside Farm, which was purchased from Forfar Town Council in 1969. The Suttieside site was originally developed as a storage site for finished products, however by 1970 the 1st factory was built for fabrication work only.
Whitehills Factory 1966
At this time the product range continued to broaden with the introduction of bale handling equipment. This was a necessary development as having been predominately in the livestock sector, a quieter summer season was experienced due to the seasonality of the livestock product range.
The 'Burke' trophy was awarded to Ritchie at the Royal Show, Stoneleigh, in 1977 for the 'Transfer Weight Bale Transporter'; this machine revolutionised bale handling and was instrumental in the continued success of the business. Other Ritchie agricultural products have been recognised by various show societies with 'awards of merit' and silver medals being presented.
By the early 1980`s, agricultural markets were proving to be more volatile, and decision was made to consider new markets for fabrication.This led Ritchie into the industrial gas supply industry, fabricating a range of gas bottle stillages and handling equipment .By the early 1990's, Ritchie became the leading supplier of such equipment in the UK.
Additional ground was purchased at Suttieside both in 1990 and 1995 totalling some 7 acres to allow for further expansion. Early 1999, Forfar Galvanisers Ltd, was established with the plant being constructed at the Suttieside site. Today Ritchie employ over 120 people between the Whitehills and Suttieside factories manufacturing and supplying equipment around the world.