Sir Ian Kinloch MacGregor

1912 - 1998

Industrialist, who presided over the reorganisation of Britain's nationalised heavy industries. Born in Kinlochleven, MacGregor was the son of an accountant at the British Aluminium Company smelter there. He was educated at George Watson's College in Edinburgh, at the Royal Technical College, Glasgow, and University of Glasgow. He worked for the British Aluminium Company and then developed armour for military vehicles at William Beardmore's Parkhead Forge in Glasgow. Here he was to develop his approach to industrial relations, operating a crane himself when the drivers went on strike, much to the disdain of union leader David Kirkwood (1872 - 1955). MacGregor moved the Ministry of Supply in 1939, before going to the USA during World War II on a mission from the British Government to purchase weapons. There he was successful in business and rose to become President of American Metal Climax (AMAX) Inc. in 1966 and later a Senior Partner in the US merchant bank Lazard Brothers. He returned to the UK in 1977 becoming, in turn, Deputy Chairman of British Leyland, Chairman of British Steel and Chairman of the National Coal Board. Each of these nationalised industries were troubled, but it was in British Steel and particularly the Coal Board where MacGregor gained a reputation for a no-nonsense attitude to cost reduction. The hero of the Thatcher government, MacGregor was reviled by the miners, particularly during their bitter and ultimately disastrous strike of 1984-85. Branded as "the butcher of the coal industry" by miners' leader Arthur Scargill, MacGregor faced down the National Union of Mineworkers in an attempt to assure a future for the coal industry, but extended closure of the pits during the strike ensured that most were uneconomic to reopen.

One of the more enduring images of the strike was a media-shy MacGregor hiding behind a plastic carrier bag as he tried to enter 'secret' talks at the Norton House Hotel, near Edinburgh.

He was knighted in 1986 and produced an autobiography the same year. MacGregor died in Taunton (England).

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