Aitken and Howard was founded in 1977 to trade in Guyanese timbers, principally Greenheart. It is part of the Gilmour and Aitken family business that has been in existence for over 150 years.
Thomas Aitken was born in Greenock in 1822. His early career was spent working in the timber trade in Liverpool and on his return to Glasgow in 1852, he and his business partner, Mr Gilmour, founded a timber importing business. Their new company, Gilmour and Aitken, traded in the quality hardwoods demanded by the booming ship building industry on the River Clyde.
Spotting an opportunity, the company established a saw mill specialising in long mahogany logs (12m and over) for the yacht building industry which also had a firm hold on the River Clyde. Their expertise meant that they were chosen to supply the timber for one of the challenger yachts, Sceptre, for the prestigious America’s Cup matches.
The company traded successfully from its base at Forth Street, Glasgow for many years, even managing to survive both World Wars and the Great Depression. After World War II, Mr Alexander Cameron Aitken’s son Thomas took over and focussed on growing the business. By 1970, when Thomas’s sons, Thomas and Cameron were ready to take the reins, business was brisk and the single acre site at Forth Street was becoming too small.
In 1976 the company moved to a 17 acre site in Alexandria, 15 miles West of Glasgow. The new site gave the company the space to expand at pace and as the business grew, new kilns were installed to further increase the company’s capabilities.
The following year saw the establishment of the Aitken & Howard business. It was set up to trade exclusively in Guyanese Greenheart and this focus resulted in the company quickly gaining an enviable reputation as a leading supplier for major civil engineering projects.
In 1979 the company set up a home wood mill and greatly increased capacity with a more recent addition of an automatic band mill. A 36″ planer was also installed helping the hugely experienced team to machine hardwood timbers to very precise tolerances for the oil & gas, heavy construction, marine and timber fabrication industries.
In 1992 Aitken & Howard Ltd opened a sales office in Mayfield, East Sussex, to handle the growing demand for marine constructional timbers in the South of England. This development coincided with the company’s continued commitment to quality and sustainability.
Since the 1990s export sales have played an increasingly important part in the company’s activities. The management group has developed markets in the Arabian Gulf, China, Spain, Ireland and the Caribbean where speciality marine products and expertise are in high demand.