Former Harrogate Town MD now at historic Yorkshire firm which supplied paint for Stephenson's Rocket
Before becoming general manager of T&R Williamson, Garry Plant was managing director of Harrogate Town for nearly ten years during the club’s meteoric rise from the lower divisions to the Football League.
Having initially joined the club as a volunteer in 2011, Plant went on to oversee two promotions in as many years as the team achieved Football League status for the first ever time in the summer of 2019.
He was also a key figure as the club’s Wetherby Road ground underwent major improvements and the team themselves switched from part-time to fully-professional status.
His new role sees the quietly upbeat Plant at an organisation whose pedigree puts even his former club in the shade.
Founded in 1775, the company's deepest roots go back to the Jacobite Rebellion in the 18th century and the early days of the Industrial Revolution.
T&R Williamson of Ripon supplied the paint for Stephenson’s Rocket, the world’s first modern steam locomotive, and ten years ago came to the aid of York Railway Museum during the restoration of the legendary Flying Scotsman.
“The company has a history of uninterrupted business spanning back to the Industrial Revolution, the advent of the railway, the first cars and aerospace,” said Mr Plant.
“The firm was established by the Williamson brothers, Scots who were major shareholders in the Yorkshire Bank in Ripon. The story goes that one day a French refugee from the Jacobite uprising appeared in the market square confused and ranting on in his native tongue.
“The Williamson brothers, who spoke French, took him under their wing and gave him board and lodgings in exchange for his knowledge in how to make varnish and lacquers. And that’s how the business began.”
T&R Williamson remains a leading supplier of specialists paints and other protective coating systems at home and abroad, specialising in products for the railway, construction and transport sectors for clients as far away as Peru, Kenya, India and China.
The firm is believed to be the oldest family-operated paint manufacturer in the world but its survival has come by moving forward rather than looking back.
“The early days of manufacturing lacquers and varnishes was labour intensive, it involved a great deal of heat and manual stirring," said Mr Plant. "The process is far more refined, automated and safe these days but it follows the same principles. The paints we supply today are water-based, eco-friendly and supplied in recyclable packaging.
“In a few weeks time we are launching our new decorating centre to give the public the chance to shop in Ripon when they are planning home improvements.”
More than two centuries after the firm was born, T&R Williamson has become almost synonymous with the idea of heritage, with clients including the Royal Opera House and the Royal Household and Royal Carriages.
No company can avoid change and recent years have seen the firm joining a wider business portfolio, leading to a link-up with another historic British firm, Thomas Howse Paints of Birmingham.
But the company is proud of its Royal Warrant and proud to still be based in Ripon.
“Williamson brothers built a business on the foundation of honest hard work and innovation, employing local people and holding dear to the city of Ripon,” said Plant. “Our Ripon heritage is very important to us.”