Glasgow Herald, September 7, 1955Remington Rand certainly started off with great expectations. In 1955 it proclaimed:
of a great nation's skill and labour.Olivetti stayed in Scotland more than 30 years, eventually selling its Queenslie factory to Smith-Corona-Marchant in 1981. SCM had, after 21 years, given up on making manual portable typewriters on Kelvin Way in West Bromwich, outside Birmingham in England, and its Scottish venture didn’t last all that long.
These thumbnails are scenes from the
Remington Rand factory in HillingtonRemington Rand expanded its Glasgow factory in October 1952, but hung in at Hillington only about 14 years, before announcing it was closing its facilities there on February 22, 1963, and laying off 1100 workers. Questions were asked about this in the House of Commons, possibly because of the British Government's original investment. But Remington typewriters were made in Holland thereafter.
What may well have hastened Remington Rand's departure from British shores was industrial trouble at Hillington. Remington Rand had a bad reputation for industrial relations in the US before the War, and apparently didn't improve matters when it crossed the Atlantic.
An aerial view of Hillington Industrial Estate, looking north, 1950s. The main Glasgow-Paisley railway line marks the division between housing in Glasgow and the industrial area, most of which lies in Renfrewshire.Hillington was the first and largest industrial estate of its kind in Scotland, It was set up in 1934 by an Act of the British Parliament, and designated a "special area" in response to The Depression. Building started in 1937 and a year later 84 factories had been let.
Rearmament, followed by World War II, ensured that the industries on the estate thrived and provided employment for around 18,000 workers at its peak. Labour came mostly from Glasgow itself. The British Air Ministry had set out to treble British aircraft production and as part of this effort Rolls-Royce made Merlins at Hillington.
Hillington Industrial Estate remains a successful business location in the 21st century, helped by the proximity of the M8 motorway and Glasgow Airport. Retail units and service industries have taken over from many of the original factories.
It was at Hillington outside Glasgow that my latest prized possession, a Remington Rand Model 5 portable typewriter, was made.
Given that Richard Polt on his Remington portable typewriters page at The Classic Typewriter Page estimates almost half a million of these were manufactured, it's little wonder they are still so easy to come by - possibly no more so, I would suggest, than in Australia. As this particular model was made by the British straight after World War II (sometime between 1945-51), it would have been one of the first "new" portable typewriters to arrive in Australia during that period - when war-time importation restrictions were finally lifted. And, as such, there would have been a huge demand for them. It was a wide open market into which Olivetti also readily jumped, with its Glasgow-made Lettera 22s, but by then Remingtons were already in abundance. Underwood, Smith-Corona and Royal pretty much missed the boat. With their ready availability to this day, the Remington Rand Model 5s, as well as the later British-made Quiet-Riters, can be acquired relatively cheaply on Australian online markets. But one has to be extremely lucky to get one in very good condition. A lot of the Quiet-Riters, in particular, appear to have been thrashed through many years of heavy use. And with the Model 5, the grey, crinkle paintwork and the decals were not applied with the thought that they might continue to look fresh with age; it's almost impossible to get years of built-up dirt and grime off (or out) of the crinkle paintwork. When one looks at the grey Imperials, one has to imagine there was a surfeit of battleship grey paint available, at a low-low price, in post-war Britain.
As I have written in my typecast from this Model 5, I feel pretty fortunate to have finally got my hands on one of these in such good nick. I've never really doubted their typeability - though, especially with the Quiet-Riter, there must be a question mark over the quality-control of Remington production in Britain. I have had many of both models pass through my hands, and until now have never been totally satisfied with the Model 5s. However, with this one, which arrived last week, I feel I now have one with which I can feel quite content.
At first glance, the serial number on this one seemed a bit odd, at least to me. It's EB1849311. Richard Polt's Remington portables page indicates, through various models made outside the US, that the prefix "E" may well point to overseas manufacture (as in "E" for export?). This applies through a succession of models, from the compact to the "Home", "T" and "Par". The next letter in the serial number, "B", would indicate the "DeLuxe Model 5" - though I can't make out anything too "de luxey" about this machine.
Remington may have established a factory in Glasgow in 1949-50, but it was selling typewriters there much, more earlier ...