Tornado Commercial Director Stevie McKay looks back on four decades in fencing charting the history of a business that has had a big impact on the industry.
“I sometimes have to pinch myself and ask if it really is 40 years ago since I entered this Industry. It was early 1979 that I started within the agricultural sector as a wire dropper maker. High tensile fences were mainly line wire fences and standard stock fences were either 6 line wire fences or 7 line wire fences all made from 12g or 2.50 HT.
Droppers were added to the fence after erection and they came in two halves; one for the top and one for the bottom. They were spaced at 1 metre intervals and were there mainly to maintain an even space between the wires and of course to stop any sheep/lambs from getting through.
The theory of high tensile fencing was that you could put your posts at long intervals, some as far as 8 metre apart, whereas with traditional fencing this wasn’t the case. We also introduced quite a bit of electric fencing too which had the old porcelain insulators that were erected onto metal posts.
As a company we were erecting fences all over the Country from the Shetland Islands to Lands End so there weren’t many places that we didn’t visit. We knew there was a need for a high tensile net fence but there wasn’t any availability in the UK so it was a company decision to import from New Zealand which we did in 1980. From there that not only changed the direction of the company but also the market place.
In those days there were only a few of us which meant working long hours frequently away from home. We did a lot of fencing demonstrations and visited various agricultural shows up and down the UK.
In 1982 we started to manufacture high tensile fencing, jointly with the New Zealanders, at Millom in Cumbria and this was
the start of manufacturing for the business. The New Zealanders decided to pull out in 1984 but decided they wanted to retain their name. That meant our company required a new name and Tornado was born!
I’ve assumed several roles over the decades. One day you could be helping to design a deer farm and the next you could be off to teach a farmer or a contractor how to erect a high tensile stock fence. It was very hands on!
The majority of fencing contractors had never erected
a high tensile fence so we were travelling round the country teaching them the benefits over a traditional mild steel fence. This could prove challenging at times.
Deer farming was in its very early stages too but that was a benefit for both sides as we could develop better ways of doing things along with what was called then the BDFA, The British Deer Farmers Association.
It was then we decided that we should pull out of contracting and focus on manufacture and supply. We’ve never looked back.
Delivering the finished product and travelling to visit customers is so important. Face to face contact was deemed as one of my strengths so it seemed logical to work with it.
I work outside of the UK a lot of the time these days which has helped me to build up a wealth of knowledge. I have been lucky enough in my life to work in excess of 30 plus countries and people’s needs are different but the purpose is the same. I have a saying of my own; “the sheep still lamb and the cows still calf and as long as they continue to do that then we’ll continue to make fences.”
It’s difficult for me to say here’s to the next 40 years but I’m sure the business will continue to move forward with or without me. Just being part of the journey has been a great adventure and one that I will never forget. I’m not quite ready for retirement but when the time is right it will be a gradual departure.
Anyway here’s to a few more years yet!