Ian McLaren Fisher 1917 - 1959

Ian, my father's younger brother, was born towards the end of the First World War and educated in Breadalbane Academy, Aberfeldy. Unlike his brother and sister who spent only one year in the higher grade and left school as soon as they were 14, Ian spent three years in the higher grade leaving at 15 1/2.

He went on to study at the British Launderers Research Association in London and made a special study of electronics at the Battersea Polytechnic. In July 1937 he was appointed assistant manager with Haydock brothers launderers, dyers and cleaners Blackburn.

At some stage Ian became a quaker. While working in Blackburn he met Margaret (Peggy) Leaver, at a Quaker meeting. She later described Ian as a 'firebrand'.

Margaret, after winning a university scholarship in 1936, went to the the School of Economics in the University of London She graduated with a B.Sc. and carried out research on sociology.

Ian and Peggy were married in Liverpool in 1940.

War years

As a laundry manager, a reserved occupation, Ian was initially not called up for active service but later in the war, as a conscientious objector, he joined the Red Cross. Unarmed, he helped rescue soldiers off the battlefields of Italy. He subsequently joined UNRA (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation) and was tasked to help in the rebuilding of Italy after the war. Obtaining supplies to rebuild homes at this difficult time proved to be a daunting task.

Their daughter Anne was born in 1941. Pictures of Anne sent to her great uncle Jim who was a prisoner of war in Germany have survived.

After the war, in 1945-46, Peggy and Anne joined Ian at Bologna . Peggy and Anne came home in 1946 and Ian followed sometime after. The family at first lived in Blackburn with Peggy's mother but they shortly moved to Aberfeldy where they lived in the upstairs flat at Novar. Ian worked in the laundry with his father and his older brother Hamish. Anne went to school in Breadalbane Academy with her cousin Donald, who lived on the other side of Home Street. Michael was born in 1947.

In 1948, Ian having obtained a post as a laundry superintendent, they all moved to Worcester and later to Copley near Halifax where Ian had obtained a post as Laundry manager. 

Fisher Controls

As he moved up the management ladder Ian became increasingly interested in the invention of automatic controls. He eventually abandoned his career as a laundry manager, purchased a small factory in Halifax and set up his company which was to become Process Units (Halifax) Ltd . 'Automation' was written on the back of his vans which was a red rag to a bull in Birmingham where people were losing their jobs to automation.

ControlsUsing the knowledge he had acquired of the laundry business he designed and manufactured automatic washing controls (see photo and brochure) which enabled the industry to control all stages of the wash process electronically for the first time. These were tried and tested in Fishers Laundry in Aberfeldy where the wash house was equipped with these controls in 1953. If a problem developed Ian would travel north to put it right.

Ian's products could be fitted to traditional laundry equipment enabling them to control both time cycles and the measurement of detergent, soda and bleach. Although he worked with small resources, the demand was such that he was able to ask his customers to pay cash at the time of an order. Within a short time Fisher controls were being installed in modern laundries and dry cleaners in many parts of the world.

Family life

Eternally patient and kind to me as a small boy, Ian appeared to be the perfect uncle. He was a frequent visitor to our family and much loved.

His business prospered and it was not long before he purchased his own aeroplane ( photograph right shows his sister Lena standing by the Auster) and sports car. Ian used to visit his customers by air who would come out to an airfield or even a farmers field to pick him up.  One way to get noticed - not many reps got such treatment!

The Auster had no radio or navigation equipment so was very subject to weather. His daughter Anne remembers her mother being very worried when once he did not come home. The weather turned bad so he had landed in a field.  No mobiles to reassure people in those days, he flew home the following day after spending the night in the aircraft!

Not long after the photograph (left) was taken of his family on the steps of Torr Hill, Ian was sadly killed on his way home to Yorkshire from a visit to Aberfeldy. His Austin Healey 3000 went over a ravine in the Pennines and, although able to get out of the car, his lung was punctured and he died in Halifax Hospital. He was only 42.

His death was announced on the Perthshire advertiser on 25 November, 1959;

Aberfeldy Provost's Brother Killed. Mr Ian M. Fisher, youngest brother of provost James Fisher, Aberfeldy, who was injured when his car ran off the road near his home in Halifax, and plunged 150 feet into a ravine, died last Thursday in Halifax infirmary.
Mr Fisher who started his career in the family business of Fishers Laundry, trained at the British Launderers Research Association. Winning a scholarship, he continued his studies at the Central Polytechnic.
Mr Fisher worked for several years as a laundry manager, and during that time designed and developed several automatic controlling devices. In 1952 with his wife Margaret, a graduate of London University, he started the firm of Process Units (Halifax) Ltd., for the manufacture of the well-known 'Fisher' automatic controls now used extensively in the laundry and dry-cleaning industry.
Keenly interested in flying, he used his own 'plane whenever possible for business trips and was president of the Halifax gliding Association.
Mr Fisher, who was 42, is survived by his wife and a son and daughter

Peggy carried on the business for about 15 years but it was eventually taken over by a public company. His engineering talents were inherited by his daughter who graduated in electrical engineering from Leeds University. His son Michael also had a technological bent: after working as a sound engineer with Yorkshire television he set up on his own.

Page last updated - 21/11/16