About Tools247 and Draper Tools
The company that is now Mackays of Cambridge Limited was founded following an approach, in June 1912, by Donald Mackay, great-grandfather of the present Joint Managing Directors, to John Alsop who ran a wheel-wrighting and fence-making firm called Britannia Ironworks."You have a fine business Mr. Alsop do you want to sell it?" was the forthright approach Donald made to Mr Alsop who had not been thinking of retirement. But the opening offer was a good one and Mr Alsop accepted it. A deal was struck and sealed, in the traditional manner of the times, over the anvil.
The partnership between Donald Mackay and his son Duncan was then in being and there was no looking back. The two working together set high standards for those following.
Then, as now, there was a need for reliable sources of supply of tools, materials and engineering work to service the developing industry of the region. It seemed a logical move to set up a retail organisation in parallel with engineering to satisfy those needs. By the nineteen thirties the retail shop had become so successful that new larger premises were built to a design that has remained almost unaltered to this day.
But the partnership was to come to a sudden end with the death of Duncan in 1936 at a time when his 4 children were still at school. The eldest, Joan, was about to leave to take up a college place she had won. But old Donald, left to hold the fort on his own, demanded that Joan gave up the idea of college to come and help him in the office. Money was scarce and she had little choice. In effect she became apprentice to her grandfather and has remained with the firm ever since. Joan learned his methods at first hand and progressed to supervise the financial and general affairs of the organisation. The survival of the firm during the difficult period that was to follow is undoubtedly due to the diligence of Joan who, in due time, was joined by her brother Donald, and her aunt, Isabella.
Isabella, by then in her sixties, had given up her career as a school teacher to nurse her father in his old age. On his death she became the sole owner of the firm. She was known fondly by the staff and customers as"Auntie". The only instruction she had from her father had been,"if that boy is any good, find him a job in the firm". She must have thought he was because in 1953 she marched Donald, with his sister Joan, down to the solicitor's office and asked for a partnership deed to be drawn up. She gave a quarter of the firm each to Joan and Donald and retained a half in her own name. Later, because she resented capital transfer tax, she moved more over to her younger partners and was told to look after herself and stay alive for at least seven years. She did much better. Thirty years later she was still playing a useful part in the running of the firm. Almost to the end she handled insurance and PAYE and made up the wage packets. On her ninetieth birthday she made a splendid speech in which she proclaimed"you are not getting rid of me yet, I'm going to be recycled".
During the war period the firm had been engaged in making equipment for portable air-landing strips. A reserved occupation tag had been slapped on the workforce. After the war, Joan, Donald and Auntie worked as a team to rebuild the company. Their policy was to do what anyone wanted as long as it was connected with engineering. The versatility thus developed helped the firm through several grave recessions. They made astronomical progress with the design and construction of parabolic aerials for the new science of radio astronomy and were involved in making the first pressure vessels for crystal growing for the micro-chip industry. Customers have included Rutherford, Kapitza, Ryle and many other great scholars and scientists.
As the company grew it acquired adjoining property with a view to expansion. This usually came available in times of recession when money was scarce. At these times Auntie could be relied upon to dip into her nest egg. She had always been on the point of buying herself a fur coat."Bang goes my fur coat" she would say. Now, every time we contemplate a major investment someone says"Bang goes my fur coat".
The tale wouldn't be complete without a twist. In 1969 Donald was involved in erecting a spiral stair out of a kit of cast iron parts. At the top, instead of landing in the right place the staircase was pointing out into mid-air and had to be taken down again. There must be a better way he thought. Out of it came a new method of putting spiral staircases together. The method was patented and manufacturing rights sold to Arthur Guinness. They built it into a successful company, which later was the subject of a management buy-out. That firm, Crescents of Cambridge, now enjoys an enviable reputation world-wide. It is a matter of pride that several successful firms have had their origins at 85 East Road.
In 1998 Mackays started trading from two sites. Mackay Engineering and Mackay Storage Systems moved to 120 Church End, Cherry Hinton. The shop remained at its original site at 85 East Road and expanded into space vacated by the engineering departments.
Sadly, in March 2009, Joan passed away, aged 90, leaving Duncan Mackay and Neil Mackay, as Joint Managing Directors, and Donald Mackay in charge of the company. As directors of a fine company, we are well aware that we could have achieved none of it alone. Much of the credit for our success goes to the good staff and tradesmen who have devoted their lives to working with us. We appreciate everything they do in the furtherance of the ambition which we know they share with us to see Mackays of Cambridge Limited flourishing for many more years way.
From Mackays of Cambridge Limited was born an online trading arm known as Tools247 , which trades on Amazon , Ebay , Flubit and used to trade on Rangespan, until it was closed by Google . We also trade from our own sites, Tools247.co.uk and Ladders247.co.uk but have expanded our porfolio to include boutique sites among others such as drapertools247.co.uk , sealeytools247.co.uk , dickiesworkwear247.co.uk
About Draper Tools
Draper Tools started out in 1919 when the founder, Bert Draper, sold government surplus and tools around the Kingston Upon Thames' markets. This led to the purchase of the original warehouse, from which the Draper Tool Company Limited as we know it today was born, although at this time it was known as B. Draper & Son Limited and owned the trademark B.D.S.
Although Draper sold its own brand as early as this time, it was also a quality Engineers Merchant and Tool Wholesaler, selling brands well known today, such as, Britool, King Dick, Elliott Lucas, etc. Bert Draper Passed away in 1963 and control of the Company passed to his son Norman. With the increased business and cramped conditions at Kingston, Norman purchased the freehold rights to the current premises in Chandler's Ford, Hampshire at auction in 1963.
Norman pushed the business forward dramatically and developed the 'Draper' brand as we know it today, by importing quality tools from all around the World. He also established 'exclusive' relationships on a family to family basis, with such Companies as Elora and Knipex, which still exist today. Norman died in 1994 and the Company is now run by his son, John. His wife Joan, who passed away in 1999, produced, almost single-handedly, the Company's first type-written catalogue in 1953. This level of family involvement would be rare in any other company of this size in the UK... But then Draper Tools is no 'other company!'
John took over the reins in 1992 with the task of taking the company into the new century. Draper Tools continues to thrive on a mixture of inward investment, active support for the independent stockist, striving for operational efficiency and all underpinned by the golden rule since 1919 - Guaranteed Quality.
The current premises in Chandler's Ford have been added to considerably since its purchase and has now reached a size of 535,000 sq.ft. It now has probably the largest stock of quality tools in one place in the UK.