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Point of Rental/Syrinx

Sir Matthew Goodwin 1929 – 2012

10. October 2012 | Comments (5)

One of Europe’s most successful rental entrepreneurs, managers and characters, Sir Matthew Goodwin, passed away last night aged 83.

Sir Matthew Goodwin
Sir Matthew Goodwin

In 1960 Matthew Dean Goodwin was a junior partner at a firm of Glasgow based chartered accountants when a friend in the building industry persuaded him to invest £500 for a half share in a mechanical shovel. The intention was to use it for a few months of the year, and rent it out for the rest.

The seller of the machine - Frank Jamieson - promised to rent it back for the first three months making for a relatively low risk deal.

Recalling that first investment when he was interviewed at the time of his retirement Goodwin said: “The machine was rented out to the Coal Board and 18 months later I decided to check how it was getting on. It was a gloriously sunny day, and there, in the middle of a wood, was Willie Bell the driver, sitting with the engine switched off, reading a paperback. Every three or four hours a lorry would come by, Willie would fill it up with wood, and then return to his reading. Frankly, I went away thinking that this must be the easiest way imaginable to make money - and bought a second machine, then a third, then a fourth.”

Goodwin founded Hewden Plant in 1962 in association with Jamieson who introduced him to what would become the company's leadership style - management by walking about – or rather driving about - in order to keep in touch with staff in various depots something he kept up until he retired.

In 1968 Goodwin and Jamieson merged Hewden with mobile crane rental company Stuart Plant, owned by Ronnie Stuart, to create Hewden Stuart and at the same time took the merged company public.

Jamieson was the first chairman, with Goodwin succeeding him in 1979. In 1993 he officially became non-executive chairman with colleague Sandy Findlay’s appointment as group chief executive. In reality nothing really changed until April 1995 when Goodwin retired as profits soared, thanks to a series of canny investments through the recession of the early 1990s. The company was declared the most successful plant hire company of all time with revenues topping £200 million and climbing fast.

Goodwin, who was knighted in 1989, was always good for a frank and to the point quote and as such was often quoted in the national newspapers on business subjects. He had little time for some of the business theories and fashions that came and went and could sum up and issue clearly and concisely in plain English.

The crane rental industry has truly lost one of its great pioneers.

Funeral details

The funeral will be held next Thursday at 10:45 at Daldowie Crematorium, Broomhouse, Hamilton Road, Uddingston, Glasgow G71 7RU.
All freinds are invited to attend.


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stewart holmes
16. October 2012 18:59

Way back in the early 90's, when asked "what is yor receipe for success?", Sir Matt's reply was " Honesty and integrity". Me thinks this was tongue in cheek, as we knew he was not only the "gaffer" he was also a grafter.
All depots had a feeling of pride whenever he turned up unannounced. How did they know who he was way down in the depth of Wales, Manchester Plymouth.....? The depots had the wee blue safety book with his picture and some also had a picture of all board members behind the hire desk. He made all men /women feel special, respected and valued. A man ahead of the game and of his time.

vertikal editor
12. October 2012 17:45

The following comment received via email:

May I offer my sincere thanks and appreciation for the superlative tribute to Sir Matt which appeared so promptly on your website.Your words, plus the very personal contributions from Ray Ledger, Barry Barnes and Willie Ross, convey admirably the immense contribution to our industry made by this extraordinary man.

I was privileged to count Matthew as a close personal friend, as well as a trusted colleague, for nearly half a century: all of us who knew him well, together with Lady Margaret and the family, will take great comfort from knowing that sadness at his loss is shared by so many people in the business world he loved so much.

Ronnie Stuart

William Ross
10. October 2012 22:54

Sad to hear of Sir Mathews passing a true Gentleman and a great ambassador to the industry.Now entering my 40th year with Hewden I can say the period when the company was run by sir Matt and R.G. Stuart were without doubt the best working years I had they were a pleasure to work for and valued their workforce at the Height of its reign had over 4000 happy employees most Sir Mathew would know on first name terms from his regular visits a true one off who will certainly be missed throughout the industry .

Barry Barnes
10. October 2012 21:25

My wife and I and some old friends at Demag were saddened to hear about Matthew. He was a great customer, fair, even handed. He was great fun to be with and we became good friends. We recently spent some time together in Germany and he was on his usual good form. He could always be relied on to give good advice and was still on the top of his game. He had great vision and it rubbed off on many of the people that worked with him.
I can echo what Ray Ledger wrote
Barry Barnes

vertikal editor
10. October 2012 17:12

The following trubute has been received via email:

I am so saddend by the news this morning of Sir Matthew's ( or Matt as a few of us were allowed to call him ) passing.

Many people are referred to as legends but undoubtedly Matt was together with Ronnie Stuart a true legend in every sense of the word. He touched so many lives including mine.

He was often difficult to satisfy with results because of his passion for Hewden Stuart and its employees.
My best but relevant work recollection was in 1975, I attended a budget meeting with Matt and Ronnie when I nervously sought approval to buy the very first 200 ton telescopic in the world. I ended up getting a severe rocket because I hadn't had the guts to ask for two - as usual he was right !

There will never be another character like him and the hire industry and Hewden in particular has never been the same since he retired.

Ray Ledger



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