Sandy Brownlie CBE (1935 – 2020)

Sandy Brownlie CBE (1935 – 2020)

Alexander J. Brownlie CBE of BSW Timber Ltd (known as Sandy), passed away peacefully at home with his family on June 5th aged 84.

Born on August 24, 1935 into the family sawmilling business based in the heart of the Scottish Borders, it wasn’t a surprise that “Sandy” after leaving school, had a brief spell in the office of a Liverpool timber broker and began working fulltime in the business in 1953.  He spent only two weeks there before receiving his call-up papers for two years’ National Service.

When he returned in 1955, he worked at the company’s auditors in Edinburgh before going back to what he loved, working in the Earlston sawmill, in the autumn of 1956. He was appointed a Director in 1959. Late 1970, Sandy pressed ahead with investment in new equipment and transport fleet. With the team, he revived a business his father had come to believe was in decline.

Always quick to seize opportunities, in July 1981 A & R Brownlie bought Western Softwood, based in Wales. Overnight Brownlie’s became a major force in the UK softwood producing industry and have continued to be so as the UK’s largest sawmilling business and now the UK’s only fully integrated forest products business with European operations.  

Thomas Smith & Sons (Kirkoswald) Ltd, based in Ayrshire was acquired by Sandy in 1988. BSW Timber PLC was formed on 4 July 1988. Sandy Brownlie becoming BSW’s first Chairman and by 1991 BSW had built a major new sate of the art sawmill at Carlisle. Sandy was awarded the CBE at Buckingham Palace by the Queen in 1994 for his services to the industry. Throughout his career Sandy served on many Trade Associations Boards, always driving and promoting the Forest Industry.

An eye on the future, BSW seized the opportunity to buy in 2006 the former Arjo Wiggins paper mill in Fort William adjacent to its existing Kilmallie mill, where the UK’s most technologically advanced sawmill now operates. As Chairman, Sandy Brownlie was always eager to see the business grow further and had the strategic vision to make this happen. Sandy retired as chairman in 2009.

He was a most admired Gentleman Sawmiller and a Captain of the sector, respected by his peers, colleagues, employees and friends for the passion and commitment to grow BSW and for being “Sandy”. He will always be a part of BSW and in the heart of its employees.

Sandy was a well-loved personality amongst his circle of friends and family and was well known and respected throughout the Borderlands where he supported many organisatiosns and charities. Later in life he enjoyed more free time and to travel and pursue his love of country pursuits. He was an extremely modest gentleman with a down to earth attitude and dry sense of humour and always interested in everyone.

Mr Brownlie is survived by his beloved wife Maude, son Alex, daughters Jane, Kate and Clare and dear stepdaughters Liz and Trish.

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