The four millionaire mates from Loanhead

Willie and Doris Thomson and James and Ina Cherrie
Willie and Doris Thomson and James and Ina Cherrie

This is the tale of four friends who attended Loanhead Public School, and who all went on to become millionaires, despite none of them receiving a university education.

Despite making their fortunes and living in different corners of the globe, Donald Bell, James Cherrie, Willie Crossar and Willie Thomson would still meet up in Australia every year in their retirement years until three of the gang passed away.

Three of the boys served an apprenticeship and pursued careers in non hi-tech industries, all having their own highly successful businesses.

The only survivor of the group of friends is Donald Bell.

Donald (89), served his apprenticeship as an electrician at the Lady Victoria Pit at Newtongrange while attending Heriot Watt College in the evenings.

He then spent three years in the Fleet Air Arm as a radar mechanic. His brother, Ronnie, spent seven years in the Royal Navy and his father served for 22 years in the Royal Navy. His father was also the janitor for the three schools in Loanhead for many years.

The next four years for Donald were in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with McAlister Company of Singapore.

From Kuala Lumpur he travelled to numerous rubber and palm oil estates selling and servicing DeLaval centrifuges as well as other equipment.

Thereafter he emigrated to Canada and started selling electrical equipment for 15 years, then he opened his own business selling high voltage electrical equipment. He did business in 14 countries before retiring in 1993.

He said: “We were all friends and all in the same class at school. We were all the same age.

“We were always fully employed, and with the exception of Willie Cossar were ultimately self-employed with our own businesses.

“In the case of Willie and his wife, Agnes, their success was from hard work and steady employment for both of them.

“We all had good personalities who worked hard and didn’t waste our earnings.

“I was a good salesman and enjoyed the work I did which I think is the secret of success.

“I was lucky with the employers I worked for and I also had some lucky financial breaks. Such as a present from the Swiss company I represented, and the escalation in the stock value of the company I worked for.

“Perhaps I should expand on my road to success. The 10,000 Swiss francs was given to me because of the work I carried out on their product at minus 40 degree Celsius - this was considered far in excess of what an agent should do.

“The $150,000 was the escalation in the value of the company stock valuation, which was 20 times what I paid for the stock, just $750.

“The bulk of the value of my estate is in blue chip dividend paying common stock.

“An example is a stock I have been accumulating since it was $15. It is now $50 and it pays me an annual dividend of $42,000.

“I would strongly recommend that one acquires knowledge of the stock market – it helps if your wife or partner does so also. It doesn’t require a university education.

“Yes, it is a good example but I am no way decrying a university education.

“I would say our story is four good examples of hard work, luck and perseverance to succeed.”

Donald was also secretary of the St Andrews Society in Kuala Lumpur.

Coincidently he met Danny Bisset of Newtongrange while there. Danny served his apprenticeship as a fitter at the Lady Victoria at the same time as Donald. What a small world!

James Cherrie served his apprenticeship with MacTaggart Scott in Loanhead as a pattern maker. James and his wife emigrated to New Zealand when he opened a foundry in Auckland.

He sold his product to an Australian company, which Donald coincidentally sold in Canada. He then sold his aluminium castings business and retired to Australia. James died three years ago, aged 87.

Willie Crossar also served his apprenticeship at MacTaggart Scott as a fitter.

After completing it, he joined Salvesen and Co of Norway in the whaling station in South Georgia (in the south Atlantic Ocean) for two years and returned to the UK with £2,000.

He then married and emigrated to Australia. Both he and his wife, Agnes, worked hard until retirement. Willie died in 2013 aged 87. His wife Agnes still lives in Australia.

Willie Thomson started his apprenticeship as a draftsman at the Lady Victoria Pit until an unfortunate motorcycle accident at Cockpen crossroads in which both he and Donald were involved.

Willie then opened West End Motors in Loanhead and worked there until retirement. Willie passed away two years ago, aged 88.

His wife, Doris, ran a lady’s hairdressing salon at the West End in Loanhead.

The couple became millionaires through their respective businesses, and the investments they made.

Willie and Doris’s daughter and son own an employment agency in Australia, with offices in every major city in Australia.