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The Charity Auctioneers
Clicking on the website www.thecharityauctioneers.co.uk is like flicking through the pages of Hello Magazine – with a difference the majority of Scottish farmers would notice – every photo features at least one livestock auctioneer.
Willie Paterson, who started his career in the rostrum at A & J Wilson’ Paisley market, nineteen years ago, now takes bids at Charity Auctions across the country, raising thousands for worthy causes.
In 2005 Willie decided to make a side-line business out of the Charity events and got a few auctioneering friends on board; Alex Fleming, who was based with UA at Huntly, but now works as a land buyer for Scotia Homes, Robert Taylor, previously sold out of Perth for UA and Willie McCulloch, who is currently at Lanark.
Willie spent five years working at Paisley, then headed to UA at Stirling for a twelve year stint, before heading home towards Lanark for a couple of years at Lawrie and Symington.
Managing the bar at the Clydesdale Horse Society’s Charity Open Day at Kittochside, while he was Chairman of East Kilbride Young Farmers in August 1999, opened Willie’s eyes to the profit margins in the drinks industry.
“By January 2000 I had set up my own company as a sideline to my auctioneering career,” explained Willie, who established a mobile bar service – Direct Bars – with some assistance in the form of a grant from STEP, (Stirling Enterprise). Bar fridges, optics and clothing for staff were included in his initial outlay.
“Graham Lambie and Bob Balantyne from STEP were a great help and still call to see how I am getting on.”
“I gave 100% to selling in the market and only ran events on Friday nights and Saturdays. Both Robin Tough at Stirling and Hunter Murray at Lanark let me get on with the job. After Foot and Mouth I sold a lot of breeding cattle from farm to farm,” said Willie, who left the livestock industry a couple of years ago.
“I just wanted the opportunity to be my own boss so when the lease on Nicky Tams, the second oldest bar in Stirling, came up I took it on.
Willie now has a pool of 30 staff, which is mainly sourced by word of mouth from Young Farmers Clubs and students from Stirling University. Ten of his staff work in Nicky Tams, which is his bread and butter, “But with the recession, increase in drink prices and the fact that people are being more cautious I’m glad to have the other two businesses to top up my income. I’m lucky in that I have a free house so can buy booze from anywhere in the world.”
When he first took over the pub, he attended a seven-day course at Scottish and Newcastle. Nicky Tams had ‘wet sales’ only, but Willie has since brought in a full time and a part time chef and offers food from midday till 9pm. The menu features farm assured meat and strawberries from the Briarlands, out past the new market, as well as a ‘Wee Persons Menu’ for under 12’s.
The pub is ideally situated to attract passing trade from Stirling Castle, but Willie does feel that there are too many bars (20-25) for the size of the town. It sits opposite ‘Dusk,’ a nightclub, which to us oldies was once ‘Rainbow Rocks’ and it also has a good student clientele. Bands, a quiz night and a DJ are regular features to get the punters over the threshold.
Willie wonders whether the fact he lost his father when he was only 2 has given him more drive to succeed. “He was only 38. He was loading a tractor onto a flat lorry and it flipped over and crushed him. My mother reared four of us and gave us a start when we were 10 or 12 to buy a couple of stirks each. It sparked my interest in the livestock auction system. We used to buy in Strathaven and sell in Paisley or Stirling,” shared Willie, who reckons he might employ a manager to run Nicky Tams and may go back as an independent livestock agent dealing with breeding stock from farm to farm. “I still get phone calls and do some farm to farm sales for a wee commission.” But for the meantime Mr Paterson has a hectic summer schedule with up to three events some nights with Direct Bars, a busy pub to run, 30 staff to keep happy, as well as a wife and two young boys at home and Charity Events to attend.
Gordon Ramsay and Duncan Bannatyne are two of the celebrities that he has met that he aspires to, “because of their Scottish blood and the fact that they were brought up with next to nothing and have done well.”
Alex Fleming on the other hand was delighted to be in the company of Walter Smith and Ali McCoist, as an avid Rangers fan. “I tend to do more of the after dinner speaking than the auctioning. It is something different, better than a normal night out,” says Alex, who is still in regular contact with farmers through his work and was showing Blackies from the family farm – Gavinburn – at Drymen Show at the weekend.
“It is an enjoyable night out, it keeps your hand in as an auctioneer and is much less stressful than selling livestock as in the markets you have farmers livelihoods in your hands,” commented Alex.
He is finding that things are picking up with his day job as a land buyer for Scotia Homes. “We slowed down a bit and were more choosy what sites we went for. I’m enjoying working in the North East for a family business, Bill Bruce also runs the Aberdeen Angus Logie Herd and is a director of the Royal Highland Show this year,” informed Alex.
Robert Taylor is apparently an established performer on the stage, recently seen in the Kings Theatre, Glasgow playing Wild Bill Hickock in Calamity Jane. “He is guaranteed to entertain your guests even if he has to sing for their bids!” so teamed with Willie they can really put on a show at these star-studded functions. “We use a voice over to try and quieten the audience before we come on. We have had the guy who does the X-Factor, and we use roaming mikes,” said Willie.
Using the skills they attained from numerous livestock auctions over the years, teamed with quick wit and charm, those professional young auctioneers aim to attract a flurry of bids and make the attendees dig deep into their wallets and evening bags to support the charity of the night.
“For the past two years Gordon Ramsay has held a Gala Dinner in Stirling Castle for Scottish Spina Bifida, of which he is Patron. We have carried out the auction and are currently in talks with him and Duncan Bannatyne. They have asked us to go to London to perform at charity events, which we hope is our next step,” said Willie.
The list of events the boys have lined up reads like a who’s who in the Charity world. It includes the Prince & Princes of Wales Ladies Lunch,
Enable Scotland in Stirling Castle performing with Deacon Blue, Ronald McDonald House with Sky Sports Jim White, a Black & White Ball with Charan Gill and Carol Smellie, the Scottish Spina Bifida Association with the Ramsays, Ronnie Corbett and Janet St Porter
“I feel privileged to still do the Robert Wiseman Variety Club auction every December,” he said.
The inaugural Help the Heroes Ball in Aberdeen is another string to their bow and the lads hope if it is successful that it will be their ticket to London. Ten functions are already on the books for 2010.
Willie initially advertised in No.1 Magazine but has found that a lot of business comes from word of mouth or from the website.
The latest recruit to join the team is Willie McCulloch, who also does his bit for charity running in marathons. Willie Mc covers the Lanarkshire area and has auctioned at his beloved Motherwell FC on several occasions.
With all these contacts in the world of the stars, I reckon it won’t be too long before the Charity Auctioneers are gracing the screens of our televisions. As they say ‘it is who you know’ and these livestock lads are certainly making contacts in the right circles.
“It is pretty low-key before the events, but we get to mingle with them all afterwards,” concluded Willie.