Ian Gordon
Primary: Wallacetown
Secondary: 1949-54
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My adventure starts near the middle... In March 1986 I stood with two colleagues in a long, slow immigration line at Harare Airport in Zimbabwe. Ahead of us, two elderly clergymen tolerated the stifling heat conversing calmly in accents very familiar to my ears. To my surprise, one of the clergymen turned out to be the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, and the other the minister of my old church, Wallacetown, the Reverend Uist MacDonald, whom I had not seen in 40 years. He introduced himself and then, to the total amazement of my colleagues and myself, he said "...and you're that wee laddie, Ian Gordon. I remember you well. You went on to the Morgan, and the ones that go to the Morgan always do well. What have you been up to?" Well, Reverend MacDonald, I don't know how the Church of Scotland fared in Zimbabwe - we didn't make it! But I have had an adventurous journey so far.

I loved my five years at Morgan, made some lifetime friends but have lost touch with most. After school I really wanted to become a lawyer but my mother insisted I become indentured as a chartered accountant, so that was me for five and a half years. Life was all about mountains of ledgers, tax codes, classes at Queens College, farm accounts, more ledgers - but I survived. My mother was probably right as I've now been a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland for 50 years.

After qualifying as a C.A. I applied for a job with Price Waterhouse in Colombia, South America. I was assigned to the newly-opened Medellin office - clients were mainly gold mines, gold dredging, banana plantations, airlines, shipping and textiles as World Bank Loans flowed into Latin America. Transport to audit sites was often by single-engined aircraft into jungle air strips.(Oh, to be young and brave again) Communication was also quite difficult at first. I surprised myself by becoming reasonably proficient in Spanish within a few months and fluent after eighteen months. The office grew to be highly successful and I became partner in charge in 1972. I think we surprised everyone by growing from a five man office in 1960 to a forty man office in 1975. Unfortunately, a certain less salubrious business was growing in Medellin at an even faster pace than we were. I could see Fabio Ochoa and Pablo Escobar beginning to develop their evil trade...and I felt very uncomfortable. This was the real beginning of the notorious drug trade and during that precise time Medellin became the drug trafficking capital of the world.

In 1976 I was offered the post of Financial Director, South America by British American Cosmetics, a division of BAT Industries. (BAC incorporates a great many companies but the better known ones on the American continent were Yardley, Lentheric, Monteil and Carven.) The cosmetic industry is directly linked to fashion, and rapid change is always to be expected. My first move came in the first year, when I was sent to manage the Yardley company in Colombia. Two years later I was sent to Fort Lauderdale to set up a Regional Office for BAC in the Americas, and I was appointed Regional Managing Director for North and South America. We had five factories and ten distributors from Toronto to Buenos Aires - so I spent a lot of time on airplanes. During this time I think I visited just about every major city in the Western Hemisphere while I was "on the road" as Americans call it.

And then another change. In 1985, Beecham bought the cosmetic business of BAT Industries. I got a choice. Stay States-side and work under the Beecham President in New York, or go to South Africa and manage Africa and Australasia. I didn't think twice and within a week I was on a plane to Cape Town. I spent many happy and successful years in South Africa during these historic years of change, and in visiting Australia and New Zealand, particularly so as that is where I met my present wife, Heide. Even so in many ways these were sad times: the transition of power left many social injustices in this most beautiful country. Because of our company's sports' promotions and high social awareness , I had the privilege of meeting many historic figures that I will always remember - Nelson Mandela, Wilhelm de Klerk, Mangosuto Butolesi, Desmond Tutu. Thrilling times, but eventually we all had to face the reality of a different world. Beecham decided to sell off its highly successful cosmetic business and this time we decided enough was enough - no more changes, please.

In 1994 we returned to Scotland and practiced business consulting for four years. But let me assure you that the myth of the salmon swimming back upstream does not apply to me. I could not find my rhythm. My wife Heide and I lived in Boston, Mass. from 1998 to 2005, where I used up my remaining brain cells working on financing for electric power plants. Boston is a fascinating city and great fun, but very cold. Now we live in paradise here in Naples on the West Coast of Florida.

If you've been to the Morgan you're sure to end up in paradise.

Naples, Florida, January 2011