William Jarvie Clow trained as a master painter. He then became a representative for Paterson's Paints of Dundee. He sold distemper, linseed oil, red oxide and turpentine to the painting industry in Scotland. He found that no painters had any extension ladders as they all used pole ladders.
He decided to manufacture extending ladders in 1913 in Glasgow at 24 Broad Street, Bridgeton. He brought his three sons and one of his daughters into W.J. Clow and formed it into a limited company in 1922.
W.J. Clow's first task was to design and build a model of a 3 part wooden extending ladder which he himself carried around Scotland to show all tradesmen who were not aware of what an extension ladder did. He manufactured pole ladders for the traditional tradesmen which are still supplied occasionally by Clow Group.
In 1929 he made another extension ladder model for the Irish market where his eldest son was sent over to start an assembly factory in Dublin.
In 1937 William left Scotland and went to South Africa to help a friend start up a timber ladder factory in Johannesburg. He stayed there for 6 months until the ladder factory was firmly establised.
William Closed the Dublin factory down in 1939 at the outbreak of World War II as his youngest son John Holtby Clow had volunteered to join the Royal Navy.
W.J. Clow and his son William Holtby Clow continued making ladders during the war.
William continued working in 24 Broad Street until 1966 when he died at his desk writing a large cheque to a timber supplier.
William Holtby Clow was called up to serve in the army during World War I. When the war ended in 1918 William came back to work for his dad's company, W.J. Clow, where he looked after the production of timber ladders. He was a very enthusiastic worker and made ladders to the highest standard.
He was sent over to Dublin, Ireland in 1929 to open a ladder assembly factory and also to call on customers in the south of Ireland. His four children were all born in Dublin. He started assembling ladders in Clontarf, Dublin. The ladder sides, which were all sawn and planed with pre-drilled rung holes, were sent over on the Burns & Laird night boat from Glasgow to Dublin along with boxes of rungs and all the metal fittings.
He returned to Glasgow in 1939 at the outbreak of World War II where he assisted his father in limited production of timber steps and ladders. During the war the only timber used was larch. As his younger brother John had joined the navy in 1941 it left just himself and his father to make the limited number of ladders. He taught his own son William Scobie Clow how to make ladders when he joined W.J. Clow in 1946.
William retired from the business in 1975 aged 78 years old and passed away peacefully at his home in 1979.
John Holtby Clow left school in 1917 and joined his father's ladder business as a sales representative.
His brother William went to Dublin in 1929 to look after the business in Ireland while John looked after the ladder production and other products in Glasgow.
In 1935 John also persuaded his father to employ another representative to assist him in sales and Mr McNab from Stirling joined the company and covered the East of Scotland until he retired in 1957.
At the outbreak of World War II John volunteered to join the Royal Navy. He was called up in 1942 and worked up to Gunnery Officer before being demobbed in 1946.
The business grew slowly after WWII as raw materials were in short supply and it wasn't until the mid 50's that supplies became plentiful.
John rejoined W.J. Clow & Co Ltd as a Sales Director and designed a highly successful steel scaffold tower. He continued selling in Scotland and the North of England.
In 1948 he expanded Clow Sales and appointed a Mr Early of Manchester to cover Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and up to Lancaster.
John had two sons and one daughter but only his younger son Douglas actually came into the business. He retired in 1974 due to ill health and subsequently died in hospital in September 1977.
William was born in Dublin in 1929 and left Dublin at the outbreak of WWII and returned to Glasgow with his father.
William joined W.J. Clow in 1946 and trained as a ladder maker under tuition from his father. He himself worked in the timber ladder factory.
He and Douglas Clow went over to Holland in 1972 to test the new Aluminium ladders from 'Alga'. William was so impressed with their quality the he ordered a 40' lorry load of extension ladders.
On the retiral of his father in 1975 William was appointed Managing Director and Douglas Clow was appointed Sales Director.
One of the first things he did was to purchase the John Lyle's Carpet Factory at 185 Broad Street, where the company headquarters are still located. William and Douglas transferred the ladder factory from 24 Broad Street to 185 Broad Street over one weekend and lost not a single day's production - a remarkable achievement.
In 1979 William and Douglas were negotiating to take over Barker and Rennie Brushmakers when William had a severe heart attack and was off for 6 months.
In 1980, William unfortunately drowned in Loch Lomond while attempting to rescue a girl who had fallen into the loch during the night. He was sadly missed by Douglas and all the staff.
Douglas started selling Clow products in Northern Ireland, while he was employed as a student night porter in the Skerry Bhan Hotel in Portrush. He was very successful much to the annoyance of his grandfather who agreed to pay him a commission while in Ireland. Eventually W.J. Clow paid only half the commission rate originally agreed. This was enough to help Douglas pay his university fees. He then went to Glasgow University to study Engineering.
Mr John Clow successfully persuaded his son Douglas to give up university and join W.J. Clow & Co Ltd as a representative. The lure of selling was much greater than university.
Douglas initially covered the East and North of Scotland. Although he had a love of Ireland and still has. So he persuaded the three directors to let him go to Ireland for a 4 week trip at a time. Eventually he shortened this trip to 3 weeks at a time when he got married in 1966.
In 1970 Douglas was appointed Sales Director and his cousin Bill Clow was appointed Production Director.
Douglas and Bill employed a Sales Manager for Northern Ireland in 1978 and opened Clow's first depot in Belfast which was formed as W.J. Clow Ireland Ltd.
After Bill Clow's death Douglas had to buy Bill Clow's shares in the now lucrative business, thanks to the unstinting help from the Clydesdale Bank who were supportive to Douglas throughout his career. The Clydesdale Bank assisted buying over 15 associate companies between 1980 and 2007.
In the year 2000 Douglas and his directors decided to build the new factory and office block adjacent to the premises bought in 1975.
Douglas Clow is still the group chairman. He has two sons and one daughter. His youngest son Cameron is currently the Managing Director.
Cameron graduated from Strathclyde University in 1991 with a B.A. Hons degree, He then took a year out to travel in Australia. When he returned he undertook an HNC in mechanical engineering.
Cameron returned to the UK in 1992 and went south to Kidderminster to manage the newly acquired large aluminium ladder factory 'Hardlife Ladders'.
In 1997, Cameron was instrumental in combining the three English ladder manufacturers into one large new ladder factory at Cradley Heath, to form part of the Clow Group Ltd.
By 1998 Cameron had successfully merged our London distribution depot into the newly acquired ladder factory, Drew Clark & Sons Ltd, Leyton.
Cameron moved back to Scotland in 1999 to run the Engineering Division, Clow Engineering in Glasgow.
In addition to carrying out his duties for Clow Group, he has represented the Ladder Association at the British Standards Institute Committee on ladders and stepladders, (Comittee No. B/512), for over 15 years.
In 2008, Cameron was appointed Group Managing Director for Clow Group Ltd. In this same year he was granted a Royal Warrant as Manufacturers of Access Equipment to Her Majesty the Queen.
In 2011, Cameron became Chairman of the Ladder Association formerly known as the British Ladder Manufacturers Association.