‘Our Ian’ – Ian Jamieson by Joyce Todd
Born in Bridlington in 1946, Ian Michael Jamieson is the only son of Doris and Arthur Jamieson, who was the founder of Jamieson’s. Arthur started the company in 1956 with just £5, and went on to manufacture such iconic machines as Rotolite, Electrodart, Easy Push wall machines, Bingo, Soccerette and Stadium table novelty style games and subsequently they became more involved in sales of a range of centre pushers including Silver Jubilee, Runways and Lucky Push.
At the age of 10, Ian accompanied his father on a machine delivery to Kraft Automatics in London and spent his time listening to a jukebox continuously playing the No 1 hit of the day ‘Diana’ by Paul Anka and also playing the pintables, leaving his father to conduct the business. When he was 11 during school holidays he did odd jobs at the factory earning himself pocket money and he was 13 when he attended his first ACA exhibition at the Royal Horticultural Hall, London where Jamieson’s had a variety of machines on Kraft Automatics stand who acted as their ‘exclusive’ distributor. A while later this ‘exclusivity’ was mutually discontinued. Jamieson’s changed its name to Jamieson Automatics Ltd, and exhibited at Alexandra Palace, Olympia, NEC, Blackpool, including the Golden Mile Centre, Winter Gardens and Norbreck Castle.
Leaving grammar school at 17, Ian became fully employed at Jamieson’s. After working in the factory for a year he got the opportunity to get involved with sales. Once he’d passed his driving test, he took a lorry load of machines to Newcastle’s Town Moor fair, under instructions not to come back until everything was sold! Arriving at the fair where the showmen were erecting rides, stalls and arcades, he was welcomed – as many knew his father, but he soon learned that familiarity would not benefit him in making a profit.
Three days later convinced he’d sold up, he returned to Bridlington, and his father went mad when he saw a lorry full of old machines, which were none other than ‘trade-ins.’ Mind you ‘trade-ins’ were not the only thing he came back with – he had a variety of payments mainly in cash, even down to bags of old pennies, but when all was totalled up and the ‘trade ins’ accounted for, there really wasn’t much profit from the trip if any! Ian didn’t fall for that again, he had learned his lesson, the hard way.
The 1968 Gaming Act caused concern for Jamieson Automatics as it did for many, but having come out the other side of it, they decided to dip their toe in the international market exhibiting in Vienna, Zagreb, Moscow, Bucharest, Atlanta and Dublin, with regular sales and visits to New Jersey, Tokyo, Denmark, Norway and Finland to name but a few, and by this time they employed a staff of 40.
The 1971 Moscow show was arranged jointly by the DTI and Alan Willis (BACTA) and involved companies from the UK including Streets, Cromptons, Mayfield Diamond, Rollites and Jamieson Automatics. To say Moscow was an eye-opener was somewhat of an understatement!! They all spent three weeks in August at the Ismailovsky Amusement Park, which was a historic ‘Royal’ estate, exhibiting for three hours a day only to Russian dignitaries. Of course these Russian dignitaries soon realised the exhibitors could be ‘used’ to demonstrate their products to the general public who in turn would play the machines with their own money. They were then allowed to exhibit 4 hours a day with the exhibitors acting like amusement arcades. A 50/50 split with the Russians was agreed with them keeping the keys but emptying the machines in the presence of the exhibitors.
As Russian currency could not be taken outside Russia, and with briefcases bulging with roubles, the UK exhibitors had to use their currency to buy relatively pointless products if and when they could find them. Needless to say, some of the roubles were spent at the British Embassy club on alcohol and when they were leaving Moscow they left behind what roubles they had at the club instructing them to spend them on fellow Brits. Then on a return visit in 1972, Ian and his fellow exhibitors found there were still enough roubles left to quench their thirst!
Bucharest (Romania) in 1972 was a different matter. It was Ian’s first solo trip and the first disaster was that the brand new articulated 40ft lorry which was the pride and joy of driver Brian Hartshorn of Mayfield Diamond was held up at Customs. Eventually, after numerous phone calls (remember, there were no mobile phones in those days) the lorry and the machines turned up. They were there for a week and again only allowed to exhibit for one hour for three days – this time to officials only, as no public were allowed here.
Whilst walking down a Bucharest highway, Ian got arrested. This was due to the fact he had crossed the road to buy an ice cream and jaywalking is an offence in Romania. When Ian heard the whistles behind him, he had no idea that the Politzi were after him! They asked for his passport, which was in the hotel safe, so they then whisked
him off to a police station, where fortunately someone spoke English. They called the hotel, checked his details and some three hours later, a somewhat shaken Ian was escorted back to the hotel. He put himself on hotel curfew after this!
As far as sales were concerned, everything taken to Bucharest was sold – including Brian Hartshorn’s treasured lorry! He was not allowed to drive it away and a price was negotiated for it. Neither Brian or Eddie Carter from Mayfield Diamond were happy about this, but there was little they could do about it…
Selling machines in Ireland has always been an experience. Around 1972 Jamieson Automatics were contacted by John Coyle and Billy Charlton who had seen their products at Blackpool. The pair asked if they could visit Bridlington and do a deal. They agreed to fly in the following week and when Ian asked ‘fly into where?’ Their reply was Bridlington Airport of course, which is strange as even to this day there is still no airport at Bridlington! But fly into Bridlington they did – landing in a field in their own small prop airplane. Business was done and Ian volunteered to deliver the machines to Ireland.
Never having driven to or been in Ireland before, he boarded a ferry in Stranraer for Larne to what he thought was a delivery address in the North but how wrong he was! Ian had instructions to phone John Coyle when he arrived at the border, so he did and all John said was, “Just park your lorry up and I’ll come and collect you. No one will bother you as I’ve made arrangements for you.” But Ian was worrying how he was going to get back over the border the following day. John and Billy arrived in a large Mercedes and asked him to leave the keys for his lorry with them. Ian started worrying even more, wondering what was going to happen to his lorry and the £20,000 of machines unpaid for on it? But he had very little choice in the matter.
Taking him to a hotel in their hometown of Ballyshannon, John and Billy then got a restaurant to re-open and the three then ate huge steaks (Ian hadn’t eaten for nearly 24 hours) all washed down by several pints of Guinness. When they got back to the hotel at 3am it was closed, but luckily there was a ladder nearby and Ian managed to climb in and get to his room, and didn’t know another thing until midday. He was then woken up to be told there was someone in reception for him, it was John and Billy who took him to John’s home and paid him for the machines even throwing in a tip for himself. Finally they took him back over the border to his lorry, which was waiting intact, minus the machines of course.
1970’s saw the onslaught of videogames, but Jamieson Automatics continued to produce wall machines adding simple upright versions of the same games including Bingo, Electrodart etc, and one of their big successes of this period was the Bingo Table which was wanted by both arcades and fairgrounds in the UK and abroad even as far as Australia. Pushers were also high in the market and they produced multiplayers such as Silver Jubilee, Runways, Lucky Push and even an upright version of the Silver Jubilee.
Decimalisation in 1971 rejuvenated the UK manufacturing market, but the three-day week of 1972 and 1974 severely dented this progress. Even though Jamieson Automatics were still successful with some machines it was difficult to survive and on 20th November 1979 they ceased trading, by this time having designed and manufactured over 100 models of amusement machines during their 23 years of existence. Arthur Jamieson decided it was time to retire aged 64 and sadly he died in 1985 aged 72.
April 1980 was a new chapter in Ian’s life but what happened next you will have to wait until next month to find out……
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