Celebrating the life of Jim (Hamish) Aikman

It is with deep regret and sadness that we announce the passing of Jim (Hamish) Aikman (71) in June 2021 due to COVID-19 related complications. Jim was one of the well-known and loveable characters of the tooling and engineering supplies industry who you struggled to understand because of his strong Scottish accent. When asked why had he not lost any of his accent after living in South Africa for 46 years his wry reply, indicating his great sense of humour, was: “I have not found a better one so I am keeping my Scottish one.”

James Kirkwood Aikman, also known as Jim, Jimmy or Hamish was born in Port Glasgow, on the River Clyde on the west coast of Scotland on 30 August 1949.

Jim left school one day short of his 15th birthday in 1964. As there was no shortage of work in those days, he started work as an apprentice turner the next day at John G Kincaid and Sons in Greenock, a town which is located in the Inverclyde council area in Scotland and just west of Port Glasgow. John G Kincaid and Sons, before its closure many years later, was a major British marine engine manufacturer.

Jim worked there until the decline in shipbuilding on Clydeside when he took up a position with SKF Engineering in far off South Africa. Jim and wife Isobel emigrated to Johannesburg, South Africa in July 1975, where he resided for the rest of his life.

In February 1976 Jim started as a sales engineer with Sandvik, which according to Isobel was a job he really loved and a place where he made plenty of wonderful friends, many of whom remain family friends to this day. Jim worked at Sandvik in the tooling division until 1984 when he resigned and joined up with Benny Strauss at Tool Techniques. When Benny retired in 1988 Jim decided to open his own business and became a founding partner of Carbide Industrial Products (CIP), with Willie Stuart. The company was the sole importer of Widia cutting tools at the time.

As Isobel said: “CIP became the second love of his life after his family until his sad passing on 3 June 2021. I just miss him so much, he was such a BIG character, it feels like a part of me is gone. Thank goodness the family are close by, they are just the best, well they would be, they had the best Dad.”

In a tribute to Jim business partner and friend Stan Sanetra said: “I started working for Sandvik Coromant in April of 1981 and Jim was the Distribution Manager at the time. I was employed as a training officer to run seminars and training sessions for customers.”

“I distinctly remember the occasion where Jim and I became life-long friends. While preparing for a seminar in Apex Industrial, Benoni where Sandvik had a factory to produce special tools, a training room and machines for training Jim arrived with another colleague Donald Macdonald. Jim’s best friend Irishman Roy Brown and I were working on the presentation but we soon got distracted with the arrival of the other two. It was Friday morning – the day after it snowed in Johannesburg for the first time in many, many years – and we decided to enjoy the warm comforts of the Rex Hotel in Benoni for the rest of the afternoon.”

“I was only 26-years-old at the time and when I told him I was born of Polish parents in Dunfermline, Scotland he said he thought he could see the tartan in my eyes. That was when I was privileged to become an honorary Scotsman and a member of the Aikman Clan.”

“We continued to work together at Sandvik before we became business partners, besides being colleagues and friends. I spent lots of time with Jim. Sometimes we worked weekends and nights putting in stock for customers. It was during these times that I found Jim to be the best technical person in his field and customers had a great respect for him. He had a vast engineering knowledge, a foundation that he built up while working in the engineering workshops of the ship building industry in Clyde, Scotland.”

“We also became family friends. My wife Donna could not understand Jim’s strong Scottish accent for many years, as did many others.” (I can vouch for that. I once sat on a plane with Jim for 90 minutes after both of us attended EMO in Hannover, Germany. By the time we got to London we had not stopped talking, or should I say he had not, but I had not understood a word he had said.)

“Jim was also a computer fundi. I think if the people who knew Jim Aikman (Hamish) could each write a chapter in a book about the good times they spent with Hamish.. it would be a bestseller!!!! I certainly have a few stories..”

“We worked hard and played even harder. We went on business trips overseas together ….. and went to Marloth Park with Isobel and the kids – another story for another day. Jim will always be in our thoughts and his spirit will live on through his much loved children and grandchildren.”

Many of Jim’s colleagues also became his friends and all have nothing but praise to say about him. A gentleman, always willing to assist, very welcoming and very sociable are just a few phrases that refer to Jim’s character.

Gary Law, a fellow Director at CIP, had this to say: “I met Jim in June 1992 when I joined CIP.
He co-founded Carbide Industrial Products in January 1988. Back then CIP was the sole importer and distributor of Widia tooling in South Africa.”

“He later became a partner in Elben Precision Grinding and was also one of the founding partners of Widatech.”

“He had a vast amount of technical knowledge and years of experience, which earned him the respect of many very loyal customers. Even the opposition had a lot of respect for him. Jim was never afraid of work.”

“I do believe that we were the first in South Africa to introduce outsourced tool and consumable management and we eventually developed it to a level where we were charging a flat fee, per component manufactured, for tooling and consumables. However it was quite high risk, so we have gradually reverted back to a more conservative tool distribution strategy over the last few years.”

“Despite numerous attempts to convince him to slow down and consider retiring, or even semi-retiring, he stubbornly continued to come to work every single day right up until the day he fell ill.”

“For as long as I can remember Jim and Johnny Helena had a standing arrangement to meet at the pub every Monday afternoon for a few drinks. They really were great friends. He was a proud Scotsman. He had a very big heart and was always friendly and jovial. He was one of the most honest and dependable people I have ever known. And he had a great sense of humour too.”

“He adored his wife Isobel – they had known each other for 53 years and had been married for nearly 48 years. They have two children, a son Mark and daughter Cherine and three grandchildren.”

“He was a great man, we all miss him very much.”

Jim will be greatly missed by his family, his ex-colleagues in South Africa, his long-standing friends and everyone who knew him. RIP Jim.