The name General Accident Fire and Life Assurance Corporation Ltd to give it it’s full title is now a distant memory following mergers with firstly Commercial Union and then Norwich Union. They now trade under the AVIVA banner. Founded by a group of local farmers and businessmen in Perth in 1885 the company progressed to be one of the largest employers in the area and there were few towns and villages within reach of Perth who did not have several residents working in the GA. Abernethy was no exception.
Well known locals such as the late Willie Sutherland and I believe Norman Peddie worked there in their younger days.
When I started with the General Life Company in 1942 my weekly wage was fifteen shillings. In today’s money that would be a copy of the “Courier” with 5p change! At that time Willie Kemp who lived at Eastbank was Manager of the Workmans Compensation Dept. His daughter Isobel, later to become my sister in law, worked in the Investment dept. Brothers Andrew and Jack Morrison served for many years in the Motor and Guarantee depts. respectively. Andrew jnr is still with AVIVA. Jack met his wife Helen through working there. David Blaikie who rose through the ranks to become Chief General Manager spent his summer holidays as a boy in Abernethy, staying with his Aunt, Miss Barrie, in Blinkbonny. He would occasionally ask me about people he knew in the village. My first experience at dictating letters was with Chris Monteith who lived in Kirk Wynd. Some years my senior I felt rather nervous as she sat very smart in her two piece suit, shorthand notebook at the ready, every inch the perfect secretary. She soon put me at ease and after that it was plain sailing.
Jack Kemp was another who worked in the Guarantee Dept. Both Ian Bett and Jimmy Swan joined the company. Ian eventually left to join the family business and Jimmy to pursue the outdoor life with the Forestry Commission. They did not leave empty handed having met their respective wives in the GA. Sisters Jean and Annabelle Hutchison were others along with Sandra Hutchison and Flora Grehan. When Jean married Andy Kaye they settled in the village and Andy joined the Kirk Session. With him as Clerk to the Board, Andrew Morrison as Treasurer and myself as Session Clerk the well-being of the Church was assured (pardon the pun). Robin MacDonald left Dewars to become my right hand man in the Shares Dept. before moving to the IT dept. when the share registration work was outsourced to Lloyds Bank.
There are so many others - Les McIntosh, Kenny and Heather McVean plus several who escape my memory. And it all started with those far-sighted men who formed the General Accident and Employers Liability Assurance Association all those years ago.