More than 40 years after founding a business named in honour of the Queen’s favourite castle, Jim Milne has been awarded a knighthood.
The chairman of Aberdeen’s Balmoral Group will officially be known as Sir James S Milne CBE, DL, DHC, Hon DBA, Hon FRIAS after the announcement of the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
Sir James, one of the north-east’s best known business men, was awarded the Knight Bachelor for services to business and charity.
It comes after he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1994.
A very special year
He said: “I am deeply honoured and quite taken aback to have received such humbling recognition from Her Majesty The Queen in this very special year for her.
“For as long as I can remember I have strived to be the best I can be and, I think, have encouraged others to do and think the same way.
“I am very fortunate in that I have been surrounded by a loving family all my life and they have given me the strength and freedom to pursue my commercial, charitable and personal dreams.
“The good Lord has been watching and guiding me too, of course.”
Sir James is fond of saying he hasn’t come a long way in life as his company’s corporate headquarters are located less than a mile from where he was born and raised on the family farm in Tullos, which was just outside Aberdeen city at that time.
Like all business people, he has experienced highs and lows, both on a commercial and personal level yet has always bounced back.
His first business collapsed in 1980 but each time he faced a setback came back stronger.
Balmoral now employs more than 750 people working in the oil and gas, offshore wind and storage industry.
“You can draw your own conclusions from this,” he said. “You might think I’m either a genius, completely mad or, perhaps more realistically, somewhere in the middle.”
He is a firm believer that the way to get on in life is to take calculated risks, make mistakes and learn from them – and admits to making quite a few in his time.
You might think I’m either a genius, completely mad or, perhaps more realistically, somewhere in the middle.”
Sir James Milne
Sir James said: “I do believe, however, that I was a born entrepreneur; growing lettuce and mushrooms; buying, renovating and selling cars while at school before acquiring an ex-RAF hut from Kinloss to start up my first glassfibre manufacturing operation on the family Home Farm of Tullos.”
Balmoral Group now operates from a 45 acre site in Aberdeen and has engineering and manufacturing facilities in Newcastle, South Yorkshire and South Wales.
‘If you have good people, look after them’
“I’m a great believer in people. If you have good people, look after them; I can certainly say we have an abundance of good people at Balmoral that have supported me and the company exceptionally well.”
He added that 85% of what the firm makes in the UK is exported worldwide. No stranger to the Royal family, his business has also won a number of Queen’s Awards, including for international trade.
“You will find Balmoral products on every continent in the world,” he said.
“Quality products supported by a problem solving approach and a commitment to world class service is a powerful and profitable mix.”
Sir James is joint founder and chairman of Friends of ANCHOR, a charity established in 1997 that supports Aberdeen’s cancer and haematology care unit, as well as financing many ground-breaking research programmes.
It was set up in honour of family members he has lost to cancer including his mother, his brother and his first wife.
He said:”This is not something that I normally comment on but I have to mention Friends of ANCHOR.
“I am very proud of the charitable work that I have been fortunate enough to be involved in around the world.
“Since 1997 Balmoral has funded all the fundraising team and administrative costs of Friends of ANCHOR.
“The charity, in its 25th year, is on course to reach a record project target of £2million that will help make the difference in Aberdeen’s new cancer care centre due to open in 2023.
“This is an absolutely fantastic effort by the FoA team and their volunteers.”
He will turn 82 years old in December and has said it has been quite a journey for the boy that left school at 14 with no qualifications and the youngest of nine of a family.
Sir James concluded: “I am a very proud man today and will take time to reflect on the achievements that have led to this tremendous honour.
“I know that my whole family will be equally proud, those that are with us and those that, sadly, are not.”