An important name in the development of UK forestry, Clark Engineering is a family business with close to a century of history behind it, and a great story all of its own. With 2019 marking its 95th year and the arrival of the fourth generation of Clarks to the business, we look back at how it began, how it evolved and where it’s heading.

IT all started with William Clark. Beginning his career as an apprentice blacksmith farrier just outside Dumfries, William (grandfather to Clark Engineering’s current MD Douglas Clark) laid the humble foundations for what is today one of the UK’s leading manufacturers and suppliers of forestry equipment.

Following World War I – during which he served in Gallipoli and Egypt – and a spell on the Glasgow shipyards, he found a job in Dalbeattie working for the local blacksmith. In 1924, after marrying the blacksmith’s daughter, he moved to Parkgate to establish his own business on the same five-acre site Clark Engineering still occupies today.

That shop focused primarily on repairing agricultural equipment, but helped to establish the company’s enduring association with the forestry industry, with the repair of forest cultivation spades and hand tools, and the shoeing of forestry horses.

Following World War II, William’s son Murray joined the company, coinciding with the Forestry Commission’s major tree-planting drive in Scotland. Given Wm Clark & Son’s location, it was perhaps inevitable that it would move further into forestry at this time, as large areas of surrounding land were bought up for planting and grants were given to landowners to rebuild forests. Over 2,000 ploughs were produced.

Working with the Forestry Commission’s experts, Wm Clark & Son began to design and manufacture a wide range of forest cultivation ploughs. This grew to become the main focus of the business, with several of the specialised ploughs it produced in this time becoming industry standards, used across the UK and beyond.
In 1976, Murray’s son Douglas joined the company and, as had been the case with his father, his arrival heralded a period of significant change. As the 1980s approached, the UK’s tree-planting efforts tailed off, taking demand for new forestry ploughs with them. It was time for the company to diversify once more.

For many years, the company had been involved with the harvesting of timber, with the manufacture of winch hooks, fittings and hand tools, along with the repair of forest harvesting machinery. This made it an avenue ripe for exploration. Over the following years, Douglas moved the company into the sale and manufacture of specialised timber harvesting equipment, developing a range of equipment from grapples and fuel tanks to forest machine tracks. 

It also began to take on UK distribution for other leading forest equipment manufacturers, many of which it still represents today. Internationally recognised products like Indexator rotators, Cranab cranes and grapples, ExTe timber transport bunks and Oregon harvester bars and chains are all among the extensive range of forestry equipment in its stocks.

During this period of feverish development, a key component of the business became its range of forest machine tracks, introduced in 1988. This success story eventually became Clark Tracks Ltd, the world’s second-largest track manufacturer, sold in 2007 to Gunnebo Industries Ab of Sweden. 

Due to the close relationship Clark enjoyed with Nokian Tyres when fitting tracks to tyres, in 1998 the company became the Nokian Tyre importer for the UK. This tyre business quickly outgrew the resources at Clark, so a new partnership company, Nordic Tyres, was formed in 1999 between Douglas Clark and Alan Lindsay.  Alan, as MD of Nordic Tyres, has grown the company extensively.

As well as Nokian heavy tyres, Nordic now also offer Nokian car tyres and CEAT heavy tyres from India from their 40,000-square-foot warehouse in Dumfries.
Meanwhile, the company continued to diversify in other ways, moving into sales of safety clothing, representing Pfanner and Protos under the Clark Forest brand. With Douglas’s wife Yvonne in control, Clark Forest continued to grow until, in 2018, a partnership between the Clark family and Andrew Hunter saw the creation of a new company, Outwear, based in Lockerbie.

Following the sale of Clark Tracks, Clark Engineering focused its attention and resources on attachments for excavators and cranes, with a new division called POWERHAND making log-handling equipment for sawmills, grabs for railway maintenance and advanced vehicle recycling machines for scrap car yards. Now selling in 18 countries worldwide, POWERHAND quickly became a name of which the Clark family could be very proud.

Today, the Clark group, once comprising a simple blacksmith’s workshop, employs close to 60 people, and includes the original forestry equipment-focused manufacturer and importer Clark Engineering and POWERHAND, both operating from Parkgate; Nordic Tyres, based in Dumfries (; and Outwear, based in Lockerbie (

Clark Tracks, still Scandinavian owned and now part of the Nordic Traction Group, continues to prosper in an expanding factory in Dumfries, selling tracks worldwide.
Clark Engineering continues to develop and has proved a good company for staff members like Richard Gordon too. Joining as an apprentice welder fabricator in October 1998, he moved on to work in the machine shop before taking over responsibility for imported products like Indexator, firstly with service, then stock management, sales and overall management of the products ranges. Now Clark Engineering general manager, he oversees the manufacture, sales and repair of all Clark Engineering products from the Parkgate workshop.

Explaining why international manufacturers choose Clark Engineering as a partner, he said: “We’ve got a very high reputation within the forestry industry. We’re a financially sound company and every product we present, we can back up. Take Indexator, for example. In our stock we hold spare parts for rotator models that were sold 15–20 years ago. Clark has represented Indexator in the UK for over 30 years.

“We offer a high-quality service for repairs. For harvesters and sawmills, downtime is a big thing. There’s a big cost when a machine breaks down. We try to minimise that as much as possible. The Clark Tracks business very much put our company on the world stage in the forest industry, so the company and its reputation is well known worldwide.”

Though 22 years represents less than a quarter of Clark Engineering’s history, Richard said he’d still witnessed a dramatic change in the time he’s been with the company.
“The business I came into was aimed very much on the service/repair side of things,” he said. “We relied very much on servicing and repairing broken machines and equipment on tight deadlines, which made the workload very unpredictable. Douglas has moved us  further towards focusing on our products. We’re now more of a manufacturing company with exceptional back-up service.” 

Today, the company has 43 full-time staff, which includes two full-time designers. Though the catalogue of products on offer from Clark Engineering is impressive, there are more on the way, with a number of projects currently at the development stage.

“Industry is always evolving, so we have to constantly be looking ahead,” said Richard. “Our designers have had many years of workshop experience, so they understand our manufacturing techniques. This is really important when designing new products.

“Looking ahead to the future, as our business continues to grow, we have plans on the drawing board to expand our buildings. This is very much at the early stages, but with our growth plans, we will need greater manufacturing facilities.” 

Staff numbers are growing too, with Douglas’s son Murray coming on board. Looking back over the company’s history, every period of significant change has been preceded by the arrival of the new generation. If history is any indicator, the business certainly won’t be resting on its laurels.

It’s fair to say the group is in a very good position, with Clark Engineering concentrating on the forestry engineering side of the business (covering everything from forest equipment sales to hydraulic cylinder manufacture and repair, hydraulic motor repair to grab tank manufacture) and POWERHAND focused on the excavator attachments aspect. 

With significant investments being made in new product development, coupled with major investment in new factory buildings and advanced manufacturing equipment, all while exploring new overseas markets, as the company approaches its centenary in 2024 its future is looking very promising indeed.