Obituary – Tom A Bruce-Jones CBE

21 March 2019

Tom A Bruce-Jones, chairman of James Jones & Sons Ltd (JJSL), passed away on January 23 aged 76.

Born on August 28, 1941, Mr Bruce-Jones read Law at the University of Oxford before beginning his career in the 1960s in the timber division of forest products company Price & Pierce, followed by time spent working in its pulp division in London. He was headhunted by Georgia Pacific and joined them to set up and run the company’s European pulp division and consequently he moved the family to Brussels in 1977.

Mr Bruce-Jones became a director of JJSL in 1973 and returned from Belgium to Scotland in 1979 to take up the full-time role of joint managing director of the business. Turnover at the company, which had been in existence for 150 years at this time, was £6.8m.

Under his leadership the modernisation of JJSL began in 1984 with the start-up of the Dumfries Sawmill – the first of many modernisations using Scandinavian sawmilling technology, which continues across the JJSL business to this day.

In 1993 Mr Bruce-Jones created a joint venture vehicle with an Italian family group to purchase four wood treatment plants from Domtar Inc at an acquisition price of C$2.95m. The business, Stella-Jones Inc, is listed on the Toronto stock exchange employing over 2,000 personnel with 40 production sites across Canada and the USA and has annual sales of over $2bn. 

In 1998 JJSL started I-joist production at its Forres site and in 1999 began its first timber processing operations at Lockerbie. Further significant investments took place at Lockerbie in subsequent years, most notably in 2009 when the Lockerbie 3 sawmill was commissioned, making the Stevens Croft site one of the most efficient sawmilling sites in Europe.

In 1996 Mr Bruce-Jones was the first member of the UK timber processing sector to be appointed as a Forestry Commissioner and in 2003 he was awarded the CBE at Buckingham Palace for his services to the forestry sector.

He was also the first chairman of Confor, a role he played with distinction, described by today’s Confor chair, Stuart Goodall, as always being “calm, clear, insightful, patient and a source of sound advice”.

He also held the role of president of the Western European Institute for Wood Preservation (WEI).

Mr Bruce-Jones was awarded Knight First Class of the Order of the Lion of Finland in 2003 and then Commander First Class of the Order of the Lion of Finland in 2017.

He also played the role of White Knight with another major forestry company – Scottish Woodlands – and was heavily involved in an MBO of the organisation in 2005. Scottish Woodlands has recently gone on to celebrate its 50th birthday.

Mr Bruce-Jones is survived by his wife of 40 years, Stina, son Tom and daughter Caroline and their families.

Mr Bruce-Jones’s life and career were celebrated on March 1 at a memorial service at the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in Glasgow, attended by more than 400 members of the UK and European timber industries.

Tom A Bruce-Jones was awarded the CBE in 2003