Pat Feeney’s pride and passion that helped shaped SELECT
The remarkable Pat Feeney worked his way up to become association President from 1988 to 1991, using his tireless energy and enthusiasm to help transform SELECT and make it the formidable body we know today. Here, his proud daughter Debbie Feeney looks back at Pat’s legacy and reveals why SELECT meant so much to him, even in retirement and up to the end of his life in February aged 91
Even at an early age, I knew that my dad was so proud of his trade association because of the way he talked about it all the time and involved the family in it. My mum, who ran a busy guest house in Paisley, often travelled with him on association business, not just throughout Scotland but within the UK and Europe too. As my brothers and I got older, we also went to association social events, so it was a part of our lives growing up.
Looking back on that time, I can appreciate that Dad was really pivotal in changing the association, helping to modernise it to become a people-focused organisation that has its Members, and the industry as a whole, at the heart of what it does.
My dad helped steer SELECT through a crucial time in its development but he was the first to admit that he was just a normal Member, albeit one with boundless enthusiasm and energy.
He had left Ireland in 1953 to set up Feeney Brothers (Electrical Contractors) Limited with his brother Michael in Glasgow. Michael sadly passed away recently too at the age of 87.
After a couple of years, my dad branched out into selling emergency standby generators, trading as Thistle Generators. This business really took off and it’s then that he joined the Electrical Contractors’ Association of Scotland (ECA of Scotland), as it was known back then.
He got involved with his local Lanarkshire Branch and soon became Vice Chairman and then Chairman. It was here that Secretary Dan Montgomery suggested he run for President and during his three-year appointment from 1988 to 1991 he set about a series of pivotal changes that made SELECT what it is today – in fact, he needed to oversee so many changes that the association kept him in post for an extra year beyond the normal two-year Presidential period.
Dad realised that the association needed to change and needed to prepare itself for moving forward. Regulation and the whole industrial scene was changing but it was felt that the association was in danger of not changing quickly enough. Dad also believed it wasn’t commercially focused enough for growth and on serving the industry.
The first major change was to relocate headquarters. When Dad got involved with the association, the headquarters were in Heriot Row in Edinburgh. It was a grand address and an impressive building, but it was no longer fit for purpose. As membership services were becoming an important focus for the association, it needed to be able to have training and conference facilities as well as space for more support staff, and the building did not lend itself well to the expansion required.
As property prices were high at the time, Dad realised that the association was sitting on a goldmine. He organised to sell it and went about finding a lower cost property that would have the potential for expansion. He found this on the Bush Estate near Penicuik and oversaw the upgrading of the property to accommodate training and conference facilities.
The whole transaction really boosted the association’s balance sheet and Dad was canny enough to realise that by buying the Bush Estate property, they could hive off The Walled Garden area to construct a purpose-built building then sell the rest of it and boost the coffers again.
“Regulation and the whole industrial scene was changing but it was felt the association was in danger of not changing quickly enough”
The second major change that has kept SELECT in good stead to this day was to change the association’s structure by creating the role of managing director, who would focus on running the organisation as effectively as possible for the benefit of its Members. Dad brought in Michael Goodwin, who gave SELECT the benefit of his commercial background and helped to modernise and expand some of the services we still have today.
My dad achieved a great deal but he was just an ordinary contractor who used his enthusiasm and energy to play a pivotal role in shaping SELECT for the benefit of his fellow Members.
That’s why it’s so important that today’s Members also get involved with their local Branch and continue to help direct and shape SELECT to make it fit for purpose.
I know what SELECT can do for Members as I’ve been Chair of our local Lanarkshire Branch too – twice! I joined Dad’s company after I got my degree in business economics in 1992 and ran it for ten years as Managing Director until 2009.
I could have joined the firm earlier as I remember asking Dad if I could do an electrical apprenticeship when I was 16. Unfortunately, he refused because in those days he thought it wasn’t a suitable job for a female, mainly because when the guys went away to work you normally had four men sharing a room.
Although Dad retired in 1997, he kept in touch with colleagues in SELECT and loved to go to the Past President’s lunches in Edinburgh after dropping my mum Nancy off at Jenners for the afternoon.
In his retirement he kept busy helping my brother Nigel’s property development business and also supporting Nigel’s passion for rallying and motor racing, both of them travelling up and down the country to different race events.
“DESPITE A DISTINGUISHED AND REWARDING CAREER, DAD WAS MOST PROUD OF THE SELECT LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD THAT HE RECEiVeD IN 2006; THE FIRST ONE EVER AWARDED BY THE ORGANISATION”
My dad loved his cars and I remember when he was President he bought a personalised number plate for his Jaguar XJS: ECA1 S.Despite a distinguished and rewarding career, Dad was most proud of the SELECT Lifetime Achievement Award that he received in 2006; the first one ever awarded by the organisation.
I remember we had to keep it a secret so we just told him and Mum that we were going to a SELECT dinner dance so he had no idea what was happening. We’ve got some great photos of them at the event looking pretty shocked but obviously delighted when his name was announced for the award on the night.
He continued to be enormously proud of that award, and in the last few years of his life, when I was looking after him at home, he would always show his carers and visitors the certificate and SELECT Lifetime Achievement medal. In fact, we put his Lifetime Achievement Award certificate on his coffin at his funeral in February because it really did mean so much to him.
Patrick Joseph Feeney, 1932-2023