Tony-MacWhirterUK: Tony MacWhirter, a hugely influential figure in the UK air conditioning and refrigeration industry over the last 30 years, passed away last week.

As CEO of MacWhirter Limited, he built on the huge reputation of the south-west-based firm founded by his great grandfather in 1882. Joining the Cardiff office of MacWhirter from school in 1969, he drove the expansion of the air conditioning contracting business into Bristol in 1979, Torquay in 1984, London in 1993 and Burgess Hill in 2005.

At celebrations for the firm’s 130th anniversary in 2012, he said “We are extremely proud to remain a family run business with the same values, commitment, and vision that led William McWhirter to establish the company.”

He saw the company through some challenging times, in some tough economic climates and in an increasingly competitive industry. He was rightfully proud of the company’s ability to adapt, its heritage and achievements.

His success at MacWhirter alone would have singled him out as one of the industry’s great characters but his influence extended far beyond that of his own company. Along the way, he was chairman of the HVCA’s Refrigeration and Unit Air Conditioning Group, and also RUAG representative on the HVCA Council from 1984 to 1986. He remained on the group executive committee until 2004. He was also chairman of the HVCA South Wales regional branch from 2000 to 2002 and was chairman of the REFCOM management committee.

He was an active board director of ACRIB for many years, representing the HVCA and the Associated Refrigeration Contractors (ARC). At ACRIB he was a particularly enthusiastic contributor on training issues and strong supporter of the ACRIB Refrigerant Handling Register. 

Describing his passing as “a great loss to the industry”, Institute of Refrigeration secretary Miriam Rodway said: “He was involved in technical matters for the IoR, giving papers on topics such as VRV and getting involved in debates on refrigerant behaviour. He also encouraged all his engineers to join our Service Engineers Section.”

He combined a passion for the industry with a legendary sense of humour. “He was great fun at meetings, always had an interesting point of view to share,” added Miriam Rodway – an observation that would be shared and echoed by many.