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Meet our Members – Mark Nevin

Meet our Members – Mark Nevin Posted on 7 December 2022

Mark Nevin, SDF President 2022

In our regular feature, we find out about members of the Scottish Decorators’ Federation. In this issue it’s current National President, Mark Nevin, who is also a Director of Mackay Decorators (Perth) Ltd.

What’s your background?

It was never planned that I’d join the trade. My initial idea was to join the army, and I went for selection. At the time I had an old football injury and they wanted me to see a specialist. However, I did some work experience for a couple of weeks painting some railings. I was quite good at it and enjoyed it, so I decided to change career paths.

My dad, John, started Nevin of Edinburgh back in 1977. At first, he was trading from my gran’s front room in Leith, but soon moved to premises in Morningside. As the company grew, we eventually moved to our current site at Swanfield. We acquired Mackay Decorators (Perth) Ltd in 1991 to expand into Tayside where we continue to work on lots of contracts. This is now the main operating company which encases Nevin of Edinburgh Ltd as our specialist division.

I started my apprenticeship in 2003 when I was 16 and I was always keen to learn as much as I could. In fact, I ended up winning two gold medals while representing the United Kingdom at Worldskills in Calgary, Canada in 2009. After becoming a tradesman I was promoted to foreman in 2008 and since then I’ve became a Director within the company. 

I still enjoy working on site and I oversee lots of our projects, making sure they’re carried out on time and
to specification. It’s important to us to deliver 100 per cent customer satisfaction every time.

What’s your speciality?

On a personal level, I specialise in graining, marbling, signwriting, stencilling, gilding and free-hand brush work. As far as the company’s concerned, we can do every kind of job, but are experts when it comes to conservation and restoration of historical properties.

We have painted and decorated some of the most prestigious buildings in the country, from cottages to theatres and castles. As part of that we believe in keeping traditional skills alive by teaching them to our apprentices. It’s important the trade continues to produce levels of work at the right standard.

Our specialist division also does in-house pigment analysis and stereomicroscopy for cross section paint analysis. We can manufacture historical paints on site that meet specific requirements of the National Trust for Scotland and Historic Environment Scotland (HES). In addition, we’re included on the Conservation Register with HES and have even advised the Forensic Laboratory at Lothian and Borders Police force (as it was then known) on paint sample analysis.

What’s the best thing about the Federation?

Our company is a long-time member of the Federation and it has a number of strengths. You get the support of the Federation if it’s required and it is very good in terms of help for apprenticeships and training. At the same time, it’s simply good to be part of a governing body. 

How has the Federation changed?

From my point of view, the most important thing is that it’s modernising and moving with the times. It’s not one of these organisations that is stuck in the past. It’s always looking to move forward in the right direction for the benefit of members.

A lot of the Federation’s focus is on supporting businesses and members considering the cost of living crisis, and so on. People often forget employers in times like these and that’s when the Federation comes into its own by giving support to its members.

There is pressure to deliver wage increases and raise prices. A lot of companies are working on projects they may have priced two years in advance – they can’t afford the costs they’re facing now and are having to close their doors. SDF can’t offer financial support, but it can provide other types of assistance that helps firms get through tough times.

What’s been the biggest challenge in your career?

Just maintaining the standards that have been set within our company. Recruiting and developing apprentices in the modern day is not what it used to be 10, 15 and 20 years ago. It’s easy for young people to take another career path. Driving the standards and practices I was taught is the big challenge. It seems there are very few people today who are interested in learning the skills of conservation and restoration.

What’s been your favourite job?

There have been a few jobs over the years. For example, we did full refurbishments at the Royal Palace at Stirling Castle, and Dumfries House. There were projects at the Assembly Rooms and the King’s Theatre in Edinburgh and we’ve worked for the royal household for the last 15 to 20 years. We did work at St Giles’ Cathedral before the Queen’s death earlier this year and we are currently carrying out work at Taymouth Castle and Perth City Hall in Perthshire.

What about your personal life?

We are very busy but family life is important to me. These days I make a point that the weekends are the time I spend with my family. I used to work every night and on Saturdays and Sundays. But now I have two young children aged three and seven and I make sure I devote the weekends to my wife and kids.