Global organisations pay branding agencies millions of pounds to devise zeitgeisty names for new products and companies, but we think the circumstances behind the selection of the iconic ‘Gallowglass’ brand make for far more interesting reading. Here, Group Chairman Paul Grecian, who was one of the company’s co-founders, talks about the genesis of Gallowglass and the birth of professional event crewing.
“It all started back in 1992, when I was playing for the London Scottish Rugby Club. Out of the blue, I was contacted by a colleague of my sister Jane, who was running her own event management business, Kerr Associates. The caller was a freelance production manager who was working on the official opening of Honda’s new factory in Swindon. This was to be a high-profile event, attended by members of the Royal Family. Apparently, a firm had been contracted to build the staging and infrastructure for the opening ceremony but had failed to show up. With the clock ticking loudly, the producer was asking if I, and some of my team mates, could step into the breach to get the build completed in time.
It was a week’s work for 12 people and the deal was that we’d each be paid £100 cash per day. I wasn’t sure what kind of reception I’d get to the offer but when I ran it past my team-mates in the changing room, a forest of hands shot straight up in the air. I hired a minibus and got up at the crack of dawn each day to drive round and collect all the others to ensure nobody overslept. What happened next was quite a revelation. On Day One we’d completed the full 12-hour schedule by lunchtime. This was repeated every day for the rest of that week. What was patently obvious was that a bunch of super-fit, disciplined and focused rugby-players were able to far exceed the efforts of the casual labour that was servicing the events industry. Not long after we’d completed the job, the phone started ringing again, and suddenly people I’d never heard of were looking to hire our services!
We needed a name for the fledgling business and Rugger Luggers seemed to be a good fit. The sporting link was an advantage because it underlined the contrast between our clean-cut, well-mannered guys and the typical ‘hairy arsed’ roadies who were working on event sites at the time. No strangers to teamwork, we took event crewing to a whole new level.
By 1996, my then partner and I were looking to start a new business that would combine event crewing with security services. And one of the things we had discovered by this stage was that right across the events industry, businesses habitually took a long time to pay their invoices, ignoring the standard 30-day limit. This was particularly aggravating to me, as it was an absolute principle of ours to pay our own people without delay.
It was our strong stance on prompt payment that was behind the new company name. The word Gallowglass originates from the 13th Century Gaelic clans of Scotland - who produced fierce warriors whose services were available for hire. If you study the etymology even more deeply, the name Gallowglass can be broken down into two sections: Gall, meaning foreigner, and oglaoch – soldier. A perfect reflection of my own family’s Scottish heritage and the ‘braveheart’ values of discipline and fortitude that we embodied. We launched Gallowglass Ltd at the beginning of September 1996 and although over time the security and crewing divisions separated into two distinct companies, the name has endured for both. The sword logo visible on our sweatshirts is a constant reminder of the brand’s heritage.
And although we no longer insist that our UK event crew members are rugby players, we continue to select the highest calibre people, and we train and motivate them to be able to provide the same standards of discipline and professionalism shown by our original team members. Not only that, we offer them a structure that makes it possible for them to take on as much responsibility as they wish, with the potential to rise to the level of Crew Chief, Regional Manager and ultimately reach senior management. Our company’s leaders collectively boast hundreds of years of hands-on crewing experience.
As pioneers in professional event crewing, here are just a few of the ‘firsts’ that we can proudly lay claim to:
First company to appoint crew chiefs
First to insist on and provide PPE (protective clothing)
First crewing company to win an industry award.
First company to have all crew on PAYE
First to ensure all crew are inducted and trained before starting work.
It won’t come as a huge surprise to learn that we’ve consistently won Events Services Supplier of the Year awards in all of our industry’s recognised awards programmes since 2003.”
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