Sir Tom Farmer hails community as he accepts Edinburgh Award

Sir Tom Farmer with the cast of his hands outside the City Chambers with Lord Provost Donald Wilson. Picture: Greg Macvean
Sir Tom Farmer with the cast of his hands outside the City Chambers with Lord Provost Donald Wilson. Picture: Greg Macvean
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LEITH-BORN entrepreneur Sir Tom Farmer paid a glowing tribute to the community that nurtured him as he accepted the Edinburgh Award at a ceremony at the City Chambers.

The 75-year-old Kwik-Fit founder became the ninth person to receive the honour when he was presented with an engraved Loving Cup by Lord Provost Donald Wilson.

He has also had an impression of his handprints set in a flagstone outside the City Chambers alongside those of previous Edinburgh Award recipients.

He was chosen for the accolade from a shortlist nominated by the public.

Sir Tom said: “I really am over the moon. To get an award from your home city is something very special.”

After beginning his career at 15 at a local tyre firm, he set up his own tyre retail business in 1964 and sold it five years later for £450,000. He retired to America, aged just 29, but became bored and returned to Edinburgh where he launched the Kwik-Fit chain in 1971.

It became the world’s largest independent tyre and automotive repair specialists with over 2000 centres in 18 different countries and he sold it to Ford in 1999 for more than £1 billion.

In 2003, he launched yet another company, Farmer Autocare, which has also notched up impressive successes. He is also well known for his charitable work.

Sir Tom said: “In my mature years, I do spend a bit of time reflecting on all the things that have happened and I sometimes question ‘Why me?’ but it always comes back to the people who have surrounded me and encouraged me.

“They have cheered me when I’ve been successful, but more important, when things have been tough they have encouraged and helped me to get up and carry on.

“My success would not have been achieved if I had not been supported by so many good people.”

And he paid special tribute to his wife Anne. “The strongest and most important support of all has been from my wife of nearly 50 years. People sometimes ask what is the key to success – my key is I married the girl next door.”

He said the community of his boyhood years had helped him learn the difference between right and wrong and also the difference people could make by helping each other.

“I was very fortunate to be born into a great family and a great community in Leith. There was great community spirit, people in the area looking after each other and supporting each other.

“And it was a community that welcomed people in, whether they came from another part of the city, another part of the country or from abroad as immigrants or refugees – which is important in the current environment.”

He said he had met many famous and important people. “But the greatest influence has been meeting unsung heroes we never hear about who devote their lives to helping their neighbours and the people around them.”

He said community helped to foster trust and a culture of belonging and urged a rekindling of community spirit.

“We don’t need more regulation and evaluation. We just need to work together to make a difference. Nowhere has a greater opportunity than Edinburgh. I will continue to do what I can.”