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Iron Lady’s Brush with Paint Industry

Friday, April 19, 2013

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Although she’ll be remembered more for politics than paint, the late Margaret Thatcher had coating industry connections as well.

At least one report suggests that the former Prime Minister would never have met her husband, Sir Denis Thatcher, without those connections. Perhaps she would never have had her legendary governmental reign, either.

Margaret and Denis Thatcher
U.S. Government photo

Margaret Roberts reportedly met Denis Thatcher at a Paint Trades Federation function in Dartford, Kent. He worked for the family paint and wood preservatives company; she was a research chemist.

Britain’s only female prime minister died April 8, at age 87. Her husband died in 2003, at 88.


“Denis worked for his family’s paint and wood preservatives company, Atlas Preservatives, originally based in Deptford, London,” writes Alan Cork, a former managing editor of Polymers Paint Colour Journal, in a report on coatingsworld.com. Thatcher worked in a range of capacities and ultimately became general manager of the company.

As Cork tells it, “In February 1949, Denis met the then-Margaret Roberts, who was a chemist, at a Paint Trades Federation function in Dartford, Kent.

Atlas ad
Grace's Guide

Atlas Preservatives coatings were sold globally in the 1950s and early 1960s.

“They fell in love and married in 1951.”

Years later, Margaret was asked whether it had been love at first sight.

"Certainly not,” she said, according to Denis’ obituary in the Telegraph.

When Denis was asked what had first attracted him to his future second wife, he said, “Several things. She’s got a good pair of legs,” the report related.

'Miserable Little Business'

Now, it should be noted that Denis didn’t exactly enjoy his time in the paint business.

“A lousy industry and a miserable little business” was his long-standing view, the Telegraph reported.

But he endured, became chairman of the Council of the National Paint Federation and co-author of a book called Accounting and Costing in the Paint Industry.

Also under his watch, Atlas Preservatives' business grew, and the coatings products were sold worldwide.

Support from her Consort

Meanwhile, he supported Margaret, and she was able to forgo her work as a research chemist in order to advance her political career. After training as a lawyer, she entered Parliament in 1959 and the government in 1961.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
U.S. Government photo

Thatcher served as British Prime Minister for more than 11 years (1979-90).

After long hours and sales drives abroad, an “exhausted” Denis decided to sell his paint business to Castrol in 1965, the Telegraph reported.  

The new owners named him a director, and when Castrol was taken over by Burmah Oil, he was appointed director of planning and control, the report said.

He retired from the oil business at age 60 and became a full-time consort of the political leader.

Margaret served as British Prime Minister for more than 11 years (1979-90), with her former paint business leader and oil executive at her side.


Tagged categories: Coating Business; Coatings manufacturers; Government; Paint and Coating Sales; Politics; Wood coatings

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