Weir is also vigorously critical of the electricity sell-off, calling the Government's handling of it "intellectually sloppy and second class". He believes that the separation of generators and suppliers was done to introduce artificial competition in a naturally monopolistic industry. As if to illustrate what he thinks should have happened to the Government's plans, he lights a cigarette and blows a pall of smoke into the air.
Weir continues to light up on the factory floor - despite his flammable surroundings. But in every other respect he is an immaculate guide. His translation of the engineering hieroglyphs on the crates bound for the Middle East testifies to his familiarity with the contents and affirms his hands-on approach. "He has a wealth of information and knowledge to call on," says Garrick. "It makes him a fascinating man."
The evidence of high investment in R and D and new technology is manifest throughout the factory - most of the heavy machinery has only one or two operators - but Weir is critical of attitudes to finance for industry as a whole. His views here are decidedly damp. "The DTI, under Ridley, took the stand that anything industry asked for must be wrong because it was industry that got the country into a muddle in the first place. This reasoning was as simplistic as it was unfair," he notes.
Yet now that the need for a serious revolution in education policy has penetrated Government thinking, Weir feels a cautious optimism, though he is critical of the time that it has taken to grasp the "education nettle". His own support for education is not merely vocal: the Weir Building at Strathclyde University was established by his great grandfather.
Weir is also a keen patron of the arts and chairman of the Patrons of the National Galleries of Scotland. He is tireless, according to secretary Susan Simpson, and has been "hugely instrumental in bringing large sums of money into the National Galleries. He has done an awful lot for Scotland."
In William Weir, it seems, his grandfather's spirit lives on - as does the family motto, "Forward towards the light".
1933: Born in Glasgow
1940-44: Lived in Canada and completed early schooling
1952: Joined Trinity College, Cambridge, to study economics,
engineering and law
1956: Did his National Service in the Royal Navy in Suez as a seaman
and an officer, where he helped to clear wrecks from the canal
1957: Joined G and J Weir
1959: Went to New York to work for Weir agent Ampower Corporation:
"Everyone should work abroad at some time in their life before
they decide to settle down."
1972: Became chairman of The Weir Group
1981: Deposed as chairman to become vice-chairman under Lord Tombs.
It is rumoured that he told his secretary to hold on to the
stationery with his name on it
1982: Became co-chairman, with Lord Rothschild, of RIT and Northern
1985: Chairman of J Rothschild Holdings
1986: Chairman of Patrons of National Galleries of Scotland
1989: Married for the third time to Marina (nee Sevastopoulo)
(Joyce Dundas is a freelance writer.)