James Moffat OBE (24 August 1919 – 18 September 1998) was the unassuming Scottish bank clerk who founded AT Mays which became during its time the third largest travel agency in the UK.
As a boy, James moved with his parents from Glasgow to Saltcoats in Ayrshire following a decline in the family’s clog-making business. The Moffats opened a café but were eager to see James pursue a career in banking. This he did, reluctantly, until his marriage to Margie Robertson, who could see her husband was not happy as a banker and encouraged him to have a career rethink. He opened a small shop selling pet food, while Margie sold train tickets from the shop she ran next door and had named All Travel. It was in 1956 that James bought the Kilmarnock branch of Mays, the well-established shipping and travel business, which he combined with the initials of All Travel to create AT Mays.
The business expanded rapidly as a result of further acquisitions, mergers, and the opening of new shops which led to a British network of more than 300 branches, employing almost 2500 staff. The headquarters remained in Saltcoats, with Margie in charge of the accounts team, and a loyal workforce grateful for the prosperity that the business had brought to the region. It was in 1987, after more than 30 years of success, that James sold a majority share to the Royal Bank of Scotland, which later sold the business on to Carlson of America under the lead of James’ son, Jamie.
James is also credited with rescuing Kilmarnock Football Club from bankruptcy, and endowing and financing a chair of travel and tourism at Caledonian University. In 1998, he was awarded the OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
James was honoured by the British Travel & Hospitality Hall of Fame in 1995.