The company carries the name of its founder, John Ritchie, a native of Aberdeenshire (but residing in Ayrshire for the greater part of his life). As a young man John Ritchie not only had a great desire to see souls saved, but also to see the development of Christian character in young believers. One way by which he was convinced this could be achieved was by making available written material presented in a straightforward and readable form. So, commencing with a magazine titled Young Watchman, around 1884, he embarked on a written ministry which continued throughout his life. This resulted in a steady stream of tracts, magazines, booklets and books. One of the best known of these publications is the Believer’s Magazine which, along with a number of his other works, continues to be published. With the foundation laid for this ministry and premises purchased in Kilmarnock town centre, the work expanded to such an extent that a move in the early 1970’s to the present location in Beansburn (on the outskirts of the town) became necessary; the company is now operating from a new purpose-built warehouse and office facility.
Perhaps at this point it should be noted that around the time of the move to Beansburn the company became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Lord’s Work Trust and was incorporated as a ‘limited company’ with the directors of the company being Trustees of the LWT. The reason for this was to consolidate the relationship between the ‘Trust’ and ‘Ritchies’ and to enable profits from Ritchies to be transferred to the ‘Trust’ for distribution to further the work of the Lord both at home and abroad. The wisdom of this is being particularly seen at the present time as publications are being sent out to areas where English, although not the first language, is read and understood.
In the early days much of the material published came from the pen of John Ritchie himself, with additional contributions from some of his contemporaries. The Archive Library at Kilmarnock bears witness to this. He also had a deep interest in the Lord’s servants in other countries, resulting in a large number of missionary books being made available to the Christian public, an aspect of the business the current directors wish to maintain.
Around 1980 it was decided to investigate the possibility of producing a complete set of commentaries covering, initially, the New Testament and authored by assembly writers. A number of brethren were approached and most responded positively to the request to contribute. Publications soon appeared under the title What the Bible Teaches. As these volumes became available they not only found acceptance with UK readers, but were welcomed overseas. Requests were received to translate them into other languages and volumes are now available in German and Spanish. The complete set of eleven volumes has been translated into Portuguese, this largely being the work of the Watterson family in Brazil. Having completed the commentaries on the New Testament, attention has turned to the Old Testament, with the first volume being released in 2000. The growing series is being acknowledged as of great benefit in understanding the Old Testament scriptures.
Without losing sight of John Ritchie’s original intention for the company, it has been necessary for the work to develop in a number of ways, principally in the area of wholesale distributorship and mail order. A more recent development is the ‘Ritchie Website’ which is proving very popular with a consistently growing customer base. For those who reside in the vicinity of Kilmarnock there is the Ritchie shop where the needs of the Christian community in the area can be met from a large variety of products ranging from aids to Bible study to suitable cards and gifts. The warehouse staff endeavour to fulfil orders as speedily as possible, but since many of the products are sourced from North America, (for example, Ritchies are distributors for Thomas Nelson and Broadman & Holman) it is inevitable that there are times when orders cannot be turned around as speedily as we would like, leading to disappointed customers, whose patience and understanding we do appreciate.
This somewhat sketchy outline of John Ritchie Ltd. would be incomplete without a tribute to the friends who willingly bring a wide range of expertise to further the work at Kilmarnock, doing so simply as an extension of their Christian service.