7.  Mr. Tacchi and the Steam Water Mixer

Sometime during 1953/54, Percy George Tacchi Jnr visited our company to enquire more about the technical aspects of our water gun relating to the volume of water discharged at various pressures and the back pressure characteristics, etc.  He was employed by a company manufacturing and selling a type of steam water mixing valve.  This would often have a hose fitted to the outlet and an outlet water control unit was required and our gun looked interesting.

During the meeting he soon introduced into the conversation his belief that his father had invented a much more advanced type of steam water mixer than his current employers’ but stated that they were totally uninterested as they were selling their unit quite well and had no competition.  We listened to his story and expressed sympathetic interest.  He put a proposition to us that he should come and work for us and the patent owned by his father should be assigned to us in exchange for a royalty. It has never been the practice of our Company to poach personnel or projects from other companies but we had long discussions on the matter and eventually decided that the moral issue could be justified because Mr Tacchi had stated that he was leaving his current employment anyway and his father, Mr. Tacchi Snr., was the inventor. He joined our company shortly afterwards. 

Much time of experimentation, design and re-design was undertaken and Bill Ash was transferred from the Pattern Shop to work directly on making samples for my cousin, Lionel, our Works Director and Mr. Tacchi who became our “Boffin”.  The Steam Water Mixer was undoubtedly the most complicated product we had ever tackled but eventually, after much trial and error, the “Mark III” unit was ready to be launched, in 1956, at the British Industries Fair (or “BIF” for short) which was held at Castle Bromwich, Birmingham.  Old man Tacchi Snr got quite a lot of publicity when he came up from Taunton, Somerset for the occasion.  He rode up on an old motor bike and he was over 80 at the time. He was, to me, the typical image to be expected of an inventor, with metal rimmed glasses and a long white beard.  We also employed under the arrangements of Mr. Tacchi Jnr the services of a good looking young blonde lady as a receptionist and it appeared that our old company had taken on a new lease of life.

Unfortunately this proved to be a false dawn as the Mark III model did not seem to want to work as expected under all the varying conditions in which it might be installed when related to the wide range of steam pressures and water pressures and the hot water temperature requirement from the outlet.  It should also be added that we probably never tooled up for it effectively and we found it hard to make.  This all led up to the first of many crises we were to experience in the manufacture of different types of mixers over the years as the older Meynells were reluctant to agree that the new field in which we were embarking, whilst costly in the development stage, should eventually bring reasonable rewards when sales got under way.

The re-design and eventual production of a unit, for which Mr. Tacchi was less responsible and our own team, under Lionel Meynell, more responsible, was the outcome. The Mk.4 Steam Water Mixer was developed.  This later became the Mark 4A in 1965 when a cold water by-pass valve was added as an integral feature. The unit was designed and patented by Lionel Meynell.

Mr. Tacchi was our only salesman of the product and travelled countrywide to good effect so that, although the first effective year’s sales were only £4000, in 1957 we had made a start.

Our company was run in a fairly amateur manner in those days regarding costing methods.  Mr Tacchi often told a story in later life about how he went to my father, Cuthbert Meynell, to get a selling price for the 1” size of Steam Water Mixer after we had upgraded the ½” size to produce a ¾” model and, after another two years, to produce the 1” model.  He says he went into Father’s office and asked him to fix a selling price of the new 1’” model.  So Father sent for the works cost, which was £4. The story goes that Father said:  “Right.  The works cost is £4. What will it stand?” Mr. Tacchi replied:  “Stick on £50 and make it £54”.  I  know that this was the agreed selling price anyway. However, the sales administrative costs, Mr. Tacchi’s salary and the expensive literature and sales on costs,  including a 10% commission to Mr. Tacchii Snr, which was on a reducing scale to 5% depending upon annual quantities sold, all ensured that we never‑made a fortune from the product.

Whilst the production of our new product was being inaugurated into our plant we had to look at an entirely different type of sales leaflet presentation.  When the water gun had been introduced to the Company in 1953 I was asked to produce a glossy black and white leaflet and an ordinary sheet of installation instructions.  I presented our new leaflet with. great pride, including a parts list and photos, etc, all of which we had never done before.  I little realised, at the time, that this was the first of probably hundreds of pages about different products I was to produce and for the next thirty years: every word on every page of our leaflets and advertisements was being produced by me.  It was not until 1983, when we started using an outside agency for the design of our literature, that the Company realised the savings made by the work being undertaken in-house by me.

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