10.  The 1960s

1960 heralded the era when change accelerated in this old family business and it was particularly the era of change for the family itself.  In 1961 Charles Meynell resigned the Chair which he had accepted in 1944 but he remained a Director until his death in 1966 after 60 years service.  In his early days he had been an engineer of ability.  He had, unfortunately, suffered a severe difference of opinion, apparently in his early days of association, with Cuthbert Meynell and ,as far as I can see, both agreed to some form of tacit pact,  whereby neither did practically anything in the business but both remained on good terms.   

Advert, from the Wolverhampton Handbook for 1962, for steam water valves.  This had such uses as providing factories with cheap hot water by using their surplus steam to heat water.  Bank's Brewery used them in cleaning their equipment.

Cuthbert Meynell became Chairman from 1961 and held that post until 1967 when Lionel Meynell, Charles’ son, became Chairman and Joint MD with me, Hugh Meynell, Cuthbert’s son.  Other changes seem to accelerate during this decade but, to keep with the Meynell family for a moment, Charles died in 1966 as mentioned; Hugo retired in 1963; and Cuthbert retired in 1969 after 53 years service and died in 1973.  This ended the decade with Lionel Meynell as Chairman and Joint Managing Director with me. 

In 1965 Lionel had visited the USA to promote sales of our steam water mixer and had contacted Sarco International. Some of their executives were interested in the product but not all and the upshot was that in 1968 an independent subsidiary company was formed, in Hicksville, New York State, called Dynafluid Inc to handle the product, which was given that name by them, for the US market. The chief executive was Bill Yarlett, an American of British parentage. It has been known by that name ever since but the Dynafluid company was dissolved a few years later when we started our own subsidiary in the USA and the product taken over by the subsidiary.   

Overseas sales continued to be important.  We had not only the USA operation but we also set up Meynell Valves Inc in Japan, in partnership with Mr Allen Konno.

I took many foreign trips to many parts of the world to sell our products.  

This advert, from a slightly later date, is in Spanish, for the South American market.


In 1966 Ernest Davies retired from his partnership of T O Williams & Davies, having been our auditor since 1940.  This small event really was the end of a remarkable era because he was originally a junior partner to “Old Man Williams” who had been our auditor when our company was officially inaugurated under the Companies Act of 1902.  Therefore, between 1902 and 1966 we only had two gentlemen who were our auditors. He was succeeded by Herbert Tuckey (Jnr) whose father was a partner in the practice at the time of Ernest’s retirement.  Herbert gave a lot of help professionally and personally to our Board Meetings on financial matters, where his wise counsel and relatively distanced viewpoint was of considerable value.  Ernest was an old fashioned gentlemanly auditor from another age who dressed from another era, was unfailingly courteous and made it plain to us that he couldn’t see why we didn’t do better.

If the 1960s heralded the era of change for the Meynell family, it also coincided with sharply increasing professionalism in British industry and a greater awareness of profits, with a greater percentage of inefficient companies going to the wall.  Our own company had been better organised by the industrial consultants we had called in but that had been 10 years ago and on my visits to other companies, and in discussion with my various friends in the world of business, I was quite sure that we needed help.

I shall never forget the family reaction the Spring morning in 1963 when I decided to tell the family that we should get help in the form of a non-family director, to be appointed to the Board.  I waited until we met for the pre-lunch beer in Uncle Charlie’s office and stated that I thought we needed help.  Uncle Charlie said “Do what you like as long as the bugger doesn’t interfere with me!”   My father, Cuthbert, said “I just don’t see what he can do”. And cousin Lionel said “Hugh, it is an admission of failure”.  Uncle Hugo didn’t appear - as usual. The good man was busy with his despatching of orders and wouldn’t have expected to be consulted anyway.  

A photograph of part of the works, probably in the 1960s.

The title of the post was to be Director and General Manager and the person appointed would be responsible for the middle ground of company management between myself on Marketing and Selling and Lionel on Design & Development, with overall policy on Production, but not the daily organisation of it.  The field, therefore, embraced production, planning, buying, administration, wages, salaries and budgeting, with the financial arm to be under the control of the Board but Cuthbert to be Company Secretary as before, but now within the new parameter.

From the 58 replies to our advertisement, we appointed, after interviewing a short list,  Mick Watton who had been a consultant with PA for 13 years, six as a resident and seven as a senior.  His first few years were quite successful.  He prepared the budgets on time, he tightened up on works study and method study.  He put our managers’ wages on a more realistic basis, and produced an organisation chart, etc etc..  In fact, he breathed a breath of fresh air into the company and we enjoyed his professional  approach and the uncluttered mind he brought to the problems - most of which he had probably experienced before at some time or another.  It seems a little sad to relate that five years later he seemed to have lost interest - almost lost his way - and didn’t appear to have anything left to offer.  Our parting was reasonably amicable. Mick had left us a better company than when he joined but now the search for a successor had to start.

We advertised again but when we offered the post to the one outstanding candidate, he took time for consideration and then refused the post.  I remember vividly my disappointment and, after the morning orders had been scrutinised by Cuthbert and the office executives and we were leaving the Boardroom, I signalled Lionel to stay behind.  I told him of the blow and we were both dejected and talked about advertising again and what a time ­consuming and costly matter this could become.  I remember looking at a bit of cracked paintwork on the putty of the window and not really consciously thinking about what I was saying when I said “Have you ever thought Brian Bendall could do this job?”.  We were both quite surprised at this thought and agreed to turn it over in our minds during the morning and have another chat over a glass of beer before lunch. We later agreed, somewhat doubtfully, that it was worth a trial.  We put the matter formally to Brian the next afternoon and he said that he was surprised and felt honoured but could he let us know in a few days as it was a big step.  And in a few days he accepted the offer.

Brian’s background was interesting.  He had been a Shop Steward at Bayliss Jones & Bayliss who were part of the ultra-tough and efficient GKN Group.  He had joined us as an assistant foreman on the night shift which we were running at that time.  After he joined us, on a full time basis, he had been given various special projects to tackle, including production of Steam Water Mixers and also products for the Econosto schedule.  By 1969 he had risen to be Deputy to Tom Ford, our Machine Shop Manager. 

His was an appointment of vital importance to both of us and it turned out to be an excellent one for the company.   In a funny sort of way, the highest praise we received from anyone was when Violet Pursall, an old friend of mine from the Machine Shop, came up to say “Thank God you’ve appointed someone who understands us and who is fair”.

1966 was the year we installed our telex.  

Advert, from the Wolverhampton Handbook for 1967,  emphasising fluids control, and mentioning that we were contractors for the Admiralty, the War Office and the Ministry of Supply.

1969 was the year we changed our name and adopted our logo of a rampant lion.  As I spent more of my time selling worldwide (I went on my first Australian trip in 1960) I was more and more conscious of our company image.  It was inevitable at an interview that I would say “I’m Hugh Meynell, Sales Director of Meynell & Sons Ltd. Good Morning”.  And the reply would be “I’m Joe Bloggs.  Good Morning.  What does your Company do?”  So it seemed obvious to change to Meynell Valves Ltd and I well remember putting this casually to Lionel and Cuthbert and both said “Yes”.  I was delighted but had suspected that there would be a violent emotional outburst on a change of name - but this never happened.  We adopted the lion logo at the same time. It was almost an afterthought of mine at the time and I hardly discussed it with anyone. But it seemed to be a good idea and we have been increasingly associated with it and proud of it ever since.

Our first thermostatic shower was Meynelmix and this original thermostatic unit of 1963 was based on the hot water control valve to be effected by a bellows unit which had the characteristic of rapid expansion when heated or rapid contraction when cooled.  The internal area could be filled with ether or alcohol, for example, with a good effect as both had a high rate of expansion when heated.  But the difficulty was that the continual physical expansion or contraction of the unit when it was in operation would cause the whole outer shell to move in and out, like a concertina. This would cause it to fracture somewhere eventually and the gas or ether to leak out.

I was determined to succeed with sales of Meynelmix and we were approached about this time by two of Walker Crosweller’s top salesmen. The first was David Hunter-Wilkie who was their London Manager; and the second was John Blair, their Scottish Manager. In a surge of optimism I persuaded my colleagues that we should employ them. Here seemed to be a great chance - they had each told me that their customers would be just as happy to specify Meynell as the Leonard Valve and we were assured of loads of business.

The disappointment is still with me after over 30 years.  When they joined us they were never able to produce orders for us, except for literally one or two during a 12 month period.  John Blair sold some Steam Water Mixers and then left to be employed by Jimmy Watson of McDonald Swan, who had a glass bottle agency and, when he retired early (sensible chap), John Blair joined Scottish Asbestos Company where he again continued to sell Steam Water Mixers in small quantities over a period.  He eventually retired, an old man.  David Hunter-Wilkie was dismissed by us after about 12 months simply because he didn’t get orders and we couldn’t afford him.  It is hurtful to record that he was never able to get another job he could hold down and he committed suicide by putting his head in a gas oven.  Quite awful!

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