MEYNELL VALVES LTD
14. Sports and Social Activities
The Meynell Company boasted a football team in the 1930s and they were big drinkers with the game of football being the natural prelude to a good night out. The Meynell in charge of proceedings was the then young Hugo Meynell, who didn’t play himself but made all the arrangements.
He told me that one Saturday before the match the team met at the local
pub near the sports field at mid-day.
At the time to move off for the match, when the bar was vacated, the man
who was to be goalkeeper slipped off his bar stool and passed out
completely inebriated. He
was carried out to the pavement by the rest of the team who dumped him
and said to Hugo “What do we do now?”
Hugo replied “Right, Lads, leave this to me”, whereupon he picked
up the legless goalkeeper and threw him over his shoulder. But unfortunately he slithered down Hugo’s back and hit his
head so hard on the pavement that he fractured his skull and was taken
to hospital. Worse followed because the gullible Hugo was drafted to
play in goal and the team lost 23 - 1.
Even worse was Hugo’s being summoned to Herbert Meynell’s office
on Monday morning to explain the absence (in hospital) of the workman
who was goalkeeper, because Herbert didn’t understand either football or
drinking as he was of strict Victorian upbringing.
The 40 Club was founded in 1947 for all employees with 40 years service
or more to be taken out in a coach to some local beauty spot in
Shropshire or similar interesting venue, perhaps Boscobel, where King
Charles II hid in the oak tree. Dinner followed at a local pub in a
private dining room with a few brief speeches from the Club Members and
the Management. During the evening a gold watch, suitably inscribed “For
Loyal Service”, was presented to any employee who had completed 40 years
with the Company.
One of the lasting lessons I learned in the Army was the importance of
welfare for the troops and, for example, however hard, long and dirty
had been the exercises in which we took part on the heaths at
Munsterlager and Sennelager under assimilated battle conditions, we
subalterns had to ensure that upon return to camp (after some days or a
week or more), when everybody was exhausted, we had to see that the
soldiers had hot food and hot water and stay with them to ensure that
all was well. This attitude was
possibly and unwittingly at the back of my mind when I returned to the
Company in 1951 and although the rates of pay and hours of work, etc
were determined on a national scale with a few local variations, there
was little scope for improvement by me.
However, we had no social club and amenities and in 1952 I started our
company Sports & Social Club.
I put a notice on the board stating that we would start one and that the
cost would be 2d per week per employee (about lp of today’s coinage). I spelled out the aims and advantages and put in a small
space for any objectors to sign.
They would, therefore, have to signify in public that they were against
a scheme from which it was intended all would benefit but to which they
would only contribute 2d per week.
Unfortunately, there were three objectors who shall not be named
even though all are now dead.
But I managed to persuade them to agree after spending some time with
Once acceptance had been given by the employees I arranged for a
committee to be elected, with eight members split between all
departments of works and staff.
I made some crude ballot boxes at home and the ballot was duly held.
At the first Committee Meeting I was elected Chairman and have
held this post for over 30 years.
The first committee included Mr Turpin from the offices, Violet Purcell
from 37 Shop, Bob Finch
from Tool Room and Stores,
and Dorothy Mitchell from the Foundry and Core Shop;
but my memory robs me of the other four.
The Club was a great success.
It was something new to have a works dance for all employees and the
first one was at the George Hotel in Stafford Street.
It turned out to be the last one there because the beer took
control of the better judgement of some of us and their old stag’s head,
which hung on the wall of their dining room, was hurled unceremoniously
through the windows on to the pavement, where it bounced off some chap,
leaving him prostrate. But seeing this, his friends came rushing up the stairs to do
battle. Anyway, we were
ejected in disgrace and told never to darken their doorway again.
The next year we staged a Works v Staff football match which was quite
hilarious as several players on each side were so geriatric they could
hardly run; but it was completed without serious injury and without any
We started the Christmas competitions that year, most of which have
lasted ever since: dominoes, darts, and so on, including a Snooker
For this event I had purchased a small size snooker table for £4,
which I paid out of my own pocket because Club funds had become
exhausted at that time. I
must reclaim it one day! There must, by now, have been thousands
of Meynell employees who have enjoyed playing on this table at lunchtime
or evenings and I bet that not one of them knows that it is my private
property. Such is the way
of a family business.
The next year included a men’s Sunday morning outing (a pub crawl) and a
ladies’ trip to the pantomime; and a ladies’ and gents’ trip to
Blackpool, which we all enjoyed greatly.
The second year’s dance was held at the Molineux Hotel and is chiefly
remembered because of Uncle Hugo’s hat. The dear chap always wore his
hat at work and travelling around and was rarely seen without it. However, he did take it off in church and also at the works
dance. The challenge was too great for some employees who, after
drinking a lot of beer, adjourned to the gents cloaks to be rid of it.
Once Hugo’s hat was seen it was quickly used by many enthusiasts
instead of the urinal and it was eventually discarded in a corner of the
room, having served its purpose.
When Hugo came to collect it at the end of the evening he
insisted on wearing it, despite the awful stench, so as to protect his
head from the cold night air.
I often wondered how bad was the stench of the pillow slip the next
morning and how he explained the problem to his sisters.
The poor chap turned up with an awful head cold on the following
Monday but in his usual saintly fashion he never complained to anyone.