MEYNELL VALVES LTD
16. Charles Meynell: 1889 - 1966
Uncle Charlie joined the Company in 1906 and I knew him from 1948 to
Obviously I got to know him very well indeed as I saw him each
day and talked to him in the time which followed the ritual reading of
the orders together each morning. I believe that he had the makings of a
clever, if not brilliant, engineer and I was told by Father, and also
Lionel, that he had made his own wireless set in 1924 from crystals. I
think that his leaning was more towards the sciences and he was more in
his element with chemistry and physics.
I saw Uncle Charlie at his worst because he was quite blatant in his
refusal to have anything to do with Company affairs. He used to arrive
huffing and puffing some time around 09.20 and go to his office to drop
his raincoat and anything else and then huff and puff to Father’s office
and pick up the orders. In
my early days in the company the orders were taken to his own office and
he would sit in the chair which his father, Walter, had used until his
death in 1924. He would
then telephone Mr Turpin and Mr Evans on the internal phone.
He would just say “Right, Turpin” or “Right, Evans” and put the
telephone down again. He was very brusque on the telephone and I suspect
that this was because he was basically a shy man.
The reading of the orders really was a farce from beginning to end.
First of all there was no need to do it.
Secondly, Uncle Charlie was hopelessly lost on some of the
products and all of the prices. Thirdly, he wasn’t interested.
The congregation was comprised of Mr. Turpin, who was a scholarly
man who would have preferred to be on the stage I think;
and Mr. Evans, who was termed Chief Sales Clerk when I joined.
Both had been with the company since the late 1920s and both knew and
understood our products, methods and ways.
They were really the chief civil servants running sales, buying
and costing. My Father,
Lionel and myself were also present, so there was quite a crowd of the
top executives wasting their time and talent.
As the orders were read out the stage was set for comedy and during the
reading it was usual for somebody to make a remark which was thought to
be so humorous that we all dissolved with laughter for minutes on end. When the laughter eventually ceased - I can see the picture
today quite vividly in my mind - Uncle Charlie would be sitting there
with a cigarette in his great, pudgy, nicotine stained fingers and
staring straight ahead. He
would say “That reminds me of a story, Cuthbert” and Father would make
same stupid remark like: “I hope its better that the one you told about
the dog shit, Charles”.
More laughter and Charlie would proceed quite undaunted.
Most of his stories were funny and some were very funny indeed.
The scene which was set was one of unbelievable comedy and none
of the conversation seemed to be about work and nobody seemed to be in
the slightest bit interested in the fortunes of the Company.
Two fairly awful incidents, for which I was the culprit, stand out in my
memory. The first was in the early 1950s when I still kept ferrets at
home. I took one into the
morning meeting one day and surreptiously let it out of my pocket and
placed it quietly on the table. After a few seconds somebody spotted it
and said “Heavens” - or something like that - and Uncle Charlie stood
bolt upright and blinked at me through his glasses and, as he never
pronounced his aitches, he said “’Ugh, take that fearsome animal out of
‘ere”. I did - and spent
most of the rest of the day terrifying the typists and other females in
The second incident was in the late 1950s when I was fascinated by
fireworks. I took a really
powerful one into the boardroom (where we opened the mail after the
offices were changed around) and I lit it and pushed it under the table.
There was a most tremendous noise when it exploded in a confined
space and a silence followed broken only by my hysterical laughter.
I can see the picture clearly today, with Father uncertain of
what to do, Lionel looking furious and Uncle Charlie white and shaking,
saying “’Ugh, don’t you ever do that again”.
I used to take my beautiful Irish Setter, Jealousy, to the order routine
at one time and when there was a bad shortfall of orders on Tuesday, I
said, at the end of the session, “Not enough to buy the dog biscuits”.
As soon as the orders had been read, the executives left and Cuthbert
and Charles started in real earnest about the previous evening’s TV.
“Cuthbert, you should have seen Sari Barrabas singing last night
- it was worth a year’s TV licence just to hear her”.
“Charles, I did and I wouldn’t even put her on at a Christmas
party”. And so it went, all in good humour. Conversation continued
until about 10.15, when Uncle Charles would stretch and say “Oh my back!
Right, I’ll go and have a shit - any ejaculation from the body gives me
Then he would stamp out.
Then my father would say: “Well I must do some bloody work”, whereupon
his ritual was to go back to his office and have a shave and then
disappear to the Wages Office with a newspaper and say “Hiya, Piddles!
How’s your fanny, Dorothy? Move your tits over, Mary, and make room for my arse. Did any
of you have a bit of dick last night?”.
Then without stopping or taking any notice of their reactions he
would go on to say “Where’s my bloody tea? Let’s see what’s in the
f…ing paper this morning”.
Charlie went to his office after the toilet and sent for various people:
Tipple about his gardening requirements for the afternoon, Barnham for
his car requirements (something always seemed to be squeaking), Miss
Green to get him cigarettes, etc and perhaps a few phone calls. He never
did any work at all.
He then settled down to read the Birmingham Post which had been
delivered by Smiths and, after reading it, did as much of the crossword
as he could until about 12.00, when Uncle Charlie opened the one
cupboard in his office - it
only contained booze. He
then left the works, at about 12.20 most days, with a great fuss: “My
God, look at the bloody time.
I’ll have to go and collect Emmy or the bugger will tell me off for
being late again”. Then
huffing and puffing down the stairs: but he didn’t always find it
necessary to spit.
His spitting achieved fame and notoriety at one time because it was a
great lump of horrid looking phlegm, which was always spat out when he
was about half-way up the stairs.
I should explain that by the 1950s we had acquired a further house down
Montrose Street which was knocked down and rebuilt as a garage where
Uncle Charlie had his car.
Above it was a little Assembly and Test Shop where Jack Martin and his
girls worked for a time and then later it became the Stores. Anyway,
hence his route up the front stairs. One day in the late 1950s we had
employed a man called Perkins as an executive to run the Rayon Patent
Valve Department. He saw
this regular dollop of phlegm (Uncle Charlie’s best) each day and soon
complained to my father.
Father no doubt said that he would something about it and never did.
But the saga went on until finally it was ascertained that the
culprit was Uncle Charlie and the whole matter was turned into great
hilarity and the subject was dropped.
Uncle Charlie spent the afternoon at the Golf Club or in his garden at
They were happy and carefree days but I don’t know how we stayed in
business. Uncle Charlie, who was reputed to have ability, also had a
lifetime of experience of our trade and our Company.
So what went wrong?
I can think of two answers and both probably carried the total reason
but the split of percentage I shall never know. The first answer is that
he never wanted to come into the business but was persuaded into it
against his will by his Father. The second answer is that my Father,
Cuthbert, had various assets of kindness, humour and generosity but also
suffered debits of being quick tempered, vicious and malicious and I’m
told that he made it quite clear to Uncle Charlie that he did not want
him interfering in the business and to keep his nose right out of it.
Apparently, Uncle Charlie made one brave venture out as a salesman when
he was young but, whatever his business colleagues thought, it was his
wife, Aunt Emmy, who told him never to do it again.
At the beginning of the century, about 1900, an iron foundry was
purchased at the top of Wadhams Hill, in Charles Street, just below
Stafford Street, but this folded up after a few years.
During its lifetime, Uncle Charlie was its chief executive.
He was a good watcher and when I joined in 1948 the new 37 Shop was
being built and the roof joists being erected.
Charlie would stand and watch the builders for hours. It was the
only time I ever saw him in the works.
Later on, when we were having some machines put into the Blue
Room (which was another building we had purchased) he went into the shop
to watch operations. One of our foremen was Walter Lampitt, who hadn’t a
clue who he was and couldn’t stand somebody just hanging about and
watching. So, after a time
he went up to Charlie and said “I don’t know who you are but bugger off.
I don’t want you here”.
Uncle Charles meekly buggered off.
It is, of course, a humorous story but in a more serious vein, what an
awful reflection of a company director in his own company and compounded
and made worse by being the story of a family business.
He really didn’t care and wasn’t concerned about the works at
Uncle Charlie had a good life and was a complete parasite when I joined
in September 1948. There
were literally only three jobs he did for the Company in all of the 18
years I knew him. One was the useless ceremony of reading the orders.
The second was to sign the cheques, sometimes, at the end of the
month. Thirdly, there was
an annual event known as stocktaking at which my Father used to try and
persuade him to extend a few columns of figures to assess the money
value of the work in progress or finished stock which someone else had
listed. The exchange was
“Charles, here are some stock books which have got to be done”.
Charles: “I’ll do one of the f...rs, Cuthbert, and no more”.
Father used to bring stock books home on this annual occasion and
Mother, my sister Rachel and I were duly impressed.
We never knew how little he did until I joined the Company and I
never told them.
Uncle Charlie was a Director of the Wolverhampton Building Society until
his death in 1966. I don’t know why he was chosen but he used to go and
sign the cheques for them at the end of each month.
I’m told that Uncle Charles didn’t join up in the First War and in the
Second War his great achievement was to help the Shifnal Golf Club keep
going. He went there most
days, so I am told, and was the single handed Jack of all Trades,
cutting the greens, paying the barmen, etc. At the end of the War he was
appointed Captain of the Club for one year.
What a shame his energy and ability were scorned by our family business.
If only he had been helped and encouraged he could have taken our
business to the top of the league in Wolverhampton.
As it was he was idle and a parasite in all the years I knew him.
However, it would not be fair to end my pen portrait of him
without mentioning that he always treated me with relative kindness and
fairness and he never stood in my way or impeded my progress in the
company and for this I am grateful.
In the early 1960s his health began to deteriorate.
He became even shorter of breath and had bronchitis even worse.
Eventually he got dropsy and died at home with Lionel at his
bedside. He had been
happily married and a good family man and he never stood in my way;
but it must be fair to say that his life was wasted and his
brains and talents never used, so that he was an expensive encumbrance
to the company.