17.  Hugo Meynell: 1899 - 1977

Uncle Hugo was as kind a human being as one is likely to meet in life and like so many of his type he was treated miserably and imposed upon by all around him.  

His service started with the Company in 1920.  For many years he never had a car and he used to travel to and from his home in Albert Road by bus.  It was typical of how life treated him that my father always considered him to be a second class citizen and treated him accordingly.  I remember, to this day, the horror and shame I felt when Father drove our car (with me as a passenger ) past the bus stop where Uncle Hugo waited in a snow storm, and saying to me, in an excited voice, “Look ahead, look straight ahead - there’s Hugo - don’t let him realise we’ve seen him”.  

When Hugo got to the works he was treated no better.  He worked in the Despatch Department and worked as any other Despatch Clerk, taking his turn on the rope pulley to drop goods to the packer down below when necessary.  The only privilege he was accorded was a glass partition at the end of the department to give him some sort of office with a built in desk leaning against the wall and the same sort of stool which the other clerks used.  When I write these notes my feelings are of shame for my family - after all my father had in his office a fitted carpet, a bed, a television set and a private telephone.

Hugo’s job was really the Progress Clerk amongst the Despatch people and he was given any orders for goods which were not in stock or letters urging delivery or complaining about broken promises.  He was a simple man and he got most worried about his work and would assume an air of great importance and gather up his lists of paper, two or three times a day  and announce to everybody “My God, we’ve got some money’s worth here.  I must go and see that bloody Tom Ford and see what I can do about these”.  Tom Ford had taken over his father’s mantle (Old Man Jim Ford) some time in the early 1950s and I have never known a man of such energy, enthusiasm and knowledge of his work in all my life.  Unfortunately, he was restless and a poor administrator as well as being a bad delegator.  If something was wanted urgently he took anyone off any job, just shouting “Come over here, Harry, and do these spindles for me please”.  The result was that everything was carried in his head and he and Uncle Hugo managed to muddle through without any of the ten or so Production Control Clerks that we employed in the 1970 s before the computer.

Hugo only had two interests in life - the first being his work and the company and the second was the small amount of fishing which he could do at weekends. He lived with, and kept, his two sisters at the house in Avondale Road and I’m led to believe that they ganged up on him and treated him shabblily.  Certainly he had to go to Reynolds Restaurant in Victoria Street not only for his lunches and but also for Saturday and Sunday lunches.  He had his evening meal at around 6.30 pm and went to bed soon afterwards and, on some occasions, I don’t know how often, he took work home with him.  His love of our Company and the people of our Company is quite touching and he really lived for the place.

In the 1920s or 1930s we had a works football team and Hugo used to go along as the organiser.  He loved to tell the story about how they all used to get drunk and how one day one chap was so paralytic that he lay down and couldn’t get up again when it was time to go.  Hugo said “All right, everyone, leave this fellow to me” and he picked him up and tried to throw him over his shoulder so as to carry him. Unfortunately he. Hugo, was also drunk and, after he had thrown him over his shoulder, he failed to catch him and the chap went head first on to the pavement outside the pub and cracked his skull.  Hugo was summoned on the following Monday to Grandfather Herbert’s office and asked to explain why the chap was missing and believed to be in hospital.

Hugo was the second son of his father, Walter, and as there had always been an understanding between Herbert and Walter that only one son from each side of the family could come into the business, Charles was made a Director but never Hugo. I’m sure that he didn’t like this, particularly in view of the volumes of hard work and interest in the place which he took and also because Charlie never even pretended to do any work.  It seemed a lousy injustice which he shouldered manfully and never complained.  He was kind and considerate to me but it must have been galling for him to see the progress which Lionel and I made and the privileges which we were afforded whilst he was a second class citizen. 

He retired from the company on a reasonable pension when he was 65 in 1964 and went to live with his one remaining sister in a house which he purchased in Hereford. He had always looked forward to fishing during his retirement years and he used to say to me “Laddie” (he always talked to me this way) “I shall be able to fish to my heart’s content when I’m retired” and the house in Hereford was purchased as it was near to the Wye.  Unfortunately, his retirement went wrong.  He just packed up after his 65th birthday and said goodbye to us all and the contrast of his retirement with nothing to occupy his mind was too great compared to the continual ten hour hurly-burly of Montrose Street and he suffered a bad mental breakdown.  I don’t know how well he recovered because I never saw him again but he was in a hospital ward for the same sort of trouble when he died.  Lionel went to see him and told me that he walked past him because he never recognised this pathetic creature uttering gibberish in his last few days.  It is awful to contemplate that he died in this manner, away from us all and the company which he loved.

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