Presentation to Mr. Thomas Parker on his 46th birthday, 22nd December, 1889

An interesting ceremony took place on Saturday evening at the Drill Hall, Wolverhampton, where the employees of the Electric Construction Company (late Elwell-Parker Company, Limited) presented a framed and illuminated address, together with a beautiful silver tea service, as a mark of their esteem, to Mr. Parker, manager of the works.

There was a large attendance of employees and others, The Mayor (Councillor John Marston) presided and amongst those, present were the Rev. C. A. Berry, Colonel Thorneycroft, Messrs. T. Parker, T. Bantock, T. Graham, G.H. Stranger, J. Brotherton, L. Morton, T. G. Bennett, G. Freemantle, Price Lewis, and J.G. Smith (managing director). Letters of apology were received from Sir D. Fox (chairman of the Board of Directors), Mr. H.H. Fowler, M.P. Colonel Tudor, and Mr. J. Oddie (formerly Mayor of Ballarat).

The Mayor said it was with pleasure that he presided at a gathering to do honour to a gentleman who had brought so much intelligence and introduced so much business into Wolverhampton. Mr. Parker had been instrumental in founding in the town a new industry, for it was by his energy and perseverance that the large Electrical Construction Company had been established, greatly to the advantage of the town and neighbourhood.

Wolverhampton was very proud to have men of such ability in their midst. Mr. Parker had mentioned to him he was a Shropshire gentleman, and being himself also of that county, a fact which had been pretty freely proclaimed, one newspaper especially having fully interviewed him, he had on that account double pleasure in greeting Mr. Parker.

In the endeavour which the Corporation was making to obtain an order from the Board of Trade, Mr. Parker had rendered great assistance in giving advice and in dealing with technical matters, and he (the Mayor) therefore took that opportunity of publicly thanking Mr. Parker for the great public service he had rendered to the Wolverhampton Corporation (cheers).

From the library and archives of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum, at Coalbrookdale. Courtesy of Andy Rose.

The drill hall, as it was in 1889.

Mr. G. Freemantle (formerly secretary of the Edison Light Company) said that when he first made the acquaintance of Mr. Parker, they were at his works, there were a couple of girls and maybe a couple of men, and the machinery was of a most “ramshackle” character. Gradually the undertaking had grown until the old place had become entirely inadequate. He hoped Mr. Parker would live long to enjoy the handsome present, and the institution of which he was the founder would in five years hence be a hundredfold greater today than when he first knew it.

Mr. Jones (one of the employees) then made the presentation to Mr. Parker, reading the address which was as follows:-

To Thomas Parker Esq.

We the employees of Messrs. Elwell-Parker Limited being desirous of showing our appreciation of your great abilities and devotion to the progress of electrical engineering take the opportunity offered by your birthday and the recent changes brought about by this firm being merged into the Electric Construction Corporation to ask your acceptance of this address and accompanying testimonial.

We have watched with admiration the manner in which you have conducted both the scientific and commercial branches of the business and the rapid growth that it has made under your able management, and we hope and believe that in its proposed new home it will grow into a concern second to none in the United Kingdom.

We therefore heartily wish you health and strength to enable you to continue the work so successfully begun.

Signed on behalf of the above:
Chairman.  R. P. Jones, Treasurer. J. Westwood, Secretaries: J. H. Woodward and E. S. G. Rees.
Committee: S. Antwis, W. Cadwalender, A. Dodd, J. S. Dudley, A. Fowler, A. G. James, J. A. May, and
C. Parker.

Wolverhampton, Dec. 23rd, 1889.

Mr. Smith (managing director) expressed great pleasure in finding Mr. Parker and his workpeople so well in touch with each other. He hoped this feeling would continue, and he wished the employees to understand that Mr. Parker was still, to all intents and purpose, their employer. He had personally the highest appreciation of, and confidence in Mr. Parker’s great ability.

Mr. Parker, who was received with loud and prolonged cheers, in acknowledging the presentation was deeply moved. He thanked them very sincerely for their kind expressions of goodwill, which were a great help in the management of so large a concern as that under his care. He had to acknowledge a great deal of gratitude to the workmen, and especially to the older ones, for the way in which they had assisted him by their sympathy, their earnestness and their patient perseverance.

The success of the future depended largely upon the generous support of the employees of the directorate. Seven years ago he was receiving presents like those he had received that night, at Coalbrookdale, where he was known to everybody. He was leaving that place to come unknown to Wolverhampton. He invested in the electric business not only his health and strength, but all he had – his first £1,000 (cheers) and he had a great deal to be thankful for in the success which he had achieved. In the attainment of this success he had been greatly assisted by Mr. Freemantle and his Manchester friends. There was now plenty of work to be done, and they had only to do it. Having a powerful and united Corporation, they could with patience and careful hard work, bring to Wolverhampton such a splendid addition to its business as very few people dreamed of (cheers). The interests and welfare of the employees had always been as much in his care, as the success of the company, and so they would always continue to be (cheers).

Colonel Thorneycroft also spoke, and in the course of his remarks strongly advised the employees of the company to study chemistry, stating as an instance of the value of that science, that by its application Messrs. Baird and Co., ironmasters of Scotland, had discovered a means of utilising their smoke. It had been calculated that had this discovery been made 60 years ago at the establishment of the business, something like four million pounds would have been realised.

Alderman Bantock said that he believed electricity was destined in the future to play a more important part in the business of the world than steam had played in the past. Mr. Parker had been described by a very high authority in applied electricity, as the Edison of England (cheers) and his success had quite justified that remark.

The Rev. C. A. Berry wished Mr. Parker many happy returns of his birthday. The interest to him of this occasion was that it exhibited such a cordial good feeling between Mr. Parker and his employees. Mr. Parker’s business had been spoken of as a new industry, but it seemed to him to have called forth a new spirit between worker and director. He trusted such a feeling might continue, and that the works might continue to develop and to assist in the solution of one of the most critical and perplexing problems of the day; how employer and employed should be so related so that   both might fairly get that which was their due. They were not assembled to worship mere vulgar success. They recognised in Mr. Parker’s character, a strong personality, rich in all vigorous elements, and he (Mr. Berry) had discovered that night richer than he had before imagined in the gentler and emotional elements of a true man (cheers). In conclusion Mr. Berry proposed a vote of thanks to the Mayor, which was heartily accorded.

The proceedings then terminated.

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