Conisborough Parish Council – The Purchase of a Fire Engine – A Stormy Debate

June 1895

Mexborough and Swinton Times June 7, 1895

Conisborough Parish Council
The Purchase of a Fire Engine
A Stormy Debate

The ordinary monthly meeting was held on Wednesday evening, when there were present Messrs S.Whitfield (Chairman), Ogley, E Taylor, Robinson, Gillott, Norwood, Senior, Casey, Marsh, Holmes, Jones and Booth

The Cemetery Lodge

A minute of the burial committee recommending certain alteration to the Cemetery Lodge was considered.

The Chairman said he did not see the necessity for doing anything. The man and accommodation for bedroom and sitting room, and to pull down and rebuild was a waste of money. He should oppose it being interfered with.

Mr Casey: You were in favour of the last meeting?

The Chairman: Under certain circumstances I oppose the porch been built.

Mr Casey: What was your own idea?

The Chairman: My idea was to let it alone (laughter)

T he vote being taken it was resolved that the alterations be affected, the Chairman alone dissenting.

Election of a New Member

The chairman intimated that the Council had now to elect a new member to fill Mr Sharp’s place. After debate Mr Milner was declared elected.

The Fire Engine Purchase

The Clerk read the minutes of the Fire Engine committee recommending the purchase of Messrs. Rose and Co’s engine which they offered for £127 5s 0d.

Mr Holmes moved that the minutes be adopted.

The Chairman: There was some correspondence to be read on the subject.

Mr Booth: Someone over there said “leave it.” (Laughter)

Mr Holmes said the correspondence had been their guide in carrying the previous resolution. He thought reading now would have a tendency to influence the minds of the Council.

The Chairman: Well, suppose it was for the good of the parish, what then? (Hear, hear). Continuing, he did not know what the correspondence was, he simply knew its subject. He only knew it should be read.

The first communication was a telegram which had been received May 16, it was as follows:

“Clerk, Parish Council, Conisborough.

Statement as to £7.10 repairs, manual engine, untrue.”

This communication was dated from Stockport, and signed “Merryweather’s.”

The next was from Chief Constable’s office Stockport. It was as follows:

“in answer to your letter I have to inform you that the manual engine has been in our possession since October 1891, during which time it had been used for fires, and always given satisfaction.”

The next was as follows:

“Greenwich Road, London.

Owing to the untrue and misleading rumours which have been circulated, desirous of securing the order, and we begged to express our willingness to accept £127 (laughter) should the committee think it necessary. We further offered send the engine and gear over to demonstrate their superior qualities.

Yours truly, Merryweather and Sons.”

Mr Robinson: We had better send back to the British Museum. (Laughter)

Mr Holmes repeated his resolution with regard to the confirmation of the minutes of the Fire Brigade Committee.

The Chairman: Let us here your arguments, if you have any. (Laughter)

Mr Holmes said he had had some difficulty making up his mind on this subject. There was one thing he strongly objected to in Merryweather’s transaction, and that was there going down in price as they had done. It seemed to him, from what he had heard, that there was a man who represented Messrs Merryweather “knocking” about the village soliciting votes. This was since the resolution in committee was passed. They had all the right in the world to use their own judgement in the choice of an engine, as they could secure the engine they wanted at the best possible cost, it didn’t matter whether it came from Messrs Merryweather or Messrs Rose. The fact that Messrs Merryweather had come down over £40 in their offer seems to be “mean” and “scurvy” in the last degree. The whole thing was a dishonest transaction altogether. (Hear, hear, and “No.”) They advertised for tenders in the first place, and that was a fair way of going about business (hear, hear) and when Merryweather’s found they were outdistanced by a competitor they went down by about £30. (here, here). If they had accepted Merryweather’s first offer they would have been swindling the ratepayers out of £40.

Mr Senior: I should never support a offer like that; it looks very shady.

Mr Booth said he wished to move an amendment, and for the following reasons: firstly, the opinion of Mr Holmes and Senior was contradicted by that of the inspector of police. That gentleman (Mr French) and been a member of the Fire Brigade for 20 years, and was a thoroughly practical man. He knew every in and out in connection with a fire engine. His opinion was in support of that which had been read from the Chief Constable. If the engine was such a worthless one, how did they account for the statement (which was corroborated by the testimony of Inspecting French) that the same machine had always given satisfaction? Inspector French was a man of great experience, having had 20 years experience as a captain of the Stockport Fire Brigade, and was well acquainted with both manual and steam engines. So far as the objection about which there have been so much discussion (he meant the wheels) they knew that timber was sure to dry it put in a hot room, and especially new timber. But in a concern of some years wear, the wood would not shrink, and that danger would be guarded against. Again, even supposing the Stockport engine was an old one, and was not what it should be, were they going to condemn the whole work of a firm of the standing of Messrs Merryweather (hear, hear, and laughter) for the sake of the poor engine? (Hear, hear) why, a firm of such reputation would not turn out a faulty engine to begin with.

What he said was this: When they got such a testimony as the Inspector and the Chief of Police, who said that the engine was capable of doing more than it was guaranteed to do, they were warranted in fixing upon Merryweather’s engine. Another test was this: if Merryweather’s turnout such bad engines, with rickety wheels etc, how was it that such brigades as Liverpool, Rochdale, Hull, Newcastle on Tyne had nothing but Merryweather’s engine? In Manchester alone, where Roses had their manufactory, they wouldn’t have a Roses engine at any price! That was sufficient recommendation for a Merryweather’s engine will stop again Mr Homer Mr senior had, at last meeting, voted in favour of purchasing a Rose engine on account of its economy, but now, when they had got Merryweather’s engine down to the same price, and got a superior engine in every way, he (Mr Booth) claimed their vote (hear, hear).

With regard to the lowering of Messes Merryweather’s price, they had a perfect right to ask for, and receive second tenders from whom they like. He moved that the minute be not adopted (hear, hear).

Mr Norwood, in seconding the amendment, said that with regard to the remarks that had been made respecting the visit of Messrs Merryweather’s representative, he did not like the idea of a man coming down and trying to push the thing down their individual throats as it were. (Laughter). He thought Merryweather’s was a more superior engine (hear, hear) and he would stick to it. Certainly was better for the parish even if they paid £160 to purchase from Merryweather and Co. (Oh!) They had evidence from said gentlemen that it was a new engine (he was referring to Messes Roses & Co’s machine but those gentlemen had not seen it working. (Hear, hear). It had been said that the London Five Brigade had ordered six new engine from Messrs Rose and Co., but it had not been added that every one of them was rejected. (Hear, hear) another significant fact was that in Manchester, where Rose & Co. had their principal work they would not try any of them but sent to the London firms.

Mr Casey referred to the previous opinion of Mr Booth namely that Messes Shand and Mason should supply them. A good deal had be made of what the Chief constable had said. Well, he had only said that the engine had given satisfaction. No one said it had not. (Laughter). Again Mr Booth, at the last meeting, and allowed under cross examination, when it was drawn out of him that the tyres were loose. Mr Booth said he had examined the engine very carefully and Mr Gillett said the same. He put three questions to him that any man re-examine the engine carefully would have been able to answer. He was surprised Mr Booth could not answer the question was put, he said “As far as I can see there is nothing the matter.” When he (Mr Casey) told the council what was the matter with it, Mr Booth could not contradict what he said.

“But,” said Messes Merryweather’s supporters “even if it is a bad one we ought, in all kindness to a firm like Merryweather’s, in pity for them (laughter) of the engine, no matter whether a good one or not.” (Laughter.) Something had been said as to Messieurs Rose and coal’s having no engines in Manchester. He believed there were no manual engines is in use in Manchester (hear, hear) and Rose and Co did not supply steam engines. He (Mr Casey) you for a fact that the London County Council and given Messes Roses an order for 356 feet of hose pipe. That statement he had no doubt would result in expenditure of another 6s 8d on a lawyer’s letter but he was not afraid. (hear, hear and laughter) He then read a newspaper extract stating the order Messrs Merryweather did not make an ounce of piping of their own. Another thing, Mr Norwood confessed that he “knew nothing about a fire engine” at the last meeting. Why then did he take upon himself to criticise a fire engine? He knew more about the points of a horse. (Laughter.) It would be a disgrace for the Council to accept the amended tender of Merryweather’s. It was a shameful thing that they should reduce their tender by £40 as they had done. If it had been accepted at first the result would have been that the ratepayers would been plundered of £40 (hear, hear) and the Merryweather’s would have made the best of a splendid business. He went on to say there had been a rumour that glasses of whiskey at the “Fox” at the hands of Messrs Merryweather’s representative had had a good deal to do with the popularity of the Merryweather tender. (Laughter). He had seen one of Messes Roses engine is at work at Stockbridge where he been much longer than the Merryweather engine had been at Stockport. There was not a flaw and in the wood, or the wheels or the stocks. He had been surprised to find it was dated 1890. They might swear his arguments were lies but they couldn’t contravene them or show them to be such. He knew what he was talking about and had seen both engines at work. The fact of the dropping of Messes well away tender was enough to put it beyond the pale of consideration. It was disgraceful, and Merryweather’s must not think there were going to frighten him.

Mr Booth: I want to ask

The Chairman: You can only ask a question

Mr Booth: Can I contradict a direct lie?

The Chairman: Well, you may explain anything or to ask a question

Mr Booth: I wish to contradict a wilful lie by Mr Casey.

The Chairman: You may contradict.

Mr Wills: Mr Casey said I admitted – when it had been drawn out of me – that repairs to wheels and be done to Merryweather’s engine will stop that is a downright lie. A man like Mr Casey, who gets into the pulpit, should know what he’s saying surely! (Hear, hear and Oh!)

Mr Casey: You should go and join Mr Lee of Mexborough. You are a pair. (Laughter)

Mr Taylor: I should like to ask whether Mr Casey has had any whiskey at the “ Fox” with the firms representative? (Laughter)

Mr Norwood: Will you asking what others besides? (Laughter). It is a more scurrilous remark to say that others than Merryweather’s are interested.

The Chairman: I noticed that remark, but I took no notice. It was a very broad one.

Mr Norwood: it should not go to the press

Mr Taylor: I haven’t had any whiskey. (Laughter)

Mr Gillett said he should like to ask Mr Casey a question. He said he had been to see several engines of roses and only one of Merryweather. He (Mr Gillott) had had no whiskey, but Mr Casey’s conduct was very suspicious. Perhaps he had had more than two pennyworth of whiskey? (Laughter). He would support the purchase of Messrs Merryweather’s Engine. (Hear, hear)

Mr Marsh said that when they appointed a committee, they thought the children to members competent an expert in the matter of engine. (Laughter) at that time those two councillors seem to be of one mind, namely, that they should purchase an engine from the firm of Rose and coal. He was then allowed Messrs Merryweather’s engine at certain defects, therefore he should oppose the purchase of any engine from Messrs Merryweather’s. For another thing he did not approve of their ways of procuring orders, they canvassed unduly. Worst thing about Merryweather is was a reduction of their tender from £160 total £127. As a Trade Unionist he could not support a thing like that which was done with a view of securing trade at any price. (Hear, hear.) He supported the proposition to buy Messrs Rose and Co. Machine.

Mr Jones: At the meeting to consider this question, Mr Booth was not there for 10 minutes.

Mr Booth: Stick to the truth.

Mr Jones: The man from Merryweather’s and been round all the afternoon. That reduced tender was posted from Conisborough. I should like to say a word with regard to Mr Booth’s visit to Stockport.

Mr Booth: Speak the truth Mr Jones.

Mr Jones: They said that the engine from Messes Merryweather’s would pump 150 gallons in a certain time, whereas it was only guaranteed to pump 140. He would like to know how that was arrived at? Also Mr Gillott had come made a statement to the effect that the engine was not in need of repair or had been repaired. They had evidence that it certainly had. Another point was that he (Mr Jones) had received information that Mr Booth himself had been to Stockport. Mr Booth called at the chief constables, and left his name, saying that he had come from Mexborough, and requested to be allowed to see the manual engine. In the course of the conversation, Mr Booth was reported to have asked incidentally Rose’s machines were not rather poorer than Messrs Merryweather’s. The chief constable informed him that this was not so. He might say that inspector French and the chief engineer, Mr Garland, had made the statement that last Friday that water had not passed through the engine since six weeks ago. He (Mr Jones) had inspected the Stocksbridge engine while working, and, in his opinion it was a good one. He supported the purchase of the “Rose” engine.

Mr Booth: I haven’t taken any notice of Mr Jones speech. I have spoken the truth, and my opponents will have to prove that I haven’t (hear, hear)

Mr Holmes: is it wise to take a vote until we are not the subject about more? (Laughter and 0h?) If it goes on like this we shall have to beg an engine. (Laughter). He went on to refer to the statement Mr Booth had made with regard to Mr Rose not been able to get a trade in Manchester.

Mr Booth: I didn’t say so.

Mr Holmes having controverted this statement, went on to say that Mr Norwood was supposed to have come to the committee meeting with his mind already made up. This was hardly fair.

The Chairman: That is an inference you are drawing, Mr Holmes.

Mr Holmes: I don’t believe in that kind of thing. It is a sheer waste of time to hold meetings to enquire into the merits of engine when the members minds are on ready made up.

Mr Norwood: You are referring to the committee meeting, I suppose?

Mr Holmes: Yes. He went on to show all that he noted, as he did on the grounds of economy and efficiency combined, without these qualities and engine was worse than useless. They knew that £7 10s had been paid for repairs of the Stockport engine. This was the finishing touch.

The vote being put to the meeting the following members voted for Merryweather’s:

Mrs Gillett, Ogley, Norwood, Booth and Taylor

For Messrs Roses machine:

Messes Senior, Marsh, Casey, Jones, Holmes and Robinson

for the confirmation   6

for the amendment   5

the chairman therefore announced that the Council should purchase Messrs Rose and company’s machine for £127 5s