Working for Singer, part 6
by Graham Forsdyke
My work in the Plymouth territory had lasted about three years (and a very happy three years they were) when a change in the policy and organisation of the company brought about many changes in the management staffs, and I was asked to go north and take charge of the Factory Trade Department for Scotland, which was being separated from the family trade.
This was not altogether unwelcome, for my family loved the north and their hearts were in "Bonnie Scotland" but even if it had been otherwise, marching orders came and like a well-disciplined soldier I had to obey. Instead of Edinburgh, my headquarters was to be Glasgow.
I did not take long to get settled down, for I was not a stranger here, and most of the manufacturers were really personal friends, and I received a hearty welcome as I visited them. This work took me over old ground and fields of conquest, and brought me into touch with old comrades.
The district is scattered and our manufacturing clients reached from Inverness to Carlisle and Whitehaven, a distance of about 350 miles, but most of our business is centred in and around Glasgow. My experiences in the manufacturing trade are very pleasant to look back upon, and there have been many funny incidents to brighten the onward journey.
The late Mr Thomas, who was for many years factory representative in Glasgow, used to relate with great relish a little story about an incident that occurred to Mr G Henderson and himself when visiting a curtain manufacturer in Ayrshire. Mr Henderson was a keen and clever salesman, and full of resources for helping forward a sale.
On this particular occasion he was determined not to have a blank day. It was the last call, and Mr thomas had told him there were a few old machines that wanted renewing, and he set out to persuade our client to do this at once.
There was not much time to catch the train so great pressure was applied, and the manufacturer at last, but rather reluctantly, consented that this should be done. Mr Thomas was given the wink to hold the gentleman in conversation while Mr Henderson went into the factory and found the mechanic whom he knew, gave him a tip and explained that he had an order for three new heads, and if he could take the old ones back it would save sending them in later.
On reaching the station they saw the parcel duly placed in the guard's van, and on reaching Glasgow had it transferred to the left-luggage office. Next morning at the office, Mr Henderson explained to the late Mr Raper what he had done, and that as his manufacturing friend had sometimes changed his mind, he had taken the precaution to clinch the order by bringing the old machines away with him.
The atmosphere was rather disturbed when the porter interrupted the conversation and stated that when he returned from the station with the parcel and on unpacking it, only a few old pieces of brick were found. Mr Henderson, however, knew his man, swallowed the joke, and to this day the manufacturer is one of his dearest friends.
I will relate to you another little story, before ending my "Memory Notes". At the first Edinburgh International Exhibition, there was a Sengalese village, and on visiting this with Mr Henri Ehrsam, of the Singer company in Paris, we were assailed on every side by the natives asking for coppers. This got to be rather a nuisance, so for a little diversion I posed as a magician, and and told them them of my wonderful powers.
We soon had most of the villagers around us, and much to their astonishment coppers were produced from their garments, hair, sandals and other strange places. Then some were changed into silver -- this did it. Everyone was fetching coppers to be changed but they were disappointed for most of their coppers disappeared altogether.
This caused such a hubbub that one of the young natives had to act as our guide and keep the others in order. He said that he was engaged and was very anxious to introduce us to his fiancee, and also for an exhibition of magic to be given to the ladies of the cook-house where she was helping.
By the time we reached the shed where the women boiled their pots of stew, a crowd of natives had gathered around us, but our guide ceremoniously introduced us to a buxom black lady in scanty clothing and informed us that this was his "heart's desire". Now came the ordeal, for the rest of the ladies left their stew pots and came to see the promised magic.
After producing a few coppers from their gowns, they were astounded and excited to see me drawing yards of paper ribbon from my mouth. One dusky lady ran for a big meat knife, then rushed up and down the shed flourishing the knife as if to do us bodily harm; however, when the stream of ribbon was exhausted she solemnly cut it in pieces with her knife and distributed it among the women, who wore it as a charm.
I then asked for our guide to bring his lady love to us and told them to gather some of the magic paper which they were instructed to burn. This was done, and after gathering the charred remains, each of them put a hand on my head then taking the charred paper and rubbing it on my hand and arm they were startled to see their names appear in big black letters.
Our guide rushed off, and returned with their chief to whom we were introduced, and he asked for a demonstration of my powers. When I commenced to chuckle like a hen and produced an egg from under his robe he nearly choked laughing.
Magic powers of course have their limit and the greatest skill was exercised in disappearing from that village, but my fame was established, for on a later visit with Mr G Henderson we received quite an ovation and I was compelled again to defend my fame as a man of magic.
Many of the younger men in our ranks would perhaps like a few words of advice from one of the "Old Brigade", although there are always some who are so wise they do not want advice, and who know "in their own imagination" far more than can be told them. Of course, to these I am not speaking.
First of all, you must get right down in your mind the fact that if you want to succeed you have got to work, no matter whether it is mental or physical. If you are determined to get on the upper rungs of the ladder you must work harder and longer than those at the foot.
If you educate yourself to become an expert in your own particular business you will always be ready to grasp the opportunities that will arise from time to time; don't make the mistake of trusting to luck; we too often hear the cry "It's been just luck" when a man is seen to make good progress in life. Luck does not wait on a man's doorstep, but opportunities do, only we are often too slow to see them, and not ready to seize hold of them,
Your work is not limited to eight hours per day if you are going right to the front, and it should not be a burden to you. If you always start your work in the morning with a discontented heart and a grumble at everyone who comes near you, there are two cures, either take some "liver pills" or change your occupation; You are either physically ill, or mentally unfitted for your work.
Cultivate a cheerful spirit and look upwards. You may find sixpence, plenty of mud, and a morbid spirit by looking down, but you get the imprint of God's sun on your face by looking upwards, and its brightness will bring many friends, and these you will find more precious than gold:-
Oh, what is life without a friend to dispatch our gloom, path where naught but briers grow, where flowers never bloom, Tis friends who make this desert world to blossom as the rose, trew flowers o'er our rugged path, pour sunshine on our woes.
Avoid talking politics with your customers, but you can with pleasure discuss any hobby which you find they are interested in.
Do your work faithfully and well, be truthful, honest and loyal to your employers, then you will sleep well, and be ready and fresh for another day's conquest.
Never forget you are a part of the finest organisation in the world, and that you are expected to maintain the company's good name and to do nothing that will reflect on their honour and integrity.
Now, my dear friends, I have endeavoured to tell you in simple words a few of the old memories as they came to my mind, hoping they would interest and amuse you. It has been a great pleasure to me because it has put me again in touch with so many old friends who shared in some of the incidents I have related.
To me the greatest pleasure in the world is helping to make others happy, and in doing my utmost as I journey on day by day and year by year to do my duty and "be a man".
Old friends, old scenes will lovelier be,
As more of heaven in each we see,
Some softening gleam of love and prayer
Shall dawn on every cross and care.