John Taylor was destined to become, for nearly 35 years, Managing Director and Vice Chairman of Mather & Platt Limited and the organising genius and driving force at Park Works. His story, however, begins as the story of another firm - the story of Dowson, Taylor & Co. which should be considered first; but, as evidence of his devotion to the interests of his business, the record of his wedding still exists. He was married on Christmas Day. Next morning he was back at work at the normal time. I could not spare time for a honeymoon, said John, so long as there was work waiting to be done.
Some examples of the work carried out by John Taylor - when as a boy in the office of the Railway Company he attended night school in order to fit himself for a position as a shorthand writer - are still in existence. Work in his shorthand notebook was written with meticulous care and approached perfection in execution. The result is more like a page from a printing press than the handiwork of a student at an evening school. He displayed the same meticulous attention to detail throughout his life. He had a passion for learning and from every situation and from every new encounter he sought to draw a lesson. He had a great belief in concentration of effort avoiding, where possible, all diversions.
John Taylor, the engineer, would accept nothing but the best, he was a ruthless critic and his yardstick was engineering perfection. Men came to know that every job which survived his criticism was right and that, furthermore, it would have his complete support and the driving power of his constructive mind.
Contemporary engineers recognised in John Taylor a man who brought a profound knowledge of engineering subjects to bear on the many problems connected with fire extinction and the wider activities of Mather & Platt Ltd after he joined that Company. His discerning eye was of the utmost value in the pioneer days of electrical machinery and centrifugal pumps. He took special pride in the development of the electrical side of the business and the value of his services to the electrical industry may be gauged from the fact that he served, for many years on the Council of the British Electrical and Allied Manufacturers Association, and was one of its Vice-Presidents up to his death. This was one of the very few outside activities of John Taylor, who had neither time nor inclination to take part in public life. He felt that his work for Mather & Platt Ltd was a full-time job and. demanded his undivided attention. He made an exception during the world war of 1914-18, which provided an opportunity for those in authority to set the seal on John Taylors position as an acknowledged master in his sphere.
Thus, not just Fire Engineering came under his sway for John Taylor - with the assistance of his able lieutenant, Fred Dowson - accepted responsibility for moulding the business in his own way. He had made himself familiar with the essential facts concerning the Electrical Department while still at Salford and decided to make certain changes before starting operations at Park Works. Among other things, he had made up his mind to model the Commercial work on lines which had proved successful in his old company, relying for the execution of his plans on young men of sound technical ability who had received their engineering training in The Salford Works.
In the dangerous days that lay ahead, John Taylor was appointed Chairman of the Lancashire Anti-submarine Committee, a body appointed by the British Government of the day to investigate the possibilities of all measures which the ingenuity of engineers and scientists could devise to counter the menace of the German submarine. Although the work of the Committee was hidden behind the veil of war-time secrecy one may be sure that with John Taylor as Chairman, Mr. A. P. N. (later Sir Arthur) Fleming as Vice-Chairman and Lord Rutherford as Chief Technical Adviser, the local engineers and scientists who served in this body from 1917 to 1919 would not lack encouragement.
John Taylor was also a member of the Board of Management of the Manchester and District Armaments Output Committee, an organisation to which the Ministry of Munitions delegated the work of co-ordinating the efforts of local engineering firms engaged on the production of munitions. When the Ministry of Reconstruction set up a number of Committees to investigate problems connected with industry, John Taylor was appointed a member of the Engineering Trades (later "Industries") Committee and Chairman of the Electrical Branch Committee of that body. In recognition of his work on those bodies Mr. Taylor was made a Companion of the Order of the British Empire.
Inset: The 1920 (January 4th) Half-Yearly Selling Staff Conference and Dinner. Front leaf of Table Card and Menu. Salford Hotel. John Taylor as Chairman with Vice-Chairman, Fred Dowson.
From the Mather & Platt archives ...
"John Taylor, one of the managing directors of the new company, was the strong man of his generation. He has been called the original architect of the Park Works project. He supervised the layout and building of the new shops and later controlled the manufacture and sale of an ever-growing range of products.
As the leading figure in the development of Park Works John Taylor laboured indefatigably for many years in the task of consolidation and expansion. It has been said that he knew the position of every drain and water pipe in the vast premises, which grew up, during his régime to meet the demand for the products of Mather & Platt Ltd.
It was indeed the fusion of Mather & Platt with Dowson, Taylor & Co. Ltd which afforded John Taylor that wide scope for his great organising ability which would not have been open to him in the restricted field of the sprinkler business. In the larger organisation he was able to employ all his talents, first in the development of the electrical business this being the first of the Mather & Platt specialities to be transferred from Salford to Park Works. Then in establishing the centrifugal pump department on a firm footing when that section of the business was transferred to Park Works and later in making provision for the manufacture of a wide range of Textile Finishing machinery in the new home.
Each individual department was henceforward to stand on its own feet; its design, production and sales policy being the direct responsibility of a director in charge with John Taylor himself exercising a controlling influence over all sections. One obvious advantage of this plan was that each director could concentrate on the specific needs of the users of the plant he offered. He thus became a specialist in his own field and while a general engineering background enabled him to understand all phases of the companys business, he could be relied upon to give expert advice to any prospective client who was disposed to make use of the specialised knowledge acquired in one particular branch of engineering."
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