Friday, 29 May 2009

Sir Alfred Herbert's Close Associates

The opening of a new Extension at Alfred Herbert Edgwick works in 1928. Sir Alfred and Lady Florence Herbert with PG Vernon (1), Joe Pickin (2), AH Lloyd (3), David Gimson (4), Mr Kelway (5), Mr Perkins (6), and Oscar Harmer (7). Click for a larger view

Alfred Herbert made one of his closest friends while at school at Stoneygate. William Hubbard was his immediate contemporary and next to him in class, and it was Hubbard's first job after leaving school - as an apprentice with Joseph Jessop in Leicester - that caused Alfred to chose a career in engineering rather than in the church. Subsequently Alfred and Hubbard worked together at Coles & Matthews in Coventry, before buying the firm when Matthews left and forming the partnership of Herbert & Hubbard. Their partnership was later dissolved but they remained friends and Hubbard, a brilliant engineer, returned to Jessops and designed some ingenious machines for the boot trade. Subsequently he became a director of Taylor & Hubbard, building cranes and went on to develop motor cycles and tricycles with Hubbard Motor & Engineering Co Ltd.

David Gimson (1880 - 1963) attended Stoneygate after Sir Alfred, and was a fine mathematician and athlete. After leaving school, he became an accountant, forming the firm of Wilshere & Gimson in Leicester which, in 1903, became auditors to Alfred Herbert Ltd. Gimson left the firm in 1918 and joined Alfred Herbert as their Financial Director, a position he held until he became chairman in the 1950s on Alfred Herbert's retirement from that position. He died in 1963, shortly before he was due to retire. Alfred relied heavily on David Gimson's financial acumen and would often answer questions with "Go and ask Gimson". They were very close and of course Gimson was one of those who attended the memorial ceremony at Litchfield for Florence, Alfred's second wife, in 1930. Gimson's uncle was the famous Leicester architect Ernest Gimson. [With thanks to his grandson, Guy Gimson, for corrections]

Sir Alfred Herbert, standing, with Oscar Harmer (with beard) and Capt Hollick, Sir Alfred's son-in-law, at the Ex-Servicemen's Dinner in 1932.

Oscar Harmer was an Irishman who Alfred recruited in 1897 and became Herbert's Technical Director. A brilliant engineer, he had spent some of his youth in America and was well-connected with both the American and British machine-tool industries and was a particular friend of Charles Churchill, who introduced him to Alfred Herbert. His son, known as 'Tiny', married Sir Alfred's youngest daughter Phyllis. The Harmer's lived in a house in Coventry called Dalhousie. Oscar Harmer too was among those who attended the memorial ceremony at Litchfield for Lady Florence Herbert. He died in 1939 aged 90, after 42 years service with Sir Alfred.

Harold (AH) Lloyd, MBE, joined Alfred Herbert as an apprentice in 1905 with a B.Sc from London University, and became head of equipment design and from 1926 Works Director. He was Design Director from 1945 until his retirement and died in 1955. A Welshman from Lampeter, he was a a founder member of the Coventry Amateur Dramatic Society and a great personal friend of Sir Alfred's.

Joseph Pikin joined Alfred Herbert as a draughtsman in 1895 after serving his apprenticeship at George Richards & Co and took many positions within the company and eventually became Herbert's Commercial Director. He lived near Sir Alfred's daughter Gladys and her husband Arthur Hollick, and their daughter June remembers him coming sometimes to collect Sir Alfred when he stayed with them and drive with him to the works. He was also another who attended the Litchfield ceremony. He retired in 1955 after 60 years with the company.
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