« Isobel Bailie | Main | Changing Times »

Illingworth House: 36 – Bright Young Things

…‘Getting on’ was paramount in Bradford and Keighworth. From the cradle to the grave you had to get on and make money to show the world you'd got on and were summat. Those who had nowt were nowt. But those who had summat were summat, and young Clemence made damned sure he was going to get on and be summat at Illingworths…

A younger generation are becoming involved in running Illingworths’ textile mill.

John Waddington-Feather continues his story of a Yorkshire business dynasty.

John Illingworth fell for a new secretary in the firm's Bradford offices. She was young, very pretty and became infatuated with him. It was easy to see why. He was tall, strong and handsome, and had curly blond hair with piercing blue eyes like his dad. He had had a good public school education with an accent to match, which gave him edge, made him a real gentleman in the office girls' eyes. But his father nipped that romance in the bud. It cost him a pretty penny and the girl her job.

The Leeds girl Grimstone conned was also mad about him, but for him there was no love. There never was. Though he laid many he never loved a woman his whole life.

He fancied himself too much, before any woman. He always dressed well and paid great attention to himself, constantly glancing in the mirror or any shop window he passed to make sure his hair was in place and his tie straight. He was regarded as a bit of a dandy in the set he moved among in, but he dolled himself up as much to satisfy his vanity as anything else.

He had been sent to elocution lessons by his mother and spoke in an affected manner in his deep baritone voice; that in itself was a puller of women in Keighworth.

But others were repelled by him. Mary Calow for one. She distrusted him from the start and her distrust quickly turned to hatred when she realised what a snake in the grass he was.

Grimstone was one of the bright young things of the 1920s and '30s who made up John Illingworth's set in Keighworth. His cousin Rosemary was another. So was the nephew of old Sam Denton, chief clerk in Illingworth's offices who had helped carry the firm during the war while Abe Illingworth was in the forces.

Sam Denton was a bachelor but he idolised his nephew, Harry Clemence, who when he left school, was paid for by his uncle to go to Bradford Tech to study for a textile diploma. And after college, old Denton secured him a place at Illingworth's where he began his steady climb to the top.

Harry Clemence was short and stocky, tending to overweight even in his teens. He wore thick-lens glasses with heavy frames to hide behind. As he grew older and put on more weight, he looked like a smug bespectacled toad. And that wasn't the only toadlike quality he had. He learned from an early age that to get on, you had to suck up to folk who could help you get on.

‘Getting on’ was paramount in Bradford and Keighworth. From the cradle to the grave you had to get on and make money to show the world you'd got on and were summat. Those who had nowt were nowt. But those who had summat were summat, and young Clemence made damned sure he was going to get on and be summat at Illingworths.

He was never bookish and had few social graces. He spoke 'broad', until he went to classes to have his accent ironed out. But he had a nose for business, and his nose was in most things at work and helped him get on.

After the war in his late teens he rose rapidly. Many men never returned from the front so there were easy opportunities for him to rise. He was five years older than John Illingworth, his boss's son, but years more wordly wise and it was that worldliness which appealed to old Sir Luke, who first set him on.

He had another asset which endeared him to the Illingworths. He knew when to keep his mouth shut. Like his uncle, old Denton, he was a good listener and what he heard he always put to good use. And he was also a good butterer-up.

So by the time young John had left school and entered the family business, Harry Clemence was there to oversee him and teach him the tricks of the trade. They were as different as cheese and chalk but they got on. The one taught the other some social graces. And Clemence taught Illingworth some business nous.

When he was given a mill in Keighworth to manage for a time, Harry Clemence moved into the town, and rose even more rapidly to the top. In no time at all he had joined the ranks of the upper-crustians. John Illingworth introduced him to the tennis and golf clubs and he settled down to enjoy life even though he was snubbed at times.

Like Grimstone, once he had joined the ranks of the upper-crustians he ran foul of Major Kingham-Jones. It was bound to happen. They first met quite by chance in London. The major was travelling back by train to Keighworth and Clemence had been to London for the wool sales when they caught the same train north.

The train was packed, and while he went to buy a paper, the major put his suitcase on his seat to reserve it. Shortly after he'd left the compartment, Harry Clemence wandered along the platform looking for a seat. He was tired after a hard day in town and no way did he want to stand all the way back to Bradford.

He peered into each carriage till he came across the one seat vacant with the major's case on it. He jumped in immediately and put the case on the luggage rack, then sat down to read his 'Yorkshire Post'.

Minutes later the major arrived with a copy of 'The Times' tucked under his arm. He stopped abruptly and stared hard when he saw his seat was taken. "Excuse me, young man," he barked, "but that's my seat!"

The other passengers slowly lowered their papers and looked up. All except Harry Clemence who continued reading.

"Excuse me, young man!" the major barked again, tapping Clemence on the knee. "You're sitting on my seat!"

Clemence lowered his paper and gave him the full force of a Keighworth stare. "Are you talking to me, mister?" he asked blandly.

"Indeed I am!" bellowed Kingham-Jones, red in the face. "I want my seat!"

Clemence remained unmoved. "It's bums bags seats in Bradford," was all he said, then continued reading his paper.

The major was dumbstruck. He had never been treated like this before, yet there was nothing he could do. He snatched his case angrily from the rack and stormed out to find another seat further down the train. When he and Clemence met again some months later at Illingworth House, they made some sort of frosty conversation, but never let on that they had met already.


Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.