January, 1875, was a momentous time for me. In the second week of that month I commenced my new duties at Glasgow and bade farewell for ever to the tall stool and “the dry drudgery of the desk’s dead wood.” Before me opened a pleasing prospect of attractive and interesting work, brightened by the beams of youthful hope and awakened ambition. I was now chief clerk to a general manager. Was it to be wondered at that I felt proud and elated if also a little scared as to how I should get on.
Mr. Wainwright assumed the office of general manager on the first day of the year. I say office, but in fact a general manager’s office scarcely existed. His predecessor, Mr. Johnstone, a capable but in some respects a singular man, performed his managerial duties without an office staff, wrote all his own letters, and not only wrote them but first carefully drafted them out in a hand minute almost as Jonathan Swift’s. A strenuous worker, Mr. Johnstone, like most men who have no hobby, did not long survive his retirement from active business life.
Mr. Wainwright, who, like myself, was born in Sheffield, was twenty-three years my senior. His early railway life was passed in the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway (now the Great Central), of which the redoubtable Mr. (afterwards Sir) Edward Watkin was then the lively general manager.
A different man to his predecessor was Mr. Wainwright. Unlike Mr. Johnstone he was modern and progressive. He never scorned delights or loved, for their own sake, laborious days; pleasure to him was as welcome as sunshine; and work he made a pleasure.
As I have said, no general manager’s office existed. Of systematic managerial supervision there was none. What was to be done? Something certainly, and soon. Mr. Wainwright concurred in a suggestion I made that I should visit Derby, see the general manager’s office of the Midland there, and learn how it was conducted. This I did. E. W. Wells, a principal clerk in that office, who was married to my cousin, showed and told me everything. I returned laden with knowledge which I embodied in a report and my recommendations were adopted. Several clerks were appointed and the general manager’s office, of which I was chief clerk, soon became efficient.
Wells afterwards became Assistant General Manager of the Midland, and Frank Tatlow, my cousin and brother of Wells’ wife, is now its General Manager, in succession to Sir Guy Granet. I am not a little proud that the attainments of one who bears the name of Tatlow, and is so nearly related to myself, have enabled him to reach the topmost post on a railway such as the Midland Railway of England. He commenced as a junior clerk in the General Manager’s office and worked his way step by step to that eminent position. No adventitious circumstances helped him on.