Hall Street Exhibition 2016

Guglielmo_Marconi_1901_wireless_signalFor the last day of this exhibition a display of the equipment shown in this well known photograph from 1901 has been arranged.

This will include the coherer receiver and spark coil, both originals and would have been manufactured at Hall Street, a Siemens morse inker that was badged and sold by Marconi, a grasshopper key and a Marconi galvanometer.

Update from 29 May

The nearest we can get to the original photograph

Original equipment, generally from around 1901. Here in spirit

Equipment details

P1010148A P1010150A P1010151A P1010149A P1010152A

Here is an interview by Steve Clow (ex Essex Chronicle) of the two gentlemen who brought this equipment to Hall Street for the last day of the exhibition

MVA Annual General Meeting – 2016

The Annual General Meeting of the Marconi Veterans Association was held on Saturday 16th April 2016 at the Marconi Athletic & Social Club following the reunion and luncheon.


1.  Minutes

To approve the minutes of the Annual General Meeting held on 18th April 2015.

The minutes were passed unanimously by a show of hands.

2.  Accounts

To receive the audited accounts for the year ended 31 December 2015.

Passed unanimously by a show of hands.

3.  Committee

To elect officers and members of the Committee.

All members of the Committee, being eligible, offered themselves for re-election.

The Committee was elected unanimously by a show of hands.

4. Appointment of Auditor

Mr T Mundon will shortly be leaving Marconi’s and will be unable to continue as auditor of the Marconi Veterans Association. The committee will shortly appoint a new auditor.

5.  Any other business

a) New Street site.

Peter Turrall gave an outline of the present state of the New Street building. It is currently occupied by an American company called Benefit who make cosmetics. The committee has already held one committee meeting there and will continue to do so from October. They have a very good show of wireless sets in their reception area but not any technical equipment of the type Marconi did make.

b) Photographic archive at the Essex Records Office – veteran Ken Earney

“Thanks Peter, I’ll try.”

“The Marconi photographic archive at the Essex Records Office we’ve had a lot of difficulty in trying to track down the records that the Baddow photographer made of this archive before it moved to the record office. So, we’ve had quite a struggle to find out what happened to the records that the Baddow photographer had made of the archive before it transferred from New Street to the record office.”

“To cut a long story short. As a result of a piece that I put in the Newsletter that appeared about six weeks ago now, in a couple of days Trevor Wright the former curator of the Marconi Heritage Collection got in touch too say that he had originally passed the records in Microsoft Access database format to the records office with the archive. What happened to them, why did they not.., why were they not able to use these we don’t know but he re-sent the data in Microsoft Excel format.”

“I’ve been in touch with the curator at the record office, yes, she’s received this recent data, she’s assessing it at the moment to see whether they have a need to call on the volunteers that we’ve offered to go and look at this archive and assist them with identifying photographs, items and personalities and so on.”

“We’re waiting to hear further from the archivist at the moment but, sorry, if we want volunteers we will still be asking for them, we don’t know whether or not we shall yet.”

“We haven’t finished yet, watch this space.”

6. Next Meeting

“So, watch this space fellow Veterans. The next meeting we have is on 22 April 2017 and I can assure you it will be at this Marconi Social Club.”

“So, end of the meeting of the Marconi Veterans Association, unless anyone has anything to say you have one second to say it.”

“Meeting closed. Thank you.”

Reunion 2016 – Guest of Honour

Peter Turrall
Peter Turrall

Introduction to our Guest of Honour, John Shrigley by Peter Turrall, Chairman of the MVA

Mr Patron, Madam President, fellow Veterans

It give me great pleasure to introduce today our honoured guest, John Shrigley.

First of all many congratulations, John, on your recent wedding anniversary celebrating 50 years of married life, well done. (applause)

I first met John when I was overseas sales manager for Tom Mayer in MCSL in 1985. Sir Robert Telford had called me to his office to discuss a project following my recent visit to the Argentine and John was on a visit to New Street waiting to see Sir Robert. At that time I did not know him and it was not until we sat down for lunch later that I found out that he was the director of personnel for GEC Marconi.

After that I recognised him, you couldn’t but help recognise him, he never walked anywhere, he ran.  And I can remember him coming from the top floor down the stairs right the way to the front offices.

John has been involved in personnel, nowadays the world’s word is human resources, following his degree at Durham University. The word human resources, I find, rather a strange name as it conjures up many thoughts far removed from personnel.

Following his appointment as personnel director GEC Electrical Components in 1969 John became personnel director of GEC Marconi in 1976 and for 15 years he reported to Sir Robert Telford. A real move up the ladder came in 1991 when John was appointed personnel director to GEC reporting to Lord Weinstock at Stanhope Gate. In 1994 John decided on a career change working away from large organisations and he became a consultant as well as a civil service commissioner.

At employment tribunal decisions he was an appeals member, a magistrates selector as well as a selector of police authorities in Beds, Herts and Cambridgeshire and finally before retiring in 2002 he was for 13 years a member of the council and vice chair of Brunel University where he was awarded an honorary doctorate.  Now I really should have addressed you John as Dr. John, I do apologise.

Now in his spare time he manages to play golf helps with charity work and even finds time to enjoy family life especially with his grandchildren.

Well John, you’ve had a varied and interesting career and I feel sure you will be giving us an insight to some of the more interesting happenings especially your associations with both Marconi and GEC companies so before I ask you to come up and say a few words, John, we’d like to make you an honorary member of the Marconi Veterans Association and I hope you wear this tie with distinction. (applause)

So, fellow Veterans please raise your glass to welcome our honoured guest Mr John Shrigley. – John Shrigley.


John Shrigley
John Shrigley

Response by John Shrigley

Madam President, Chairman, Veterans, thank you very much.

I was going to concentrate on one or two war stories from Africa and I will do but since you’ve mentioned Stanhope Gate and Lord Weinstock it might sort of kick off with one of those. There are quite a few people here, certainly Tom Mayer remembers, Robbie Robertson, Don Mott and David you’ll remember that annually each company had to present its budget to Lord Weinstock. The budget was presented personally to him and he would put the fear of God into many managing directors – not Tom Mayer.. So with trepidation they would go because this man was larger than life, dominating, domineering perhaps, certainly an autocrat, however, on one occasion we were settled in his office and because there were so many companies presenting their budgets he would have several companies on one occasion; he had a massive office and there may have been 20 or so people in the room. And Lord Weinstock was particularly concerned, as many of you may know about cost. Costs shouldn’t happen and employment costs were of course a significant part of our activities. And that’s why I was there just to help managing directors get through the questions they’d be asked about employment costs, and one of these was recruitment expenses. We were the biggest employing companies. Companies were constantly recruiting engineers and others and we needed to scour for UK people. And we found one of the finest medium, or the best medium to use was the Daily Telegraph so we were frequently advertising. And Lord Weinstock asked

“Where was this money going?”

“So well you know we do spend a lot of money on advertising”.

“Where do you advertise?”

“The Daily Telegraph”.

“You mean you are spending all this money on the Daily Telegraph”.

“Well yes, it’s quite expensive but it’s the most effective”.

“Right, well we’ll put a stop to that. Miss Elscom (his secretary) get me Conrad Black”, who at the time was the boss of the Daily Telegraph. Conrad Black comes on the line.
“Conrad, I’ve got these Marconi people, they’re telling me that in fact they’ve got to spend millions with you on advertising. The costs are over the top and I’m sure you and I can come to a deal”.

The room was very quiet and Lord Weinstock he didn’t say a word and he put the phone down and said

“I lost that”.

Now that’s, that’s a bit unusual for him, he’s used to winning every argument and for those in the room it was an unusual experience. Needless to say we didn’t get any mention, any further mention, of employment costs from then on.

Coming closer to home, pay negotiations in my secondary period we might talk about, a couple of stories. On one occasion, you’ll remember that in fact in Chelmsford it was a massive negotiation took place; a lot of people who would benefit from the negotiations with the thousands of people employed. And so it was a significant negotiation, it took some time. But eventually it would be concluded and Don Mott would pay, and others indeed, pay employees their increases within about a couple of weeks, a remarkable achievement for thousands of staff. And one day I got a visit from head of personnel, very proud he said “We’re going to computerise”.

Well, that sounds encouraging I’m sure we’ll welcome that. How long is it going to take you to implement the increases?

Six weeks, which is astonishing it seemed to me and we didn’t take him up on that.

Another occasion negotiations had been going reasonably well but there needed to be some sort of game changer to complete the deal. And Hugh Jones with his management team of negotiators came into the office and said. “Look we want to offer staff conditions to manual employees.” Now at that time that was revolutionary. The engineering industry practically, that is to say all manual staff had conditions which involved, for example, waiting ……. And many of us over the years have said this is absurd. You can have a time-serving worker whose modest conditions compare to his 16 year old daughter who’s a typist, but we did nothing about it because it was all too difficult.

Anyway. Hugh Jones had seen the light, he wanted the same conditions for all manual workers. Now normally we wouldn’t bother going to GEC’s headquarters to discuss what we were doing, we’d get on with it. This is one of those cases when I started having worries. And lots of people said look what’s going to happen if all the manual workers go sick because now you’re giving them indubitably higher benefits from a pay point of view man for man.

So I phoned Stanhope Gate. There was a pause

“Who wants to do this. You realise this is very unusual; on your head be it”.

Anyway. Phone down. We went ahead and Hugh you will remember said in fact far from seeing a substantial increase in sickness I think there was a minor spike for a very short time and it settled down to normal staff levels of sickness and it was a major innovation.

One or two personalities past and present. First, Robbie, Robbie Robertson, who as you all know has a substantial career in Marconis. I recall when he was appointed, Arthur Walsh asked him to come and see him.

“Robbie, I want you to take over Norsk Marconi”.

He was a wily bird, Norsk Marconi was a real problem. Small, it took too much time no one wanted to spend any time with it and I think Arthur took advantage of Robbie

And I think many managing directors would have said

“Well, I’ll give this one up there are more important things to do”.

But not Robbie, not only did Robbie visit Norsk Marconi on many occasions and spend serious time with them but he also or at least started with the language but certainly he endeavoured to correspond with them and keep them on board. My abiding recollection is of Robbie and I walking down a street in Oslo in the middle of February at 14 below zero.

There was an occasion, you remember Marconi College, it would have been 1977 when one of the directors decided that he wanted to appear as a woman. Now I think Roger it’s probably before your time. Now that’s commonplace these days. In 1977/78 it was not commonplace at all, it was exceptional and unusual. And the menfolk were very fussed about this and they made me think there were maybe concerns but one concern that they had was what to do about the toilets. And we fussed about it and we couldn’t decide, then it was mentioned to the ladies and eventually one among two or three said “What are you fussing about we go into cubicles so there’s no need to worry about those”. So that sorted out that problem.

I’d like to finish with a little story about a former president in fact Robert Telford. Marconi being so dominant in Chelmsford, the Marconi city, Sir Robert would invite any newly appointed senior person in other companies or activities for lunch at Marconi’s, for example, the chief executive of the local authorities. On one occasion the new general manager Paul Varian. And he was invited for lunch. Just the three of us, lovely lunch. Sir Robert had to go out and I took charge of him. As he turned to leave he looked back at Sir Robert’s retreating figure he said “You know if ever I was fat I would hate to be fat”.

Thank you all very much for having me, clearly Marconi Veterans Association is flourishing and I hope it will flourish well in the future.


Our President 2016 – Valerie Cleare

The Presidential address at the 2016 reunion

P1000474Introduction to the President  by Peter Turrall, Chairman of the MVA

Mr Patron, Honoured Guest, Fellow Veterans.

I have the pleasure this afternoon of introducing to you the President of our Marconi Veterans Association, somebody who is well known to many of you, Miss Valerie Cleare, sitting in the middle. Congratulations Val and in the other language that you are familiar with molti congratulazioni, congratulate. Did I say that right? (laughter)

If I was to cover all of Val’s curriculum today I would be speaking to you for the rest of the afternoon so I intend to mention just some of her activities with the Marconi organisation.

As many of you will know Val had to find an alternative position outside the company in 1998 when all work at New Street ceased. She currently is employed by the Essex County Council as a business support administrator, what does that mean?

Val joined Marconi’s in 1971 straight from Great Baddow High School, just round the corner where she was proficient in languages and, in particular, French and German and this gave her a good background for later in life when she became very well versed in the Italian language. She extensively used Italian on behalf of the company in many negotiations with Marconi Italiana and other similar organisations.

So the first few years with Marconi’s was learning the trade of being a secretary studying at Chelmsford College and gaining experience and proficiency in both shorthand and typing.
Her early attachment as a qualified secretary were at Marconi Radar, various personnel departments, technical information division and, of course, the typing pool.
Her achievements and number of positions ultimately held read like an input to a science directory but suffice it to say she held senior secretarial posts with commercial directors, technical directors, engineering directors and personnel directors within the local Marconi group and also sometime secretary to GEC-Marconi Electronics director of personnel John Shrigley, who is Val’s Guest of Honour here today.

Apart from being employed with Marconi organisations for over 25 years which gives her the qualifications as a veteran Val found time, she says spare time, away from secretarial aspects to be a member of Great Baddow church choir, MASC theatre group, I know as secretary also as an actress, Chairman of Chelmsford Folk Dancers and finally as a member of our Marconi Veterans Committee.

I have given you a broad outline of Val’s career and social activities; now it give me great pleasure to welcome her as our President as I ask you to raise a glass in honour of veteran Val Cleare.

Thank you.

P1000489AResponse by our 2016 President Val Cleare

Val Cleare – President 2016

Mr Patron, Mr Chairman, Honoured Guest, Fellow Veterans

Buongiomo a tutti, Hello everyone. It is indeed an honour that I have been asked to become President. Guglieilmo Marconi was the first President in 1928 and I feel especially proud to have this honour bestowed upon me. In fact I’m not as Essex girl. I was lucky enough to subsequently be a beauty queen in Eastbourne, Swanage and Blackpool.

I was born in St. Helens, Lancashire. St. Helens (famous for Pilkington’s Glass and rugby league). My parents were in the RAF, for the first part of my life we moved to wherever my Dad was stationed. Such places as Middle Wallop near Salisbury, various places in Norfolk, Odiham in Hampshire. My Dad was stationed at Trimingham, Coltishall, Neatishead, whilst in Norfolk.

My Dad, Bob Cleare, was employed by Marconi Radar as a radar systems engineer working at both Great Baddow, Crompton works, Writtle Road, Chelmsford for 24 years.
In September 1971 I enrolled on the intensive secretarial training course, which entailed studying shorthand and typing etc. at Chelmsford College, half a day each week and the remainder of the time I worked at Marconi’s. I obtained my first attachment at Marconi Radar in E-block at Writtle Road for four months then I went to the secretarial training centre for six months in Y-block under Yvonne White. Also, I learnt about commercial aspects of business with Audrey Stanhope-Lovell and later covered for a secretary in Radar Personnel department, which is where I met Joan Kendall, a previous President and encouraged her to dictate her correspondence to save time writing it and to make sure I could understand what was written and as I was developing my shorthand speed this helped me tremendously. I learnt to write shorthand at 90 words per minute from scratch in one year and am still using this skill in my current role today.

I had the pleasure of meeting Sir Peter Pitman himself at the Royal Society of Arts in London.

My second year into my training – I was attached to broadcasting division typing pool in Marconi Communications at New Street where I was required to do a variety of tasks and also able to take dictation from Broadcasting Sales personnel.

In October 1972 my training manager asked me to step in and cover the role of Secretary to the Personnel Director, James Pease-Watkin for one month. I shared an office with another secretary and we had about 10 telephones. Learning how to cope answering them was another skill I learnt as we did not have a phone at home.
I won the award for the best shorthand typist on the Marconi Training Scheme. I went on to evening classes and obtained RSA 100 words a minute and Pitmans 110 words per minute shorthand. Meeting Sir Peter Pitman must have inspired me. Following this I did the two teacher’s courses in shorthand and typewriting, which enabled me to teach at Chelmsford College and Adult Community Learning (12 years)

A memorable telephone call I once took at New Street was from Buckingham Palace. When I repeated Buckingham Palace – people who were in close proximity to me – their jaws dropped. No it was not April 1st I was being asked to locate aenior Royal who was visiting on that occasion.

In the January following I was asked to be secretary to the University Liaison Officer and ironically it was my previous training manager – Marilyn Gibbs (nee Smith) and the Personnel Director asked me to provide cover on Fridays and any time his secretary was on holiday or sick as she was returning on a part-time basis. She eventually left to raise a family and I stepped into the post as secretary to James Pease-Watkin. Subsequently he moved to another company and I worked with John Shrigley for six years.

To enhance my status as secretary and PA I applied to be a member of the European Association of Professional Secretaries. John Shrigley signed my application. I think he thought I was applying for another a job. Among other things this enabled me to learn how to do public speaking. It was interesting, because one year I went to a secretarial conference in Stockholm, Sweden. Two weeks before the conference I was asked to do a presentation about the future of shorthand in both the UK and Europe (covering for someone who had been double booked). I delivered my presentation in the Houses of Parliament in Stockholm.

I attended about 12 conferences across Europe. The icing on the cake for me was when I attended the conference in Montecatini Terme, Tuscany, Italy I was able to converse with Italian secretaries.

Then GEC-Marconi Limited was decentralised and John moved to Stanmore. I helped him install his filing system at Stanmore. A few months later I became PA to the Managing Director of Marconi International Marine Company working with Iain Dick and George Hill for six years. Whilst at Marconi Marine I was involved in hosting visits from a Chinese delegation. We even found a Chinese tea set so jasmine tea was the order of the day for a week. Also we hosted a visit by Lord Prior.

I then moved back to New Street as secretary to the Technical and Engineering directors, Dr. Steve Rotherham and Dr. Philip Thorpe. During that time I covered on numerous occasions for Pauline Easton who was working with the Finance Director sharing the office with Andrew Glasgow’s secretary. Subsequently as an Italian management Giorgio Ghiglione. I was at the forefront of arranging for engineering staff to learn Italian. Although I attended evening classes initially I was able to transfer to the company course where I studied for six years and obtained advanced Italian from the University. My role was very valuable in arranging visits etc. I was able to speak Italian not only on the phone, via fax and in person when greeting visitors to the company.

In 1989 I worked on the Personal Communications Networks Project with the technical director in Piccadilly, London. On arrival I was given a five minute crash course on the Apple Mackintosh computer. I was working with both American and English personnel on this project as part of a consortium. At that time there were bomb threats in London, quite often I found I could not use the underground and had to resort to London buses.

I also worked with the Commercial Director of Radar, David Harrison. Part two of my interview I had to be able to converse in Italian with a lady who I had never met before Un grand’ experienza! Needless to say I got the job. I was involved with the production of key tender documents, which successfully secured important MOD contracts. Sometimes working long hours to get the work done.
After 32 years’ service I was made redundant and have since worked for Essex County Council in a variety of posts, but I learnt so much during my time and have some very happy memories.
You have probably heard Peter say I am a keen folk dancer and I have been Chairman of Chelmsford Folk Dancers since June 2014. We have hosted folk dance from Annonay, France (Chelmsford’s town-twin) on a number of occasions. I am a former member of St. Mary’s Church choir, Great Baddow for 25 years still keep my singing up having been a member of the County Hall Singers since April 2004. I’m an actress and was secretary of Marconi’s Theatre Group and acted in two productions.

I received my long service award for 25 years’ service in the Marconi organisation in 1996.

Grazie a tutti per l’attenzione. Thank you for listening.