John Mackintosh was born on the 7th of July, i868, in
the town of Dukinfield, Cheshire.
His parents were the children of
homely folk of upright character and industrious habits. His paternal
grandfather, William Mackintosh, came of a stock that hailed from
Inverness, and settled in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire. They were much
reduced in circumstances. While still a child, William was carried daily
on the back of an older worker to a cotton factory, where he toiled from
four in the morning until eight at night. Those were the "good old days"
which preceded the passing of the Acts that put an end to child-slavery in
Henry Burgess, the
maternal grandfather, was for years master of the British school in
Wellington Street, Dukinfield, and later a printer and stationer. He was a
man of strong literary interests, being a member of a band of
intellectuals locally known as the "Literary Twelve," which included
Samuel Laycock and several others who had skill in prose or verse. He was
keenly interested in politics and all that made for the public good, doing
much to secure the removal of a disadvantage from which Dukinfield
suffered through the lack of direct road connection with Ashton-under-Lyne. The river Tame, which divided the two boroughs, was passable only on
stepping-stones or through a ford. The present Alma bridge was built as
the result of a petition to Parliament which was engineered and presented in the House of Commons by a group of men of
whom Henry Burgess was chief.
There, on one side of the Tame, lived William and Hannah Mackintosh,
rearing their large family on hard work and plain fare; on the other
side, Henry and Martha Burgess reared a family as large, amid as difficult
conditions. Each couple brought to adult age a
group of children in sound health and imbued with good principles.
families passed through the tremendous experience known far and wide as
the Cotton Famine. The outbreak of the American Civil War in the spring of
1861 caused such interruption of the supply of cotton as led to the
closing-down of many mills, and short-time in the rest. All the years of
the war the shortage continued. The pinch was felt in most homes,
including those with which we are concerned ; though in them certain
members had always some work to do. Wise steps were taken to prevent
discontent breaking bounds. Help was organised on a great scale.
Educational facilities were placed at the disposal of the workers. Grown
men and women went to school; some for the first time. They began with the
alphabet, and were taught reading, writing and arithmetic. Henry Burgess'
school was open to the out-of-works, and Mary Jane, afterwards the mother
of John Mackintosh, assisted her father in his self-imposed task.
the men who took advantage of the educational facilities provided was
Joseph Mackintosh, the father of John. He saw in Mary Jane Burgess, not
the teacher only, but the wife that was to be. The teacher did not at
first smile on his advances; but inborn
resolution, coupled with native worth, ultimately prevailed.
attached to a place of worship Joseph to the Methodist New Connexion
Church in Stamford Street, Ashton-under-Lyne,
Mary Jane to the Albion Congregational Church in the
same town. At each Church a prayer-meeting followed the Sunday evening
service. Before their engagement both had been accustomed to stay for
prayer; and after becoming formally engaged, they agreed to continue the
practice at their respective churches. They did not enjoy each other's
society until the full round of Sunday duties was completed.
The young couple were married in July, 1865. The Cotton
Famine was over. The first loads of raw material had been brought in, the
people displacing the horses and drawing the vehicles through the streets
They began married life
humbly; but were not less happy on that account. The bride took uncommon
pleasure in the appointments of her home. She had a carpet in the living
room, an unusual thing in those days, when it was the rule to be contented
with the sanded stones of the floor. The kitchen chairs were of oak, with
smooth rush seats. Quite a feature was the big dresser, with its seven
drawers and centre cupboard, and its sycamore top scrubbed to a snowy
There was no honeymoon, and the
wedding gifts were neither numerous nor costly. There were dinner plates,
a china basin, a glass celery vase and salts, and a few other things. The
fashion of collective furnishing by friends was unknown, nor did their
friends possess the means for this. But if pride in home and joy in each
other be a chief asset of the newly-married, Joseph and Mary Jane
Mackintosh were rich indeed.
Into this home on
the 7th of July, 1868, came John Mackintosh. He was not the first child
born into it. The first to come (and to go' was Robert, who had but just
time to endear himself to his parents ere the call came which there is no
resisting. John, the second child, was to live on through one-and-fifty
strenuous years. A third son, now a minister in the United Methodist
Church, Rev. J. E. Mackintosh, of Derby, was born to the parents; then, in
succession, five daughters, three of whom are still alive, but two have
A few months after John's
birth his parents removed to Halifax, then a growing town in the West
Riding of Yorkshire. An elder brother of his father, after whom John was
named, had undertaken the position of manager to Messrs. Bowman Brothers,
who had just commenced business there as cotton spinners. Looking round
for helpers, John Mackintosh could think of none more likely than his
younger brother Joseph, who, at his suggestion, entered the service of the
Wages in those days were not great. A
pound a week, or but very little more, was what the young couple had to
live upon. On this income, however, they lived comfortably. They secured a
home in Woodfield Cottage, a charming old house that had been subdivided
for the use of workmen and was situated in a pleasant lane near the mill.
A bright living- room looked out through French windows on to a pleasant
garden. The yard made a fine playground for the children. A large
summer-house, with a swing hanging from its central beam, was an unfailing
source of delight to the young ones. The mother was an excellent manager.
Limited as her income was, she managed to insure the lives of her
children, and to set aside a weekly sum for church and rent.
From the Stamford Street Methodist New Connexion Church, Ashton, the
membership of Joseph and Mary Jane Mackintosh was transferred to the Salem
Methodist New Connexion Church, Halifax ; not the stately Salem that now
stands on Nortth Parade, but "Old" Salem, as it was long affectionately
called. In connection with the building of new Salem the following
incident occurred. At a meeting of Church members called to consider
plans, Joseph Mackintosh, though earning little more than a pound a week,
promised five pounds towards the cost of the proposed-church. At a later
stage he promised a second five pounds, which, like the first, was
punctually paid. The remembrance of such things in later days, when the
children were old enough to understand, made a deep impression on them. It
accounts, in part, for the scale of the after-gifts of John to the church
A further removal of the family followed the inclusion within
Messrs. Bowman's business of the large Union Mills in Pellon Lane. Joseph
was given charge of the three upper rooms of the new mill. This, besides
bringing increased income and responsibility, necessitated removal to the
west side of the town, which led the parents to transfer their Church
membership to the little school-church in Hanson Lane, the original of
what will be hereafter referred to as 'Queen's Road.'
It was in this new
sphere at Union Mills that Joseph Mackintosh's powers of management were
for the first time displayed. His natural force of character, and a
certain strain of sternness, made him a terror to evildoers. But he was at
heart resolutely just. He required from none a standard higher than the
one to which he himself conformed. For well-nigh fifty years he daily went
to and from the mills. Never was he late, though toward the end he took a
longer interval for rest at noon than was allowed to others. Always, wet
or fine, winter and summer, he was at his post by six o'clock in the
morning ; and within a few minutes of starting-time, he would go his
rounds. The iron door in the middle of the great room would be opened and
the slight form appear. Immediately all signs of levity ceased. The
flippant became serious and the idle industrious. The stern eyes took all
in. The bearing of the workers was an instinctive tribute to his
authority. His ascendency was complete. Men of the greatest technical
competence served under him, and also men of well-nigh untamable spirit
but there was not one who did not see in that quiet man his master.
When all went well he had apparently little to do. He
would be out of sight for hours. But if fire broke out, as it did more
than once or twice, there would be an exhibition of tempestuous energy,
and none would go nearer than he to the seat of the flames. If a rope were
weakened in the great rope-house, Mackintosh himself would repair it, and
repair it so well, and so fix it in its place on the mighty drum, that it
would transmit the drive of the engine to the machinery with a minimum
loss of power.
It was a lesson in patience and
in the art of observation to see him watching machinery with a view of
locating defects or of applying remedies. Wherever there was difficulty, a
breakdown, or danger, there was Joseph Mackintosh.
How he would have fared had Trade Unionism existed in
his day, one does not know. He served in the old days of individual
bargaining, and he served well. He would ill have brooked the harassments
modern employers have to face. He would have approved some developments,
but he would not have borne the dictation to which many in positions of
authority are now subject.
One phase of his
life impressed his 'family and all who knew him as heroic. As the result
of an accident in boyhood, which caused an injury to the roof of his
mouth, a malady developed which ultimately proved to be cancer. His
sufferings were great; but greater was the courage, the energy, the faith
by which they were borne. He felt he must not give in until his elder son
was launched in business, and his younger son seen through college. And
those who knew how racked with pain he was, how weakened with loss of
blood, how complete a stranger to ease of body and mind, could not see him
on his rounds without realising that here was a hero. The fact that he did
thus that others might have a better chance, made his sternness appear but
the shadow cast by inescapable calamity.
was the atmosphere in which John Mackintosh lived. Before his eyes daily
was an example of devotion to duty—stern and unbending devotion; of
business efficiency; of heroic persistency in work for the sake of others
when life was empty of pleasurable contentment.
John was not cast in the stern mould of his father.
There was more of his mother in him. He had his mother's brightness; her
kind ways her diffidence in saying 'No.' But in work he was his father. He
could toil strenuously. He could become a slave to the interests of
others. And when the suffering-time came, there was the same heroic
persistence to duty.
Not, like his father, did
he persist amid the clamour of machinery, but in the quiet of a managing
director's office, in public meetings, in Church courts and on the
magisterial bench. To those who knew him best, it was a relief that the
end came in the quiet of his own home, and not, as might well have been
the case, in the midst of some public function or business task.
Serving as the completest possible foil to his Spartan
father was John's mother ; his opposite, yet his complement, in all
respects. Though never a strict disciplinarian, she was able to get her
way with her children by the force of her kindly disposition. She believed
in a weekly half- holiday from school for her children—a popular enough
belief with them, though not always with the school authorities. She did
not allow her home-tasks to keep her from reading. She was younger than
most people of her years, and she deliberately kept young by loving young
things and having them always about her. She would even be guilty at times
of leaving occupations some would think should not be left, that she might
give the children a day in the country. And how they loved her for it I
She had a gift for story-telling, though not so great a gift as her
sister, 'Aunt Minnie,' who would come in of an evening and talk and knit
for hours. What tales Aunt Minnie told to the flashing of her needles I
She plied the children with romance and kept them in hose at the same
The father was over-strict at times; the mother,
perhaps, not strict enough. But, whatever the parents' defects, the
children knew that first things were first with them. The father would be
in his place in church twice on a Sunday, and his family with him. The
children would be twice also in Sunday school; and this, not of
constraint, but from choice. And busy as the mother was, she was one of
the most effective and popular Sunday School teachers whenever the
exigencies of family life made it possible for her to attend. Time and
again she was appointed, at her own request, to the most difficult class
'in school. She had a way with her that few could resist.
Church and Sunday school meaning much to the parents,
it is not surprising that they came to mean much to the children. It made
all the difference that the parents led in matters of religion and duty.
The children were predisposed to value highly what was valued by the
John Mackintosh entered this
heritage, and his whole after life was coloured by it. The heritage was a
strenuous one. Modern views as to the limitations of labour were not yet
to the tore. He began his working life in 1878, when but ten years old,
working as 'half - timer' for the firm which his father and uncle served.
He 'had no sense of hardship in this, but was rather proud of it. Nor was'
his position singular. The majority of the boys about him began work at
the same age. The question of half-time was not then regarded as it is
to-day. The standards of education were not the same nor were the views of
liberty. Men did not know they were ill-paid or ill-used. Youth did not
know it. Children, far from regarding halftime as a hardship, were eager
to begin. It was only in later life that the price paid in hindered
education and, perhaps, arrested growth, was realised. However, the price
paid, in many cases, was not great. The work was not too hard. The rule
was kindly. The discipline of drudgery was not without good effects.
Muscles were hardened, self-dependence was encouraged, and, by resolute
pursuit of private study, a degree of self-culture that seems lacking in
the more highly favoured young people of our time, was not seldom
attained. The conditions were Spartan, the tests severe; yet those who won
through came often into a richer heritage than is realised in these days.
For three years John Mackintosh was a half-timer,
working six mornings of one week, from six o'clock until one in the
afternoon ; and five afternoons of the next, from two to five-thirty.
He had to 'pass' the doctor—a kindly veteran, whose way
was to regard the examinee with shrewd eyes, give him a playful poke in
the ribs, and send him back to his work with a bit of wise counsel.
John's first week's wage was half-a-crown, and big
money he thought it. Nothing he afterwards received seemed quite so
satisfying, or had about it the glamour of that first earned coin.
At thirteen years of age he became a 'full- timer,'
working thenceforward the full fifty-six-and-a-half-hours week then
He worked twelve years 'for Messrs.
Bowman Brothers, rising from the position of 'half-timer' to that of
'minder' of a pair of 'twiners,' as the 'doubling' machine of that period
was termed. It was hard work, and not, after the first novelty was gone,
in the highest sense congenial. The thought was often in his mind, as it
had been in his father's before him, to leave it and launch out in some
At an early age John Mackintosh
became engaged to Miss Violet Taylor, also of Halifax, who afterwards
became his wife. She was as closely attached as he to Queen's Road Church
and School; an attachment she still cherishes. Drawn together by common
interests, they manifested a preference for each other which quickly
ripened into love. Sharing John's religious interests and activities, as
she afterwards shared those of his business career, Violet was from
beginning to end a true helpmate, without whom John's life would have
lacked something of strength and grace.
home in which John was brought up, though that of a working man, was not a
poor one. His father's earnings, except in the first few years of married
life, ensured a sufficiency of life's good things. Always a little was
laid by weekly, which furnished the means eventually of purchasing the
house in which the family lived. Later, the father's earnings were
supplemented by those of the children. The continuation of these
conditions of comfort, however, was contingent on the father's state of
health ; and that, we have seen, was not good. Shortly after the departure
of the younger son for college, the father's health broke down. For months
he was seriously ill. Recovering in part, he again resumed his labours, in
the hope that he might make things easier for his children. But it was not
to be. He was at length compelled to acknowledge defeat, and about
midnight on April 30th, 1891, he passed to his rest.
It was at this most difficult time, with sickness
hanging over the home and himself largely responsible for home
maintenance, that the decisions were made which resulted in the
commencement of the business with which the name of John Mackintosh is
everywhere associated. During an interval of relief at home, John married,
and took possession of Hanover House, in King Cross Street, Halifax, where
his career as a 'manufacturing confectioner was begun. For a time he
continued to work in the mi1l, but at length he gave it up and ventured on
the move that was to bring him fortune.
Letters written to his brother, and happily still preserved, reveal the
stress under which these decisions were taken.' They show one considerate
of others, helpful in the parental home, and intent on serving the Church.
On December 5th, 1889, John Mackintosh wrote :-
I have just
an hour to spare, so I take this opportunity of spending it pleasantly and
profitably; for although we cannot talk face to face, our talk will be
none the less real. I am glad you have kept us in mind so much while you
have been away, and that your different surroundings have in nowise dimmed
your vision of home. In a very short time you will be amongst us again.
How we are all looking forward to the time! I expect we shall all look
much as we did when we parted, unless it be a trifle sadder on account of
poor father. I am sorry to say he does not improve much yet. He has been
rather better for a day or two, but to-day he has fallen off again. He is
quite conscious, however, which makes it nicer for us all. It has been
rather hard work for us while he has been rambling. He wanted so much
watching, but he has been quieter this last night or two. We have stayed
up with him every night since he left his work, but have divided the work
amongst us. V. and I stayed with him on Saturday night, J.W. and A. on
Sunday night. On Monday night V. and I stayed with him until two a.m.,
when mother relieved us. Tuesday. I went to bed till twelve, and I stayed
up Wednesday night. Sometimes he looks as if he would get better. At other
times it looks impossible. We shall have to leave it in God's hands to do
as He thinks best.
"Christmas is almost here
again. How the time flies. It only seems a few months since we were boys
together making a list for Santa Claus. What happy times we had in that
old attic in Rose Street! How the room has echoed with our laughter? How
our mother's blood ran cold at our yells and din? And how we simmered down
when father put in an unexpected appearance? Well, we are not much more
than lads yet, only life has begun to be a stern reality. We have our way
to make in the world. A few years ago life was only a dream. We had no
care, nor anxiety about our future. Now we have to form plans on which to
build. We are often puzzled as to what is the best thing to do, but having
formed our plans, I pray that we may have strength to carry them out; and
that God will bless our lives, if not with abundant wealth in the things
of this world, then with abundance of grace and love for our heavenly
'I hope as each Christmas comes round, we shall get more
like Him, whose birthday we shall soon be so glad to welcome as Bringer of
peace and goodwill to all men.'
The remainder of the letter contains
news of Church and Sunday school. He is getting up a programme for a
concert and asks his brother's aid. He reports the doings of the 'Mental
Culture Class' and the successful visit of a missionary from China. Then
'I have exhausted my paper, and more
than my hour; and, like you, I have more to say. But I shall have to
submit to the inevitable and bring my letter to a close. I am writing this
in J.W. 's.; H. is here with me. We are keeping each other company. She
sends her love, as do Violet, Father, Mother and all at home.
The next letter was written sixteen months
Later. The father had recovered from his earlier illness, had returned to
work, and had again broken down. The writer of the letter had married in
the interval; had begun business on his own account ; and had decided
henceforth to depend wholly on his own efforts. The letter is a
characteristic blend of business courage, family feeling, and Christian
I was at our folks last night and promised to write to
you. I think this will be in place of sister's usual letter. I shall
have to be brief, as I have only a few minutes to spare. I shall be
leaving Bowman's on Thursday noon. I shall then have worked my notice.
You see. I am going to risk it. After considering all the points, 1 came
to the conclusion that the above course was the only one that ,as likely
to succeed. I should have liked to have kept on at the mill at least
another twelve months had things been different. We shall have to be
determined now to make things go.
"I suppose that sister told you in
her last how very ill father was. He is still sinking. I am afraid what he
said to you when you left about not seeing you again on earth is going to
prove true. We are expecting every day to be his last.
He has scarcely eaten anything for over a week; nothing at all since last
Friday. He has not strength enough to raise himself in bed. He is almost
continually repeating verses of Scripture, and he talks about going home
in such a splendid manner. He is quite different from what he was a while
back. He likes us to talk about Heaven, and the rest there will soon be
for him. He does not want to get better; all he is waiting for is Jesus.
He is not afraid to die. It is grand to think that, if we only will, we
may meet him again in health and strength.
has been a good father to us, and I believe what has made him cling to
life so, is his desire to see us all get a good start in life. He was only
saying to me on Sunday, he had hoped to see you through college and me
fairly into business. And he said he hoped we should help one another all
we could. I promised to do all I could to help you.'
The father died two days later. The business venture
was abundantly justified by results. The promise made by the father's
bedside was fulfilled.