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John MacKintosh
Chapter XIV - Civic and Social Work


 "I am a moderate man and can 'live and let live, looking for the best and not the worst in everyone."—J.M.

Halifax has been singularly happy in being the mother of men with a genius for business, who became the architects of their own fortunes, and then lavished their wealth in providing charitable institutions for their native town. Sir Francis Crossley, the head of the great carpet industry which made Halifax famous in the last century, with his brothers John and Joseph, were a triumvirate of whom any community would be proud, and their wise benefactions have blessed thousands of the citizens of Halifax.

There was also Colonel Edward Akroyd, whose father, like the father of John Mackintosh, was a member of Salem.

John Mackintosh was a man of like type. His gifts to local charitable institutions were large, and ever increasing in magnitude, and had his life been prolonged these would have continued. But doubtless the trying experiences of his early business life sapped his health, and to the fearful strain of this period we must attribute his comparatively early death. Ile packed so much into the fifty-two years alotted him, that it might be said of him in the words of Eliphas the Temanite, that, He came to his grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in his season." A man's age is not to be fixed by the calendar, for empty years do not count ;-

"A life of nothing's nothing worth, From that first nothing ere the birth To that last nothing under earth."

There is little doubt that had Mr. Mackintosh aspired to Parliamentary honours he could have risen to a high position in political life. Not that he possessed any showy qualities, but because of his clear, wide vision combined with practical efficiency. No one would more heartily subscribe to Dr. Clifford's declaration that "Cleverness is the bane of modern life." His moderation would not permit him to follow the 'Nestor of Noncomformity' in all things, but he was always suspicious of mere cleverness. Nor was he in any sense an opportunist, but referred the solution of any problem to great central principles. However, his time was so fully occupied with his business and the affairs of his church, that a close devotion to politics was out of the question.

It is no secret that the Mayoralty of the town could have been his had his health permitted. In the year 1913, after repeated representations had been made to him by his fellow-townsmen, urging him to enter civic life, he became a member of the Halifax Town Council, being elected for the ward wherein he had lived and worked all his life. One paragraph in his election address, stands out as typical of the man and his direct homeliness:- "I think I know something of the worries and anxieties of the various classes which make up the residents of the ward, and if I am fortunate in being elected your representative, I shall do my utmost to lessen these worries. Whilst I have my political and religious opinions, I am a moderate man, and can live and let live,' looking for the best and not the worst, in everyone."

Mr. Mackintosh's knowledge of the geography of the British Isles was almost perfect, his business and philanthropic interests having taken him to all parts of the United Kingdom. As we know he frequently visited America and most Continental countries, and on these tours he had been a keen observer of the life, customs, and methods of government of the various nations with whom he came into contact. In consequence his outlook was wider and his attitude more tolerant, than that of most men, and this was a good equipment for public life.

His own account of his early experiences on a public legislative body is vivid and interesting. At a local gathering he remarked:

When I was sent to the Council I felt like a boy who is going to school. I was still in 'StandardI' learning to make pot-hooks. But I do not think I blotted my copy-book very much, chiefly because I have been careful not to do too much. At any rate I am beginning to feel at home, and when one feels at home one wants one's own way, and in committees I have often surprised myself by joining in the arguments. However, I think I am getting on, and may find myself in 'Standard II.' some day."

This is a peep behind the blind that gives us a glimpse of the man's true personality. He was ever perfectly frank with those for whom he was striving, and was not content to lay results before them without explaining how and why those results had been achieved, and he never hesitated to tell them of the personal difficulties he encountered.

He soon won the respect of his fellow councillors and the absolute confidence of his constituency. He was neither strongly Liberal nor Conservative : mere party shibboleths had no attraction for him. The People, spelt with a capital P, and not party, for which in his judgment Roman lettering was sufficient I How true a test is this of the breadth of a men's mind! Yet he could not be classed as an "Independent," which is often the label of a mere crank. He was the people's representative, and he would vote for anything brought in by any party which he believed was for the good of the community as a whole.

When he became a magistrate for the Borough of Halifax he arrived at a position which he esteemed very highly. The dominant thought in his mind was how to temper justice with mercy, in the cases of those poor unfortunates who, did we but know all were more sinned against than sinning." Incidents of his sympathy and tenderness of heart when on the bench were numerous and striking. He was not given to the utterance of witticisms after the manner of some, but he earnestly strove to hold the balance even and to "make the punishment fit the crime." In this he feared lest through an excess of sentimental feel-
ing for the weak, he might be excessively severe towards the strong and guilty. "We have wife-beaters " he wrote " I like to give them "gypI'" But the child-offender and the aged and decrepit found in him a friend.

The quality of mercy is not strain'd,

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath: it is twice bless'd It blesseth him that gives and him that takes."

John Mackintosh put these immortal lines of Shakespeare into practice in such a way as to take the guilty hope and the innocent fear not.

On one occasion an old-age pensioner came before him charged with committing a technical error in not declaring a few extra coppers of his income. He was fined two guineas, but on leaving the Court he was met by Mr. Mackintosh, who presented him with the amount of his fine, the solicitor following this good example by fore- going his costs.

At another time some boys were brought before the court charged with playing in the streets. Here was exactly the type of offender whom Mr. Mackintosh could not punish, nor permit others to punish if he could prevent it. He persuaded the magistrates to dismiss the case,

"For," said he, "there is no other place for them to play in." A sensible attitude to adopt.

A great number of people of all ages came to him for advice on every conceivable matter, from finance to domestic trouble. One woman came to see him because her neighbour had given her a black-eye, another as to whether she might be permitted to give a similar decoration to her neighbour, because "She went and dropped my baby o' purpose." When such people were questioned as to why they went and told their troubles to Mr. Mackintosh, they replied, "Well, he knows all about us, and he has a kind heart and will help anybody."

In the social life of the town he was known as an ardent supporter of the temperance cause, but he was no more narrow and bigoted in this cause than in any other.

He delighted in the work of the Band of Hope. The movement in Halifax was at one time badly in need of a real leader who could and would lead. Mr. Mackintosh was the ideal man, but it seemed to the general secretary that it was too much to ask from a man on whose shoulders rested already such tremendous responsibility. However, he was soon relieved from his anxiety, for in answer to his invitation, Mr. Mackintosh replied with his usual directness ;-

"I would rather be President of the Band of Hope than Mayor of Halifax."

"I have friends," said he, in every walk of life, and amongst them many who are not total abstainers. There are brewers and hotel proprietors I very much respect. I am bound to because of their kindness of heart. But these friendships do not prevent me doing all I can for the cause of temperance. I never believe, however, that you can make a man a teetotaller by knocking a glass of beer out of his hands. If one tried this one would probably get a knock back and deserve it."

His great love for children made him favour the Band of Hope in preference to all other temperance movements. Because this organisation appealed to children it appealed to him. He believed in educating children in temperance principles as well as in other matters vital to their well-being; but he had little sympathy with what he used to call "street corner oratory." He did not therefore give much time to appealing to adults on the temperance question, believing that when a man had reached years of discretion he had a right to his own opinions.

When the question of nationalisation of drink arose he took a determined stand against the majority of temperance workers, telling them plainly that they ought to have accepted the proposals. In this his practical common sense was apparent. Realising that half a cake is better than no cake at all, he saw that, with the traffic in the hands of the nation, many of its evils would be done away and half the battle won. One of his Last acts, a few days before his death, was to make over several hundred pounds to the local branch of the Band of Hope Union, in order that his subscription of ten guineas per year might be theirs for all time. He also completed several other schemes which he had long had in mind in regard to his church and his business; which, viewed in the light of subsequent events, seems to indicate a premonition that his work was nearly done.

Mr. Mackintosh himself was a life-long abstainer. His mother took him when he was quite a little boy to various temperance meetings, and the impressions made on his young mind were never effaced. Those were the days when the Late W. E. Gladstone was the uncrowned king of England, and to him young England looked as a "saviour and commander to the people." At one of these meetings, after hearing of the havoc wrought by excessive drinking, the boy turned to his mother and asked, "Why doesn't Mr. Gladstone stop it?" Unfortunately, older people ask like questions concerning this and other evils, and often blame statesmen for not performing impossible tasks. But when he grew up he was wiser, and he could not be harsh in his judgments, nor extreme in his views on any subject. His attitude as a leader in the temperance cause was always sane, and like Oliver Twist, he would take all that was offered and then ask "for a little more." Had such wise counsels prevailed in the past much more would have been accomplished.

He was one of the stalwarts of the movement, but his judgment was unfettered by prejudice. Presiding over a large temperance meeting in Halifax, he clearly distinguished between the use of alcohol as a beverage and as a medicine. He had no sympathy with the attitude of mind which led some to say that they would sooner die than take alcohol, and he bluntly told the meeting that in the horrible trenches in France his son's life had been saved by the administration of brandy. This statement aroused much heated controversy, to which he showed supreme indifference. His sanity kept him from all kinds of intemperance, whether of thought or speech, as well as in matters of eating and drinking. Extremists injure every cause they advocate.

A remarkable gathering was held under the presidency of Mr. Mackintosh in connection with the Halifax Band of Hope Union in the Central Flail. The meeting was convened for the purpose of presenting long service diplomas to seventy-seven friends who had been temperance workers for twenty-five years and over. The aggregate number of years of service for the temperance cause, represented by the recipients, was 2,698, and five of them had each a record of half a century or more. Mr. Mackintosh, with characteristic humour, suggested that it was a kind of "Temperance Love-feast."

FTc never took up any public work which did not present an opportunity of doing good to his fellow-men. Everything he did in his public life he regarded as part of his religion. When- ever his special knowledge would be helpful to any organisation, it was always placed unreservedly at the service of the public. To him no meeting was too small, or too trivial, if through it some good might be achieved.

"Nothing in life," said he, "is so small that it can be safely neglected."

When he became a director of the Halifax Equitable Bank and Building Society, he accepted the position because of his gratitude for the help he had received in the past from this and similar institutions. His first small savings of a few shillings a week were made here. He hoped that as a director he might be able to help others in the same way. In this capacity he did much to encourage thrift in families with small means, and to assist them to rise to positions of greater ease and comfort. But these represent only a small portion of his helpful activities; for he was Vice-President of the Young Men's Christian Association; the Business Men's Club; and the Tradesmen's Benevolent Association and a host of others. It is a matter for wonder how he found time to Datronise, and take some part in the business of so many small associations, but he did it nevertheless.

He became a trustee of the Ex-service Men's Association, and he showed a strong interest in the men Who had fought, and who were in danger of being forgotten when the glamour ol the fighting had passed away. Many others apparently considered that with the cessation of hostilities their responsibility ended for the men who had given up home and business for their country's sake, and in some instances had lost both. As a vice-president of the Y.M.C.A. he came into close contact with the soldiers on leave, and with those who were on duty at home. In the dark days when he knew, as thousands of other parents in the British Empire knew of their sons, simply that he was reported "wounded and missing," his courage and trust in God never failed. He went his way easing his own hurt by cheering other poor souls who suffered a like sad anxiety. Throughout the entire period he made enquiries for the sons of other distressed parents as well as for his own son. Many a sorrowing wife and mother who received his kindly sympathy and assistance in those awful times thanked God for sending John Mackintosh to bring a ray of hope and comfort into their darkened homes. So many were the demands made upon him for information that he had a circular letter printed giving directions to parents of missing soldiers, and teaching them how to make enquiries through the proper official channels.

It afforded him the deepest satisfaction that in these trying times he was able to render generous financial help to the various soldiers' and sailors' funds. The Prince of Wales Relief Fund, The Prisoners of War, and the local "Comforts" funds continually received substantial assistance from him. It was "For England's sake," and he felt that he could not do' too much nor give too often, nor too freely, for such a cause.

He encouraged the study of music amongst the young people, and for many years he conducted the musical part of the Sunday School Anniversary at "Queen's Road." There was never a more popular leader, for "he had a way with him," and was able to get the very best out of the children. The anniversaries in which he took this leading part are amongst the most cherished memories of his friends, especially of those who were children under his instruction. He also became president, or patron, of nearly all the brass bands in Halifax, and he promoted the formation of the Mackintosh Glee Party at his own works. They rendered much assistance to the churches and philanthropic institutions of the town, visiting the hospitals, especially during the period when they were crowded with wounded soldiers. This Glee Party still keeps up its traditions and its numbers. It is a mixed choir of about fifty voices, all the members being associated with the various enterprises of the firm.

He was the friend of all associations for the purpose of fostering healthy out-door games, especially football and cricket. Right up to the end of his life he would attend football matches, and go occasionally to see county cricket, especially that struggle of giants when Yorkshire met Lancashire. For local cricket he rendered inestimable service, patronising dozens of junior clubs, and presenting the "Mackintosh Cup" for competition amongst local amateurs.

Both in public and in private life, he was remarkable for his love of children and his power over them. He had a natural gift of speech to children, and his addresses were so Simple that all understood them, and so full of the minute details dear to the heart of a child, that all were interested and instructed.

Children without-exception loved him with all the ardour of which their young hearts were capable. He could make up a tale for them on the spur of the moment, and he had a store of little tricks which were a never failing source of amusement. He never went anywhere without a pair of folding scissors in his pocket. He would cut out paper trains, fancy d'oyleys and a variety of other pretty things, thus keeping his youthful audiences amused and interested for hours together. Even in foreign countries he would gather crowds of restless children about him, and though unable to speak a word of their language, maintain their interest all the time they were with him. He had tricks with matches, pennies, and handkerchiefs which earned a volume of appreciation that would have warmed the heart of any professional entertainer.

He was not an artist, but he had an ever ready pencil, and many were the homely and humorous pictures he drew for his young friends. A great favourite was one which represented a railway station with every detail given, from the advertisement plates on the walls to the inquisitive old woman worrying the station-master. Another scene was the representation of the ever popular seaside, with sands, castles, steamers, yachts, lighthouses and seagulls. Nothing essential to the juvenile imagination was omitted from the picture. He also did conjuring tricks, and hundreds of people, both young and old, have been amused.

These things, though so simple in themselves, reveal a wonderful personality and a fertile brain. He was able to grapple with any problem, whether in his great business or in the children's nursery. His first thought, on returning home after a busy day when his children were young, was for the little people, even before his evening meal and comfortable chair. The shrieks of delight with which he was received nightly in his own family circle, testified to his realisation of the ideals of true parenthood.

In all great decisions Mrs. Mackintosh was first consulted, and instead of restraining his generous impulses she urged him to do all that was in his heart. She acted as a spur rather than a rein on his beneficence, a spur to which he never failed to respond. No man's record who has accomplished much in the world, is complete without reference to some woman, wife, mother, or sister, and it is largely owing to the good woman, who so bravely and patiently bears her loss at " Greystones " that there is so much that is worthy of remembrance in her husband's life and work. It was her gracious influence that enabled him to thread his way through the maze of public life with an ever cheerful spirit, a clear vision of all that was of real value, and a soul that was untouched by the sordid spirit of the age. His daily prayer was that of the saintly Father of the Church:- "Give me, O Lord, a heart that nothing earthly can drag down."

What Mr. Mackintosh's public duties involved may be partly guessed from the following page taken from his diary representing an ordinary week's public work, apart altogether from his business appointments

Sunday-3 P.M. Speak at P.S.A.
6-30 p.m. Special Choir Services, Church.

Monday—Morning, Court.
4 p.m. Tramways Committee.
6-30 p.m. Baptist Church, Annual Band of Hope Meeting, Chairman.

Tuesday—Morning, Court.
3 p.m. Opening Missionary Bazaar, Sheepbridge.
7-30 p.m. Chairman. Commercial Travellers' Temperance Association Meeting.

Wednesday—11 a.m. Waterworks Committee.
3 p.m. Deputation from Y.M.C.A. to see me at office. Evening—Council Meeting.



 


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