John MacKintosh Chapter XIV - Civic and Social Work
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
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
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
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 thatit 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
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
"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
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
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.
MondayMorning, Court. 4 p.m.
Tramways Committee. 6-30 p.m. Baptist Church, Annual Band of Hope
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