A Roll of Honour: The War Heroes of J. Jackson Saint & Co.
When Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot in 1914, few could have predicted the seismic impact of that single bullet. The long, bloody war that followed affected almost every aspect of life in Britain.
Companies like J.Jackson Saint & Co lost their youngest, fittest men to the front line in Europe and the Far East. Some never returned.
Being the owner’s sons, JB and Roland Saint were possibly the highest-profile absences, but they were not the only heroes at the Lowther Street offices. Here we remember just some of the war heroes of J. Jackson Saint & Co.
Sydney Cartmel Heron (1898 – 1968)
Sydney Heron was just 14 when he joined Saint & Co. in 1912. Five years later he would become involved in one of the bloodiest, hopeless battles of the First World War.
The son of a stone-cutter, he grew up in a small house in Denton Holme with his parents, three sisters and a brother.
In 1916, the teenage clerk enlisted to the army, joining the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.
Remarkably his record of service has survived and it reveals some incredible detail about the young private from Carlisle.
At 19, he stood at 5ft 8” tall and skinny – the girth of his chest measured 33 inches. He joined the 4th/5th (territorial) battalion and arrived at Le Havre, France with his comrades on February 13, 1917.
It is likely he took part in one of the bloodiest battles of the First World War – Passchendaele, officially the Third Battle of Ypres. During a three month battle, often in deep mud and heavy rain, the Allies accumulated more than 300,000 casualties only to advance their front line by five miles.
Sydney appears to have survived that battle relatively unscathed, but his luck changed on October 22, 1918. Now part of the 1st/4th Battalion, he was badly injured. A contemporary account reported that the battalion moved into billets at Froidmont in Belgium on October 21. It continued:
“At 2 am on the 22nd, we relieved the 1/4th King’s Own in the outpost line – C Company on the right, D on the left, A and B Companies in support.
“We attempted to advance, but were unable to do so owing to heavy machine gun and artillery fire, five other ranks being killed, 14 wounded, and one missing.”
He suffered a shoulder and chest injury on that battlefield, suffering 30% disablement, according to the official records. After being treated at the Kitchener Hospital in Brighton, he was discharged on April 4, 1919, on a weekly pension of 8s, 3d.
Exactly 19 days later, he returned to J.Jackson Saint & Co in Carlisle. As a 15-year-old office boy, he had received 5/- a week. Now a war veteran aged 21, his salary was increased fourfold – to 20/- a week.
Little more than a year after he left the battlefield for the last time, he secured a government grant which enabled him to train as a chartered accountant. In the early 20th century, it was rare that men from such modest backgrounds could secure such precious funding.
It meant that Sydney Heron could afford to be articled to JB Saint for three years and nine months and it stood him in good stead for the rest of his life. He married in 1937 – by then he was living in Cockermouth, a qualified accountant. He was eventually made the manager of Saint’s Workington office.
Clara Fazackerley (1901 – ?)
For many, the First World War provided opportunities that would have been unthinkable just a generation earlier. In 1919, one young Carlisle woman seized an opportunity that was to take her to the other side of the world.
Clara Fazackerley was born in Upperby in 1901, the youngest child of Tom, a railway guard, and Mary Jane. Their life together had been difficult – by 1911, four of their eight children had died.
Her brothers and sisters had all secured employment by the time they were 15. It is likely Clara was a similar age when she joined J.Jackson Saint & Co, one of an increasing number of women in the workplace, eager to contribute to the family finances.
Her time with Saints is recorded in an old employment ledger found at the firm’s current office. In it, it states that her wage increased to 16/6 in the first half of 1918. But it also notes a brave and life-changing decision taken by this forward-thinking young woman.
On March 15th, 1919, almost as soon as she turned 18, she took up a posting with the Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF). Employed as a shorthand typist, she had secured one of the most lucrative jobs in this newly-formed branch of the military, earning 36/- a week.
At a time when women over 30 had only just been given the vote and ladies who wore trousers were considered “fast”, it was a courageous move by the Cumbrian teenager. Not only did she give up a secure job, she was also required to move away from her family and her childhood home in Beaconsfield Street, Currock.
Clara would have had to undergo a rigorous and complex selection process before she was recruited as a “penguin”, so-called because women were initially not permitted to fly. As a “member”, rather than an officer, she formed part of the backbone of the service.
Like her colleagues, she would have adhered to a strict code of conduct which, amongst many other things, forbade smoking in the street. These high standards led them to be viewed as the most professional and disciplined of all the women’s services.
But Clara’s role in the WRAF was short-lived. With The Great War at an end, the service was being wound up and on September 26, just six months after she was recruited, she was de-mobbed.
She appears to have impressed her superiors during her short time with the force: both her work and her personal character were “very good”, according to her certificate of discharge.
It is unclear what Clara did immediately after leaving the service but in 1922, she married Percy Thomas Cecil Mowbray, the son of a railway signalman, in Oundle, Northamptonshire.
Three years later her life was to change dramatically – again. On November 25, 1925, her 32-year-old husband sailed from Southampton to Uganda to take up employment as a works foreman.
Ever-adventurous, Clara, 25, followed her husband around the world and she embarked on the same long journey, alone, little more than three months later.
During more than a decade in East Africa – where they welcomed a son, Trevor – they helped establish a modern infrastructure in a country that was previously dangerously dependent on one crop – cotton. As a foreman, and later an overseer earning up to £500 a year, Mr Mowbray is likely to have been involved in building hospitals, colleges and drainage systems.
Herbert James Rigg (1891 – 1976)
A small man, with a slight speech impediment, Herbert “Wigg” was often a figure of fun at the J. Jackson Saint’s Lowther Street offices. Despite that, by common consent, he was a brilliant accountant who commanded respect from his colleagues and staff.
He was eventually to rise to partner of the firm, but the young butcher’s son began his career as an articled clerk just before the outbreak of war.
He was one of seven children brought up by George and Elizabeth Rigg, at the turn of the century, first at 115 Denton Street and later at 61 Dalston Road. His elder brother, George, followed his father into butchery, while another brother, Thomas, became a watchmaker. His sister Ruth was a school teacher.
In 1914 he joined the Westmorland and Cumberland Yeomanry as a corporal, and he joined the frontline in France on July 25 the following year.
He quickly rose through the ranks in the military: by the end of the war, he was a lieutenant with the Lothian and Borders Horse Yeomanry. He returned to Carlisle with decorations including the Victory Medal and the 1915 Star, and on taking up his old job at Saints in 1919, he commanded a salary of £250. But this hefty wage was not enough for the clever and ambitious Mr Rigg. A note under his name in the ledger of employees reads:
“Decided to take up an appointment abroad in Buenos Ayres but reconsidered his decision on having his salary raised to £350 p.a. and a promise of a partnership on becoming a Chartered Accountant.”
True to their word, within a few short years Herbert Rigg became a partner alongside John Boustead and Roland Saint.
He occupied an office on the first floor of the Lowther Street office, where he would walk around the building with a pipe almost constantly hanging from his mouth.
Contemporaries have described their fond memories of him introducing himself to prospective clients as “Herbert Wigg. R-I-G-G.”
Les Robson, an office boy for J.Jackson Saint & Co during the 1939-45 war, remembers Mr Rigg as a “fearsome” man who “ruled with a rod of iron”.
He enforced a strict policy of working from 9am-1pm, and from 2-6pm from Mondays until Fridays, and from 9am-1pm on Saturdays.
And despite his own tobacco habit, he refused to allow staff to smoke in the office – a policy that only started to change after the Second World War when some ex-serviceman were given special dispensation by the partners.
When Andrew Grainger returned from serving with the RAF, he approached Mr Rigg to ask permission to smoke at his desk.
The accounts clerk, who at more than 6ft tall towered over his superior, recalled that his boss looked up at him from behind his desk and said: “No Mr Grainger, I think it might stunt your growth.”
Furious, he handed in his notice the next day. Andrew Grainger went on to become one of the most successful businessmen in Cumbria, establishing one of the county’s first travel agencies, Cumbria Travel, and the accountancy firm Grainger and Platt.
Herbert Rigg retired in the mid-1950s and he died in 1977.
When his Thursby home went on the market shortly after his death, Mr Grainger bought it. He said: “I thought to myself, I’ll buy the bloody thing and I will smoke there.
“So I did.”
Mr Grainger is now a committed non-smoker.