Haden Dispatches

                                                                 Dan Nethercott                   Martin Trimnell      Brian Presland        Andrew Harris                                                                                                                                                                       Steve Bird                                                    Rodney Sawtell 
Who are the other people ?

An Insite interview from December 1986
with E Michael K Mead

Forever Young with Haden

From the row of photographic portraits which still appear to exercise managerial authority over Bristol Office, the eyes of E M K Mead 1949 – 1965 seems to sparkle. And Pam Simms said to Insite during their branch visit. They still do. Mr Mead still keeps up his connection with Haden – he usually chairs one of the tables at our client Christmas lunch. “Now a quick calculation suggested to the editor that Mr Mead was over 80, and that calculation led to a suggestion for an interview, an invitation to Sunday lunch, and the renewal of acquaintance with a truly remarkable man.

We were greeted by Michael and Lesley Mead on the steps of ‘The Mount’ their home near Bristol, and learned before we went inside that the original farmhouse dated back to 1630, though a Regency front was grafted on in the 1830’s. Soon we were deep in a four-sided conversation in front of a log fire, surviving the interruptions and occasional assaults of Chippy the Siamese cat. And what an interesting story emerged.

Though he was born in London, Michaels ancestry stems from America, Sixteen generations ago one John Mead sailed in the 'Elizabeth’ in the wake of the Mayflower to New England with William Penn; they had been acquitted by a jury in a trial before the Lord Chief Justice, on the charge that being Non-conformists did they preach ….. In the streets of the City of London” That acquittal” remarked Michael, Was against all the evidence, and co enrages the Lord Chief Justice that he threw the jury into prison, an action which eventually resulted in the passing of the Jury Act. On the death of Michael’s grandfather, the family consisting of the widow, a son of 16 and a daughter, returned to England.

Michael was born in the early years of the century, and like his father went to Oxford, where he took a BA in engineering. He just missed serving in the Great War but “When the Turks started making bellicose noises in 1922, I determined not to miss the next one, so I joined the Inns of Court Regiment, a mounted unit, as a Trooper”. Part-time soldering did not prevent him advancing his engineering career in the Western electric Company, where he became involved with graduate recruitment: “Rather difficult interviewing Danes and Swedes, when I had only a smattering of German to eke out my English”. And with assessment of American patents.

“The America Parent AT&T of Western Electric began to look a bit shaky as the USA entered the recession” Michael recalled, “so I began looking at the Appointments Vacant columns in the newspapers. At that time there were vacancies for engineers in the Middle East, and one of the qualifications called for was the ability to pilot light aircraft - so I decided to learn to fly. After taking some lessons I began clocking up the solo hours necessary for a pilots licence, doing ‘circuits and bumps’ in a Tiger Moth. I remember vividly one incident: I realised on one of my approaches that I was going to undershoot, so I opened up the throttle and pulled back the stick. However the engine died on me, so I was in the classic stall and spin sequence with only 200ft on the altimeter. Well I controlled the spin but landed in the branches of a large tree beside the village pub – and was helped down from the cockpit by the butcher’s boy who was cowering in fright in the shelter of the tree.

Evidently Michael is one of life’s survivors when it comes to machines, when he earlier acquired his first car (for £42), the vendor took him out twice; the second occasion took them from Michael’s home in Woolwich to Hyde Park corner, where the “Teacher” climbed out saying “Now you’re all right” leaving Michael to carry on alone down to his parental home in Berkshire. And he’s never taken a driving test.

Well, he didn’t get to the Middle East, but joined G N Haden & Sons instead. In Kingsway office, Harry Bruce (A remarkable engineer”) taught him what he needed to know about H&V. Soon after he joined Haden, he was at a weekend house party in Berkshire where each guest was expected to perform; a girl from South Africa, who was training as a masseuse at Guy’s Hospital, elected to tell fortunes by palmistry, and foretold Michael would be married within a year. Perhaps that was giving fortune a nudge – anyway, little further was learned in the next 12 months; Lesley and Michael were indeed married at the end of 1933.

Just a month later, Michael was asked to go out to Hong Kong, to manage Haden’s contract for the Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank. “There are not many couples who can manage a two-year honeymoon in the Far East”, laughed Lesley. “We had a wonderful time, Although Michael’s salary was only £300, the rate of exchange was favourable and we – like many expatriates had three servants.” And because of my regimental connection I could afford to keep a couple of ponies, so I played polo in the summer and went out with the draghounds over in the New Territories in the winter” added Michael.

The bank was just a hole in the ground when the Meads arrived; but during their two years they saw it grow to completion, and felt a sense almost of ownership so that come the grand opening complete with the Governor of the colony and all the local bigwigs exploring their building, pride quarrelled with resentment at the intrusion. Michael recalled an amusing story about that occasion: “The night before this great occasion I woke up at 3am with a premonition that something was not right. I went down to the bank and found that indeed something was ‘not right’; one of the 250hp ammonia compressors hadn’t ‘got away’ when it was started up, and it had leaked ammonia all over the place. There had been a bit of a panic and all the doors had been opened to try and clear the fumes, but this had the reverse effect and they were drawn into the air-conditioning system. I sorted things out and we ran the system full out. It was touch and go whether we could get rid of the fumes before zero hour of 11 am – in fact I could still smell traces of ammonia when the official parties were wandering about. I was rather amused when one of my friends who attended the opening said to me ‘You know, one of the things that impresses me is the lovely fresh smell’.”

On the Meads’ return to England in 1934, Michaels first important contract was the 15 storey University Library in Cambridge. “All bookstacks – hardly any floorspace – distribution was a bit difficult,” noted Michael. “Although Haden did the design, Oscar Faber’s had a watching brief and I spent six weeks in their offices in Marchmont Street getting things agreed.” In 1937 Michael was asked to manage the Canterbury branch, which had been opened a couple of years before, and before the Meads moved house Michael commuted from Hampstead every day in his old Sunbeam (“No motorways then, but of course far less traffic on the roads”). He was at Canterbury for a period covering 12 years though for half that he was soldiering; towards the end of that spell coal supplies were getting very difficult, and Hadens were very busy with oil conversions. “We had some fairly peculiar fuels to handle, including a nasty one called CTF, but Max Priess seemed to come up with all the answers”.

Then in 1949 Nelson Haden asked Michael to succeed Alan Pullinger, who was moving from Bristol to Manchester. So Lesley and he once again had the wearisome job of house-hunting. “We looked at 33 houses before finding The Mount – and that was so immediately ‘right’ for us that we bought it in one week”, said Lesley. (Only someone with immense ‘pull’ at the Inns of Court could persuade the legal profession to complete a conveyance transaction in that brief time. Ed.)

Under Alan Pullinger, Bristol branch had developed a flourishing social life, and this expanded even more with the Meads. “Every year since 1951 we had a summer party at The Mount for all the employees and their families. Some of the ladies from the office helped me with the catering”, said Lesley, “and we used to have children’s races, and always a Tug-of-War”. As the strength of Bristol branch reached about 200, there must have been well over 500 at some of those parties, but the four acres surrounding the Mount could accommodate them with ease. “It never once rained on a Haden party day,” said Lesley thankfully.

Michael retired from Hadens in 1965, but his activities in retirement had been taking shape long before that. Both he and Lesley were elected to the Parish Council in 1954, and since then his involvement in local government has grown enormously. From membership of the Rural District Council, the 1974 reorganisation took him to the amalgamated District Council, which he chaired, in its all-important first year. He has also chaired for the past eleven years an association of six councils in Avon to thrash out common policies (“Succession politics is reaching a consensus – sometimes the consensus you reach is a fairly shadowy version of what you first hoped you might achieve”). Michael’s hard work and success have been recognised by the award of the OBE “for services to Local Government”.

You might think that these activities were enough to tax any man, but in addition he and Lesley are very active members of the local Conservative Association and of the British Legion – in fact on the day of Insite’s visit there were still a few of the 125 trays of Remembrance Day poppies waiting to be taken away by their team of collectors. Both sit on the Parochial Church Council, and Michael is also a member of the Deanery Synod.

And he still finds time for foreign holidays (to such interesting places as Crete & Turkey) and family life; their two sons and a daughter have presented the Meads with grandchildren ranging from 21 to 7, and the whole family tends to gather at The Mount at Christmastime.

In truth, a very remarkable man. And if you follow his recipe “Work harder in retirement than you ever did before” you too might be as active as he is at 83. 


Haden employees both ex and current will be saddened to know of the death of Tony (Dick) Barton (who worked at Bristol Office 1959 - 1967) who died suddenly on Thursday 10th August 2006. Many ex-employees will remember him from the days when they attended the City of Bath Technical College.

Sadly Ray Stanley died in February 2008 after a long illness. His funeral was held at Canford Crematorium.

Another ex-employee from long ago John (Doug) Pembury died on Saturday 6th September 2008. His funeral was held at Bristol South Crematorium. Tim Lewis a long time friend and business colleague of Doug gave a moving eulogy, commemorating his life. Read eulogy

The sudden death of Steve Lane in January 2010 came as a great shock to all his friends and ex-Haden employees. Steve had suffered
with diabetes for most of his life. His funeral was held at Canford Crematorium.

Margaret Gee, that we all knew as Maggie Pope died after a long illness. Her funeral was held at the Parish Church of Aust.  There many tributes spoken about Maggie by her friends. The church and additional marquee were filled to overflowing with mourners, for someone who was loved and respected in this small rural community.

Len Eades who served all his working life with Haden sadly died in April 2013 after a short illness.  His funeral was held at Haycombe Cemetery, Twerton, Bath, and was attended by many of his ex-Haden work colleagues.

Margaret Skeplorn was a typist who married Tony Barton. She died in 2013.

Dick Thier died after a short illness in December 2013. His funeral was held at Westerleigh Crematorium and attended by many of his Haden colleagues.

Laurence Johnson who now lived in Plymouth died in March 2015.

Derek Nethercott known to all his Haden Colleagues as DAN died on May 31st 2015 after a short illness. All his working life was spent with Hadens and he became one of the 'Haden Vets'. 
His funeral was held at Westerleigh Crematorium attended by many of his ex-Haden colleagues.

It was sad to read in a local newspaper of the death of Dudley Goodfield  on 12th April 2015. Dudley who started as a student apprentice left to join the MInistry as was ordained as a Reverend in the Church of England. His parish was local to Taunton in Somerset.

Cyril Ham who worked for Hadens most of his life died recently in 2017, The funeral was held at the South Bristol Crematorium.

Geoff Cooper joined G N Haden as a student apprentice in 1963. Later in 1969 moved to South Africa with Haden UK. Returned to the the UK in 1986 working again for Haden Young and then for Matthew Hall. Geoff had suffered with heart problems in recent years which led to another heart operation at Southmead Hospital. Sadly Geoff died two days later 28th February 2018.
The funeral was held at the South Bristol Crematorium attended by many of his Haden colleagues.

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