Personal Memories about Wilfred Brown

- Wilfred Brown joined Glacier at the age of 24 and married the boss's daughter. He became a lifelong socialist when they made him a lord in 1964. Alistair: Would it be fair to assume Brown was an opportunist as well?
- Wilfred Brown instituted the works council in every single factory within a year of becoming chief executive. He wanted to replicate the institutions of the state in an industrial organization. He forced managers to unionize themselves much interest to him. All that was in train until 1948 when Elliot came on the scene.

Speaker A A word more about Wilfred Brown. The family had been pretty well off, but had become relatively impoverished by the end of the First World War when all the shipbuilding in Glasgow just went ...

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Speaker A A word more about Wilfred Brown. The family had been pretty well off, but had become relatively impoverished by the end of the First World War when all the shipbuilding in Glasgow just went terrible. It was the Depression, and Wilfred was old enough to remember the slums of Glasgow and the terrible deprivation. He was a passionate believer that unemployment was just wrong and shouldn't be allowed to happen. So, coming from a fairly conservative family, he became a lifelong socialist when they made him a lord in 1964, he became Lord Brown of Macri Hannish, which is his favorite golf course. But he was a labor socialist life, Pierre, so he was passionate about unfairness and injustice right from the start. And I don't know the extent to which that influenced Elliott. I guess Elliott had had his own experience in the family. We don't know much about Elliot's family life, but apparently tricky, not happy. Lost his parents young. We all now know he changed his name before he went to med school. It wasn't straightforward like Wilfred Brown's. Brown was very, very soundly, grounded. You could tell there was confidence all the way through, except that Brown had a twin brother who was even more brilliant and irritatingly brilliant. Also a scratch golfer, so Wilfred had to apply himself with it. The brother was ridiculous. And Wilfred was also a very great technologist. His dad ran this electrical repair supply shop thing. And everybody at Glass here will tell you, if Wilfred Brown had gone to university, which he didn't, he would have ended up as a distinguished scientist at some just an extraordinary brilliant. But he never went to university. That wasn't the money. So he joined Glacier at the age of 24 and he was very enterprising, a brilliant salesman. And it's not irrelevant that the chairman and his daughter were both golf nuts and they had this young man in the firm who was a scratch golfer. So the chairman's daughter and Wilfred played in the summer forsomes at the local golf course. And then he married the boss's daughter, which is a sensible thing to do. Why not? The story then develops that she became pregnant in 1934 and died in childhood. The marriage was over almost before it began. Within a year, both of her parents died, as it happens. So Wilfred Brown's sister in law became the major shareholder. One of the major shareholders in Glass Metal Company and another major shareholder was the Skinner family, from where he got his second wife. So he he married Marjorie in 1938, I think, and both had a wonderful union for 46 years. I went to talk with her at length before I came up, check some of the details of the story. Okay. The war is approaching and Glacier is the largest manufacturer of plane bearings in Europe. So it's pretty important for the war effort to be embraced.

Speaker B Alistair, just so that I don't keep worrying about this, would it be fair to assume from those circumstances that Wilford was an opportunist as well.

Speaker A In a good way, but with all in a good cause. He was a top server. He covered the whole territory. That's a wonderful thing. He was a technologist. He was a deep thinker about the philosophy, democracy and so on and on the make.

Speaker B And that showed up in the way he played golf. He was aggressive, competitive, okay, but I.

Speaker A Guess the context he loved a good brawl, but it was never personal. It was just fun to have a good brawl. I guess the context of those days, Alex, if I was to guess at it, would be much more dynasty building, would be much more legitimate than we regarded today. You mean within the it's largely a family company, its origins in the deep south of the USA. But it was a complicated international organization, in fact, that caused all the trouble after the war, because the Ministry of Defence, or the General Ministry, it was, had suspended all patents and protections. Dassier had a kind of charmed life throughout the war, but immediately after the war, of course, they were sued by everybody for infringing the patents. It's one of the reasons that Glassier became financially weakened and had to be sold eventually. All of which Wilfred did very. So you've got the water. Now, bear in mind, Wilfred Brown has become chairman and chief executive at the age of 29. And this is really pretty major. There are six major production plants all over Britain, I forget, five, 6000 employees under a lot of pressure, without doubt, then these troubles begin to hit. But right from the start, I mean, within a year of becoming chief executive, he had instituted the works council in every single factory. This is going back to 1941. What you need to understand is that Brown was already on this pathway of seeing whether you could democratize an industrial organization. As we said, there's one very different assumption than those, because he was fond of the union. He saw the unions as part of the deal. Now, what was interesting about Brown was he had this conception, and Gee taught me a lot, that when your firms begin to get really big, as I said, like a tower, then you need to replicate the institutions of the state. So you need a legislature with proper representation. Now, that's because the Works Council, brown understood power extremely well. It's connected to the cult. He understood and was easy with power, but he knew that power had to be corralled. He taught himself history, and I absolutely, certainly taught Elliot history. I mean, Elliott had been deeply educated all these degrees, but it wasn't broad. And I think if everything knew about history, it was taught by it. Wilfred. And Wilfred talked incessantly about the 19th century and Britain, how at the beginning of the 19th century, the British right across Britain, were the most lawless out of control criminal societies in England, people were on the streets. People forget this. Eventually, they became the sober, virtuous Victorians that we know and love. But at the beginning of the 19th century, it was out of control. They were burning down Bristol and the Duke of Wellington was terrified by the mob. So it was the point that Wilfred made was that, well, within a century, they were transformed. But it wasn't a genetic change. They were still hoax, but they'd been brought within the Constitution, successive reform acts. What had happened was that this power had been corralled in an appropriate way. That was his model and that was his model for labor relations, how the relationship with the union should be. You must have a legislature and that was the works council, and you must have an executive, as you do in the executive arm of government, and that's for managers. He forced the managers to unionize themselves much interest to you, because he could see that they were going to get squeezed on pay. And of course, managers always fantasize they're part of the ownership, they're actually just hired hands. So in the end, he got them to unionize themselves as a management union. They're always coming up with schemes like kind of fun as it went forward, I think. But the third arm, of course, is the separate independent appeals procedure, which is the judiciary. So he was quite specifically wanting to replicate the organs of the state in the firm. Now, this was a very if you think about that, by now he's just in his 30s, but he has this grand vision of industrial democracy and he's using Glacier Medical Company as his test bed. It's extraordinary thing for a 30 year old Blake to be doing and all that's in train until 1948. When Elliot comes on the scene.

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Alistair Mant
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