An Office In A Bank | The Morson Story - Part Two
Morson Group has been celebrating 50 years in business in 2019. As part of our celebrations, we’ve created a book about the business; its foundations, its growth and its people.
Over the next six weeks, we’re going to be releasing excerpts from the book, charting the Morson story from its earliest days to the present day.
In 1970, the time had arrived for the fledgling Morson to move to a new office, and fortunately there was a perfect, if a little primitive, space located very nearby.
Bank Chambers was a set of small offices above a bank in Eccles’ town centre and one of Gerry’s first tasks on moving in was to hire someone to help with the company’s growing payroll. Unbeknown to him, the advert he placed in the local paper would lead to one of the longest employee relationships in the history of Morson.
In 1970, Pauline Hassall decided she needed to find a part-time job to help support her young family. “I saw one advertised with hours that were nine o’clock to twelve noon” she remembers, “skills required were book-keeping, typing, payroll, with shorthand a bonus. It was the perfect job for me, so along I went.” Pauline was nervous at the interview, but confident she had the right qualifications. And although Gerry’s belief in the future of his business was strong, he was careful not to oversell the situation. “I remember Gerry saying he couldn’t offer long-term security as he wasn’t sure if the business would succeed or not,” says Pauline, “of course, we all know the answer to that now.”
Fortunately, Pauline was offered the job there and then, helping Gerry firmly establish J. Morson & Co in their new offices.
“The staff was made up of Gerry the boss, Eric Anderson, who helped Gerry recruit contractors and find clients, and Gerry’s wife Margaret who came in every Wednesday to help me pay the wages. Mr Mason, Gerry’s dad, also came in to look after the office, as well as a lady who came in at 1pm to do the typing; although I never met her, because I always left at twelve noon.”
“To say it was basic is an understatement... everything was second-hand. I’m sure it was just plain floorboards with no carpets or any type of covering. In other words, we didn’t do fancy.” Pauline Hassall
Pauline soon became established as payroll manager and by 1972 the business had moved downstairs in Bank Chambers into larger space. “We were expanding and needed more staff,” says Pauline. That’s when I met Avril Robinson who is still one my dearest friends. Avril joined as a typist, the only problem being we didn’t have a typewriter, so Gerry borrowed one from the big engineering firm AEI, which if I remember rightly was one of our clients.”
With dark clouds looming in 1970s industrial Britain, growth wouldn’t be plain sailing. The first challenge appeared in January of 1971 when postal workers demanding higher wages voted for the country’s first ever national postal strike.
In a world before BACS and electronic bank transfer facilities, a failure of the postal service was catastrophic for public and business communications alike. For J. Morson & Co, who sent out all contractors’ wages by post, the threat was particularly acute, especially just after Christmas. Gerry Mason, who always put his contractors’ needs ahead of everything else, saw no alternative, venturing out into the harsh January weather to drive to each contractor’s home, handing over their wages personally. This routine lasted throughout the seven- week strike period. It was exhausting for those involved, but crucially it demonstrated both the credibility of the company and the value J. Morson & Co placed on its contract design engineers; virtues the Morson Group still upholds today.
The early 70’s saw much industrial unrest and in 1974, as a result of a national miners’ strike, most businesses using electricity were only allowed to consume power for three days each week. “This lasted from January to early March, but we needn’t have worried,” says Pauline, “because Gerry decided to ignore it and try and carry on as normal. I can even remember a policeman coming in one day and telling us to shut the office!”
Even when faced with challenges like this, everyone in the tiny team worked hard to get the job done and the happy family atmosphere that would characterise the company’s future growth was already well established.