Thursday, 11 March 2010

Hell hath no fury like an employee scorned

Beware employers everywhere! I have found a fascinating file of correspondence about a draughtsman in the Chance Lighthouse department who was dismissed from the company in 1867....but before I divulge any of the juicy details I will give you an overview of my progress. I finally finished cataloguing the Chance lighthouse records this week and I expect to have a draft catalogue finished very soon. I can then start addressing our backlog of enquiries, so if you have sent us an enquiry about Chances' lighthouse work I will be getting in touch very soon.

In my last week of working through these records I had two very interesting finds. The first was a large bundle of correspondence labelled 'Stevenson'. I am sure that this has already rung some bells with the lighthouse experts amongst you but as a novice, it was really interesting to find out that this bundle contained many letters written by a very famous family of Scottish lighthouse designers - the Stevenson brothers. The letters included are written by Thomas, David and Alan who were all sons of the esteemed civil engineer and lighthouse builder Robert Stevenson. It also turns out that Thomas Stevenson's son, who happens to be the author Robert Louis Stevenson, caused great disappointment by not following in his family's engineering footsteps and instead decided to write such masterpieces as Treasure Island, Kidnapped and the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. So CHAS now has a link (however tenuous) to the great Robert Louis Stevenson.

The second find came in the file of correspondence I introduced at the start of this post. The draughtsman was dismissed by Chances following a heated argument that broke out between him and one of James Timmins Chance's assistants in the Lighthouse Works. The argument was caused by the draughtsman's earlier retort to a letter written by the assistant that he deemed insulting. The retort came in the form of the following unflattering notice posted through the gatehouse door:

Transcription: NOTICE/FOUND DROWNED in the Liverpool Docks, on the Evening of the 28th inst., a man apparently not highly respectable, height about 5ft 8 1/2 in, weight about 13 Stone, being badly marked with the Small Pox, having a bad set of teeth, with little hair on the top of his head, and seeming to have been recently suffering from the effects of past indiscretions. From letters found in his pocket (but nearly illegible) it is supposed that he is from Great Arthur Street SMETHWICK

The correspondence does not, however, stop at this incident. Over the next seven years it becomes apparent that the draughtsman attempted to sell Chances' trade secrets and lied about his involvement in the construction of Chance lighthouse apparatus in a paper he delivered to the Institute of Civil Engineers. So, if you are having problems with your employees, watch out for a notice posted on your office door...

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