Stidston, Stoddard, Engelbregt, Ferdinands, Nazar-Sabejian, Stoddart, Devon, Scotland, Dutch East India
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 21st Birthday letter from staff, 1873.
James Wakeham,John Walling,21st birthday letter, Ceylon
Sticky-taped against the assault of time and handling, this letter (1873) from the staff of Stidston & Sons was presented to the young scion of the Stidston family, James Wakeham, marking the latter’s 21st birthday. Whether this document was prompted by genuine warmth and high regard, or proffered simply as a sound tactical measure to ingratiate themselves with the boss’s son, will probably never be known. Two points are intriguing...

First, James Wakeham, my great-grandfather, never did take the reins of his father’s business. Instead, he cleared off to Ceylon a few years later, seeking his fortune there, marrying a woman of Dutch descent. One of his sons, and his two surviving grandsons, eventually returned with their families to England in the second part of the 1900s.

Second, is the John Walling, representative of the Stidston shop staff and signatory to the above letter, the same Walling who took over the Treville Street premises a few years later? If so, we are potentially looking at the origins of an old management buyout here!

The painfully ingratiating prose reads:

‘Dear Sir,

We the Employe’s [sic] of your respected Father. have much pleasure on meeting you on this auspicious occasion to express our congratulations on your attaining your 21st Birthday, and in doing so, we feel that in asking the favor [sic] of your acceptance of a small token to commemorate the event, we are conveying to you the expression of [family? / friendly?] feeling which all entertain towards yourself.

We wish you many happy returns of this day, that your life may be long spared to be a good and useful one, and when you shall have done with things of time, you may enter upon a new life of blissful happiness in eternity.

Signed on behalf of the Establishment.

John Walling’


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