PEOPLE – FARREN J. W. Mayor of Redcar and Councillor

Accreditation Cleveland Standard (01/02/1936)

Councillor J. W. FARREN
Mayor of Redcar

   Tremendously proud of his job. Two areas of which he is justly proud. Sincere love for the Borough of Redcar and sings its praises far and near. But a North Riding man and never forgets to brag about it at the slightest opportunity.
Councillor John William Farren, present mayor of Redcar, has been of fefinite service to the town since coming here sixteen years ago, though it is rather surprising that after his first two months in the district he did not pack up his traps and run home.

   “It takes a long time before they trust you here,” he once told me. “You must live in a place years before you become a native. No one would have anything to do with me when I first came.”
But now they rave about him. He is one of the most popular Mayors Redcar has ever had. Maybe the secret of his popularity is that he has always the tact to talk their way. He cad adapt himself to any company and is never self-conscious. When with the merry set he seems at his best, at friendly informal meetings he can crack a joke and tell a tale with the best of ’em. But he knows how to be serious and at public funerals he is the perfect mourner.
The council meetings the people see him as a timid very effecient person. As Chairman of the Finance Committee he is Chancellor of the Exchequer for Redcar and a determined ruler of the ratepayers money. “Can we afford it?” they ask him at every turn, and his casting vote generall decides the municipal shopping.
Once with the opening line of a song “You can’t do that there hers,” he sreated hush in the public gallery when a wild chaos threatened and at the same time he showed that it is often wise for a man to forget his dignity especially when dealing with the proletariat.
Journalists love to call on him. A question is sure of a respectful if tactful answer, and unlike many officials he seldom says “I have not the authority to……”
Once I wrote a short fictious article on “Aren’t Mayors funny Men?”  The scenes and plot were set far away from Redcar but as it was intended for publication in this area I deemed it best to ask Councillor Farren if he had any objections.
“It isn’t about you.” I told him “It’s just a flight of versatile imagination.”
“Is it good?” he asked. “I don’t mind you know, but it’s what other people might think. Bring it to me and let me read it first.”
I never took it to him.
Though often misunderstood by them, he is a friend of the poor. He believes in heping those who help themselves but if a man is idle Councillor FArren despises him. He would rather see a man earn a shilling than give him one. When he visited the Redcar Unemployed he did not like it and said so. He thought the atmosphere was dreary and dismal and would have liked to transport the men to more cheerful surroundings. Everbody, did not like what he said about it, but Councillor Farren did not apologise.
He is generally of a suspicious nature and is always on the look-out for a trap. Once a man went to see him and asked for help. He said he was an unemployed man and had been out of work for many years. The Mayor asked how many years and the man told him.
“You’re not aa unemployed man.” replied the Mayor, “You’ve retired.”
He is like that and speaks his mind when ever the opportuiniy presents itself. It was just the same when a bosom friend of his mentioned a rise in salary. His present salary was not big enough to buy coal for the Redcar poor and he felt that a rise was jsutified. And then even, when the coal went up in price he didn’t let the poor people down but it was his brains and not his generosity that save the situation.
Of course he was brought up in a hard school. All his life he has worked hard and nothing but continued effort gave him success as a business man. Because he has always worked hard he can’t bear lazy people.
He was born at Sheffield in 1874 and moved to Leeds when only seven. Two years later, being the eldest son of a large family, he was sent to work in the mill. His ambitions at that early age were higher than those of the ordinary mill hand but he stuck the job for ten years. And then the mill was blown down and he was out of work. So maybe he owese his success to a good wind.
He could not stick unemployment, and unable to get a job as a mill hand, he tried the stage. But he did not end up in Hollywood and, although I am eager to sing of his vitues, he will agree when I tell him he’s no Clarke Gable. But he eventually managed to form a troupe and they were on the road for two years.
Then he tried insurance and in the North Riding I have heard him described as one of the best salesmen Leeds ever turned out, and that’s saying a lot. He took rapid strides in the insurance business and after accupying positions all over the country was eventually appointed district manager for the Royal Liver Friendly Society at Middlesbrough, a posiition he still holds.
Being familiar with the working classes and having intimate knowledge of their trials and troubles he was a useful man on the Middlesbrough Board of Guardians from 1911 to 1920, and was a member of the Middlesbrough Council for a year.
Some say he’s not much of a speaker but I think he’s clever. He can talk about anything and keep it up for hours if he wishes. He never troubles about preparing his speeches. He has amazed me when I have heard him give sound and fatherly advice to societies of which I had thought he knew nothing.
I like him least of all when he becomes reminiscent at public functions and hands out, as bold as brass, “chestnuts” which I laughed at when he told them first time. But he always gets them home, and they all laugh.
When, for the third time, he told the tale of the Pudsey engine going up a hill I made a wager with a friend that he’d never dare tell it again. But didn’t he? and the fourth telling was bigger an better than ever.
As an ogoist, for if not an agoist he is nothing, he has an ideal wife. Mrs. Farren always takes a back seat and leaves the glory for her husband. I think his wife is one of his greatest admirerers and she seems to enjoy his speeches as much as anyone. And to give him a free hand at dinner leaves no time for a lecture from his wife. When with him she seems happy and at home, but attending a function on her own she is a different woman.
To meet Councillor Farren is a pleasure and I always look forward to a chat with him. He once kept me engrossed for over an hour telling me of the glories of the Westminster clock which stands on his sideboard. And I enjoyed it

   —H. P.


dean June 8, 2010 People & Characters