PEOPLE – WHITE, H. R. Mr – Hon. Sec., Redcar Ratepayers’ Association

Accreditation Cleveland Standard 08/02/1935

   MR. R. H. WHITE
Hon. Secretary, Redcar Ratepayers Association

   No one understands him. He barely understands himself. Does not try to in fact – merely accepts all other things that worry certain people. Very self confident, undaunted, has never been disillusioned. A friend to anyone who wants a friend, rich, poor alike; the greatest champion of the proletariat on record – will champion and reasonable cause. Knows everybody – yet nobody knows him. Born to be a private detective or a journalist, but Dame Fortune was too kind to him. The finest news source in Cleveland – a man who always wears a smile. Does not know the difference between failure and history – always gets a prize anyhow. Leaps first and looks, but always lands on his feet. Hobbies: Unknown, Need I give his name.
Mr. H. R. White, of course Secretary of Redcar Ratepayers Association, hero of more than a score of municipal stories. He is undoubtedly a Live Wire, has an unlimited capacity of energy and vitality, as many have discovered to their sorrow. In the last few years has definitely been one of the Borough’s greatest blessings – a gift from the Gods to people who pay for it all. He has many friends yet many enemies, and his enemies are the delight of his life.

   Redcar’s greatest critic, it is his boast that he always admires honest, truthful criticism that is why I dare write this and risk his wrath. Though many men whisper his name he will not harm the truthful and law abiding folk. Those with something to hide tremble at his approach, for a thousand little birds twitter in his ear. No secret is in tact from Mr. H. R. White, and woe betides guilty conscience that crosses his path.
His life story has never been written and never will. He is a mystery to most people and claims that as the secret of the success of his enterprises. He spent most of his life in the insurance business. (I believe he was Official Superintendent at Middlesbrough for the Refuge Assurance Co.) and for many years sat on the local National Health Committee at Middlesbrough along with Councillor J. W. Farren.
“I saw your bill about the Personality No.1.” he told me a day or two ago.
“I believe you are down for personality No.2,” I said and he laughed, in the same strange way that he always laughs and makes the unknowing person believe he is enjoying a joke at their expense.
“Personality? No, not for me! Nobody knows me in Redcar, and I don’t want…. to. I am no personality here, a character maybe, but no personality. I’m not known in the way that people want to know me. I always know what I am talking about, and they don’t think I do. And that’s what I want them to think.”
What a lot of the people of Redcar owe to him they will never fully realise. He is the Ratepayers’ Association. Some say that he will retire from the position of honorary secretary, but I don’t think he will. He always does exactly what they think he’s not going to do. If he does retire there won’t be any Association because he is it. The people can’t do without him, and when his life is ended he can never be replaced. There can only be one H. R. White.


   It would be old news to tell of his battles and glorious victories. The last two years have made history in Redcar and we owe much of that history to Horace Ralph White.
When the Ratepayers Association was first formed the people gave one man the support and he promised them a lot in return. Some have grumbled at the bargain but he’s kept his promise. Where is the “hush, hush” policy now? Like a … under the auctioneer’s hammer going, going ….. Only one man could have done it – Horace R. White, the all powerful.
He is not Redcar born, that I know of him, but very little else. He hails from Portsmouth but has lived in this district for many years and knows more about it than most of the bred and born natives. He retired a few years ago, and it was then that he really began work – at any rate work in public life. It was fated that he should enter into the battles which the fates had destined for Redcar just then. War clouds loomed in the municipal heavens and things were very hazy. The people didn’t know what was happening or what was going to happen, but all in the garden was certainly not lovely.
And then came the champion. Quietly and gradually he came. No one suspected any thing, few knew even his name, and at that no time no one feared him. A few men began to think that all was not well with the town’s affairs, and they decided to form a body and to the Town Hall go flocking. One of these said they should find a secretary of some kind to organise a meeting and one day they knocked at a door in Laburnum Road and talked with Mr. White.
I think it was what the man had been waiting for all his life. He told me it was not, but he just thought he would like to do his bit and pull his weight with the people. A public service in the service of the public, that was all. Since then many have though him a public nuisance, but he likes them to think that.


   He accepted the secretarial position and the town was introduced to him.  Nothing much to look at: average size, light complexion, spectacles; a pleasant affable fellow he seemed. But the man has a headpiece, integrity, determination, and spirit. As well as these gifts he had more than his share of tact and common sense.
The first time the Town Council really heard about him was when he called on the late Town Clerk (Mr. Robert McClean) and complained about some churchwarden’s rates. That was the first of a series of surprises. They were astonished that I do know, although the town officials say he does not worry them at all.
“We shall be a thorn in their flesh until they give satisfaction,” he once told a cheering crowd. He has been-tracking them all down, giving all his time to voyages of discovery which have resulted in his unearthing the secrets at the Municipal Building.
Often I have met him in the street and the expression on his face has sent me immediately into action on my job. He is only an amateur but he can beat all our heads off. I have stopped him and he has said to me in a strange mysterious fashion, and with a smile, “I have heard…..”
It was generally too incredible to believe and I seldom hoped of ever being able to verify what he had heard or suspected. But he was never so easily dismayed, and off he would go with the quick, springy stride. Before the day was out his rumours had been confirmed: the secret was a secret no longer. Someone or somebody was cursing to himself..
A lot of people in the town grumble at him, call him interfering, but he never blushes. He notes down progress only.
“Do you know Mr. White?” I once said to the Mayor (Councillor Farren). “Oh yes,” he replied. “We are definitely on nodding terms; “We always speak when we see each other.” He seemed to say this proudly.


   He once told me that he welcomed candid criticism and that every man could be criticised. “People criticise me and I criticise them,” he said. “I am not perfect and no one knows better than I.” There was only one perfect man ever lived and he was crucified.”
That gives us a peep into the man’s mind.
“Are you really going to retire from this Association?” I asked him last week, “Wait and see,” he told me, and laughed affably as usual.
I hope he doesn’t retire, it could be such a pity. The people will realise how they need him. I have got used to him that things would feel strange without his guidance in the Borough. I know there are many who would cheer at his retirement and, knowing this, I feel sure that he won’t retire just to peeve them. And then again the Association will not let him. I shall be there to hear the people’s cheers when their champion tells them of their next Ratepayers meeting that he has reconsidered his decision.
Just at present we are both on speaking terms but after he reads this we may fall out. I hope we don’t. All I know is that I cannot leave him out of this series, and he must be Personality No. 2. He’s the most interesting personality in Redcar. I don’t think he will like this but I hope he does – I must appeal to his sporting generosity anyhow, I can’t leave him out.
– H.P.


dean April 29, 2010 People & Characters