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Joseph Dumville (1862-1959)

Published in the 21 May 1959 Telegraph & Argus (Bradford, Yorkshire)

Wool Trade Patriarch Dies, Aged 97

photograph: Joseph Dumville (1862-1959)

Mr Joseph Dumville, patriarch of the wool trade, who worked in wool textiles from the age of 9 to 92, died at the Duke of York Home, Bradford, last night. He was 97. He lived in Highfield Drive, Bradford and had been ill for some weeks.

Mr Dumville was a writer, lecturer, and consultant in textiles for many years. He was also interested in Freemasonry and in the Adult School movement.

He began work when he was 9½ years old in a Bradford mill and was connected with the industry until he was nearly 92. He went out to the United States as a mill manager when a young man, returned to become a lecturer in spinning at the old Bradford Technical College (now Bradford University), and when he retired from that job at 64 he became an adviser to local mills before going into partnership with one of his former students at the College, Mr John Warburton, as a textile consultant in Bradford. The firm was Dumville and Warburton Ltd., from which he did not retire until the eve of his 92nd birthday.

He was a remarkable man. With Dumville and Warburton he became recognised as an expert witness in textile dispute cases. He travelled abroad on the firm's behalf - to the Continent and to Ireland - even when he was approaching 90, and it has been said that in his specialist subjects of wool combing and spinning he had no equal.

Always a lively conversationalist and speaker, he often sparkled in the company of textile specialists from industry and from colleges and universities. When well turned 90 he used to attend meetings of textile bodies and social functions in Bradford.

Mr Dumville was an honorary life member of the Bradford Textile Society, the first to be elected in the Society's history. He had held every office in the society during his long years of membership, culminating in the presidency in the 1947-8 session. By virtue of his work as a lecturer, author, and consultant, he was one of the best-known men in the textile trade. Hundreds of students were trained under his supervision at Bradford Technical College, where he was lecturer in spinning and combing for 17 years.

Mr Dumville was a regular contributor to 'The Yorkshire Observer' and trade periodicals and had been editor of the Bradford Textile Society's journal. He went through the hard school of life, for he worked half-time in the mill, and his first school was St Paul's Church School, Manningham.

Mr Dumville had many interests and was a pungent speaker as well as a knowledgeable writer. He had a great command of forceful Yorkshire dialect and much to say on the virtue of a good day's work for a good day's pay. Indeed, in his presidential address to the Bradford Textile Society, he commented: 'Dodge work and you dodge life. In sport or labour, a spot of sweat and the satisfaction of a job well done is refreshment and life.'

Mr Dumville had held many offices in Freemasonry. He was a past master of Corinthian Lodge, Bradford, and was a past Provincial Brand Warden.

But perhaps his greatest achievement was to continue to work until he was on the threshold of his 92nd birthday. He actually retired - using the term in its accepted sense - when he was 64, from the Bradford Technical College lectureship, and it is of interest to recall that the late Professor Eber Midgeley, then the head of the textile department at the college, said on Mr Dumville's retirement that the wonderful progress of the section was largely due to Mr Dumville's enterprise, ability and loyalty. But retirement, as most men know it, was not for Mr Dumville. Within a few months, he had been invited by the Liberal party to contest a ward in the municipal elections. He was chairman of a group of Liberal trade unionists at the time. He became chairman of the Yorkshire section of the Textile Institute, of which he was a fellow and was elected a vice-president of the Institute on his 92nd birthday.

He had a very lengthy association with the Friends' Adult School movement in the city, and when he retired from the chairmanship of the 'B' division in 1933 he recalled that he had been associated with the movement for almost 50 years, and was one of those who used to teach men and women to read and write in the days when comparatively few adults could do so. He was treasurer of the Adult School for 40 years.

Mr Dumville leaves a widow and two daughters. One of his grandchildren is Miss Roma Denville, the Bradford actress, who is now doing film work in London.

A funeral service will be held at the Haworth Road Methodist Church, Bradford, on Saturday, before cremation.


Mr James H Shaw, former president of the Bradford Textile Society, in a tribute to Mr Dumville today said he had known him for 40 years - ever since he had been a 'half-time' student at Bradford Textile College under Mr Dumville, who was then a lecturer in spinning, 'I have always had a great respect for him. He was a wonderful man. He acquired a tremendous amount of technical knowledge - as wide as anyone of his generation - and he did a great service to the industry in passing it to others. He spread his knowledge, not only to the local industry, but to students in all parts of the world. Everybody had a great respect for him.'

See also:

Joseph Dumville: A Familiar Figure in Textiles



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