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Frank Parkinson

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Frank Parkinson (1887–1946), electrical engineer and philanthropist,

1887 born at Springfield, Guiseley, Wharfedale, Yorkshire, on 7th February 1887, the eldest of three children of Joseph Parkinson (1862–1902), stone mason and quarry-owner, and his wife, Ann Elizabeth, née Yeadon (b. 1861).

Educated at Guiseley Wesleyan day school, he took evening classes at the Guiseley Mechanics' Institute.

1901 Apprenticed at fourteen to Rhodes Motors, manufacturing electrical engineers, of Bradford and later Doncaster, he rose to works manager by nineteen.

1902 Inherited property from his father on his death.

During 1903–4, he took evening lectures in electrical engineering at the University of Leeds on a Baines scholarship.

1908 At twenty-one he started F. Parkinson and Co, electric power engineers, committing all his £21 Post Office savings, but safeguarded the family assets by conveying property inherited on his father's death to his mother, and laying the basis for a classic business creation myth. His origins were thus modest but far from poor.

1913 Founded F. and A. Parkinson with his brother, Albert Parkinson.

1946 Died on 28th January, at Sunninghill, Berkshire.


1946 Obituary [1]

MR. FRANK PARKINSON, LL.D., M.I.E.E ., was chairman and joint managing director of Crompton Parkinson, Ltd., and its associated group of companies. By his death, briefly recorded last week the British electrical industry has lost an outstanding figure.

Frank Parkinson was born at Guiseley, near Leeds. He served his apprenticeship with Rhodes Motors, of Riverside Works, Doncaster, a firm of which he was later appointed assistant works manager. He held that position until 1908. During his apprenticeship he attended evening classes and passed the City and Guilds course of machine design in the honours grade. During the period from 1905 until 1908 he gained a scholarship and studied at the Yorkshire College, which later became Leeds University.

On coming of age, he founded his own firm, F. Parkinson and Co., at Leeds, and began manufacturing A.C. motors. In 1913 he was joined by his brother Mr. Albert Parkinson, M.B.E. and the firm was later known as F. and A. Parkinson, Ltd. In those early days Frank Parkinson was not only designer for the firm, but also salesman. Later, as the business grew, he and his brother became joint managing directors of the concern. In 1927 an amalgamation was arranged with Crompton and Co., Ltd., of Chelmsford, and the late Colonel R. E. Crompton joined the board of directors. Thus was founded Crompton Parkinson, Ltd., now the controlling unit of a large group of electrical manufacturing companies, of which the best known are the British Electric Transformer Company, Ltd., Derby Cables, Ltd., Young Accumulators, Ltd., Electricars, Ltd., and A. E. Morrison and Son, Ltd. The remarkable and rapid development of the business, thus so shortly recorded, was in particular the work of Frank Parkinson. For, in addition to his considerable technical ability, he had also a gift for administration and great courage and determination. These qualities fitted him to become one of the leaders of the electrical manufacturing industry.

Throughout his life Mr. Parkinson took a lively interest in education. In 1936 he made a gift to the University of Leeds of £50,000 for a scholarship fund, which he followed in December of the same year with a further gift of £200,000 for the erection of the central block in the new university buildings. These gifts were made with the object of ensuring that future generations should be better equipped technically than earlier generations had been, for he held the view that in every section of our work in industry commerce, and science-the future would make much heavier demands on the younger generation than had yet been known. He thought that provincial universities were the best instruments for achieving his objects, because he believed that sterling quality and character existed in the provinces to a greater degree than in other parts of the country, and that the older universities were not so well qualified to meet his objects since they drew their students from a different strata of society. In January, 1939, the University of Leeds conferred on Mr. Frank Parkinson the degree of Doctor of Laws. Another educational bequest of Mr. Parkinson's was the gift in 1938 of £1000 to Newnham College, Cambridge, for its building fund.

At the outbreak of the recent war Mr. Parkinson was invited to join the Ministry of Supply to organise the electrical equipment of ordnance factories, and he was later appointed Deputy Director-General of Contracts. He was also entrusted with the building and operating of a large small-arms factory at Doncaster. These heavy tasks he tackled with his accustomed great energy and ability, but there is no doubt that the work undermined his health.

Outside his business and engineering interests, Mr. Parkinson was a musician of some merit. He was widely read, and took a great interest in modern farming. He was a member of the Institution of Electrical Engineers. Those who were privileged to know him best will mourn the loss of an outstanding engineer, whose great strength of character, cloaked by modesty, endeared him to thousands of his friends and work people, who will long cherish his memory.


1946 Obituary [2]



See Also

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Sources of Information

  • Biography of Frank Parkinson, ODNB