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British Industrial History

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John Barr (1859-1940)

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John Barr (1859-1940)


1940 Obituary [1]

SHIPBUILDING has lost one of its greatest exponents of recent years by the death of John Barr, which took place at his home in Beckenham on Tuesday, December lOth, in his eighty-second year. After an active career for many years with the Vickers organisation, Mr. Barr spent a further fourteen years in the organisation of the industry and its various administrative and commercial developments.

John Barr was born at Kirkby, near Barrow-in-Furness, in 1859, and received his early education at the Commercial School in Barrow. Like the boys of those years he was introduced to business at a very early age, and joined the staff of the Barrow Shipbuilding Company, Ltd., following on in the service of the Naval Construction and Armaments Company, Ltd., the predecessors of Vickers, Ltd., at Barrow-in-Furness. He was thus associated with the earliest development of the Vickers undertaking at Barrow, and saw it develop from comparatively small beginnings to the period of activity and prosperity which was reached under the leadership of the late Sir James McKechnie and Sir Trevor Dawson.

He served in all branches of the firm, and in 1927 was made a director and was given charge of the commercial department. Not only did he concern himself with the Barrow works, but he took a great interest in the reorganisation of Vickers' works in the South, especially those at Erith, both before and during the period of the last war.

In 1923 he resigned from his position at Barrow, and in the following year the industry honoured him by electing him President of the Shipbuilding Employers' Federation, an office which he continued to hold with distinction until the end of 1927. Before and during this period his invaluable help was always at the disposal of the industry, and for many years he was an active member of the Central Board and the Executive Committee of the Federation. From 1928 until 1937 John Barr was Controller of the Shipbuilding Conference, as well as a director of National Shipbuilders Security, Ltd.

He served on many Government Committees, and in particular was a member of the Committee of Inquiry appointed by the Industrial Unrest Commission in 1917 to look into the position of skilled men employed on munition work.

In recognition of his many services he was awarded the C.B.E. in 1920.

In business his interests were not limited to Barrow, and while Vickers held an interest in Vickers-Petters, Ltd., of Ipswich, Mr. Barr was a director of that company.

He was also for some time Vice-Chairman of the Iron Trades Employers' Association, and a director of Sir W. G. Armstrong Whitworth and Co. (Shipbuilders), Ltd.

He retired from active participation in the executive and administrative work of the central organisation of the shipbuilding industry in 1937 and the esteem in which he was held by his fellow shipbuilders was marked by the presentation to him of a portrait of himself painted by Mr. Howard Somerville.


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