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John Pender (1816-1896)


Caricature published in Vanity Fair, October 1871


Sir John Pender K.C.M.G., M.P. was born on 10th September 1816 in Bonhill, Dunbartonshire. His family had long association with the textile industry in the Vale of Leven and after schooling in Glasgow entered business as a textile merchant in Glasgow and subsequently in Manchester.

He stood as Liberal MP for Linlithgowshire in 1868, but was defeated by Peter M'Lagan in a prolonged and viciously contested election. He held property at Middleton Hall and Seafield


Oil industry interests


Sale of Bathgate Paraffin Works.— Mr James Young has sold the extensive paraffin works at Bathgate and West Calder to Mr Pender of Manchester for the handsome sum of £400,000.

(This widely published report presumably refers to the establishment of Young's Paraffin Light and Mineral Oil Co. Ltd, of which John Pender was a director)

The Falkirk Herald, 19th December 1865



On Tuesday night Mr Pender, one the candidates for the representation the county Linlithgow, addressed a meeting in the Corn Exchange, Bathgate. Mr Pender, who arrived at Bathgate from Edinburgh on the afternoon train, was met at the railway station by a band of music, which preceded him to the hotel, where he was cheered by the crowd who had assembled in front it. The Corn Exchange was crowded in every part—about 800 persons being present—and many were unable obtain admittance. Mr Pender, on entering the hall, was loudly and vigorously cheered by his partisans. He was accompanied to the platform by Provost Waddell (who presided), Dr Kirk, Mr Sinclair, Mr Dodds, and Mr Calder.

The Falkirk Herald, 16th July 1868


LINLITHGOWSHIRE ELECTION, The end approaches. The bluster, and noise, and turmoil the election strife in Linlithgowshire will end with the present week. Electors must now take their stand upon the one side or the other, vacillation is longer possible, and either M'Lagan or Pender must Saturday the constituency's choice. There should be no hesitancy on the part of unpledged electors as to the course they should take. We beg to remind them that the present opposition to Mr M 'Lagan was none of their bringing about, but that Pender is the nominee of a small, interested faction who, for their own purposes and for their own interests, have got him to contest the county against Mr M'Lagan.

At a small hole-and-corner meeting held in Bathgate, and attended by many persons who are now openly employed as the paid agents of Mr Pender, that gentleman was first proposed, and, without consultation with the electors anywhere else, entire host of canvassers were let loose upon the county to hawk about a requisition in his favour. Unceasingly ever since has the work gone on the employment being evidently most remunerative—and Pender, Pender, has been roared, drummed, paraded, and printed throughout the county, that the electors must this time have similar sensations when they hear or see for the millionth time the word "Pender" as landsmen have when at sea for the first time, and gale of wind blowing, they must on the point of calling for the steward. Who Mr Pender, and what has he ever done politically for the country that he should be thrust upon and even down the very throats of the electors of Linlithgowshire whether they will or not ? Certainly he is not a man, and he has done nothing whatever of which any constituency can reasonably proud.

We do not allude to the Totnes scandals—let lethe cover them; but was member of the House of Commons for few years, and have looked in vain to find one single remnant his Parliamentary career that can be pointed to with satisfaction. fact, he was seldom his place in the House —his own extensive business engagements taking up and engrossing nearly the whole of his time, there is no doubt they will again should Linlithgowshire be so unfortunate—of which, however, have little fear—as obtain him for its representative. The electors have solemn and important duty perform on Saturday, and the issue before them is, whether they prefer a stranger —with tainted and the disfranchisement of Totnes hanging heavily upon him—to ONE OF THEMSELVES, man identified with the county all its interests, and who has taken prominent part in every movement calculated to benefit it and advance its prosperity. As have said, Mr Pender has no time to attend properly either to Parliamentary duties or the interests the county. He could very seldom spare the time necessary come from M anchester to attend county meetings, however much his presence might be required, and in this particular the substitution of him for M 'Lagan would a great loss to the county, for there can be no doubt that, other things being equal, a resident county man must make better representative generally, living, he will, among his constituents during each recess, meeting with them face face shows and markets, and learning their wishes and opinions, than a man whose head quarters in England, and whose business engrosses ail his time.

On these grounds, then, Mr M'Lagan is certainly to preferred to Mr Pender, and notwithstanding all the aspersions cast upon him, we contend that is, in politics, as Liberal as his very illiberal opponent. Mr Pender goes in for disestablishment the Church in Ireland—so does Mr M'Lagan ; vote no confidence in the Disraelian Government—ditto. Mr M'Lagan ; and, in fact, there is no question likely to be brought before the Legislature in the ensuing Parliament that Mr M'Lagan is not sound upon Mr Pender, Let not the electors led away then with false assertions, processioning, torch light mountebanking, and the thousand-and-one traps laid to catch their votes. That they will be still further annoyed and pestered Mr Pender's large staff of paid import we have doubt; but Saturday will see the finale. Let them endure till then, and come to the poll, and there testify against the five months of persecution which they have been subjected. Never mind the noise and bluster, and, perchance, violence which may used prevent honest men recording their honest votes. Have faith the right. Scotland looks see how the electors will acquit themselves on the day of the poll, and have every confidence that they will again return and do credit to themselves and Scotland.

The Falkirk Herald, 19th November 1868



Sir John Pender's withdrawal from Parliament has been quickly followed by his death. - The news will cause general regret but no shock of surprise, for it was failing health which led to the "Cable King's" retirement from the House, and he had passed by more than a decade the term of life scripturally allotted to man. What we mean by the Nineteenth Century really began with Waterloo and Sir JOHN PENDER was born in the Waterloo year. Any life co-extensive with such a century could hardly fail to be interesting, provided that it were the life of a shrewd, observant man, as Sir JOHN PENDER' was; but his is especially notable in that, as all the world knows, it was bound up with the rise, struggles, and triumph of ocean telegraphy. Free trade celebrated its jubilee the other day, and it is a little curious that two such mighty phenomena of our age should come up for review so closely together.

Of the fathers of Atlantic telegraphy not more than half a dozen are now surviving of whom Lord KELVIN is the most conspicuous. FIELD and PENDER; the American and the Englishman who divide the chief honours of the modern miracle, are no longer with us.

Sir JOHN PENDER came to the task with the greatest of qualifications. A canny Scot by birth, a Glasgow and Manchester merchant by calling, he had amassed a fortune and an experience of foreign commerce adequate to the great work. We cannot here tell over again the familiar but ever-charming fairy-tale of science: how FIELD convinced the two great Anglo-Saxon nations, how the Agameninon and the Niagara laid, the first Atlantic cable, how it broke down after it had taken her Majesty sixty-seven minutes to send ninety words to the American President, how FIELD and PENDER took the task up again, how the Great Eastern sailed, and how, after yet another failure, the cable was finally laid in triumph just thirty years ago. It is, a story which no novelist can hope to beat, but who of us has not read it ? And Sir JOHN PENDER was deeply concerned in all the gallant attempts. He gave FIELD the heartiest backing, was one of the directors of the first company, and, when the formation of that which finally triumphed depended upon the willingness of the Gutta Percha Company to throw itself bodily into the business, and that company, insisted on a guarantee of a quarter of a million, Sir JOHN PENDER (Mr. PENDER then) offered his personal guarantees and it was accepted without a murmur.

The cable would have come, sooner or later, we need not deny; but, failing Mr. PENDER'S guarantee, his enthusiasm and his energy, it would not have come just then. Every additional year without a cable meant so much material loss on both sides of the ocean, and the material gain of Mr. PENDER'S promptness was enormous. 'Nor did it end there.. The success of the Atlantic cable encouraged similar enterprises, and the Mediterranean, the Eastern, othe Australian, the South African, and the Direct African systems, and others, are the direct heirs of the Great Eastern's nursling. Practically every one of these was laid and maintained at Sir JOHN PENDER'S initiative or under his chairmanship. We have grown so used to "beating Ariel by so many minutes," as Lord KELVIN put it the other day, that we can hardly realize that thirty years have done it all. The wonder of the wire is a commonplace, but it is a commonplace which is worth dwelling upon every now and then.

Telegraphs and railways have done much for us as well as Free Trade, the Times diffidently remarked the other day; without a moment or two's thought we are apt to take it all as a matter of course, and forget how much they have done, how much we owe to men like Sir JOHN PENDER. The United States knew all about Yale's plucky fight almost as soon as we did in London. Oxford's victory on Saturday was known at the Antipodes: within a few minutes of the winning single being "telegraphed" at Lord's. And no one thought these incidents worth a moment's notice. We open to-day's papers and read of a defeat of the Matabele not three days old, of the very latest moves at Chicago. It is needless to dwell on these things. "The telegraph knows no politics," Sir JOHN PENDER was fond of saying, but where would politics, in these Colonial days, be I without the telegraph? The all-British cable proposal has gone straight home to our business instincts and our national sentiment alike. We knows what Australia, what Canada, what the Cape are doing. The indignation which broke out when the wires from the Cape failed early in January shows- how vital they are at such crises. Where would South Africa be now if Mr. CHAMBERLAIN and Sir HERCULES ROBINSON had not been at opposite ends of a wire? And the Atlantic cable, no less than the sense of of common ancestry, binds two peoples together in spite of an ocean between. "Peace on earth, goodwill toward men," was its first message in 1866 - and that is the sum total of its mission still.

The Pall Mall Gazette, 8th July 1896

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