M’Caw & Co.

A brief history of Sydney E. M’Caw & Co. prior to October 1964 by Anne Hector

SYDNEY ERIC M’CAW, Chartered Patent Agent, was employed by Wilson, Gunn & Ellis as a technical assistant for many years and his writing can be seen in some of the old Registers. He left the firm around 1951 and set up his own practice in Llanfairfechan, North Wales, at the same time operating as secretary for the Oriental Missionary Society which was an Evangelical Society working, so far as Mr. and Mrs. (Edna) M’Caw’s interests were concerned, in India. Missionaries on leave often stayed with them in their home. Mr. and Mrs. M’Caw were deeply religious and disapproved, not only of smoking and the drinking of alcohol, but also entertainment such as the cinema, television and theatre.

Whilst living in Llanfairfechan Mr. M’Caw worked for Wilson, Gunn & Ellis on a freelance basis. In 1952 he, his wife and son Martin (who is now a Baptist Minister) returned to Manchester and the Sydney E. M’Caw practice (later re-named Sydney E. M’Caw & Co.) operated at 15 Cross Street in a single room sub-let by an accountant. In the same year, Harold Knight joined Mr. M’Caw as technical assistant, having previously worked for E. K. Dutton & Co. during the period when it was owned by Wilson, Gunn & Ellis and for many years prior to that date, including during the time of the Second World War when he was also a Special Constable. He was very experienced particularly in the field of textile machinery but never actually qualified as a patent agent. A shorthand/typist was employed and, when she left in 1953, was replaced by Anne Hector who had joined E.K. Dutton & Co. in July 1952 but had left later in the year to work for a firm of Accountants. For several months she was the only support staff for Mr. M’Caw and Mr. Knight.

Two of the very early Clients to come to 15 Cross Street were Ivor Stoller and his son Norman who had bought an ‘off-the-shelf’ Company named Seton Products Limited. They had little finance but had two important inventions - their TUBIGRIP bandage and the bandage applicator. Since that time the Company has become a public company and is extremely successful. Their trade mark portfolio is now very significant.

The practice relied to a large extent during its early years on ‘sub-agency’ work from, principally, agencies in Liverpool, Nottingham and Leicester. At that time there was an acute shortage of chartered patent agents and one firm was so overloaded with work they suggested to Dipl. Ing. WaIter Jackisch of Stuttgart that he send his work to Mr. M’Caw rather than to them, and this proved to be very beneficial to the practice. (One of Herr Jackisch’s staff, Hannah Gunthert, spent a month working in the office for experience and to improve her already excellent English).

A Liverpool agency filed a patent application in the early fifties for Dr. Gerhard Dirks but, in view of the complexity of the invention and the length of the specification (around 300 pages plus numerous sheets of drawings), the application was passed over to Mr. M’Caw. Dr. Dirks was the inventor, inter alia, of the magnetic drum which at the time was a very important part of computer technology. He had left East Germany after the Second World War when Communism had become a serious threat to him and to his family, and entered West Germany with little more than his invention and the equivalent of about 10p. The specification had been drafted in Germany and extensive revision and amendments were required during prosecution. Dr. Dirks, sometimes accompanied by his wife and often accompanied by his German Patent Agent Dietrich Grosse of Hemmerich Muller & Grosse, came over to the UK to stay with Mr. and Mrs. M’Caw at their home in Didsbury on a number of occasions over a period of several months to work on the specification both at home and in the office (then comprising two rooms at 49 King Street).

Due to a change in the British Patent Rules in 1957, divisional applications had to be prepared and filed within a very short period of time - about three weeks. British Tabulating Machines Limited (now ICL) were in the process of taking licences under the patents and their Patents Department was at that time working closely with Dr. Dirks and Mr. M’Caw on the patent protection. Accordingly, Mr. M’Caw, Mrs. M’Caw and Anne Hector spent two weeks at the BTM offices in Letchworth, Herts preparing and filing 34 divisional applications!

The prosecution of corresponding US applications was also involved from time to time, which required the need for a U. S. Patent Agent also to come over to Manchester to work with Mr. M’Caw and Dr. Dirks.

Dr. Dirks subsequently became a consultant for IBM in USA. Further British patents were filed, some after acquisition of the firm by Wilson, Gunn & Ellis.

Over the years, a local firm of Trade Mark and Design Agents, recommended the practice to quite a large number of their Clients in respect of patent matters, which again proved to be very beneficial.

During most of the years of Mr. M’Caw’s practice, there was no photocopier, and no memory typewriter was ever purchased, so that, whilst there were not as many deadlines as there are today, there were still ‘panics’. As an example, just prior to Christmas one year, instructions were received from a Client to file applications for patent in respect of three inventions in 42 countries (i.e. 126 Applications) due by 2nd January. This involved Mr. and Mrs. M’Caw and Anne Hector working late one Friday evening and the whole of the next day, Saturday, until late, preparing the applications for dispatch on the following Monday. Stencils of the three specifications had to be prepared and copies run off on the Gestetner duplicator and each Order letter had to be typed out individually with carbon copies for the files.

The practice changed its address twice, first from the single room at 15 Cross Street to a suite of two rooms at 49 King Street, and then to four rooms at 17 St. Ann’s Square. Subsequently a further three rooms were acquired. Six of the rooms were on the same floor but were spread out along a very draughty corridor.

In 1962 Mr. M’Caw started to be ill with serious bladder problems and suffered terribly for two years, cancer eventually being diagnosed. During that time he continued the practice with tremendous courage and dignity, even working whilst in hospital. Over a period of two years, he was taken first into Manchester Royal Infirmary, then Christies, then the Private Patients Home and finally into the MRI again. During those times Anne Hector used to visit him either in hospital or at home (then in Heaton Chapel), taking work out to him, including the mail, and receiving dictation from him (sometimes at a table in the middle of the general ward) and bringing back to the office further work he had prepared in manuscript or on tape. There was technical assistance within the office itself during this period, albeit unqualified for most of that time.

When Mr. M’Caw realised that, at the very least, he would be away from the office for a considerable period, he decided he should look for a partner who would eventually take over the practice. As a result, John Galgut, a South African who previously was employed by an agency in London, joined the staff. He kept the wheels turning during this difficult time but neither he nor his wife were happy in Manchester and he therefore decided not to take up the partnership, although he agreed to ‘hold the fort’ for as long as was necessary. Mr. M’Caw was then in the MRI for the second time and he decided that the practice should be offered to Wilson, Gunn & Ellis. An informal agreement with them was reached but Mr. M’Caw passed away only a few days later and the formal agreement had to be executed by Mrs. M’Caw. It had been the original intention that Wilson, Gunn & Ellis should take over the practice in approximately six months time, but Harry Funge had to take over the running of the practice immediately without any previous opportunity to inspect files or records. John Galgut continued to assist for a very short time after the purchase and now has his own practice in South Africa.