Albright’s toxic archives #13- Tom cat’s out of the bag

This is another post dealing with the notorious “Oldbury smell” and the fall out this smell of “tom cat pee”, actually a man made chemical, caused across a huge area of The West Midlands direct from the Albright and Wilson Trinity Street factory.

I have previously outlined the origins story. Then how the indefatigable Councillor Mrs Gunn brought it to the attention of the wider public by waving her withered bush. There was “chocolate gate” where the smell reached Birmingham and contaminated confectionary. It also reached Handsworth leaving people sleepless.

Then there was the political interference of Albright and Wilson cronies which I dealt with here.

This post deals with a couple of other Birmingham Post articles that I have found surrounding this public health issue, and offers an interesting juxtaposition of a political industrial shill and an independent professional observer. The contrasts could not be more stark between “Alderman” S.T Melsom – for some reason given the title of “freeman of Oldbury” as well as being bestowed the position of Mayor and that of Doctor Hugh Paul, the then medical director for health in Smethwick.

The article from 29th April 1955 deals with a report written by Dr Paul concerning the “Oldbury smell” which it states lasted for four years. The memorandum formed a wider arching discussion on air pollution in general and potential methods of tackling this.

“…an extremely obnoxious smell caused widespread discontent over an area populated by 1,500,000 people in 1949 and continued intermittently until late 1953.”


“It is obvious from any account of the affair that it took a period of four years to abate the nuisance , and a particularly nauseating and  offensive nuisance at that. “

Dr Paul calls out the failed “alkali works inspectorate” and its bureaucratic systems in which there was “no confidence” ,  instead calling for local authorities to be given powers to prosecute serial polluters like Albright and Wilson, who clearly did nothing at all to prevent this profitable chemical stream except issue platitudes and bullshit in equal measure. By all accounts a straight talking and sometimes controversial Ulsterman, he also advocated powers to fine the company or powers to shut their processes down if they were unable to control such pollution – which he clearly states that they could do in this case, even if this meant loss of money to the company.

A 4th May 1955 Birmingham Post reply from Melsom clearly demonstrates his priorities for the Quaker swindlers over the concerns of local residents of Oldbury.

“Oldbury had not made itself conspicuously by prosecuting industrial concerns from whose premises there was atmospheric pollution.”

How reassuring that this shill should defend a multinational polluter over local inhabitants- a true socialist I’m sure.

The claimed “success” that this fool talks about in the article was nothing of the sort. He spoke about “burying” it- – who knows where, and that it had continued for so long confirms that it hadn’t.

He also claims that the management had felt the pain of those whose lives they were making a daily misery. The war dodger Bill Albright who was responsible for introducing the chemical to Oldbury lost much sleep over this I’m sure.

Dr Paul had been in post for 28 years and retired in October of the same year (1955) that this criticism of the system, and the smell was made public. Perhaps this was just a coincidence, or perhaps there were other more sinister figures at work?

As a final footnote on this local smelly legend, it’s perhaps fitting that Albright and Wilson’s odours outlasted the final breaths of the man who had protected them for so long when the Alderman smellsome croaked in 1976.

Oldbury finally did get rid of its TOM.LOL

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