PARTNERS IN GRIME
The partnership of these two Quaker chemical cultists started in 1856, with Albright already having started white phosphorus production for the match industry after moving to Oldbury in 1851. Albright the chemist and Wilson the businessman “ a match made in heaven?”.
There are some who would misguidedly regard Albright and Wilson as heroes who provided jobs for local people and made Oldbury a place of enterprise and centre of industry. However as Quakers, how would these two men react to the knowledge that their business “enterprise” in the form of white phosphorus chemistry would be used to illicit warfare, kill and maim thousands of civilians, and illicit industrial pollution in the future by others in their names? What would they have made of birds being poisoned by white phosphorus at Rattlechain lagoon and “false statements and expressions of hope” proffered by foreign companies like Rhodia? Would they have cared? Would they have been shocked? Would they have been horified? Or would they have just issued empty public relations twaddle?
Arthur Albright lights went out in 1900, and he left a considerable fortune to two of his sons and his chemical partner.
John Wilson followed him some 7 years later, perhaps ironically meeting his end at “the deaf and dumb institution”. He left slightly more than Albright to his son MP, whom he graciously named after himself; £125979 15s 12d which in todays money, a calculator inflation app tells me puts this at £13.8 million.
The community of course was left with health and environmental concerns which persist to the present day.
Starting with bone ash, Albright and Wilson manufactured white phosphorus. Theirs lie in Witton cemetery and Selly Oak. Are they resting in peace?