Barrie Liss's speech
'25' Club Dinner 5 May 2000

This is the 36th Annual Dinner of the Evode '25' Club and it is my pleasure to welcome members and their guests.

The 12 new members (more about them later) and our Guests of Honour, Alan & Mary Webb and Andrew & Kathleen Simon - a very warm welcome to you all.

This THE 1st Dinner of the Millennium, also marks the centenary of someone whose memory is dear to all Evodians.

He was the founder of the Company as we know it today and he was the 2nd member of the '25' Club.

On the 30th October 1900 Hermann Simon was born in the small country town of Mainhardt in Germany.

His father was a Doctor looking after a rural community, and young Hermann sometimes went along with him in the pony and trap.

He enjoyed his childhood and learned much about life. When serious schooling started he went to live with his uncle and aunt in Stuttgart. He was a good pupil - an all rounder and he soon shook off the country bumpkin image with which his cousin teased him and they became lifelong friends.

In 1917 towards the end on World War 1 Hermann Simon joined the Mountain Cavalry - having learned his initial horsemanship as a country boy.

After the War he went to university to study chemistry. It was the time of the great depression - German money was worthless. Dr. Simon told me that he once lived for a whole month on one American Dollar.

It was also at university that Dr. Simon was introduced to cigars. He told me that one of his professors always smoked a big cigar because it sharpened his awareness of specific poisonous fumes.

Many of you will remember, the doctor with a large cigar in his hand!

Some will remember that each day he would read all the post that came into the Company. It was taken to him in a series of departmental baskets.

Later in the morning, when the mail had been distributed to the various offices, recipients knew which particular letter The Doctor had dwelt on, because of the lingering cigar aroma!

Early in his working life, Hermann Simon went into industry, and with a partner, established a Bitumen and Paint manufacturing plant in Berlin.

He married Hildegard Leiser in 1932 and they lived a moderately comfortable life in Berlin where two of their three children were born, Marion in 1934 and Petra in 1935.

This was a time of growing anti-Semitism! For Jewish people in Germany the 1930's was a decade of anxiety and extreme unpleasantness.

Dr. Simon, his wife and daughters left Germany in 1938 and War was declared a year later.

The family settled in Stafford where Dr. Simon had been offered a job as the Chemical Director of a very small company set-up by the Bostock brothers to make polish for Lotus shoes.

Ironically - with the declaration of War - Dr. Simon was interned in the Isle of Man for approximately 9 months.

He was never bitter about this period in his life. He understood the anxiety of Britain at War with the Germans and not having sufficient time or information to sort out the Good from the Bad. The consequence was that most aliens (as they were called) were interned.

Dr. Simon's case was taken to the House of Lords and he was released after it was realised how valuable his knowledge as a chemical engineer was to the British.

The rest as they say is history.

There were products manufactured for densifying, waterproofing and setting concrete that enabled airfield runways to be laid. There were paints for camouflage and gas proofing. Coatings for sealing Nissan Huts, flat roofs and water storage structures.

There were products that revolutionised tiling, the shoe industry, adhesives applications. Products that were eventually manufactured in and exported to most parts of the world.

The War ended in 1945. There were 2 celebrations that year. The other was to mark the birth of Andrew Simon whom you all know. He was born in Wolverhampton which is why I think the Doctor was an ardent Wolves supporter.

In recognition of his Industrial achievements, Dr Simon was given one of the countries highest honours when he was made a Commander of The British Empire. - Very well deserved and satisfying for a man driven by evil from the land of his birth and who made a very significant contribution to his adopted country in defeating that evil.

We all have our memories of the Doctor, as he was affectionately known:

Short in stature, black hair, well tailored suit, often a cigar, voice modulated by an accent, 1/2 moon glasses over which he looked at you quizzically, a smile starting at the corners of his mouth, and often a twinkle in his eye!

When you spoke to him he was interested in what you had to say. He never ever forgot and he would surprise people with the little (often personal) things he remembered.

He practised what today might be called "Management by walking about". His frequent visits through the laboratories and factory were welcomed by most and feared (probably with good reason) by a few.

The words that were often used to describe him were:-

Anecdotes about Dr Simon abound. All who knew him have a story to tell. They would fill a very large book.

Dr Simon was the Chairman of the Group he founded and was active in its running to within 2 weeks of his death at the age of 78

Dr Simon was a much loved person. All members of the '25' Club share in the memories of this man who touched our lives.

This being the centenary year of his birth, I ask you to stand and drink a toast "to the memory of our founder"