Mr Alfred Cattell J.P., a former Lord Mayor of Sheffield and a prominent Churchman, Conservative and a sportsman, died yesterday, after an illness of some months, at the age of 77 years. He was a man of many parts. Of comparatively humble origin, he rose through the force of his vigorous personality and strenuous endeavour to the honoured position of Lord Mayor of Sheffield. The ex-alderman was born in the county of Rutland, at Cottesmore, in the year 1857, and was educated at the National School, Cottesmore, eventually being apprenticed as a pupil teacher at Gerard Street Board Schools, Derby. He received his early training at St Mark's Church of England College in 1876-7.
He was successively headmaster at schools at Woodford Bridge, Essex; All Saints, Llanelly; and St Paul's Church Schools, Sheffield. When the Free Education Act was passed he forsook the teaching profession for business and purchased a wholesale business in the Castlefolds Market, Sheffield. Once started in business he was not long in extending his activities and he became managing director of Moses Eadon and Son, Limited and in 1911 formed with Mr Samuel Warren the steel manufacturing firm of Samuel Warren Ltd.
Shortly after going into business Mr Cattell began to take an active interest in public life. A man who evinced great enthusiasm in anything he took up, the late Mr Cattell owed a major part of his success to this excellent quality. From the day he entered the City Council in November 1899 as a Conservative member for the Park Ward he showed an abundance of energy in all his municipal wok. When the redistribution of seats took place Mr Cattell was put up by his Party to contest what was at that time a stronghold of Liberalism, the Heeley Ward and succeeded in obtaining a memorable victory over Mr J. H. Davidson, turning a Liberal majority of 620 into a Conservative preponderance of 948. From that time Mr Cattell maintained his reputation as a political fighter of the first rank and it was this quality together with his sound Conservative principles that enabled him eventually to take the position of Leader of the Conservative Party in Sheffield when the late Colonel Hughes retired from that onerous and exacting post.
Mr Cattell had all the qualities which go to make up the successful leader. A strong and forceful personality backed up by a generous measure of ability lent weight and strength to a command of language whereby he expressed his views. He was not a lover of lengthy debate, but never hesitated to join in the oratorical fray when he felt it his duty to do so. What he did say was usually to the point.
Scrupulously fair in all his political contests he was nevertheless an opponent to be feared by even the most doughty of the champions of Liberalism in the city. He had a biting tongue when the occasion demanded it, and did splendid work for the Conservative cause both in and out of season.
At one time Mr Cattell was chairman of the Attercliffe Parliamentary Division Unionist Association. Later he became chairman of the Park Division Association occupying that position until 1930 when he was presented by the Association with an illuminated address testifying to his services.
In Corporation committee work he always took his full share of the responsibilities. As chairman of the Watch Committee he had a particularly busy time whilst he did good service at the head of the Health Committee being one of the pioneers of the Child Welfare movement and the better sanitation of the city. A strong supporter of a progressive housing policy he was for a time chairman of the Housing of the Working Classes Committee. He was responsible for a housing exhibition at Wincobank which proved such a success. In fact anything which was connected with the social, moral and physical welfare of the people of Sheffield had his hearty support and warm sympathy. He was a member of the Old Age Pensions, the Education, Insurance, and City Hospital Committees.
It was during his year as Lord Mayor (1917-18) that he had to decide the ticklish question of the priority of appeal between an orthopaedic hospital for wounded soldiers and an effort to retrieve the financial position of the Sheffield Royal Hospital and the Royal Infirmary. Although all three objects had his warm support he felt bound to exercise his duty as Lord Mayor in favour of the orthopaedic hospital. It was under his guidance that the amount required was raised by public subscription. Mr Cattell was appointed a city magistrate in 1905.
Formed Citizens' Association
In 1920 Mr Cattell and Sir William Clegg – the latter being the leader of the Liberal group in the City Council – took the initiative in the formation of the Sheffield Citizens' Association. This step was taken for the purpose of consolidating the anti-Socialist ranks in the Council. Mr Cattell became chairman of the Executive Committee of the Association, Sir William Clegg being president. Mr Cattell continued to play his part as a practical leader in municipal affairs under the new grouping and did all in his power to meet the theat of municipal extravagance that came from the Socialists who were steadily gaining the ascendancy in the chamber. Six years later the Socialists came into municipal power and Mr Cattell was one of the Citizen aldermen who went into enforced retirement to make room for the nominees of the controlling Party. Mr Cattell's services as a member of the Council covered a period of 27 years. He was an alderman for the last nine years of his civic career.
The ex-alderman was a keen Churchman, as was evidenced by the fact that he was for thirteen years a churchwarden at the Sheffield Cathedral, and did yeoman service in its behalf. But his church work did not end here. He was a lay preacher of no mean ability and had occupied the pulpit in many parts of the country. He was invited to preach special sermons at the Birmingham Parish Church in 1917. It might be said of him that had he not been such a successful business man he would have carved out a career of distinction in the Church. He was a supporter of the Y.M.C.A., and was formerly an honorary member of the Sheffield and District Council.
Educational matters naturally appealed strongly to him and he was one of the earliest advocates of a university for Sheffield, a project he never tired of advocating until its accomplishment. His practical knowledge of educational matters made his presence on the Education Committee a source of strength to that body, particularly when it had to deal with the knotty problem of the extension of facilities for secondary education for the youth of Sheffield.
Alderman Cattell did a great deal of important work during the Great War. He was a member of the Sheffield Recruiting Tribunal, and numerous other bodies connected with the prosecution of the war. During his Lord Mayoralty he paid a visit to the Sheffield men in France, and visited even those in the front line trenches. "Tank" and "Crusader" week in Sheffield both took place during his year of office, and he gave an enthusiastic lead to his fellow citizens in these matters.
A Freemason of long standing, Mr Cattell was a Past Master of the Ensor Drury Lodge, No. 3278 and was a popular and much esteemed member of the Craft.
In his younger days, Mr Cattell was a sportsman of no mean ability. He played cricket for the Sheffield Shrewsbury Club for many years holding the position of captain and secretary. It was, however, at Rugby football that he showed up most prominently. Although an Englishman he played for Wales in their first game against Scotland in Edinburgh as far back as 1882. He was then a member of the Llanelly Club. The late Mr Cattell for the past three years had been the chairman of the Football Committee of the Sheffield United Cricket and Football Club of which he had long been a director. He was a member of the Ground Committee – old and new- for over 40 years, and a member of the football committee since the club's formation.
The story of Mr Cattell's first coming to Sheffield is well worth relating. He was a very fast forward in his young days, despite his 12st. 4lb. He was a schoolmaster at Llanelli, and it was only because of the pressure of his colleagues of the cricket team that he turned out for the Rugby club. It was on his way home from the match at Edinburgh that he got off at Sheffield in the small hours of the morning and had an interview with the object of obtaining a scholastic appointment in Sheffield. He got the post at St. Paul's, but he seemed fated to stay in Sheffield. Eventually he went into business at Castleford's Market where he became a member of the soccer team and kept goal for them.
One of the things that Mr Cattell did when he came to Sheffield was to organise a Rugby club which was the forerunner of the present Sheffield Club. Mr Cattell called a meeting of those interested in Rugby and rather to his surprise over 50 people turned up; men who had played the game at school or at universities but had made no attempt previously to get the game going in Sheffield.
The men who helped to form the club in those far off days were such well-known figures as Colonel H. K.Stephenson, Mr Mark Firth, Mr H. L. Dixon, Mr J. Atkinson (who subsequently was a well-known Hallowes golfer), Mr Bellhouse, Major Colley; Mr Bradbury, and Mr E. Hutton.
A very fine side was got together and they played all the best teams in the country including all those splendid Yorkshire fifteens which subsequently broke away and formed the Northern Union, with its professionalism and thirteen-a-side code. Sheffield Club became a power to be reckoned with.
Mr Cattell took up refereeing and officiated in a number of important games all over England, including several County Championship matches.
Although in later years Mr Cattell's chief interest in sport was limited to the fortunes of Sheffield United, he always took a keen interest in Rugby.
When he had to give up more strenuous games he played golf at Hallowes, Dronfield and with considerable proficiency.
Mr Cattell is survived by a widow, four sons and two daughters. His older daughter was teaching on the Continent at the time of the outbreak of the Great War, and was in Russia when the revolution overtook the country. The younger daughter worked on a farm at Letwell during the war.
Reference to the death of Mr Cattell was made by the Provost (Dr. A. C. E. Jarvis) at yesterday morning's service at the Cathedral and the congregation stood in tribute to his work.