The half-yearly meeting was held on Wednesday in the Board Room at Maryport. Sir W. LAWSON, M.P., Chairman of the Board of Directors, presided; and there were also present -- Messrs Joseph HANNAH, John FLEMING, Isaac CARTMELL, George STORY, Thomas MILBURN, Caleb HODGSON, and John CAMERON, Carlisle; Robert RITSON, Ellenbank; H. P. SENHOUSE, Netherhall; David AINSWORTH, Wray Castle; Major THOMPSON, Milton Hall; W. F. SEWELL, Brandlingill; Joseph ROBINSON, John ROBINSON, and Joseph NEWTON, Eaglesfield; Edward DEIGHTON, Great Corby; John WILSON, Fairfield; Rev Robert BEEBY, Uldale Rectory; Thomas MOORE, Low Mill; Thomas SELBY, Rogerscale; Thomas HORN, Baggrow; Joseph NICHOLSON, and Geo. JENKINS, Whitehaven; Joseph ROTHERY, Hensingham; Edward TYSON, Wm. HOBSON, J. H. WOOD, Joseph MARK, James ARMSTRONG, Wm. ADAIR, James DIXON, Hugh CARR, Hugh SMELLIE, H. KENYON, John COCKBAIN, and William WILSON, Maryport; William YOUDALE and Joshua INGHAM, Cockermouth; Thomas ALTHAM, Penrith; Daniel YOUDALE and Joseph HALL, Wigton.
The report, which appeared in last week's Patriot, was taken as read.
The Chairman, in moving its adoption, said -- The report is very short, which I think an advantage, as a long report generally contains, more or less, matters that are unpleasant. Of course, I should have been glad if we could have had a more favourable report than that which we have to give, but, as you all know, the trade of the country has not been in the most prosperous condition during the last six months; and we have suffered, like other companies, in proportion. In consequence of that failure of the trade of the country, the dividend is 1 per cent. less than it was a year ago, but under the circumstances we hope the shareholders will not be dissatisfied. You will find that the falling off has been almost entirely under the head of "merchandise and minerals," which is very natural, considering the state of the iron and coal trade during the period to which circumstances -- what we may call remote circumstances -- tell more or less on every kind of trade. I saw in a speech of Sir Edward Watkin, delivered to some of his shareholders the other day, that he said, the great coal-carrying lines had been affected -- that the diminution in the consumption of coal, and I have no certain extent something to do with the decreased carrying of coal upon many lines. Certainly we have had extra-ordinary weather, and too much water even for me. (Laughter.) Looking at the future, I do not think that there is anything particular to talk to you about. I saw that last night, in the House of Commons, Lord BEACONSFIELD said it was the intention of the Government to legislate during this Session with a view to check the number of railway accidents that occur in this country. I do not think that comes home to us in any unpleasant manner, because if must be a matter of pleasure to every shareholder to know that we have carried on the line for so many years with so great a paucity of accidents. I believe we have not killed a single passenger since the line was opened, and that is very creditable to all concerned in the management of our affairs, for it is our duty to protect all our passengers.
I remember some years ago that there was a slight collision, or something that occurred on a neighbouring line, and an official was asked a few days afterwards whether they had had any accident. "No," he said, "there was no accident at all." "Why, I think," said the other, "there was a collision." "No," said he, "there was just two or three third-class chaps jumbled up a bit." (Laughter.) I think we should pay more respect to our passengers than that, and whatever legislation or whatever takes place we shall endeavour to secure the safety of all the passengers that travel by our line. With regard to the future, there have been projects of new lines that may come into existence to the west of us. I need not go into that matter at present. I shall only say that we are keeping our eye on everything that is going on, as it is our duty to do; and, or course, it is our duty to see that none of these schemes or projects interfere with the interests of this Company, because if they do it is our interest to see if we cannot prevent them. I hope, after what we have passed, that brighter days are in store for the Company. I don't know that the weeks of the present year have shown those great signs of improvement which we would all like to have seen; but --
"The darkest day,
Live till to-morrow, will have passed away;--"
and I think that we are very near the end of those bad times. One matter remains which I have no doubt affects the railway interest, as it affects all the other interests in the country. It is the Eastern question. We have not seen the end of that yet, but we have every appearance that it will come to an end shortly; and it seems as if we could not go on very much longer without having some settlement of the matter. The game of brag, cross-purposes, mystification, and difficulty which has been carried on for the edification of the world must come to end some time or other. I hope it will end without war. If it results in war we shall all suffer for a time, even though that war should be carried on in the eastern part of Europe. If it should be settled without war, there is no one here who will deny that trade and commerce will greatly revive in this country. I feel sure, with that revival, that this Company will get its fair share of the benefits that will arise from that. (Applause.)
The motion was seconded by Mr. RITSON, and carried unanimously, as was the next resolution, viz., "That a dividend at the rate of 10 per cent. per annum on the stock of the Company be paid on the 1st March next, subject to the deduction of income tax.
Mr. CARTMELL moved a vote of thanks to the Chairman and Board of Directors for their attention to the interests of the Company. He commended the careful management of the line, but said he could have wished them to have given some explanation about the capital expenditure on Mealsgate Bridge.
Mr. MILBURN seconded the motion, and also adverted to the expenditure on capital, which had amounted to over 4000l.
The Chairman, replying, said the bridge at Mealsgate had been made in order to connect the new tramway made from the coal working to the railway, and to bring traffic on to the line. In addition to that, there was the heavy item of 3000l for new signals, which the Government insisted upon them providing.
The Secretary explained that Messrs GILMOUR and Company had sunk a colliery at Mealsgate, and had provided half a mile of tramway, on condition that the railway company extend their means of export to their utmost boundary. The Company agreed to do so, and in extending their line they had to cross the turnpike road. They had done so at the least possible cost. The money that the directors had been spending, in improving stations, &c., would go on for some time to come. The fact was that most of the stations had been built upon a limited plan -- some upon no plan at all -- because in those days much traffic was not expected. Now, however, the trade of the district had been developed, and traffic was being opened up in all departments. In consequence of the coal traffic, they had had applications for more coal depots at Wigton, so that the competition there might be carried on with other coalowners. Then, they had a cry out at Dalston, where the accommodation was not sufficient either for passengers or goods. The directors had decided to do something in both those cases. That was for the future, but the expenditure in question was going on continuously. The directors had been authorised to spend 1500l last half-year, but they had spent a great deal more, owing in one degree to the Board of Trade pressing them to provide expensive inter-locking signals. The fact was, however, that the directors had actually spent less than they had been authorised. That arose owing to the fact that the expenditure was as nearly as possible approximated for the half-year, but if, owing to circumstances of price of material and labour, that expense was not incurred in the half year for which it was granted, it was charged in another, so as to save the shareholders additional expenditure.
Mr. CARTMELL considered the explanation perfectly satisfactory.
Mr MARK moved a vote of thanks to the Secretary for his attention to the interests of the Company, complimenting him upon avoiding the policy of those companies who had failed owing to drawing upon capital rather than revenue.
Mr. NICHOLSON seconded the motion, remarking that if the directors had been at fault, it had been in the way of favouring capital at the expense of revenue.
The motion was unanimously passed.
Mr. ADDISON, in reply, said that when the traffic was at the ebb it was the anxiety of himself and the other officers of the company to exert themselves, and keep their eyes open, so that they might not lose anything, nor lose their position, as they knew matters in West Cumberland had been uncertain, doubtful, and they appeared to be so at the present time. That was a source of more anxiety. With regard to expenditure, as Mr. NICHOLSON had said, the directors perhaps favoured capital and taxed revenue. He (Mr. ADDISON) thought they would say that they worked on the conservative system, so far that when their income was growing, and the prospects of increased dividend were brightening, they did not hesitate to spend a little more out of revenue; in other circumstances they perhaps would draw upon capital. Many a concern had been ruined by drawing too much upon capital, instead of doing the best that could be done in times of prosperity.
This concluded the proceedings.