Henry Joseph Jack

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Henry Joseph Jack
Official positions held:
FR Co. Chairman 07.1921 - 01.11.1924
FR People | WHR People

Henry Joseph Jack (1869 - 1946), one of the "Dolgarrog People".

The Croesor Tramway operated in various forms for over seventy years, so the appearance of Henry Joseph Jack on the stage for a mere six years would suggest that he was a minor player in the fortunes of the tramway. This was far from the case, Jack was neither a railwayman nor an engineer, but without his presence it is possible that the narrow gauge railways of North Wales would have faded into obscurity between the wars. [1]

Jack was born in Swansea on 9th October 1869. His father, Henry, a Maltster, died in 1879 aged 46, leaving HJJ's mother to raise him and his brother John. At the 1891 Census he was still living in Swansea as a wine merchant's traveller. He married a widow, Emily Hilton (nee Burn) on 2nd November 1891.

At the April 1901 Census, he was Managing Director of a wholesale dairy company and living in Bridgwater. The Cashier at the dairy was a boarder at his address. The dairy was being built that year under the name of British Dairies and came into the ownership of J. Higgs & Co. Ltd, set up in October 1901, Jack being a director and shareholder. In early 1902 Jack became Managing Director of Higgs's Farm Dairies Ltd which had been incorporated in 1898 to acquire a dairy business in Kennington, South London inherited by John L Higgs from his father. A prospectus was issued in May 1902 to acquire several dairies, including the one at Bridgwater. Jack was described as a dairy manager and as having 'many years experience in the trade'. However the business failed due, Higgs claimed, to trying to carry on too many businesses. In March 1903 creditors obtained an order for compulsory winding up. The Official Receiver and his assistant concluded that the business had traded at a loss and the company's transactions had not been sufficiently recorded. Also that there were omissions from the disclosures in the prospectus. Jack had resigned in December 1902 before the crash.

By 1909, he is recorded as being in Colwyn Bay, and involved with the reconstituted Aluminium Corporation at Dolgarrog. By 1915, he was the Managing Director, and living at Maenan Manor, Llanrwst. In 1920 Jack was elected as a member of Caernarvonshire County Council, later becoming Chairman.

In 1918 the Aluminium Corporation acquired a controlling interest in the North Wales Power and Traction Co. Ltd with which came the PBSSR. In April 1920 it gained control of the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways (NWNGR), and in July 1921 control was obtained by Jack and his colleagues of the Festiniog Railway. The Snowdon Mountain Railway was also acquired.

As a result of this, Jack was now in control of all the passenger carrying narrow gauge railways of that part of North Wales.

On 18th October 1921, the Light Railway Commissioners held a public inquiry into the Dolgarrog regime's plans for the Welsh Highland Railway. The Chairman of the Commissioners was quite blunt and told Jack that many local people held him in suspicion, being both a member of the County Council and in control of all the railways that were to make up the greater Welsh Highland/Festiniog empire. The Chairman told him that many people felt he wielded far too much influence, indeed it seems that Jack was always regarded as an upstart and an outsider from South Wales.

The Public Inquiry went the way of the railway and on 1st March 1922, Jack, together with Sir John Henderson Stewart and Evan R. Davies became the first directors of the Welsh Highland Railway (Light Railway) Company. As was to be expected, the new board were very upbeat about the future of the new empire and in the North Wales Chronicle, Jack stated that the WHR desired to put the railways in such a state that they would not continue to be a disgrace to the county. Jack predicted an upturn in the slate industry, but also suggested that the WHR would be most reliant on holiday traffic. He cannot be blamed for failing to foresee the terminal failure in the slate industry, but he did have the foresight to see the possible earnings from tourist travel.

The April 1924 AGM was a stormy affair and Jack was made the scapegoat for the losses made from the start of operation. Jack cannot be blamed for failing to predict the cut throat rates that local bus operators were charging which were putting each other out of business, never mind the impact they were having on the rail passenger traffic. The recipts from the FR were similarly down. Jack took the blame for the lack of success of the WHR and resigned with effect from 1st November 1924, being replaced by the company's engineer, Colonel Holman F. Stephens, who became chairman and managing director during 1925. This marked the end of the Dolgarrog regime on the railways.

The most visible and enduring impact that Jack had on the WHR was the result of his insistence that the stock be cut down to run through the Moelwyn Tunnel on the Festiniog line. As a result, Moel Tryfan and the carriages were cut down successfully, but Russell was butchered in vain and only once ran above Boston Lodge following the modifications.

Completing the story of Jack's career in North Wales, on the 2nd November 1925 disaster struck the village of Dolgarrog. The Eigiau Dam of the Aluminium Corporation collapsed, water having leaked under the dam which itself largely remained intact. The water poured into the Coedty Reservoir which being small was unable to hold it. The dam of that reservoir failed and the power station and the village of Dolgarrog, one mile below, were engulfed. Most of the villagers were in the Assembly Hall for the weekly film show and so escaped, being on higher ground. Sixteen lives were lost as a result of the collapse.

Jack emerged badly from this affair and in 1928, having resigned from the Aluminium Corporation, and NWPT, he left Dolgarrog. With, firstly, an accomodation address in London, he subsequently moved to 9 Grosvenor Gardens, Westminster. In 1933 he changed his name to Henry Jack Macinnes. His first wife's death, in late 1936, was registered in Worthing, Sussex.

In the latter half of the 1930s he was living in Holmdene, Fairford, Gloucestershire, and still held a majority of the WHR shares (52,391 Ordinary shares). He remarried, in mid 1942, to a Charlotte P Brezzie, approximately 20 years his junior. He remained Chairman of the SMR until 1945, and died, at the age of 77, in early 1946 in Tonbridge, Kent. A valuation of his estate, appeared in The Times newspaper, to the value of £63,458.

Re-edited from an article by John Keylock, assisted by David Gwyn and Michael Bishop

For a reappraisal of Jack by Peter Johnson see FR Heritage Group Journal No. 126 of Summer 2016.


Census Entry for 1881[edit]

An entry has been found for this person at 169, St Helens Rd, Swansea


  1. ^ John Keylock &c. "Most material", Welsh Highland Heritage, Issue 026, page(s): 001-003

Boyd, James I.C. (1975) [1959]. The Festiniog Railway 1800 - 1974; Vol. 1 - History and Route. Blandford: The Oakwood Press. ISBN 0-8536-1167-X. OCLC 2074549. 

Boyd, James I.C. (1986) [1981]. Narrow gauge railways in North Caernarvonshire. Volume 1, The West. Oxford: The Oakwood Press. ISBN 085361-273-0. OCLC 14641039. 

Boyd, James I.C. (1988). Narrow Gauge Railways in South Caernarvonshire, Vol. 1. Blandford: The Oakwood Press. ISBN 0-85361-365-6. 

Boyd, James I.C. (1989). Narrow Gauge Railways in South Caernarvonshire, Vol. 2, The Welsh Highland Railway. Blandford: The Oakwood Press. ISBN 0-85361-383-4. 

Johnson, Peter (2007) [1999]. Portrait of the Welsh Highland Railway. Shepperton, England: Ian Allan. ISBN 0-7110-2658-0. OCLC 41018741. 


See also[edit]