I've just seen this posted on the Facebook 'Wirral Virtual Transport Museum'.
It's an extract from the Birkenhead News & Advertiser of 9th Nov 1910 (with corrections) regarding the life and death of Sir J. Clifton Robinson.
During his career, this Birkenhead born man notched up a number of tramway 'firsts' that we never seem to hear of.
BIRKENHEAD NEWS AND ADVERTISER 9TH NOVEMBER 1910
“TRAMWAY KING” DEAD
Sir J. Clifton Robinson Dies in New York.
Sir J. Clifton Robinson, the “Tramway King,” died on Sunday night. By a strange coincidence he was seized with a fatal illness whilst travelling in a tramcar when returning to his hotel with Lady Robinson after paying a visit to Lady Robinson’s brother. Sir J. Clifton Robinson, who was born in Birkenhead on New Year’s Day 1848, has been connected with tramway’s the whole of his career. At the age of 12 he was employed at the princely wage of 2s. 6d. [221/2p] a week by George Francis Train, who ran the first street tramway in Europe from Woodside to Birkenhead Park. The system was inaugurated on the 1st August 1860, and among Sir J. Clifton Robinson’s most treasured possessions was a pamphlet giving an account of the inaugural banquet to which Mr. Train boldly invited all the crowned heads of Europe, excepting the “King of Naples” (who was unpopular at the time). The frontispiece of the pamphlet contained a photograph (which appeared in the “News” on August 31st of this year) of the first horse car, and near the car may be detected the figure of a small boy, an excellent likeness of Sir Clifton as he then was. Sir Clifton, who was an associate of the Institute of Civil Engineers, a member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers, was a managing director and engineer of the London United Electric Tramways, the imperial tramways, director and engineer of the Bristol tramways, and director of the Metropolitan district, Underground’ Electric railways of London, and Corris Railway. He married in 1874 Miss M. E. Martin of Blackrock Cork.
When Mr. Train returned to America he took Sir Clifton with him. Five years later young Robinson returned to England, and. After experience in Ireland, was appointed in 1875, general manager of the Bristol Tramway Company [horse drawn]. Twenty years later he installed the town with the *first urban electric tramway in Great Britain. He designed and constructed the pioneer system of cable and electric tramways at Los Angeles, C lifor ia, (sic) and pioneered the electric traction in London. His early work in London included the inauguration of the **Highgate Hill cable line, the first of it is kind in Europe, which the Lord Mayor opened in 1884.He was also prominent in the laying of other railway systems in various parts of the country.
Sir Clifton was one of those remarkable men whose natural abilities and resolution of character would make them masters of almost any form of activity to which they devoted concentration. He sailed on September 30th for Newfoundland on a mission on behalf of financiers who contemplated taking active part in the development of the colony.
Sir Clifton received his knighthood in 1905 and last February retired from the position of managing director of the London United tramways in order to take a mission to the Philippines where he was reporting on the possible employment of American capital in electric tramway enterprise. He was an ardent motorist and was fond of outdoor sports.
*This is incorrect as the first urban electric tramway was constructed at Blackpool in Lancashire becoming the first urban electric tramway on 29th September 1885, ten years before Bristol. The City to introduce an electric tramway was Leeds in 1891, four years before Bristol.
** The Highgate Hill Cable Tramway had, to say the least, a chequered History
, passing through several hands, and even closing for over four years in 1893 following an accident.
Full acknowledgement to the Birkenhead New.
This article, although rightly honouring the life and career of a talented man from Birkenhead, bears all the signs of “reader beware” not everything in print is correct.
In 1870 Train made the first of three widely publicized trips around the globe. He believed that a report of his first journey in a French periodical inspired Jules Verne's novel Around the World in Eighty Days and the protagonist Phileas Fogg may partially be modeled on him.