Image: photograph of Sir Connop Guthrie, 1931 © RBS 2018
Sir Connop Guthrie (1882-1945) was a public servant and entrepreneur, who served as chairman of North Central Wagon Company, 1928-39.
Early life and career
Connop Thirwall Robert Guthrie was born on 6 July 1882. He served as a captain in the Grenadier Guards during the First World War. He was wounded in action, and subsequently went to America where he created and managed the British Ministry of Shipping from 1916 until 1918. In 1918 he was appointed Special Representative of the British Shipping Controller in America.
Financial sector entrepreneur
After the war Guthrie looked to the City for a career. He was a director, with Sir Robert McAlpine, of City General Trust Ltd, promoted in 1919 as a general finance and banking trust. He also appears to have been a director of Prudential Assurance Company.
In 1928 he, in equal partnership with Prudential, bought the entire ordinary share capital of North Central Wagon Ltd, a Rotherham-based hire purchase company which had recently diversified from railway wagon leasing into motor car finance. Guthrie, to whom Prudential loaned his part of the purchase money, became chairman of North Central Wagon Company for over ten years.
Guthrie transformed North Central Wagon Company's business. He masterminded the acquisition of Yorkshire Railway Wagon Company in 1931 and Lincoln Wagon & Engine Company, with its subsidiaries Southern Counties Car Finance Corporation and Consumer Credit Corporation, in 1935. This latter acquisition massively increased the scale and diversity of the company’s business.
Guthrie was also a director of Gerrard Industries Ltd, in which Prudential Assurance had heavily invested and which owned a subsidiary formed to develop colour film making. In 1934 the Hungarian film director Alexander Korda, founder in 1932 of London Film Productions, was seeking funding to develop and protect British film making. It was Prudential, encouraged by Connop Guthrie and Prudential’s secretary Percy Crump, which gave him the financial backing for the development of the colour process and construction of Denham Film Studio. From 1934 Guthrie was appointed to the board of London Film Productions.
During the Second World War Guthrie undertook, at the Prime Minister's invitation, a review of the heavy civil and industrial demands being made on the building industry by the strains of war.
His wartime government duties caused him to resign his executive role at North Central Wagon, instead becoming the company's president.
Honours and titles
Connop Guthrie was knighted in 1918. He was raised to the baronetcy in 1936.
Other honours bestowed upon him included:
- Chevalier, Legion of Honour, France
- Distinguished Service Medal (DSM), United States of America, 1919
- Commander, Order of the Crown of Italy, 1920
Guthrie married Eila Mary, daughter of Sir Malcolm McEacharn, on 14 October 1913. They had one son (born 1916) and one daughter (born 1919).
Guthrie lived at Eleigh Hall, Lavenham, Suffolk.
Guthrie died in London on 28 September 1945. A colleague, remembering his wartime service, noted in an appreciation in The Times that 'he never spared himself if he thought any exertion on his part would make for victory'.
His son Giles Connop McEacharn Guthrie succeeded to his title.
- Obituaries and appreciation in The Times, 2 and 5 October 1945
- Charles Drazin, Korda. Britain’s Movie Mogul (Tauris, 2002)