The founders of Cussins & Light Ltd first met in 1919 in Chester whilst both were serving in the RAF – Regge Cussins as a ground wireless operator and Pat Light as an airframe fitter. It was there that in their off duty moments, they built the kayak, Lucky XIII (shown left) on the river Dee near Chester.
A few months later, Regge was sent to Northern Ireland where in addition to his duties as a wireless operator, he was put in charge of the electric generator which powered the whole aerodrome. (He had in fact been trained for this having served an apprenticeship at the York Power Station on Foss Islands). He also accompanied his CO when the latter went for trips/missions in his Airco DH4. The picture from around 1920 shows Regge all togged up and ready to go. Note his heavy leather coat and gloves, the furry hat and puttees – not quite the attire one would wear today!
above : Pat Lights Wedding
This shot shows the two partners in 1961 outside the workshop at 17, St Andrewgate where their business had started in 1921. They had rented the property, built as the firestation of the Yorkshire Insurance Co, from a Mr Calvert for about 35p a week (their 1923 petty cash book shows a payment of £5..12..0d for four month’s rent).
At this time their sole aim was to avoid going on the dole (i.e. claim unemployment benefit). They would go to extremes to stay away from the labour exchange – soldering pans and kettles, digging holes in the road, making seed boxes for Kaye and Backhouse (local horticulturists),overhauling lawnmowers, literally anything to bring in some cash. The odds were stacked heavily against them. There were 3½ million unemployed in the UK in 1921. Their only capital was their combined gratuities from the RAF, roughly £70 in total. Their only clothes were their demob suits plus odd items of uniforms. To save money they resoled their boots with pieces cut from old car tyres. It is very difficult today to visualise life in the 1920s.
From the 1923-5 CandL petty cash book (a small 8x20 cm hardback volume
which was meticulously balanced to the last ½d.
(For the younger readers 1 shilling = 5 new pence and 2.4d (old pence) = 1 new pence).
The two partners were paying themselves £1 8s 0d each per week when circumstances allowed, which was by no means always.
The rent of their St Andrewgate workshop was £1 8s 0d per month.
1 lb putty 3½d
2 lbs nails 10d
Wood 23 ft of 4½”x3” 8s 0d
Coal 2s 6d
12 sheets of glass paper 1s 0d
2 lbs red paint 1s 10d
Large screwdriver 3s 0d
Secondhand lawnmower £1 4s 6d
Cheque book 5s 0d
Ladder rungs 1s 0d
Headed paper 11s 7½d
Fitter’s vice £1 15s 0d
Developer and fixer 2s 4d
8 1½d stamps 1s 0d
Chair leg 3d
Upholstering chair 3s 0d
Edison Bell condenser, 2 valve holders, Dubilier grid leak, Igranic rheostat 10s 0d
2 qts paraffin 7d
100 envelopes 1s 0d
Stanley plane £1 4s 0d
Advert for apprentice 1s 6d
Mower advert 2s 0d
Henley and Cotton ( motorcycles) advert 3s 0d
In 1925 the partners rented their first retail premises, 34 Walmgate from John Mawson, corn merchant, for £1 a week. This provided a shop selling not only motorcycles but wireless sets; both complete and in kit form. It also had a workshop and living quarters for Regge and his young bride, Queenie. The picture below shows Pat and Regge astride motorbikes with Queenie’s head just visible in the shop entrance.
To the left, the shot of Regge, Pat and Eric (Regge’s brother) was taken to be used as part of the front cover of a booklet printed in 1934 and entitled “Introducing the Radio People”.
Eric stayed with CandL until Easter 1939 when he bought Ariel House from CandL and ran it for the next twenty plus years before retiring. Ariel House was knocked down in the seventies but the site is still a thriving Shell petrol station.
In December 1946 Cussins and Light celebrated their 25th anniversary with a high tea-dance. At the time there were still widespread shortages and rationing. Things were by no means back to normal, whatever that is exactly. As a result, the directors, staff and friends met at the Feasegate Restaurant for high tea served at 6.15pm and afterwards marched off to the Albany Hall, Goodramgate for a dance. The picture below shows the front cover of the souvenir programme.
In “retirement” both partners remained very active. Pat loved playing the organ, shooting and woodworking (he had served his apprenticeship as a cabinetmaker). He was very proud of the reredos he made for Strensall church, where he was a churchwarden.
Regge, in addition to spending more time on his many hobbies, taught himself the art of silversmithing and how to polish and mount semi-precious stones, many of which he had collected from the beaches of Kintyre, Scotland. He wrote many articles for the prestigious American Lapidary Journal describing his techniques. In 1971, in celebration of York’s 1900th birthday, he presented two silver condiment sets (shown below) to the city to be housed in the silver collection in the Mansion House. He was told that this was the first time in nearly two hundred years that any silver had been added to the Civic Collection.
In the picture above, taken in 1971, CandL’s Golden Year, Pat and Regge are flanked by the second generation, Denys and Ron Thompson and surrounded by senior staff. There were many events held in celebration of its 50th anniversary and probably the most memorable was the gift of a copy of the CandL Golden Book to everyone who made a major purchase from CandL that year. This illustrated, nearly 200 page book which traces CandL’s first fifty years and has potted histories of the products they sold now trades on the internet for quite large sums of money.
This final picture, taken at the CandL 50th Anniversary Dinner in 1971 held in the Merchant Taylors Hall, Aldwark, York shows from left to right – Ron Thompson (Pat Light’s son-in-law), Pat Light with Liese (Denys’ daughter and mother of Chloe, who designed the latest CandL logo), Denys Cussins holding son Paul (who now runs CandL) and Regge Cussins.
Sadly, Pat died in 1972 and Regge in 1979.