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The Modest Millionaire

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The Modest Millionaire

A genuinely fascinating businessman, with workman’s hands, an old battered Austin, still labouring at 77, and keeping many a church going.

Documentary 1985 25 mins

From the collection of:

Logo for Yorkshire Film Archive

Overview

Bang in the middle of Thatcher’s yuppie revolution, but one millionaire refuses all the trappings of wealth to work for 12 hours a day, six days a week, alongside his workers loading and unloading barges as they transport steel from Rotherham to Goole. Victor Waddington, “one of the last Victorians”, prefers manual labour to the high life, and giving away money to spending it. Yet although he sees himself as “one of the lads”, there are hints that the lads don’t share his view.

This is a Yorkshire Television production, part of the Northern Line series, narrated by Geoff Druett. At one point Victor Waddington’s barge transport business was running 80 barges and chartering ships to take the loads on from Hull to Europe and beyond, although much of his wealth came from property. Boating was clearly in his blood, and it was much to his persistence that the (now renamed) Waddington Lock at Swinton had its cargo limit increased from 100 to 700 ton boats allowing the canal to compete with road and rail. He was a tireless campaigner for waterways transportation of goods until the end of his life in 1999, aged 91. As well as being a member of the Home Guard, his joinery shop made dummy guns for them.