Friday, July 19, 2024

Life of Tomas Bata commemorated

THE grey clouds and heavy rain that has settled over most of England this summer, parted for the briefest of hours on Thursday, in an act that seemed to honour Tomas Bata. As was the tradition when the factory here was open, on July 12th, Tomas Bata’s life was celebrated and a wreath laid in his memory. The dedicated volunteers at the Bata Reminiscence and Resource Centre ensured this tradition continues. On this very special anniversary, ex-employees and estate inhabitants, were thrilled to be joined by Deputy Mayor Councillor Tony Fish, Deputy Mayoress Mrs Susan Bradish, Mr Stephen Metcalfe (Member of Parliament for South Basildon and East Thurrock) as well as Mr Antonin Hradilek, Deputy Head of Mission, Czech Embassy London to celebrate the continued vision of Tomas Bata and the Bata organisation.

However, what made this day so very, very special for all those whose lives have centred around Bata for close to a century was the presence of Mr Charles Pignal, the great grandson of Tomas Bata. Staff and volunteers were deeply moved by both his grandmother’s personal messages, sent earlier in the day via email, and his presence, honouring both the family and the staff for their commitment to the organisation.

After the speeches and messages of thanks, Fred Price and Joan James, both long serving, active members of the Bata Reminiscence and Resource Centre, accompanied by Ken Stanley (who laid a wreath on behalf of the workforce at the opening of this statue and the War Memorial in 1955), now 90 years old, laid a red boot shaped wreath at the foot of the Tomas Bata statue. Canon Paul Robinson then led the group in prayer, for both the Bata family and the continuation of his values and ideals.

As the group then retired to the old staff department, within the factory, memories flowed, as did tea, sandwiches and cake. There was a chance to share factory floor experiences, reminisce of who really did have the best football team and remember all that is good in the world. There was even a rare chance to view the exhibit, so kindly sent for the occasion by Mrs Sonja Bata, Director of the Bata Shoe Organisation, based in Canada. This small box contained some original pieces from the wreckage of the crashed plane that claimed the life of Tomas Bata on July 12th 1932, as well as rarely seen photographs.

It is a fitting tribute that 80 years on, Tomas Bata’s vision, his ideals and values are relevant, lived and celebrated within the current social context.


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