Webpage created: September 26, 2019
Webpage updated: September 26, 2019
ISAAC LATIMER (1813-1898)
Isaac Latimer was born within the sound of London's Bow Bells on April 2nd 1813, his father having come from the Welsh border, where the family were yeomen.
He started out in the printing business but began his journalistic career as a stenographer and was a user of shorthand long before Isaac Pitman invented his system.
Between the years 1833 and 1837 he was a reporter on newspapers in the Leamington, Northampton and Bedford. He was a contributor to "The Morning Chronicle" at the time when it was publishing "Sketches by Boz" and it was at his suggestion that Charles Dickens was offered a post on "The Daily News".
While living in London the young Isaac joined the first gymnasium in the north of London, which was promoted by his brother, Mr Thomas Latimer.
Mr Latimer joined "The West Briton", at Truro in Cornwall, on October 13th 1837, at which time he was the only public shorthand writer in the whole of Cornwall. He involved himself with various social and educational works and was soon invited to become the honorary secretary of the Truro Literary Institution, a post he held very successfully for seven years. He started a library and obtained between 600 and 700 books for it, which was no mean feat at a time when books were scarce and expensive. In later years the Institution closed but the library was purchased by Mr William Morton who presented the collection to the Passmore Edwards' Library at Truro.
In 1841 married Miss Mary Ann Paddon, the eldest daughter of Mr John Paddon, a Justice of the Peace and merchant with interests in Cornish mines. At that time many Cornishmen were considering emigration and Mr Latimer gave many lectures around the county on the question of sending people out to Australia and New Zealand.
He was invited to Plymouth in 1844 to become manager and editor of "The Plymouth Journal", a weekly newspaper that had been founded in 1819. About two years later the proprietors asked him to buy the paper and this, with some help from his father-in-law, he did.
With the advent of the daily newspaper "The Western Morning News" in 1860, he turned the "The Plymouth Journal" into a daily newspaper, at first called the "Daily Western Mercury" but soon renamed "The Western Daily Mercury". He edited the paper for nearly thirty years and eventually took his eldest son, Mr Alfred Latimer, into partnership.
Mr Latimer was elected Mayor of Plymouth for 1871-72. During his year in office he had to provide for an outbreak of small-pox. He quietly bought some houses in different parts of the Town and converted them into temporary hospitals to which he had the sick transported as soon as their sickness was known. By this means the outbreak was checked and combated.
During his Mayoral year he also attended a thanksgiving service at Saint Paul's Cathedral, in London, for the recovery of HRH the Prince of Wales, later HM King Edward VII, from a dangerous illness. It is said that he was always grateful that he managed to return the mace and chain of office safely back to the Town.
Over the years he helped in every philanthropic activity in the Town. He actively supported the Chamber of Commerce, of which he was elected chairman in 1879, and was one of the promoters of the Girls' High school. He served on the Board of Guardians and was its chairman for a year. A Freemason, he was made a magistrate in 1885 and was chairman of the local Liberal party during the general election of that year. It is said that 'In his strenuous life he incurred and wore down much opposition'. He retired from public life in 1892, brought about by increasing deafness and ill-health. However, he remained an enthusiastic supporter of the Royal British Female Orphan Asylum at Stoke until his death.
It would appear that Isaac and his son, Alfred, who was in charge by 1881, started doing general letterpress printing in 1886. The newspaper was sold to a Limited Liability Company in 1889.
Mr Isaac Latimer passed away at 7am on Saturday September 10th 1898 at his residence, Glenside, Fernleigh Road, Mannamead, Plymouth. He was 85 years of age. Three of his children had predeceased him so he was survived only by Miss Frances Latimer, who had nursed him during his last few years; Mr H A Latimer, MD JP, of Swansea; and Mr Alfred Latimer, who at that time was the secretary of the Port of Plymouth Chamber of Commerce.
The funeral took place on Wednesday September 14th 1898.