WILLIAM JOSEPH SIMPSON
10, Cornmarket, Belfast
Dear Sir, –It is with no small sense of satisfaction that I noticed in the Times of May 9th that at last, through the kindness of Baron F. de Rothschild M.P., the question of illegal dealing in gold and silver watches, jewelry and plate, had been pressed upon the attention of the Government, and I was pleased likewise to observe, that Sir William Harcourt, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had promised that an inquiry should be made into the matter. This evil is not confined to England exclusively, but, I regret to say, also extends to Ireland, and that to an alarming extent. Take Belfast alone, and in this city there are numbers of persons employed in various ways, foremen in factories, mills and ship-building yards, commercial travellers, retired policemen and others engaged in offices under Government who act as " agents " for the sale of watches and jewelry, others manage " watch clubs," and I know of instances where a regular private trade is carried on by individuals carrying quite a stock of jewelry and watches, and who dispose of them on their own account without paying any license. Now, the professional jeweler is looked after pretty sharply by the Revenue Authorities. Then why should these free hands be permitted to escape scot free ? If any person trades in tobacco, cigars, wine, beer, spirits, keeps a dog, or uses armorial bearings without paying a license, immediate steps are taken to vindicate the law, and it is well-known that the authorities take a great deal of trouble, and incur no small expense to find out and prosecute to conviction such offenders. Then why should not these irresponsible and illegitimate dealers in gold and silver wares be compelled to pay that license which they so systematically and successfully evade ? Then, again, we have drapers, tobacconists, cutlers, stationers, and others, who in the ordinary course of every-day business, and without any attempt at concealment, deal in the prohibited wares ; yet they pay no license, and they come into daily competition with the legitimate jeweler, who is compelled to pay it. I do not hesitate to say that there is not a jeweler in England who is not quite as fully aware of the existence of these evils as I am. The time has now come when some decided move should be made to secure a remedy. The attention of the Government has been directed to the question, and if the matter falls through, and ends in smoke, the legitimate licensed traders have no one to blame but themselves. It is the duty of the Trade to urge upon the authorities the necessity which exists for a thorough revision of the law relating to the granting of these licenses. I would suggest that the jewelers throughout the country should individually collect all the available evidence possible bearing upon this question, noting names and occupation of persons, (a) Acting as " agents,'' (b) promoting " clubs," (c) trading on their own account. Such evidence will be most useful hereafter. I would also urge upon them the necessity of ventilating their grievances through the medium of the public Press, and that they should approach the members of Parliament for their various districts and educate them upon this (to us) most important question. Last month, in a letter which appeared in The Waterbury trade journal, I advocated the formation of a National Licensed Goldsmiths' and Jewelers' Union, having for its object the protection of the Trade interests throughout the kingdom. In response to my letter I had communications from all parts of the country approving of my suggestion, and promising support. Such a union must have its centre in London. Again I venture to bring forward this proposal : A subscription of Â£1 1s. per annum would provide a more than ample income. It will not do to sit still and wait for others to help us. We must help ourselves, and now is the time for action. I earnestly commend this important question to the attention of the Trade generally. Heretofore the struggle has been maintained by one here and another there. Public-spirited men have attempted to bring the matter to a successful issue. If the legitimate Traders are now prepared to take the matter up, no better opportunity ever offered. As a body we are all cognisant of the existence of these evils. Jewelers all over the country complain bitterly of the injury done to their trade by such irresponsible vendors. The public are suffering, thinking that by purchasing a watch or an article of jewelry at the "back door" they are able to buy it cheaper, but a little later on they find out to their cost whether they do so or not. I have seen watches sold by these gentry for Â£2 which could be bought in any shop for 21s. I think a memorial should be presented to the Government urging upon them the advisability of making the cost of the license uniform, viz., Â£5 15s, and that all persons dealing in articles of gold or silver, jewelry, watches, coins, medals, or plate, no matter what the weight may be, should be compelled to pay this duty. This, coupled with careful supervision by the Revenue authorities and an impartial administration of the law, would soon produce satisfactory results, and would be the means of putting an end to the illegal and illegitimate trading of which we complain and from which we undoubtedly suffer. I think Baron F. De Rothschild, M.P., deserves our heartiest thanks for his advocacy of our claims. We are deeply indebted to him for so successfully bringing the matter before the House, and for his exposure of the unfair and the (to us) unjust way in which the law relating to goldsmiths' and silversmiths' licenses has been administered. –I am, dear sir, yours faithfully
Belfast, May 24th, 1894. William J. Simpson.
Source: The Watchmaker, Jeweller and Silversmith - 1st June 1894
Mr W J Simpson, Belfast, presented a gold trophy in the form of an Irish harp for the best performance on an Irish wire—strung harp of any size. The Feis Committee offered three prizes, one of Â£5, the second of Â£3, and the third of Â£1 for the same. There were no entries. Mr Simpson has given his trophy to the committee for the best competitor at the Feis. The award will be announced when the adjudicators will make their report.
Source: Freeman’s Journal and National Press - 24th May 1897
W.J. Simpson appears in the Belfast Directory of 1901 at 10, Cornmarket, Belfast, but not at that address in the 1907 edition.
The 1901 Irish Census reveals William Joseph Simpson as 47 year old, Dublin born Goldsmith and Jeweller. He is a widower and lives with his two sons, Evelyn John 13, and Joseph Stewert 10 years of age. They reside at 14, Fitzwilliam Avenue, Belfast, have one live-in servant. The family's religion was recorded as Church of Ireland.
The family do not appear to have been recorded in the 1911 Irish Census.