In June 1919, a full time General Secretary was appointed amidst much controversy. To start with, the post was incorrectly advertised, and within 3 days of the advert, Mr. Arthur Proctor, from the Town Clerks Department, had been appointed on an annual salary of £400. The appointment and salary was criticised, as Mr Proctor had not seen active War service, and it was said that the job could be done better by a disabled serviceman.
It also emerged that five candidates, including three ex servicemen, had been interviewed for the post, and that one particular candidate, Sgt, Major, Wilson, who had considerable experience, had actually tied with Mr Proctor for the position. The casting vote was made by the charity’s acting chief, Major, Gleadow, who chose Mr Proctor, on his own initiative, without consulting the General Committee.
This led to the allegation that Mr. Proctor ‘had been elected, before he was selected’, and while Mr Proctor was a very capable person, it was seen as insensitive not to award the post to someone who had seen war service. (Mr Proctor, who was 37 years old, had tried to enlist during the War, but was rejected on health grounds.)
Some like Cllr. A Sheppard, Chairman of the ‘Federation of Discharged and Demobilised Soldiers and Sailors’, were particularly critical, claiming that the job should have gone to a disabled, ex-serviceman. Others believed the Secretary’s annual salary should have been reduced to £250, or the work done voluntary.
On the 12th May 1919, Cllr. Sheppard organised a noisy demonstration outside the Guildhall. Thousands of ex servicemen and members of the public protested loudly outside the Guild Hall, accompanied by three musical bands. Extra Police were summoned to maintain order and divert traffic.
To pacify the situation, the Lord Mayor, Cllr. Peter Gaskell met a delegation from the crowd in his parlor. This included Cllr. Sheppard and two war widows, Mrs Lush from 135 Welbeck Street and Mrs Blyth from 153 Lime Street. They submitted a petition signed by 13,000 citizens against Mr Proctor’s appointment. Cllr. Gaskell who had lost his only son in the war, sympathized with the widows and agreed that General Committee for the Trust would review the appointment. This was sufficient to disperse the protesters.
The issue was considered by the General Committee on the 7th June 1919 and the motion to remove Mr Proctor was defeated by 18 votes to 4. It was considered that Mr Proctor, an experienced organizer, should remain in the Permanent Secretary position.
The controversy had an adverse affect on donations. It was claimed that an anonymous Gentleman, had offered to provide 200 houses, rent free, for 50 years, to disabled servicemen, if the Permanent Secretary Post was re-advertised. It was also said that some £8,000 in public contributions were withheld because of the decision to retain Mr Proctor.
In time, the appointment of Mr Proctor was shown to be a wise decision. Mr Proctor, who “had done the work of three or four men during the war”, showed himself to be an astute administrator. He was able to organize, interview applicants and tabulate claims. Interest on Investments covered the cost of his salary and he loyally managed the Trust for 40 years.