Thomas Barrow, Original Character
Title: Lamont and Son

In 1936, although it was the middle of the depression, Lamont and Son continued to prosper. In addition to Henry Lamont and Thomas, the front of shop was looked after by Mrs. Hanson, an outgoing, very knowledgeable woman in her mid-forties who had been with Lamont since the middle of the war, and two part time shop girls. A few months after he started Thomas learned that Mrs. Hanson's husband had died at the Somme which helped explain the air of sadness he sometimes sensed. There were also Carl and Julian, both apprentices, and Jeremy, a general workshop assistant whose main jobs were to keep the place tidy, ensure the most common parts were in stock and handle deliveries and pickups when needed.

The business had changed over the last couple of decades and Henry Lamont, who was never afraid of the future, changed with it. Gone were the days when custom designed and handmade clocks were important. The demand had faded along with the class of people who could afford them. There might be one or two orders a year, but Lamont no longer made the cases himself, concentrating on the design and the works while carefully choosing others to produce the cases. He had taught Thomas that side of the business because he already had some experience, but they both saw that within a few years it would either disappear or become too costly.

Instead Henry concentrated on carrying an exclusive and impressive array of clocks, some still hand-crafted the traditional way in Europe, and watches. However, not wanting to turn away business, Thomas had convinced him to provide many reasonably priced, yet still well made, items as well. The reputation of Lamont and Son and well-placed advertising, including their twice-yearly sales which were once again Thomas's idea, ensured they were usually the first place many thought of.

More important was the growth in the repair work and the maintenance contracts they had across London and beyond. There were still thousands of antique clocks and quality modern ones whose owners, including many members of the Royal Family, valued enough to make sure they continued to function properly and when they were broken to have them expertly repaired.

One day in July Henry Lamont was late, so late that Thomas had begun to worry. He sighed in relief when around ten thirty he heard the bell that hung on the front door and then Henry speak to Mrs. Hanson as he passed.

"Good Morning, Thomas."

"Good morning, Mr. Lamont." Thomas hesitated. "Is everything all right?"

"Oh, because of the time? Yes, yes. I remembered when I walked through the door that I hadn't left you a note last night telling you I would be late," he added as he hung up his coat. "Anything I should be aware of?"

"Nothing really. I finished up that mantle clock. Very nice eighteenth century piece as you said. And if you remember, I have to go to St. James's Palace this afternoon and I'll be taking Carl this time. Also I heard back that we got those two contracts."

"Unusual we're doing so well given the times, but also encouraging. All this is keeping you on the go, isn't it."

"I like it that way."

As he carried his briefcase into his office Henry looked back over his shoulder.

"Ask Jeremy to make us all some tea and come join me when it's ready."

Ten minutes later Thomas followed Jeremy into the office with his own tea and sat down opposite Henry.

"Thank you. Jeremy," Henry nodded in appreciation. "Now go have your own and close the door after you please."

He poured tea from the pot, added milk, and took a sip before speaking.

"I suppose you wonder why I was so late."

"I was concerned, but I'm not sure the reason is any of my business."

"But it is, Thomas," Henry laughed. "It is. First though I'm going to bore you with a bit of history, much of which you may already know, but I'm sure you'll humour me."

"Of course," Thomas replied. He had got used to Henry's at times odd ways.

"You know the sign out front says 'established 1824'."

Thomas nodded, cup half way up to his lips.

"Back then it was simply 'Eli Lamont', my grandfather. It became 'Lamont and Son' when my father joined him and stayed that way when I joined my father in 1884. In my view it's this continuity and the well-earned reputation that has made us what we are. When people think about clocks and timepieces 'Lamont' inevitably comes to mind."

As Henry had said Thomas already knew most of this so he wasn't sure why they were talking about it.

"And of course that reputation for quality has been good enough to earn us successive Royal Warrants for over eighty years."

That was new. He was aware of the Royal Warrant and its importance, but it had never occurred to him to ask how long it had been held, assuming it had just begun with the previous king, George V.

Henry lifted the cosy from the teapot and refilled his cup.

"Now, I'm sure," he continued as he stirred in a few drops milk, "you're wondering where I'm going with all this. But there's just a bit more before I finally get to my point."

"Other than my wife, this place is my life. When Ruth passed last year it sadly became my only life. We were never fortunate enough to have children so 'Lamont and Son' is just a nod to the past that I have never got around to changing. I hate to think though that when I go this," he swept his arm in an arc, "will disappear. That over a hundred years of my family will disappear."

"It doesn't have to, does it?" Thomas broke in. "You could sell and somehow make arrangements that at least the name remains.

"Oh, I'm sure if I were to sell that whoever purchased would keep the name, at least for a while. It goes back to how the name is tied so closely to reputation. But selling to a stranger, no matter how well-intentioned they might be, would feel wrong. On the other hand, if I had a partner."

"So you're bringing in a partner, is that it?" Thomas began to worry. He might just become unnecessary if there were someone else involved in the business.

"I was thinking of you, Thomas."

Thomas almost let his cup slip.

"Me? Your partner? I don't have enough money to buy in as a partner, Mr. Lamont."

"Did I ask for money?"

"Well, no, but that's usually how these things go, isnít it?"

"Yes, but there's nothing to say it has to. You see, I've already talked to my solicitor and he has taken care of everything." He reached into his briefcase and pulled out a large envelope which he slid across the desk to Thomas. "I picked these up this morning. There's a detailed letter explaining everything and the partnership papers of course."

Thomas set his cup down and picked up the envelope, toying with the flap.

"I don't know what to say. I mean, thank you, but beyond that I'm just trying to understand."

"Don't worry, you don't have to sign anything right now. I wouldn't expect that; we'll sign it together, with witnesses of course. First you need to read these and make sure it's what you want. Perhaps take them to your own solicitor if you like."

"I doubt that would be necessary."

"Well then, talk it over with someone you trust. Maybe that friend of yours. The one who often drops by when we're closing up. Jimmy, right?"

"Yes, Jimmy." Thomas shook his head slowly "But I still don't understand why."

Henry smiled and settled back in his chair.

"Because I've come to know you over the last nine years, more than I believe youíre aware. I couldn't conceive of anyone else I would want to share this with, anyone else who understands and respects it like I do, anyone else who deserves to eventually own it. Much of our continued success is down to you. You've shouldered the burden that my age has caused me to pass on and because of that this business, our business, has never looked back." He smiled and stood. "But for now, I think we both need to get to work."

"Yes, of course, Mr. Lamont." Thomas took Henry's extended hand. "I'll let you know tomorrow, but I think you can guess my answer."

"Very good. Oh, and Thomas," Henry called after him as he reached for the door handle. "Once we become "Lamont and Barrow' you should call me Henry."

I didn't research to see if there is a Royal Warrant for Clock Manufacturers or Sellers
This occurs after Stephen