Sad Demise of Thomas Cook Travel after 178 Years

Above: William and Jessie Parker

With the current news about Thomas Cook & Son closing their doors, I thought I would take a moment to share forward a connection to my family.

The company was originally founded on 9 June 1841 by a 32-year Thomas Cook (1808-1892) of Market Harborough to the nearby town of Leicester to attend a temperance meeting. His son carried on and expanded the firm that went on to become world-famous tour operators.

My Great-Grandfather, likely contributed to Thomas Cook’s early years of success. He worked as a manager/partner with Thomas Cook and family folklore tells how he was responsible for establishing their offices in Italy.

William Brewster Sidney Parker (1875-1940) was married to Emma Clayton, and they had three daughters, the eldest daughter was my Grandmother Agnes Ida (Parker) Bake (1899-1949), my Great Aunt Queenie, Gladys (1897-1980) and the youngest my Great-Aunt Margie, Margaret Cecilla (1909-1985).  Margie was in fact born in Italy in 1909, setting a date when the family were living broad.

Sometime later William married a younger woman Jessie Parker (photographed above), who lived on many years after his death, so I am told, lessening the residue of the family fortune!  However my Mother was proud to receive a small inheritance many years later when Jessie died. A legacy from her ‘famous’ Grandfather!

She often shared stories about his travels abroad. I recall my Great Aunts too discussing their experiences too. They both remained spinsters and lived near Brighton. Great Aunt Margie often visited us, she was an interesting lady, with a definite ‘Italian’ olive skin tan, and the family always wondered if she was in fact half Italian. She was active and outgoing, she danced, travelled, was way ahead of her time with knowledge about health and healthy foods. She was also the first person we knew who owned a colour box Brownie camera.

So, over the years we have always been proud of our connections to Thomas Cook & son.  During WWII the company which was owned by a Belgium company was bought back by Britain and became part of British Railways…. after the war, sold on again to a German bank. Although founded by a pioneering British gentleman, the father of touring and travelling, the company always sporting his name Thomas Cook…. I fear the company had not truly been a British affair for some years.

I was saddened to hear of stranded passengers, the many redundancies and job losses, even private investors (some 20%), but for me fondly remembering my Great-Grandfather (whose picture has become the company logo for my business Treasured Collections) and our family connection to Thomas Cook in the years gone by.

For interesting reading….  BBC Article