Pender, John (DNB01)
PENDER, Sir JOHN (1815–1896), pioneer of submarine telegraphy, born on 10 Sept. 1816, was son of James Pender, of the Vale of Leven, Dumbartonshire, and Marion Mason. He was educated at the high school of Glasgow, where he received a gold medal for a design, and after a successful career as a merchant in textile fabrics in Glasgow and Manchester he made the extension of submarine telegraphy his principal study. On the formation of the first Atlantic Cable Company in 1856, Pender was one of the original 345 contributors of 1,000l. towards the expenses of the necessary experiments, and, as a director of that company, he shared the failures and disappointments which for eight years baffled all attempts to bring the scheme to a successful issue [see Bright, Sir Charles Tilston, Suppl.] The snapping of the cable of 1865 in mid-ocean during the historic voyage of the Great Eastern proved the financial ruin of the Atlantic Company. Many of the original supporters of the enterprise were dead, many more were utterly discouraged by repeated failures, and the abandonment of the project was imminent, when, through the efforts of Pender, Sir William Thomson (now Lord Kelvin), Sir Charles Bright, and a few others, the Anglo-American Company was formed, and negotiations were opened with Messrs. Glass, Elliot, & Co. and the Gutta Percha Company for the manufacture of a new cable of greater strength and value than any previous one; but the latter company refused to proceed without a guarantee. It was at this crisis that Fender offered his personal security for a quarter of a million sterling, when the two companies were amalgamated under the name of the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company, with Fender as chairman. Not only was the new cable successfully laid in 1866, but the broken one was recovered. To Fender's energy was afterwards largely due the formation of that great system of eastern telegraphs which, under the names of the Eastern and Eastern Extension Telegraph Companies, link together the whole of our Asiatic and Australasian possessions, and through his exertions the cables of the Eastern and associated companies surround the continent of Africa [cf. Clark, Latimer, Suppl.] Successful as a pioneer, Fender's sound commercial instincts always stood him in good stead as an organiser and administrator. In his later years he devoted much attention to the electric lighting of London, being chairman of the Metropolitan Electric Supply Company, the largest undertaking of its kind in this country.
Fender sat as liberal member for Totnes in 1865-6, but was unseated on petition. In 1868 he unsuccessfully contested Linlithgowshire, but was member for the Wick Burghs, as a liberal, from 1872 to 1885, and, as a liberal unionist, from 1892 to 1896, when he resigned. He unsuccessfully contested the Wick Burghs in 1885, Stirling Burghs in 1886, Wick Burghs again in 1886, and Govan in 1889. In recognition of his services to the empire Queen Victoria made him in 1888 a K.C.M.G., when Lord Derby presided at a banquet given in his honour, and in 1892 he was promoted to a grand cross of the same order. Sir John held many foreign orders, among them the legion of honour and the grand cordon of the Medjidie. He was also a fellow of the Imperial Institute, of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, of the Royal Geographical Society, and of the Scottish Society of Antiquaries. In 1869 he published 'Statistics of the Trade of the United Kingdom from 1840.' He died of paralysis at Footscray Place, Kent, on 7 July 1896, and was buried in the parish churchyard. A portrait by Mr. Hubert Herkomer, R.A., is in the possession of Sir James Fender.
Sir John was twice married: first, on 28 Nov. 1840, to Marion, daughter of James Cairns of Glasgow, and by her (who died on 16 Dec. 1841) he had James, M.P. for Mid-Northamptonshire from 1895, who was created a baronet in 1897; and, secondly, on 12 June 1851, to Emma, only surviving child and heir of Henry Denison of Daybrook, Arnold, Nottinghamshire, and by her (who died on 8 July 1890) he had two sons and two daughters. The elder son of the second marriage, Henry Denison, died in 1881; the younger, John Cuthbert Denison-Pender, is managing director, director, or chairman of numerous telegraph and cable companies. The younger daughter, Marion Denison, married Sir George William des Vœux, governor of Hong Kong, 1887-91.
[Electrician, xxxvii. 334-5, 379-80, 469; Men of the Time; New Monthly Mag. vol. cxvii. (with portrait); Biograph, iii. 55-62, new ser. i. 268-276.]