Mac and Ruth Goldsmith – Inventor and Freeman of the City of Leicester

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Mac Goldsmith was born near Frankfurt in 1902 and his future wife, Ruth, was born in Frankfurt in 1916. They fled Nazi Germany in 1937 and settled in Leicester.

Mac Goldsmith was an innovative and far sighted engineer and his talents were put to invaluable use. Once, at an early age, and always eager to find out how things worked, he climbed up an electricity supply pole, took the fuses out and plunged whole streets into darkness. He was a motorcar enthusiast and introduced many innovations into the German motor industry after the First World War, but when the Nazis came to power in Germany, he was forced to surrender a number of his patents and his businesses or risk being sent to a concentration camp.

He had brought with him to Leicester the ideas which made it possible to create the mounting of vibrating engines onto a fixed frame.  This resulted in his founding the firm Metalastik, producing essential components for ships, planes and motor vehicles. It is said that few men made a larger contribution to the war effort, or the revival of industry that followed the end of the war. His company later merged with the John Bull rubber company and further with the Dunlop Group. The firm received the Queen’s award in 1967, one of the proudest moments of his life.

He was not merely a business man but in the best traditions of German Jewry threw himself into the life of the various communities of which he was a member. His donations to his adopted home city of Leicester were enormous, including an intensive coronary care unit in one of Leicester’s hospitals. Perhaps his best-known contribution was to provide the Leicester City Libraries with the funding for the Goldsmith Music Library.

He was a Trustee of the Leicester Hebrew Congregation and actively involved with many more societies too many to name, both in Leicester and nation-wide. His support for Jewish causes and organisations extended far and wide. He was a life governor of London’s Hillel House, and a member of the national advisory committee of the Central British Fund for World Jewish Relief. He was also able to rescue members of his family from Nazi Germany, a number of whom settled in Leicester.

He took a deep interest in the University of Leicester, was on its Council, and was its Treasurer.  As such he played an active part in its administration.  As a mark of the regard in which he was generally held he was made a Freeman of the City of Leicester in 1971 and awarded an honorary Doctorate of Law at the University of Leicester.

His wife, Ruth, worked quietly in the background bringing up their family and supporting her husband in his various works. After Mac’s death, she continued their charitable work and succeeded her husband as the President of both the Leicester Symphony Orchestra and the Leicester Recorded Music Society.

The following is an interview given by Ruth Goldsmith in 1987 and stored in the University of Leicester Special Collections Online. This is part of the East Midlands Oral History Archive: