Friday 23 September 2005

The three main warehouses that our people purchased goods from to resell were Ross and Glendennings, Bing Harris and Sargoods. Two were in High St. and one was in lower Rattray St. All three had as managing directors unusual people.First off was old Mr Benson, a very fine gentleman who gave our people a fair go when it came to credit or the allocation of goods in short supply. He was Jewish and felt a closeness to our people who were also seen as ‘different’. Then there was Stuart Glendenning, very wealthy as he also owned the Roslyn Woollen Mills in Kaikorai Valley Rd.. He was about 20 stone, always wore a rose in his lapel and poison in his heart towards our people. He stocked and made clothing that was indispensable to the Lebanese commercial travellers – and he knew it. Then there was Sir Percy Sargood who manufactured shoes as well as running a huge clothing business. He was a very generous person and, if my memory serves me well, set up a foundation called the Sargood Trust in memory of his son who was killed in World War 1. His lovely home, Marinoto, became a convent and is now a private health facility, close to the new Martyr hospital.

In the early nineteen twenties, Anthony Khouri had the idea of starting his own warehouse on a cooperative basis to help our people by bypassing the above mentioned warehouses. Sadly, it wasn’t a success mainly because of distrust among the different families. Old Maroun Reid used to say, ‘One Lebanese is equal to ten Jews in business, but ten Lebanese together are not equal to one Jew. I’m still trying to work that one out. I don’t mean to show our people in a negative light but not many Lebanese, of that time, had much formal education. All the credit to them that so many of their descendants are in the professions and I am proud of each and everyone of them!

Quite a lot of firms that started off in Dunedin over the years have shifted their main office to Auckland. Others have merged or gone out of business. Bigger is not always better though size can matter. Two large firms that were in strong competition with each other were Shacklocks and Radiation Ltd. Radiation was owned by the Brinsley family and old man Brinsley built the mansion in Forbury Road that is now owned by Malcolm and Lynn Farry.

The Cedar Club bought the Shacklock’s home in Melville Street, as a club venue.
We have got them coming and going, you might say. The Shacklock story calls to mind a murder in Dunedin many years ago. The prime suspect was a foreigner named Shagginbreak who worked in the Shacklock factory. The police asked the union secretary, ‘Do you have a Shagginbreak here?’ The reply was, ‘No. It’s taken 10 years to get a tea break!’

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