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Gone . . . but not forgotten

1932 QUAKE RECONSTRUCTION: It’s gone now, but the building and the business it housed contributed to the pipes of Gisborne.
The building at 86 Derby Street came down in May after being Lowe’s Caterers, and more recently The Brezz’n Sports Bar. It was JS Allan from 1925.

As the walls crumbled on the former JS Allan & Son building on Derby Street, the bricks brought back memories of the Gisborne business that helped plumb thousands of homes around the East Coast before the start of last century. Up to 10 buildings around town are in line to be demolished instead of being earthquake strengthened. Derek Allan, grandson of founder JS Allan, dug around in his attic to provide memorabilia about this 3-generation family business. Sophie Rishworth reports.

As Athol Allan had never influenced him to join him in the business, Derek Allan recalls how his father’s face beamed when, in 1964, he told him he would like to return from his accountancy studies in Auckland.
“I could see Dad’s health was not going to improve so time was short to get an understanding of the business,” Derek said.
“Less than three years as it turned out.”

Import licencing was imposed by the government in those days and only allocated annually by the Customs Department if businesses could verify their needs up to 12 months ahead. Much of this was in Athol’s experienced head — so it was a rapid apprenticeship for his son. After early morning starts to get sheetmetal and tankshop workers under way, then days costing completed jobs or quoting new ones, and dealing with sales reps and ordering stock, only a call to Chelsea Hospital before dinner enabled Derek to glean the intricacies of costing overseas shipments.

Athol died in 1967, and Derek became managing director.

The family business JS Allan was synonymous with plumbing in Gisborne since James Smith Allan, a plumber, gasfitter, tinsmith, coppersmith and bell hanger, began business here in 1896.

He first worked for and with others. This included a partnership with plumber Rees Jones, as Allan and Jones from the premises where the Adair Brothers building still stands. By 1912 Gentleman Jim, whose staff had never heard him raise his voice or utter a swear word, was the sole proprietor of JS Allan.

At that time he was operating in second-floor Gladstone Road premises from where water tanks were lowered to a horse and cart for delivery. This was later to become the studio of private radio station 2XM, where school-girl Kiri Te Kanawa first broadcast on Percy Stephens’ Sunday evening talent quests.

By 1925, JS Allan had built his own new building with a ground-floor showroom, offices, sheetmetal and tank manufacturing workshop in Derby Street. The second floor stored the cast iron baths, pipes and fittings shipped from England, as were the china toilets, basins and sinks. Galvanised iron pipe, corrugated roofing iron as well as copper tube came direct to the Gisborne wharves from the Newcastle mills in Australia.

The diversity JS Allan brought to the business meant it quickly became one of the most comprehensive privately-owned plumbing businesses in the country, and the base where after World War 2, staff had built to over 60 plumbers, roofers, drainlayers and sheetmetal workers.

Nextdoor to the Derby Street showroom, a shop was leased to the cobbler, Frank Drube. And between Holy Trinity Church and JS Allan was Tommy Lawson’s Gisborne Tyre Surgery. The Poverty Bay Herald of 1925 heralded not only the opening of the new premises but also the incorporation of the company of plumbers and importers, JS Allan & Son Ltd, so named as one of his four sons, Athol, had joined the business straight out of high school. Athol’s brother, Rees, was to join some 12 years later in 1937, followed by his sons Roger and Peter in the 1960s too.

The new building was to come through the 1931 Napier earthquake relatively unscathed. However, JA Mackay’s “Historic Poverty Bay” had this to say of the Gisborne event later in the following year, naming other prominent Derby Street buildings.

“An earthquake which affected both Hawke’s Bay and Poverty Bay at 1.27am on 16 September, 1932, was the most damaging ever experienced in Gisborne. It disrupted the parapets on several buildings, broke some ‘island’ windows, damaged the Central School and Holy Trinity Church, and broke off some hundreds of chimneys. As a safety measure, the post office clock was taken down, the parapets on many buildings were reduced, and a number of buildings were reinforced. The adoption of more stringent by-laws has, it is believed, rendered the town immune from serious damage by earthquakes.”

Locally-owned JS Allan had been in business for 100 years with Allans at the helm until 1997 when it became part of the Mico Wakefield network.

Over that century JS Allan developed Gisborne, and was a key player in most major developments in the city such as the building of the Wattie’s and Columbine factories.
Advertisements in the Poverty Bay Herald around the start of the century encouraged people to become connected to hot and cold water — quite the luxury.

They were also great community supporters. Many may remember the JS Allan Fun Runs of the 1980s, when they installed free open-air hot showers outside their Grey Street showroom.
JS Allan was a front runner in the industry as they knew displays were the essence of good sales.

In later years, 86 Derby Street became Lowe’s Caterers before its final years were seen out as a karaoke bar called the Brezz’n Sports Bar. The site will now be turned into a carpark for the neighbouring business.

As the walls crumbled on the former JS Allan & Son building on Derby Street, the bricks brought back memories of the Gisborne business that helped plumb thousands of homes around the East Coast before the start of last century. Up to 10 buildings around town are in line to be demolished instead of being earthquake strengthened. Derek Allan, grandson of founder JS Allan, dug around in his attic to provide memorabilia about this 3-generation family business. Sophie Rishworth reports.

As Athol Allan had never influenced him to join him in the business, Derek Allan recalls how his father’s face beamed when, in 1964, he told him he would like to return from his accountancy studies in Auckland.
“I could see Dad’s health was not going to improve so time was short to get an understanding of the business,” Derek said.
“Less than three years as it turned out.”

Import licencing was imposed by the government in those days and only allocated annually by the Customs Department if businesses could verify their needs up to 12 months ahead. Much of this was in Athol’s experienced head — so it was a rapid apprenticeship for his son. After early morning starts to get sheetmetal and tankshop workers under way, then days costing completed jobs or quoting new ones, and dealing with sales reps and ordering stock, only a call to Chelsea Hospital before dinner enabled Derek to glean the intricacies of costing overseas shipments.

Athol died in 1967, and Derek became managing director.

The family business JS Allan was synonymous with plumbing in Gisborne since James Smith Allan, a plumber, gasfitter, tinsmith, coppersmith and bell hanger, began business here in 1896.

He first worked for and with others. This included a partnership with plumber Rees Jones, as Allan and Jones from the premises where the Adair Brothers building still stands. By 1912 Gentleman Jim, whose staff had never heard him raise his voice or utter a swear word, was the sole proprietor of JS Allan.

At that time he was operating in second-floor Gladstone Road premises from where water tanks were lowered to a horse and cart for delivery. This was later to become the studio of private radio station 2XM, where school-girl Kiri Te Kanawa first broadcast on Percy Stephens’ Sunday evening talent quests.

By 1925, JS Allan had built his own new building with a ground-floor showroom, offices, sheetmetal and tank manufacturing workshop in Derby Street. The second floor stored the cast iron baths, pipes and fittings shipped from England, as were the china toilets, basins and sinks. Galvanised iron pipe, corrugated roofing iron as well as copper tube came direct to the Gisborne wharves from the Newcastle mills in Australia.

The diversity JS Allan brought to the business meant it quickly became one of the most comprehensive privately-owned plumbing businesses in the country, and the base where after World War 2, staff had built to over 60 plumbers, roofers, drainlayers and sheetmetal workers.

Nextdoor to the Derby Street showroom, a shop was leased to the cobbler, Frank Drube. And between Holy Trinity Church and JS Allan was Tommy Lawson’s Gisborne Tyre Surgery. The Poverty Bay Herald of 1925 heralded not only the opening of the new premises but also the incorporation of the company of plumbers and importers, JS Allan & Son Ltd, so named as one of his four sons, Athol, had joined the business straight out of high school. Athol’s brother, Rees, was to join some 12 years later in 1937, followed by his sons Roger and Peter in the 1960s too.

The new building was to come through the 1931 Napier earthquake relatively unscathed. However, JA Mackay’s “Historic Poverty Bay” had this to say of the Gisborne event later in the following year, naming other prominent Derby Street buildings.

“An earthquake which affected both Hawke’s Bay and Poverty Bay at 1.27am on 16 September, 1932, was the most damaging ever experienced in Gisborne. It disrupted the parapets on several buildings, broke some ‘island’ windows, damaged the Central School and Holy Trinity Church, and broke off some hundreds of chimneys. As a safety measure, the post office clock was taken down, the parapets on many buildings were reduced, and a number of buildings were reinforced. The adoption of more stringent by-laws has, it is believed, rendered the town immune from serious damage by earthquakes.”

Locally-owned JS Allan had been in business for 100 years with Allans at the helm until 1997 when it became part of the Mico Wakefield network.

Over that century JS Allan developed Gisborne, and was a key player in most major developments in the city such as the building of the Wattie’s and Columbine factories.
Advertisements in the Poverty Bay Herald around the start of the century encouraged people to become connected to hot and cold water — quite the luxury.

They were also great community supporters. Many may remember the JS Allan Fun Runs of the 1980s, when they installed free open-air hot showers outside their Grey Street showroom.
JS Allan was a front runner in the industry as they knew displays were the essence of good sales.

In later years, 86 Derby Street became Lowe’s Caterers before its final years were seen out as a karaoke bar called the Brezz’n Sports Bar. The site will now be turned into a carpark for the neighbouring business.

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