The STRONGs of Ulster, Ireland, Chapter 10
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Lives of William Aberdare STRONG’s Sons
Joseph Lane (Joe) was born on 3 Jan 1917 in Drury, NZ i), ii) iii). It is probable he was named Lane after his grandmother Jane STRONG (née LANE). He attended Drury School from Feb 1922 to Dec 1929 iii), and then Auckland Grammar vi). Joe was recorded winning a Gillies Scholarship for a Science study at Auckland University iv). By the time he was aged 23, he had 1.5 years work needed in 3 more subjects to complete his degree. Joe's interests during his University days included service in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) between the ages of 18 to 21 when he became a signaller v).
The photograph below shows Joe STRONG at various stages of his life. Photos courtesy of Brian STRONG. From left to right: 1940 (Marriage), c1935 (young man), 1945 2nd Lt in NZ, 1941 (from Hospital in Cairo). Note the difference in appearance caused by glasses, age, differing weight and physical condition.
When WWII broke out Joe attempted to re-join the RNVR in February 1940, however he was rejected as unfit. Later, on 17 July he was successful in enlisting in the army v). Perhaps the set of five photos above might explain why he was rejected then accepted. In 1940 Joe wore heavy horn-rimmed glasses. However, photos of Joe in army uniform in 1941 and 1945 show he no longer had glasses! When Joe enlisted in the Army, he was a Civil Servant with the Audit Office, Wellington v). Several weeks later on 3 Aug 1940, Joe married 21-year-old Marjorie Lucy GRIFFITHS vii), and their new address was 93 St Stephen's Ave, Parnell, Auckland xi).
The photograph above shows Marjorie at various stages in her life: From left to right: 1940 (Marriage), 1945 and c1978. Marjorie Lucy STRONG (née Griffiths) Photo 1,2 Brian STRONG, Photo 3 Marion Lissington.
Joe entered the Papakura Army Camp in Jan 1941. After basic training, he left Wellington with an early reinforcement in April, 1941. When his 14th Light Anti Aircraft Regiment disembarked, Joe was admitted to the Military Hospital in Cairo in May for 15 days. Joe sent an undated postcard photo of himself from Cairo to his new wife (see photo on left). From Joe's army record, the only time he was in Cairo was when he was at hospital in 1941 v). Note his underweight appearance.
Joe took part in all the North African campaigns with the Eighth Army. In Oct 1943 Joe left the Middle East theatre to Italy and was promoted to Bombardier the next month. He was recommended for a commission and was sent to the Officer Cadet Training Unit (OCTU) in Wrotham, Kent, Great Britain in Feb 1944.. He then returned to active service in the Middle East 4 months later, was promoted to Sergeant, Warrant Officer II, and finally received his commission in Dec 1944. Off to another OCTU course in Jan 1945. Shortly after in April, the war was effectively over for Joe v).
Arrangements were made to withdraw Joe's unit to New Zealand by Sept 1945. Joe received 91 days overseas leave in NZ v), and posed in his 2nd Lieutenant's uniform with his wife Marjorie for the photo beneath. Photo: Courtesy Brian STRONG.
After the war, Joe returned to civilian life in NZ as a businessman and accountant. Joe's brother, Wallace, told the story of visiting Joe in his office when he would have the pounds shillings and pence ledgers on his desk running his finger down the page quickly adding the three columns at the same time. Wallace once asked Joe why he didn't use an adding machine and got the answer "too slow" viii). The account of this conversation is a rare insight into what Joe was like. It is hoped that people reading this page can contribute similar stories which give a glimpse of the real person. Joe was initiated as a Mason in the Wellington Lodge 1521 E.C. on 19 July 1972, on the proposal and seconding by the founders of his company, Silston Cory-Wright (Ken's father) and Cedric Salmon. Joe did not take office (apart from Treasurer 1977-78) ix) x). Iain McGibbon recalls that Joe was a regular attender of meetings ix). Joe kept up his Masonic membership for 17 years until his death, when he was given a Masonic service viii).
On the business front, Electoral Rolls xi) showed Joe's changing occupations as follows: Joe (company secretary) and his wife Marjorie (married) lived at 36 Ponsonby Rd., Karori Wellington in 1969, and then the 1972 roll shows Joe (accountant) and Marjorie (married) and daughter Penelope Ann (typist) still living at 36 Ponsonby Rd. Military correspondence showed Joe lived in Ponsonby Rd in 1950 v). In the 1975 Electoral Roll, Joe (general manager) and Marjorie (married) are listed as living at 129 Nevay Rd Miramar NZ. Joe finally rose to the top of a major NZ national company Cory-Wright and Salmon viii). In 1981 he was recorded as managing director, living at 46A Rajkot Terrace, Ohariu, Wellington xi)… where he lived until he died. Next year (March 1982) he retired xii) at the age of 65, before computerisation of records and changing corporate attitudes transformed the business landscape.
The dual General Manager (GM) situation shown in the above photo resulted from the splitting of CW&S in 1978-79 into two sections… “engineering” AND “trading”. CW&S Engineering sold major products, e.g. large electrical generating sets, aircraft, asphalt batch plants & pavers etc. CW&S Trading sold engineering consumables etc for the trade… electrical, engineering & construction equipment products.
Subsequent to Joe's retirement in March 1982 the dual general managers became managing directors of “engineering” and “trading” xxix) which was a reflection of the effort which Joe had put in as the sole managing director. The company was in a very healthy state, though it was felt at the time that it was not achieving its full potential... with its wonderful assets of its agencies and franchises. CW&S became a takeover target, and thus Tatra obtained a controlling share holding interest in 1984-1985... directors Robert H. Philpott & Frederick Turnovsky xxv), xxix). Note that the 1978 electoral rolls described Robert Halson Philpott as a company manager and also an actuary, and Frederick Turnovsky as a company director, both living in Wellington. Six years earlier Philpott lived in Malvern, Vic, Australia, with the occupation of clerk xi), though he was an investment analyst working for National Mutual xxix).
Graeme Adams kindly forwarded material from an article which described the CW&S company in 1982… the year that Joe retired:
Management: Bernie K. Knowles, Chairman of Directors; Joseph Lane Strong, Managing Director; David F. White, General Manager Trading; Ken Cory-Wright, General Manager Engineering; W.T Johnson, Divisional Manager Electrical; Trevor Jefferies, Divisional Manager Industrial; Ross McKinnon, Divisional Manager Construction Engineering; Company Secretary, S Raphael; Accountant Oscar Verbiest.
Subsidiary Companies: Alcan-Cory Metals Ltd (Most of the Branches handled both CWS products and Alcan Cory’s); Tyree Power Construction Ltd (Manufactured high voltage transformers for power distribution); British Aircraft Co.Ltd ( Sold aircraft to Mt Cook airlines); J. & C. Laird & Sons Ltd; Electrical Manufacturing NZ Ltd (Manufactured HRC fuses); Samuel Brown Ltd; Vickery Electrical Co. Ltd; Tomkies Manufacturing Ltd (Manufactured Kent water meters used on most NZ households).
General notes: Cory’s were a very diverse company and had branches in Otahuhu, Great North Rd, Hamilton, Napier, Hastings, Rotorua, New Plymouth, Lower Hutt, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill. Through Habegger of Switzerland they supplied Wellington’s Cable Car and several south island ski fields were equiped with Cory’s supplied Ski tows. As Agents for Blakeborough Valves they were a major supplier to water distribution authorities. Lower Hutt commuter trains were driven by Gardiner Diesel engines supplied by Cory’s. They were a main supplier of discharge lamps for street lighting through Iwasaki (Eye) of Japan.
Company worth: In 1982 CW&S declared a before tax profit of $2M which was an increase of 29.2% over 1981. xxvii)
Cecilie Palmer described Joe as: “a very kind compassionate man”… who treated her with “overwhelming kindness”. She worked for Ken Cory-Wright and said: “Ken ran the British Aircraft Company, which was under the umbrella of CW&S, and was the agent for the Strikemaster aircraft purchase by the NZ Airforce. xxiv) Ken's qualifications were in engineering…. he went to Canterbury University 1946-49 and was the Secretary-Treasurer of the Professional Engineers NZ during 1986-87. Ken was the son of the founder of CW&S… Silston Cory-Wright.
Brian Foss was the Branch Manager, Dunedin Branch, and reported directly to Joe… his MD at the Wellington head office. The Branch network was then known as CW&S Trading, selling Electrical, Engineering & Construction Equipment products. Brian found Joe as a very mathematically able accountant, and confirmed the story about his phenomenal speed in adding up ledgers! He described him as an old school businessman, who was not comfortable with modern business re-structuring. He recognised Joe's warmth as a family man xxv).
A year before Joe died in 1989, Robert Philpott (mentioned above) was arrested on suspicion of fraud on 31 Mar 1988 xxix) . He was described in the NZ press as the chief executive of Cory Wright and Salmon… “Philpott resigned shortly before the company went into receivership in March, 1988, with a $57 million deficit. Convicted of fraud and dishonesty charges, Philpott spent two years in jail” xx).
Philpott's complicated entrepreneurial dealings were described in the Australian press xxii). Philpott had used the asset-rich CW&S (built up under the watch of Joe STRONG) in a "thimble and pea" manner to further his own interests. Note that "CW&S Trading" survived (just) after the collapse of CW&S, due to its ownership by CW&S (49.9%) and Tyree Industries Ltd Australia (50.1%) xxv). Philpott’s criminal trial ran for 4 weeks (starting mid October 1990; finishing mid November 1990) - some 2.5 years after he was arrested. After parole, he only served 13 months, and much of his jail sentence was spent with day-time parole to work in an office! xxix) The civil case, Cory-Wright & Salmon Ltd (in receivership & liquidation) v KPMG Peat Marwick, was before the courts from June to September 1994 – more than 6 years after Philpott was first arrested xxix).
I had hoped that the 1990 autobiography of Fred Turnovsky (1916-1994) might have dealt with the CW&S events, due to Turnovsky's close association with his son-in-law Philpott as a co-director of Tatra (see above). However, the dates of the criminal and civil trials described above explain why Turnovsky merely gave the following cryptic statement in relation to CW&S:
"… came a low note when I became unwittingly involved in the aftermath of the share market crash. I write this not because I have anything to say about it, but a lot of people know, and if I said nothing they might think I am trying to hide something they know. So now I've got in first." xxviii)
Paul Kennedy was the financial controller for CW&S from Feb 1986 to 30 Sep 1987 and was a principal prosecution witness in the court cases resulting from the CW&S events. He assured me that he could "not recall Joe’s name being mentioned during (his) time at CW&S"... that Joe "had no involvement with the company after his retirement" ... and finally that "Joe wasn’t called as a witness in any of the ensuing court cases" xxix)
Why did Joe retire? It was probably the sad circumstances which Joe's brother Robert William STRONG describes, combined with his age of 65 at the time:
"Early in February 1978, Joe and his wife Marjorie were returning to their home in Wellington when they were struck down in broad daylight in Foxton by a drunken driver. Both were severely injured, his wife was hurled through the windscreen of the car and Joe was badly hurt. Marjorie died from her injuries eleven months later. Joe spent ten months in Palmerston North Hospital; he had a number of operations on his leg and is still on a walking stick. He has since married, a widow with two grown sons, and retires March 1982 as the Managing Director of a large Wellington firm. The drunken driver was not severely punished for what he had done." xii)
Marjorie's inquest fills out the details. The accident occurred on 3 Feb 1978 at about 3:30pm in Foxton in a 30mph zone. According to a witness, who was a hitchhiker in the car that hit Marjorie and Joe, they were crossing the road, and were hit as they crossed over the centre line. The driver did not see them until his passengers yelled "look out!" The driver was driving at a speed of over 30mph and also was under the influence of alcohol. Marjorie was thrown onto the bonnet and against the windscreen of the car. Another passenger in the car said that Marjorie and Joe did not look to their left at all when the crossed the road and only saw the car when it hit them. The passenger said that it was a nice sunny day and visibility was good. The driver stated that he was a truck driver by occupation and was driving a Vauxhall Viva, and also that he had been charged and convicted of the offences relating to excess alcohol and careless use of a motor vehicle causing injury xiii).
Marjorie Lucy died as a result of her accident in Wellington Hospital, on 1 Jan 1979; she was 60 xiv), xv). Her ashes were scattered on the Rose Garden of Karori Cemetery, Wellington on 5 Jan 1979 xiv). In 1980 when Joseph Lane (Joe) was 62, he second married Marie Patricia (Molly) WOOTON (née BROSNAHAN… daughter of the late John & Lillian BROSNAHAN) xxiii) , in Wellington NZ xix). Joseph Lane (Joe) died in Wellington Hospital, on 8 Dec 1989; he was 72 xvii), xxvi). His ashes were buried in the soldiers ash plot at the Makara Cemetery (16C SAP), Wellington on 27 Dec 1989 xviii). Joe's second wife Marie (Maria) died on 10 Aug 2008 at the Aotea Home, Johnsonville, Wellington and was buried in the Whenua Tapu Cemetery at Pukerua Bay (Eastern Division, Monumental Area, Row AV Plot 28) on 12 Aug 2008 xxi), xxiii).
Let's draw together the facts, with a little speculation… Joe had a difficult latter part of his life… emotionally, physically and financially. His accident on 3 Feb 1978 left him with injuries confining him to hospital for 10 months, operations on his leg, leaving him on a walking stick. Meanwhile, his wife of 38 years was left with severe brain injuries for almost a year before she died. The inquest report did not state if she recovered consciousness. Joe's underlying health was not good. Up to the time of his death, he had suffered diabetes for 15 years, hardening of the arteries for 10 years, and probably long-term gastrointestinal ulcers. His death was caused by a probable bleeding ulcer, precipitating acute heart failure. Many high flying executives suffer such stress symptoms. It would seem that he had financial problems, since his Estate was not filed for Probate, indicating that he did not have many assets, even though he had been the Managing Director of a large international company.
Joe would have had a significant number of shares in Cory Wright & Salmon (and other companies?) at the time of his retirement in March 1982. In 1982 CW&S declared a before tax profit of $2M which was an increase of 29.2% over 1981 xxvii)! Shortly after, the New Zealand so-called "Rogernomics Recession" (1984-1994) impacted… then there was the World Share market crash in October 1987. Six years after his retirement, almost to the day, Cory Wright & Salmon went into receivership in March, 1988, with a $57 million deficit. Joe would have felt both financial and emotional loss with his Company's downfall, which he had built up over a long period. Quite probably the rest of his financial portfolio was also damaged. Fortunately, Joe was too far from events to be involved in any way with Tatra's takeover and Philpott's subsequent criminal trial xxix). However, he must have watched with consternation from the sidelines!
Joe died on 8 Dec 1989! A sad story for such a talented man who on the positive side, probably gained much comfort from his second wife during his latter period.
Sources: for Chapter 10 and Joseph Lane STRONG:
i) Birth of Joseph Lane Strong. Reg# 1917/35. Registrar of BDM, NZ.
ii) Pers. comm. Jill Cargill.
iii) Drury School records.
iv) Clarke, Ernest. Chalk Cheese and Chimney Pots- A History of the Drury School and Districts. Wright & Jacques, Auckland NZ; facing p 7, p9.
v) Joseph Lane Strong WWII service personnel record. Army # 61151. NZDF Personnel Archives.
vi) Commissioned. Well-known Drury boy. 2nd Lieut. Joseph Strong. No date or publication details. Newspaper clipping held by Brian Strong.
vii) Marriage of Joseph Lane Strong & Marjorie Lucy Griffiths. Reg#1940/9803. Registrar of BDM, NZ.
viii) Pers. comm. Brian Strong.
ix) Pers. comm. Iain McGibbon.
x) J.M.A Ilott. A Chronicle of the Progress of Wellington Lodge 1521 E.C. Harry H. Tombs Limited, Printers, NZ; 1925. A 1972-1973 update.
xi) Electoral rolls.
xii) Pers. comm. Olive LOWE (née STEEN).
xiii) Coroner's Inquest for Marjorie Lucy STRONG. Years: 1979 - 1979. Agency: ABVP. Series: 17298. Accession: W5450. Box / item: 18. Record: COR79/1016.
xiv) Death of Marjorie Lucy STRONG . Reg# 1972/2/5583. Registrar of BDM, NZ.
xv) Obit of Marjorie Lucy Strong. Wellington Evening Post; NZ; 2-3 Jan 1979.
xvi) Pers. comm. Keith Newell, Lychgate Funeral Home, Wellington City. 2006.
xvii) Death of Joseph Lane Strong. Reg # 1989/26814. Registrar of BDM, NZ.
xviii) Pers. comm. Elizabeth Reddington, Wellington City Council Cemetery management. 2006.
xix) Marriage of Joseph Lane Strong & Marie Patricia Wooton Brosnahan. Reg # 1980/7378.
xx) High fliers who broke the law. The Dominion Post; 29 May 2008. See here. - © Fairfax NZ News
xxi) Wellington City Council cemeteries database. See here.
xxii) Robert Philpott: various mentions regarding NZ companies. Sydney Morning Herald; 10 Mar 1987: 24, 13 Mar 1987: 20, 12 Dec 1987:35, 6 Apr 1988:3, 13 Apr 1988: 47, 19 Apr 1988: 30, 31 Oct 1988: 37.
xxiii) Death of Maria Patricia STRONG. The Dominion Post. 11-12 Aug 2008.
xxiv) Pers. comm. Cecilie Boon (now Palmer)… worked as a secretary to Ken Cory Wright at CW&S 1975-1978.
xxv) Pers. comm. Brian Foss… manager of Dunedin Branch CW&S & reported directly to Joe Strong. Worked for CW&S 1970-96 .
xxvi) Death of Joseph Lane STRONG. The Dominion Post; 9 Dec 1989: 43.
xxvii) Pers. comm. Graeme Adams. Worked at CW&S 1972 to 1982.
xxviii) Fred Turnovski. Turnovski: Fifty years in New Zealand. Allen & Unwin; Wellington; 1990: 251.
xxix) Pers.comm. Paul Kennedy: Financial Controller / Company Secretary of Tatra/Cory-Wright & Salmon; Feb 1986 to 30 Sep 1987.
xxix) Paul Kennedy. Ethics- an employee's perspective. Speech presented at the Brisbane mid-city Rotary Club; 28 May 1999. Note: this speech described the CW&S events.
Acknowledgements for data on the William Aberdare STRONG family.
I am most grateful to William Aberdare STRONG's grandchildren, Heather TRIGG and Brian STRONG and his wife Irene. My cousins have freely shared their photos, news clippings and detailed knowledge of their section of our family. Brian made available his father's photos and news clippings as well as photos and interviews with his uncle Robert William STRONG.
Brian's material also covered other sections of our study including the coloured photo of our g-grandfather: Robert in Belfast, the clue to where our family came from ..... Knocknancy (sic), various early Robert William STRONG interviews: Emigration, newspaper article on Joseph STRONG: Joseph. In addition I was most fortunate in corresponding with William Aberdare STRONG's niece, Olive LOWE (née STEEN)… d. 30 Jun 2006, who brought the first hand information of an earlier generation.
Paul Kennedy kindly spent much time with me discussing the downfall of Joseph Lane STRONG's CW&S company subsequent to Joe's retirement. I was glad that Paul definitely showed that Joe could not be implicated in any way with these events.
The Story Continues
- Chapter 11 The life and times of Robert George David STRONG, the son of David STRONG.