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FOUNDING A FAMILY BUSINESS

William Henry Smith and Andrew Clarke Caughey, brothers-in-law and partners, building a lasting legacy

William Henry Smith (1851-1912), like Marianne Smith (nee Caughey), was born in Northern
Ireland. William, a draper by trade was employed in Belfast by James Lindsay and Co. After
marrying, the couple spent some time in New York where William gained valuable experience
working on Fifth Avenue for A. T. Stewart and Co. a company which, at this time was the
largest and most dynamic retailer in the world. In 1880, after arriving in New Zealand, William
continued his drapery career at Cosgrave and Co. located on Queen Street.

The store Marianne began upon arrival, ‘Smith’s Cheap Drapery Warehouse’ became
established in the trading landscape quite quickly, and after just one year, William was able to
join Marianne in the business.

Marianne’s older brother Andrew Clarke Caughey (1849-1928) also had a Drapery
background, serving as an apprentice from age 15 for five years with James Lindsay and Co.
Employed at the same time as William, we imagine Andrew introduced William to his sister.

Following his apprenticeship Andrew headed to Limerick, London and Liverpool taking up
positions in increasing responsibility, eventually returning to Belfast and James Lindsay & Co. as
Head Superintendent.

In 1879, Andrew left Ireland for New Zealand, exchanging a life in trade for a one devoted to
the Methodist Ministry. Setting sail in ‘The Lady Jocelyn’, Andrew arrived in Lyttelton after 107
days at sea. After entering the Methodist Ministry, Reverend A. C. Caughey served as a rural
traveling preacher in Pukekohe and throughout Northland for two and a half years.

By 1882, the store was set for expansion, Marianne and William convinced Andrew to join the
company as a partner, forming ‘Smith & Caughey’s Drapers & Clothiers’. A family business, now
in its sixth generation.

Andrew spoke of some initial hesitation in joining the company, quoting £37 as the average
weekly turnover for the store, perhaps unsure if the business could yet support them all.

However, the economic climate of the time was positive and competition was fierce. The group
were somewhat cautious, though confident- they were well experienced in the drapery trade with
a strict ethos of fair trading, customer service and quality of merchandise; all still hold true today.

From an early catalogue:
‘When a Firm can say “Our best asset is the memory of our customers,” it has established it’s
business upon a rock. It has created a goodwill which may actually be more valuable than all its
tangible properties combined.’

Andrew, in order to increase the company’s circle of customers would travel miles to both the
North and South of Auckland with a packhorse carrying stock and samples, visiting pioneer
families.

Full-page advertisements ran regularly in TE KORIMAKO (The Bellbird) a monthly Te Reo
periodical offering freight free delivery with goods safely sewn in canvas to any part of the
country approachable directly from Auckland. Advertisements in The New Zealand Herald also
date back to the early 1880’s. All efforts proved fruitful and in 1884, the company announced
they needed - in words of the time “more commodious premises” and were moving to the western
side of Queen Street, where we can still be found today.

William Henry Smith died in 1912, having made his mark as one of the founders of the company
but like Marianne, he felt called to service in the community. William served nightly for four years
in missions in New York, the couple set up a charitable mission in Belfast for seamen, and here
in New Zealand, William was instrumental in establishing the Helping Hand, a forerunner to the
Methodist Central Mission - of which he served as President. A number of charitable donations
were made throughout his life including in 1907, gifting a home ‘Greenhills’ on 3 acres of land in
Ellerslie to the Auckland Hospital Board to be used as a convalescent home for women and girls.

Andrew Clarke Caughey died in 1928, and is remembered for his integrity and business acumen
as well as many charitable contributions. Even as a young apprentice, he set aside one tenth of
his small earnings for charity. He gave generously in time and finances to the Y.M.C.A, Methodist
causes and more. With his wife, Lucy Hannah Rainger he presented his Mt Albert home ‘Rahiri’ to
the Plunket Society to be used as a Karitane Hospital.

A SHARED STORY

My grandmother’s grandfather had a small department store in Limerick Ireland. He had a good
friend, a Mr Caughey. I understand that Mr Caughey decided to immigrate to New Zealand.
He was one of Smith & Caughey’s founders and I understand they had kept in contact with one
another.


 Just before or after WW1 my grandmother’s father, who had taken over the business died and
the family fell on hard times. Hearing of my grandmother’s family tragedy, a letter arrived from
New Zealand offering them all jobs in the department store he had founded, if they could make it
to New Zealand.


My grandmother’s brother came first to check things out and the rest followed. I understand my
grandparents first met in Smith & Caughey, which was the only job my grandmother had until my
father was born in 1923.

- Brian M


author:

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