FW Parris and Sons has come a long way since 1913.By Diane Grant
In 1868 a 22-year-old Englishman called Fred Parris emigrated to Australia with some gold sovereigns sewn into his clothing. He was about to start a new adventure in a new land.
He adopted Australia as his own country and brought up a family in the Goulburn Weir-Nagambie area. He died in 1931, but his legacy has well and truly lived on.
In March 2013, the family owned and operated hardware, machinery supplies and transport service business he began is still going and last week F. W. Parris and Son celebrated 100 years of serving Nagambie and district.
Present manager Bruce Parris is the great-grandson of Fred. On March 14, 1913, Fred and his son Frederick William (Bruce’s grandfather) registered Fred Parris and Son as a business. Recently Bruce Parris found that original registration certificate and had it framed and placed in his office.
Initially the men set to work baling hay and carting wool for themselves and their neighbours from their farm at Goulburn Weir.
Angus Parris, Bruce’s father, worked in Melbourne during the depression and lost his job with British Motors, the Rolls Royce agent around 1932. He returned home and teamed up with his father Frederick and brother Stirling in the family business.
They started off using a Dederick Stationary Baler, and expanded the business by baling straw, eventually covering the area from the Murray River to Yarra Glen. Then on February 2, 1939, they incorporated as F. W. Parris and Sons, formed a partnership and the family-owned business began to grow.
During World War II, the government issued the business with Australia’s first twine-tying pick-up baler made by New Holland and they put it to work rapidly baling hay and straw in support of the war effort.
By 1948, the business had expanded enough to move from the farm to the present location at 253 High St. They began operating out of a small shed, then the office building, and eventually Angus designed and built the present store front and in 1954 the showroom opened.
Bruce Parris went to school in Nagambie, Seymour then Wangaratta Technical School. He began his motor mechanic apprenticeship in 1962 at Lane’s Motors, BMC Chrysler, in their workshop in Dorcas St, South Melbourne.
He married Glady in 1967 and they returned to Nagambie a year later when Bruce joined the family business to take over the motor mechanic repairs from the retired Maurice Binion. He worked alongside Jim Webster in the motor mechanics section, and learned the hardware trade as well.
Up until the late 1970s the baling business continued parallel with machinery and hardware sales and for many years large straw stacks, cut and stacked by Parris’ could be seen around the Goulburn Valley. The harvest straw supplied the cardboard manufacturing company for the Broadford paper mills and market gardens in Sandown.
As the mass manufacture of large balers increased, the firm decided to close the travelling baling operation and shift to hardware.
In the early 1980s Angus partially retired but kept visiting the business each day. His brother Stirling died in 1980 and Angus semi-managed the business while Bruce learned the management side of the business. Glady joined the family business in the 1980s after their two children Libby and Robert finished school.
If you go into Parris store now, you will either be served by Bruce, Glady or Robbie, and they each know where every item can be found.
Although the nature of the Parris family owned-and-operated business has changed several times over the past 100 years the firm has been guided by the family’s tinkering spirit, interest in all things mechanical and involvement in the local community.
But it is their loyal customers and dedicated staff who have played the vital role in Parris’ longevity, and for that they are grateful.
On March 30, F. W. Parris and Son is having a celebration for past and present employees and families to commemorate 100 years in business. One past employee, 95-year-old Ron Richie, has some wonderful stories he can reminisce about because he worked with both Fred and Angus many years ago.
Proud Nagambie business couple Bruce and Gladys Parris with their 100-year-old business registration form and 1939 companies certificate. The family owned and operated business of FW Parris and Sons is a landmark in the town.
You could buy everything from dryers to farm equipment at FW Parris and Sons - as this advertisement from the Telegraph in 1961 shows.
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