THE FAMILY BUSINESS: Tamworth born Basil Regan traveled to England to learn the art of flour milling before returning to his home town.
The rivalry between Armidale and
Tamworth is almost as old
as that between Sydney and Melbourne and just as intense. Those in Armidale
have sometimes seen Tamworth as hot, crass and
commercial. Those in Tamworth have seen
Armidale as cold, conservative and elitist, almost effete.
Of course, these views are caricatures. However, like all stereotypes, there is more than a grain of truth in them. In particular,
is simply more entrepreneurial and business focused than Armidale. To
illustrate this, I want to return to the story of Basil Regan, someone I
mentioned in my last column on the history of food.
John Basil Regan was born on 15 June 1903 at
Tamworth, the fifth of seven children of
Charles and Sarah Regan. By the time Basil was born, the Regan business
interests were well established. These included Charles Regan Ltd’s store (the
' '), as well as the George Fielder
Phoenix Mill (photo) that had been acquired by
Charles in 1912. Palace of Trade
After initial education by the Dominican nuns in Tamworth, Basil enrolled in 1915 at St Ignatius College in
he seems to have enjoyed his time there, but left in 1920 before completing the
leaving certificate to work in the family business and especially the flour
milling side. Sydney
In 1922, the nineteen year old Basil went to
he was employed by Thomas Burton Ltd, flour-millers. He completed the London
City & Guilds course in flour-milling before training at Aynsome
Laboratories, St Helens, and the Woodlands Ltd laboratories, England . Dover
This training would prove to be very important, for Basil would establish himself as a technological entrepreneur.
In 1924 Basil rejoined the family businesses, managing with his cousin the new flour mill erected in
West Tamworth. This became the main profit earner for the
family company. Now established, Basil married Kathleen Mary Cavanagh, a
striking redhead and accomplished pianist, on 30 September 1931.
In 1935 Regan began experimenting with the manufacture of gluten and starch. He employed an Irish milling engineer and by 1938 a process had been perfected, using wheat rather than corn or potatoes, and a starch factory had been erected. 'Fielders Cornflour' had been born. Not, mind you, that it actually contained cornflour!
By 1945, the Regan family enterprises were one of
largest employers. The main company that Basil grew is now known as Goodman
One of the features of
business over very many decades is the way in which entrepreneurial business
activities created business leaders and a pool of capital that could be
deployed to other business activities. This facilitated start-ups and spread
In Basil’s case, he was a board member and sometime chairman of the Tamworth Newspaper Co. Ltd, a director of East-West Airlines Ltd and later of Television New England Ltd. He was also actively involved in community activities.
A devout Catholic and a devoted family man, Basil died on 14 July 1987 at Normanhurst in
, and was buried in the Tamworth cemetery. He
was survived by his wife, son and three daughters,.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 18 November 2015. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015.