I’ve decided to come back and bore you some more.
In the 1950’s, Harvey Trinder’s were the premier Lloyds Brokers in Australia, well we considered ourselves to be, Edward Lumley & Sons had other ideas, they being the first Lloyds Brokers in the country back in the 1920’s.
A few months before I joined Trinders, there was a rather large bank robbery in Melbourne, in fact it was their biggest ever, the amount doesn’t seem big today, but in 1958 it was huge, well over £35.000/0/0d; think that’s how we used to write pounds shillings and pence, been a while now…. Doesn’t even get a mention in the record books now; and the bank, ESANDA (E.S &A) was swallowed up.
In ’58, £35 thousand plus, would have bought quite a few good houses, in good suburbs. The basic wage wasn’t much over 20 quid a week
Seems that the blokes who pulled the job off, had been hiding in the bank over the weekend, waiting for a Mayne Nickless truck to pull in early Monday morning, to off load the loot. They got the lot, and clean away. Might be why the records have gone walkabout.
As you’ve already guessed Lloyds, through their Melbourne Brokers, were up for the loss, and it was Trinders, not Lumleys, that were in the limelight.
And I got to read the file.
As soon as they were advised, Mr Latham swung into gear, sent a cable to Trinders, London advising them, called up Toplis Harding, the world renowned Loss Assessors, they actually operated under the name Topliss Harding & Satchell in Australia; Satchell was an Australian, ex Royal Insurance Company man.
Next morning a cable came in from London instructing Trinders to instruct Topliss Harding, already done! Latham knew what he was doing.
The following day, Topliss filed a preliminary report recommending pay the claim. Latham sent off another cable to London, and started to process the payment. But not just any old cheque in the mail payment.
The Thursday night, Mr Bucknell, Mr Latham, hosted a dinner with the head blokes from Mayne Nickless, and the ES&A bank, at a top pub and handed over the cheque with some ceremony.
Well that’s understandable I suppose , it was the biggest heist in Melbourne’s history; and the next day a cable arrived from London with instructions to pay.
That’s how Harvey Trinder operated, and I was very happy to join them.
Mr Bucknell, it seemed like fine dinners, fine wine and good conversation. Each month, second or third Wednesday not sure which now, he hosted a company dinner, always at the Oxford Hotel, a private room naturally.
Of course it was an all male event. The four senior ‘Underwriters’, Company Secretary, Claims Manager, usually a guest from Hedderwicks or Toplis, all ‘old blokes’. I was to join them, at Mr Bucknells request.
I must admit I was a bit excited, I’d never been to a top hotel before, I did my drinking in the Old Mitre Tavern, in Bank Place. The Mitre’s still there, the oldest pub in Melbourne; the walls are 3′ thick in most parts. Great old pub. They had a great dining room upstairs, but way past my pocket.
Come my first night; after the office was closed up, we were conveyed by taxis to the Oxford, no tram up Collins Street, switch to a tram in Swanston, the lot probably cost more than I earned a year at the Hartford.
No drinks at the bar; ushered straight to the room, beautiful, I’d never seen or been anywhere like it, mind I’m just a 22 year old Cockney kid at this time; Big long table, all the articles of plate. Small bowls, with water and a small flower floating in it, at each setting.
We were served drinks, I had a sherry, learnt that in London, and was chatting to a bloke by the name of Wallace, I’m not sure if that was his first, or last name, he was always called Wallace, he was an Underwriter, in his early/mid 30’s I’d have guessed.
Dinner is served. Time to take our seats. I was the new kid on the block, so stayed back and watched where the rest of the party went. I’d then take the last seat.
Mr Bucknell naturally took the head of the table, and the Company Secretary the bottom, the couple of guests took there seats, and Mr Latham sat at Mr Bucknell’s left. I was called by Mr Bucknell to take my seat, at his right.
I imagined that this was because I was the new chum, and he was being kind, but seems that this was to be my seat at table from here on, I was not very popular with one gentleman, perhaps had he had a glass of wine, things mightn’t have seemed so bad.
Must admit I did enjoy that dinner, don’t have a clue what I had to eat, but had a great time, the first of many.
My immediate boss Mr Latham; the rechabite, was a member of an established family. His uncle was Sir John Latham, Chief Justice of Australia, GCMG, (God Calls Me God – Yes Minister) QC. http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/latham-sir-john-greig-7104. for those interested.
As Chief Justice, Sir John was Lieutenant Governor of Victoria, at that time, then again it may well have been Lt. Gov. Gen of Australia; one of the other.
Naturally I was made aware of Mr. Lathams connections, and of course I was suitably impressed.
We never did get on; our relationship was always somewhat strained, I suppose it was my fault really, I kind of treated him as an equal, lets face it we were both hired by Mr Bucknell. Always polite, always addressed him as Mr Latham, and had as little to do with him as possible.
He’d told me what he expected of me when I first started, and then I was on my own, he liked to be behind his closed office door, and I was the front line. I was also the only bloke!
Yep! All my staff, in front, to the side, and behind me, were young, and some not so young, women. Thinking back I suppose it was cheap labour, well, with what I was getting, I suppose they had to recoup somewhere.
I recall quite clearly two sisters, I can’t recall their names, They didn’t look much alike but they were very close. Two weeks after I joined the company, the youngest sister was killed.
She was riding pillion passenger on a motorcycle, got thrown off in an accident. Broken neck. Helmets weren’t used, or compulsory, back then, but I doubt it would have saved her, she apparently flew over the riders head.
The elder girl was devastated, but she carried on, was a great worker, and was still with Harvey Trinders after I bid them farewell.
Strangely enough, sitting here, I can see her quite clearly, tall as I was, very straight of shoulders, long light brown hair, she wore little or no make-up; she had a nice, shy,sad sort of smile, wish I could recall her name.