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Bridge, John (1835–1897)

A cablegram from Stirling, Scotland, announces the death of Mr. John Bridge, on Monday, the 18th October. The deceased gentleman, who was in his sixty-third year, though chairman of directors of the company of John Bridge and Co. Limited, had not for some time taken an active part in the business save that of greeting the firm's clients upon visiting Sydney. The selling, valuing, and general conduct of the business were apportioned by Mr. Bridge to those partners now constituting the company as the result of their twenty to twenty-five years' experience in every branch of the trade.

Mr. John Bridge was born at Wollombi, near West Maitland. His early days were passed at the district school, which at that period was of the most elementary kind. But he applied himself thoroughly to the study of arithmetic and grammar, and having mastered these, set himself to acquiring a proficiency in general literature, and thus rose superior to his surroundings. Accordingly at the age of seventeen he was so well qualified that he was offered, and accepted, a responsible position in the mill of Messrs. Hough and Co., flour millers, West Maitland, and he was very little time in that employ before he was given the sole management of the mill. Whilst holding this office he was induced to accept a clerkship in the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney. Later on he entered the Australian Joint Stock Bank, then doing an immense business in the important district of the Hunter. He rapidly rose from ledger-keeper to accountant, and from accountant to manager, a position he held for many years. The bank's transactions even then with Sydney merchants were of a very extensive nature, and, amongst others, Mr. John A. Turner, wool broker, then doing a considerable business in Sydney, made overtures to secure Mr. Bridge's services, and he speedily showed himself so valuable that Mr. Turner took him into partnership. Upon Mr. Turner's death the late Mr. Irwin joined Mr. Bridge, and the business was continued until Mr. Irwin's death, when Mr. Bridge started for himself, and by dint of sound business qualifications and commercial probity his business grew steadily, until the present firm of John Bridge and Co. Limited has been reached, with an annual turnover of £1,537,635, and paying the New South Wales railways upwards of £32,000 a year for freight.

Mr. Bridge was essentially a man of figures, and his opinion was frequently courted by many of the present-day leaders.

In March last, with his usual clearheadedness, he perfected a scheme which he had long in mind, viz., to form his business into a limited liability company, so that in case of his death, or that of any of the partners, no difference would be made to the working of the company. The following notice to the firm's clients was then written, viz.:—

To THE WOOLGROWERS AND PRODUCERS OF AUSTRALIA.

It has been considered expedient to consolidate the interests of the partners of the firm of John Bridge and Co. by registering as a limited liability company under the Companies Acts. This has been done, the capital being £100,000, divided into 100,000 shares of £1 each, the whole of the 100,000 being appropriated to ourselves as being fully paid up, in substitution for our interest in the old firm. None of this capital has been offered to the public, nor can any of it, nor the shares, be offered or sold outside, as the by-laws of our company will not permit it. We desire it to be clearly understood that we remain simply a proprietary company, the shares being held only by the family of Mr. John Bridge and Mr. Joseph F. Hayes, he having been associated with the business for the past twenty-five years. This alteration in the name of the firm will not, therefore, affect in the slightest the general conduct of the business, which will be carried on as heretofore, the personnel of the company being the same, viz., Mr. John Bridge (managing director), with Mr. Clarence Walter Bridge (wool manager) and Mr. Joseph F. Hayes also on the directorate; Mr. Ernest John Bridge (produce manager), and Mr. Lionel James Bridge (secretary to the company).

The primary reason for the alteration was to secure and participate in the many advantages incidental to incorporation, and to avoid the dislocations and inconveniences that would otherwise occur in the event of the death or retirement of any partner, also ensuring the perpetual carrying on of the business. As in the past, the utmost care and attention will be devoted to any business entrusted to us.

We have the honour to be, your obedient servants,
JOHN BRIDGE AND Co. LIMITED.

It has been said—"If you want to get a man's true character ask his competitors." Mr. Bridge, besides having a great desire to see the firm's clients prosper, was actuated by a generous regard for his fellow competitors in the same trade. The following copy of a letter received from the United Sydney Woolselling Brokers speaks for itself:—

To MRS. JOHN BRIDGE. Dear Madam,—By unanimous resolution of the Sydney Wool-selling Brokers' Association I have been asked to convey to you and the members of your family our deep sympathy in the bereavement which has befallen you in the death of Mr. John Bridge.

The high esteem which Mr. Bridge had won, and which is now being so widely expressed, must in itself be some solace for your loss, and I desire to assure you that it was fully shared by ourselves, whose business and personal relations with him had been of such long standing.

We therefore ask you to accept our condolences in the great personal loss you have suffered.

I am, Dear Madam, yours faithfully,
(Signed) T. F, KNOX, Chairman.

To his employees, one and all, Mr. Bridge was a father, ever seeking to help them on. He was a vigorous advocate of life insurance—he, himself being well insured, took opportunity to urge, well nigh on to insistence, that all his employees should insure; and some who could not, or would not, insure, he had insured at his own expense, and thus made provision for them. The employees' regard for their late employer may be inferred from the following copies of addresses presented on the eve of his departure for Europe:—

To JOHN BRIDGE, ESQ.

Dear Sir,—On the occasion of the twenty-eighth anniversary of the firm of John Bridge and Co., and on the eve of your departure for Europe, we, the heads of the various departments, cannot let the opportunity pass without tendering you our warmest congratulations, It must be gratifying to you after so many years of arduous and honourable work to find that the amplest success has crowned your endeavours, that your name is a household word throughout the mercantile world, and, simultaneously with the completion of your new wool warehouse—the finest in the Southern Hemisphere—the enviable position of leading woolselling brokers in Australia has been achieved, season 1894-5, whilst the firm's transactions in produce are second to none on this continent.

In yourself we recognise the kindest of employers, whose business tact and genial manner have stimulated our endeavours, and have gone far to induce us to follow your example.

We can never be unmindful of your action in counselling us on individual matters pertaining to the welfare of your clients, nor of the wisdom and business grasp you have shown in guiding the affairs of the firm till now.

Judging from the brilliant past, we can safely argue that your business, managed on the same sound principles as heretofore, will, in time to come, exceed even its present magnitude. There is no royal road to success, and that which has so conspicuously attended the firm of John Bridge and Co. has, from our personal knowledge—extending over from five to twenty-five years—been attained by your steadily marching with the times, and by dint of hard personal work, acting on the principle that progress is eternal.

That you may have a pleasant trip to the Old Country, and a safe and speedy return, is the sincere wish of your employees, one and all.

Signed on behalf of the staff,&c., July, 1896.
(Here follow signatures).

To JOHN BRIDGE, ESQ. Dear Sir,—On the occasion of your projected visit to Europe, we, the travellers of the firm, unite in wishing you a very pleasant trip and a speedy return. We are not unmindful of your numerous kindnesses in years past, and our labours have been materially lightened by the magnanimous way you have acceded to our proposals from time to time. We feel you have been more a true friend than an employer.

It is a pleasure to be identified with one whose progressive yet cautious spirit is the best guarantee that the welfare of the firm's clients will be thoroughly studied. Not only are the wool stores ahead of anything yet constructed, but the offices and general conduct of the business under your careful generalship are also so perfect that such golden results could be only the outcome of your long banking and highly successful mercantile career.

That the firm of John Bridge and Co. will successfully hold a premier position in the wool world is the belief of yours in all sincerity.

(Here follow signatures).

The secret of the late Mr. Bridge's success may be summarised in these words:—He was as solicitous for the welfare of those doing business with him as he was for himself—and almost his last words were that this same spirit should be perpetuated.

Imbued with the principles so strictly inculcated, the present members of the company ask us to state that they are determined to follow closely the example set by their late chief.

Original publication

Citation details

'Bridge, John (1835–1897)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/bridge-john-147/text148, accessed 23 September 2021.

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