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Knock, Knock .... Who Was There?

Tomas Andrews (later designer and victim of the Titanic) ob- tained a premium apprenticeship at Harland & Wolff, his uncle Lord Pirrie made it clear that no favours would be shown to him and stipulated that “by his own efforts and abilities he must make his way”. Joe Stewart adopted the same philosophy. At various times, he employed a number of his own children and extended family, but none of them was shown preference, and none of them rose to a permanent, prominent position in the company.

Despite this exigent manner, he remained a popular employer and, following a brief resignation in 1944 after a disagreement, his prompt return was greeted by his delighted employees with the presentation of a commissioned illuminated address. Some staff served the company for very lengthy periods, sometimes in excess of forty years. Individuals were able to aspire to the Board Room from the lowliest of starts. Hugh Shaw from East Belfast started as a shelf-filler in 1928, and retired after 51 years of service having been a Director and General Manager. James Laverty Boyd, who became Chairman and Managing Director, had served 60 years by 1984. In the south aisle of St Columba’s Church of Ireland on King’s Road there are two stained-glass windows dedicated to him- self and his wife, Edna Tomson Boyd.

Reluctant Retirement

In 1935, Joe Stewart sold Stewart’s Cash Stores to Weston’s, the Canadian international grocery business, which effectively made him a millionaire. He had, however, no other passions in life be- yond the grocery trade and was retained by the company. So trau- matic was any prospective departure to him that, when he reached 70, the company removed his name-plate from his office door as a hint that he was being retired! He spent some of his subse- quent years assisting his son, Jack, to run Loughview Nurseries at Gilnahirk. In 1969, the year of Joe Stewart’s death, the company


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