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Living Linen Interview LL2_R01/57

Description:

Sound Recording on Reel: Ewarts - New Northern. Library Transcript: Transcript. Summary: Major Harding's mother, Hope, was the eldest daughter of Sir William Ewart. As was customary for the time, no female members of the Ewart family inherited ordinary shares. They did, however, receive non-voting preference shares, which guaranteed them an income. Major Harding was a career soldier and ran a family farm in S Ireland. In 1957 he left the army, rather than be transferred to Malaysia, due to family commitments and embarked on a career in stock broking. In 1959 Major Harding was invited to join the Board of New Northern. Major Harding had New Northern shares in his portfolio - given the fact that William Ewart had been one of the company's founders in 1888. The firm performed well during the Korean War, but subsequently ran into severe difficulties. Scott Kyle and Martin Wallace appreciated that New Northern's salvation lay outside the textile trade and were actively looking for other avenues. Given Major Harding's family background and expertise in the stock market he was made a Director. Some of the factory space, freed by the contraction in the textile business, was let in small units. By 1962 New Northern had disposed of all its textile interests (to Moygashel) and the firm changed its name to New Northern Properties. New Northern also bought the Jennymount building and used it for light industrial tenants. They had little difficulty in letting the units. Major Harding had also kept a distant eye on the main Ewart business. Ewarts was entirely family owned and the Director's were all Ewarts by birth, or by marriage as in the case of Victor Clarendon and Herbert McCready. Ewarts were also in decline, due to the growth of synthetic fibres and the proliferation of textile manufacturers. When Victor Clarendon retired as Chairman he recognised that Major Harding was not only `family' but had successfully helped New Northern change its focus from a textile to a property company. Major Harding joined the Board of Ewarts in 1970, amalgamated the 2 firms and formed Ewart New Northern Properties Ltd. Only Hicks Bullick (Ewart's thread making division) was retained when the textile interests were merged with Liddells of Donacloney in 1973. The new firm was based on the Liddell site. Very little machinery from the Crumlin Road was transferred. The Ewart family retained a sizeable shareholding in the new firm but eventually sold off their remaining interests to Vantona. Vantona had no interest in the Ewart buildings. Tavanagh factory in Portadown was also converted into a property company and was used by the government as a strategic food storehouse during the Cold War. Ewarts remained profitable until the mid-1960s. As some holdings were sold off, the company regained a very sizeable surplus. Management consultants were brought into Ewarts and liquidation was also considered, but in the end the decision was taken to sell off the textile business and develop a property company. The decline in textile manufacturing freed factory space, which was promptly let, so the decline in textiles and the rise of a property company went hand in hand. The residential property owned by Ewarts was sold off to the existing tenants. As the Crumlin Rd buildings were mostly on one level they didn't require much modification in terms of health & safety or fire escape provisions to make them suitable for internal division and sub-letting. The property company was successful. Mr Harding was Chairman of Ewart New Northern for a number of years before retiring in April 1976.