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Living Linen Interview LL2_R01/58


Sound Recording on Reel: Ewart Property Development. Library Transcript: Transcript. Summary: Mr Henderson is married to Primrose Forrest, daughter of Colonel J Vincent Forrest and Gundrida Ewart. Gundrida Ewart was a daughter of William Ewart. Although Mr Henderson was never involved in the textile manufacturing industry, from his involvement in newspaper publishing he was very much aware of the fortunes of the local linen trade and of Ewarts in particular. He took a special interest in Ewarts due to his wife's personal connections to the firm. Ewarts was a family firm and, in common with other such firms, acted with great gallantry in its final years running on for a number of years for the sake of the workforce. The fall of the Ewart house was met with great shock and sadness in the local community. The liquidation of York St had given Ewarts some hope that the elimination of a major competitor would permit them to take an even more dominant position within the textile industry. As the decline in the textile trade continued, many other firms collapsed. By the time Ewarts ceased production, closures within the textile sector were more or less expected. Mr Henderson ultimately succeeded Major Cecil Harding (indirectly) as Chairman of Ewart New Northern and pays great tribute to Major Harding's contribution to the firm and its transition from a textile firm to a property company with a massive portfolio. When Mr Henderson joined the firm, the McIlroy Brothers, who had taken over as the driving force in the company from Major Harding, were actively developing the firm into a property acquisition and development company. Under Major Harding the company had been renting its own properties. Under the McIlroys and Captain Henderson the firm began to buy and develop new properties. Mr Henderson joined the company in 1987 and suggested that Sir Ivan Ewart be placed on the Board. As Sir Ivan was living in Africa, he was represented at Board meetings by Captain Henderson. Captain Henderson was made a full Director in July 1987 and remained with the firm until he was sacked by Mr Smith of Dunloe in 1995. Captain Henderson was Chairman from Sept 1990 – mid 1992. Captain Henderson was largely involved in the disposal of the textile holdings and the release of funds to finance new ventures. Ewarts became extremely interested in the Laganbank development and applied to be the `preferred developer'. Laganbank now houses the Waterfront Hall, the Hilton Hotel, the British Telecom Tower and the Abbey National Building. The value of the Laganbank development was forecast at £100,000,000. In reality the committed investment is over £250,000,000 to date. The Crumlin Road site was sold off as part of the disposal programme. Although the site ran into many acres of land and thousands of square feet it did not raise a huge sum. The site was run down and situated in an area ravaged by the troubles. Captain Henderson regards the Bedford St site as `The Jewel in the Crown'. The old warehouse facilities were pulled down. The office block, which is a listed building, is still owned by the organisation. The swathe of land behind the offices was developed as a car-park and run by Ewarts for some 14 years. Car-parks became a major component of the Ewart enterprise. Land was bought and converted into car-parking facilities before being sold on. In the interim the property value had not only increased but the car-parking venture had raised considerable revenue for minimal investment/running costs. In 1995 Mr Smith of Dunloe bought 29% of Ewarts shares. This made him the largest shareholder.