Ask the family behind Upper Clutha company Templeton and Sons
Engineering Ltd for a list of the benefits and drawbacks of
sharing a workplace with relatives, and they are stuck for an
''We don't really know, because we've never known any
different,'' Ralph Templeton (82), the former owner of the
company, tells Otago Daily Times reporter Lucy
Like his father and grandfather before him, Ralph Templeton
spent most of his working life in the family business, the
oldest company still operating in the Upper Clutha.
Long since retired but still living near his former workplace
in the old part of Albert Town, Ralph's occasional visits to
the company workshop are now purely social, although his son
Garry (52), who took over the business with wife Sue (50) in
1996, jokes that was not always the case.
''Earlier on he used to come over and poke his oar in, then
he'd [wander] off and leave you thinking.''
Garry and Sue's nephew Cory Johnson (34) joined the business
as an apprentice around the same time the couple took over,
and he is still employed there as a fifth-generation family
member and foreman. The three other full-time staff are
non-relatives and Cory insists he gets no special treatment
from his bosses, or any undue tension from the family
''We've never really had any problems. It's always been
pretty straight up,'' he said.
Garry has no major complaints about working with family
members either as, like his father, it is all he has ever
known. He started working with the company as a teenager
after school and is still there nearly 40 years later.
While he admits it is not always plain sailing - ''we have
our bloody moments, don't worry about that'' - by and large
the family business model works well for him. In fact, it is
an arrangement that has served the whole business well for
more than a century.
In 2006, the team at Templeton and Sons celebrated 100 years
of the company trading from its present site in Wicklow Tce,
and helped mark the occasion by reigniting the original
coal-fired forge. The business has long outlived many others
in Albert Town, such as the hotel, store and post office,
mainly by adapting to the changing environment around it.
While traditionally the company catered mostly for the
farming industry, now, about 90% of its work is in the
building sector, including structural steel fabrication and
balustrades, Garry says.
While 106 years at one site is an impressive feat, invoices
show Ralph's grandfather and company founder James Templeton
was actually operating a blacksmithing and engineering
business at Pembroke (now Wanaka) from as early as 1896, in a
shop next to Lake Wanaka at the Lakeside Rd/Ardmore St
He later moved to Albert Town and continued his blacksmithing
and engineering work from a site on the banks of the Clutha
River, where he also worked as a puntman on the river ferries
from March 1905. In 1906 he re-established his business on
the site where it stands today. James' son Charles, known as
Chas, eventually took over the business, and was later joined
by his own sons David, a blacksmith, and Ralph, a fitter and
turner, who trained at Dunedin's Hillside Railway Workshops.
By 1964, David had gone farming in Tarras and Chas had
decided to retire, leaving Ralph to run the business, with
wife Ethel taking care of the book-keeping and son Garry
helping out in the workshop as an after-school job.
Given the father-son history of the business, it was a
''natural progression'' for Garry to take over, Ralph says.
The handover came a little earlier than planned, though,
after Ralph had a stroke in 1996, requiring Garry and Sue to
be ''thrown in the deep end'' when they stepped in to run the
''[The transition] was a bit premature in a way ... but we
picked it up,'' Garry says.
Garry still runs the workshop and takes care of pricing
plans, among other things. Sue is primarily in charge of the
administrative side of the business, but also enjoys getting
stuck in on the workshop floor, mostly to keep things tidy.
In fact, the latter is her preference.
''I hate the office work but it's got to be done,'' she said.
For Sue, working with family members takes a special type of
''Not everybody could do it; it's 24/7.
''But I have my release where I go tramping and Garry goes
Garry says he ''wouldn't mind having a break'' from the
business one day, as he and Sue find it a struggle to take
long holidays - one drawback of working at the same place.
''You can only really go away for three weeks,'' Garry says.
While they are unsure how long the company will remain at its
current residentially-zoned site in Albert Town, they are
confident it will survive for many years to come and say they
''definitely'' want to keep it in the family.
Their own son Glen (25) works driving diggers for Central
Machine Hire, and the couple hoped he too might one day
follow in his father's footsteps.
''I'd like to see Glen come in [to the business] as well,''
In the meantime, the family is focused on maintaining
Templeton and Sons' strong reputation, built around
generations of hard work, adaptability and pride in its