Otago business pioneers recognised

Shariffe Coory
Shariffe Coory
George Fenwick
George Fenwick
A media baron and a businesswoman were inducted into the New Zealand Business Hall of Fame last night.

Posthumous awards were given to Sir George Fenwick (1847-1929) and Shariffe Coory (1866-1950), who joined six other laureates inducted into the hall of fame.

Previously, the hall of fame had only a virtual presence, but yesterday its new home on a 12m wall at the Owen G Glenn building at the University of Auckland was officially unveiled, followed by a gala dinner hosted by Governor-General Anand Satyanand.

Forty members of the Farry family attended the dinner to pay tribute to family matriarch Shariffe Coory.

"She was a remarkable woman," great-grandson Malcolm Farry said.

Mrs Coory was mindful of her beginnings and an inspiration to her 170 descendants, he said.

Among the first Lebanese to reach Australia, the Coorys employed 1500 people in their wholesale and manufacturing business before selling and moving to Dunedin in 1892.

"When she arrived, she worked hard to break down barriers and did philanthropic work with the Lebanese community," Mr Farry said.

One of her greatest gifts was passing on her belief in entrepreneurship and "she had a significant influence on her grandchildren", he said.

Business Hall of Fame selection committee chairman Peter Shirtcliffe said Dunedin was a hotbed of enterprise and Shariffe Coory and Sir George Fenwick were worthy laureates.

"They are both fantastic role models for our young people to read about. They showed vision in leadership, an entrepreneurial spirit and put something back into the community."

Sir George was not only a successful newspaperman but campaigned against a wide range of social ills, such as animal cruelty, he said.

Sir George was also keen on gardening and botany and produced pamphlets on the flora and fauna of West Otago.

A book on the 100 laureates inducted to the hall of fame since its inception in 1994 was a "certainty" in the future, Mr Shirtcliffe said.

"People need to read their stories."

The other 2008 laureates are Tony Falkenstein, Hugh Perrett, Alan Burnet, Sir Roderick Weir, Ronald Jarden and Joseph Nathan.

The hall of fame is sponsored by Fairfax Media.


Shariffe Coory(1866-1950): The daughter of peasant farmers from Bsharri, Lebanon. Married Anthony Coory and migrated to Melbourne, Australia, in the mid-1880s; moved to Dunedin in 1892.

Set up workshop where Lebanese women made shirts and aprons for hawkers to sell; also invested in property.

Their only child, Amelia, married Gabriel Farry in 1899 and returned to settle in Bsharri in 1899; returned to Dunedin in 1923.


Sir George Fenwick(1847-1929): Born in Sunderland, England. Came to Otago with his family in 1856.

Aged 12, took up printing apprenticeship with The Otago Witness; later joined the Otago Daily Times; eventually owned both newspapers.

After running his own printing press, gained control of both papers in 1877, was editor of the ODT from 1890-1909. Co-founded the New Zealand Press Association in 1878. Founded the Otago SPCA in 1882, the first in the country. Knighted in 1919.

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