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On the road for four generations

There are 11 trucks in the Garrity Brothers fleet. PHOTOS/JADE CVETKOV


Calling Greytown business Garrity Brothers a family affair is something of an understatement – it’s just celebrated its 125th birthday, with Rodney and Ian Garrity the fourth-generation owners of the rural road transport company.

And the company is still using the same bank account opened with Bank of New Zealand by their great-grandfather Sam Garrity on April 10, 1893.

Today, the Garrity Brothers are known for their signature fleet of dark blue trucks, but back then the legwork was done by a team of Clydesdale draughts.

“My great-grandfather came out from Ireland in 1875,” Rodney said.

“He had a lump of land out here and was very good with horses.

Past and present employees of Garrity Brothers celebrate the company’s 125th birthday.

“He started metalling the tracks and roads around town and ploughing paddocks.”

The horses were in high demand for jobs such as hauling Sam’s reaper and binder through crops of oats, and carting dray-loads of sheaves to the oat stacks he built.

Some years after the bank account was opened for the business, Sam’s sons – George, James, and Cecil – formed the partnership known as Garrity Brothers, and as the business grew, so did the number of Clydesdale draughthorses.

Just before the outbreak of World War I, Garrity Brothers bought 80 acres [32 hectares] in Humphries St, Greytown, where the carrying yard is situated today.

At this time, there were about 40 draughthorses and many drays, spring carts, horse-drawn lorries, and implements.

In 1915, James Garrity turned 21 and went to war in France where he was hit by a burst of machine-gun fire – “but he came back and carried on”, Rodney said.

In 1924, the Garrity Brothers got their first motor lorry, costing them a whopping £1600.

From then on, the company was involved in large-scale carting of metal.

Jumping forward to 1938, the Garrity Brothers picked up a bobby calf run for the season that year, and in something of a record, that run is still being done today.

In 1964, Rodney’s grandfather, Cecil, had a stroke, and “one of the other brothers got leukaemia”.

It was decided that everything would be sold up, but then Rodney’s dad, Martyn, stood up and said he wanted to carry on with the trucks.

In 1966, Martyn, his brother Warren, and his cousin John Garrity bought the business.

John later went on to become a Greytown borough councillor in 1980, mayor in 1983, and mayor of the newly-formed South Wairarapa district in 1989.

Garrity Brothers owners Rodney and Ian Garrity.

“That gave my cousin Ian and myself the opportunity to buy it,” Rodney said.

He said the secret to the business’ longevity was passion.

“You’ve got to have passion for it. If you do anything for money you won’t last long.”

And certainly, from a young age, Rodney and Ian were passionate about trucks.

“I can remember sitting in college and rising up to look out the window every time a truck went by,” Rodney said.

But Rodney acknowledged that owning a trucking business was not the best get-rich-quick idea.

“It has always been a battle,” he said.

“There’s not a lot of money in it, and it is a lot of hard work and long hours.”

Regardless, the passion has not died, and generations were still coming through the ranks today, with other families also getting wrapped up in “the Firm”.

On Saturday, a celebration was held at the carrying yard, attended by past and present staff and associates.

“Without them, we wouldn’t be here,” Rodney said.

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