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Sir Tom Clark Awarded Key To Waitakere City

February 21 2005

Sir Tom Clark Awarded Key To Waitakere City

Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey will tonight honour former Crown Lynn Pottery head, sailing stalwart and local icon Sir Tom Clark with the Key to the City at a Civic Reception in New Lynn.

More than 100 former Crown Lynn employees have been invited to join Sir Tom in a celebratory Civic Reception and reunion at the New Lynn Community Centre.

The Clark family dates back to the founding of the first brick and tile kilns on the Waitemata. Tom began working at the former Amalgamated Brick and Pipe Company Limited at the age of 14.

Some years later, and aware of the need to diversity to avoid the company’s vulnerability should there be another Depression, he convinced the company’s board there was value in experimenting with ceramics. With a grant of $5000 Tom set up the Specials Department. One of its first crockery contracts was for New Zealand Rail and those mugs which have become so famous and sought after.

In 1948 the Specials Department became a separate company, Crown Lynn, and under Tom’s leadership quality and experimentation became the focus. From this extraordinary and visionary industry would come just about every cup, plate and saucer in the country, as well as industrial pots and glazes. It was from Crown Lynn that the ‘Buy New Zealand’ campaign took flight.

A keen sailor, Tom commissioned and raced two boats, Infidel and Buccaneer. When he retired from active racing he became a major force behind the scenes.

In a Sunday morning meeting of the men who were to become the trustees of Ceramco New Zealand Tom made an on the spot commitment that Ceramco would back the campaign. He later told his chairman what he had done causing great consternation. Tom’s famous response was “if you don’t like it fire me”. They didn’t and the Ceramco New Zealand campaign became a significant cornerstone in the rise of New Zealand sailing.

It was here Tom, now a Huapai resident, became a great friend and mentor of Sir Peter Blake. Their paths continued to cross as he went on to back Steinlager 11 and later become a trustee of New Zealand.

Mayor Harvey says Sir Tom, who features in his latest book Westies: Up Front and Out There, changed the face of New Zealand’s ceramics and sail racing industries.

“Sir Tom was a giant in New Zealand business and a spokesman for industry, one of the last of the great business entrepreneurs in the same mould as Sir James Fletcher and Sir James Wattie.

“He was one of the visionaries who believed in a New Zealand that was sustainable and which could create products for export to world markets.

“It is an honour to be able to give him the Key to the City and it is an accolade that, as a treasure of the west and of New Zealand, Sir Tom truly deserves.”


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