Thursday, 30 October 2014

A Thomas Withers safe

I went back to school this morning and the first person I met was the headmaster himself.

"Come in, come in," a bubbly Jalil Saad greeted me when I walked into his room. The headmaster's room. Still the same room as it had been all these decades since the Penang Free School relocated to newer, bigger premises in Green Lane from the previous buildings in Farquhar Street way back in January 1928.

I told him the reason why I was at the school today and he went off to get his office staff to open up the Archive Room for me. In the meantime, we talked briefly. My eyes strayed to an imposing antique wall safe behind him. "It's been here all this while," he told me, "and that would make it at least 86 years old."

So I crept forward to take a closer look at it. The manufacturer's name appeared on two metal nameplates riveted onto the metal door. Thomas Withers & Sons Ltd of West Bromwich in England.

Thomas Withers was one of three brothers who each had their own competing safe manufacturing business in the late 19th century.

When Thomas Withers died in 1887, his son, Joseph Thomas Withers took over until he himself died in 1927.

By 1943, however, the business had passed out from the family's hands, having been sold off to someone named John Izon Chesshire. The business folded in 1982. I may seem very knowledgeable about this safe manufacturer but no, all this information is readily available from the Internet.

The other nameplate below the horizontal metal bar, displayed the name of "The Borneo Co Ltd (Incorporated in England) Malaya, Siam, Dutch East Indies" which must have been the importer of these metal safes into then Malaya. The Borneo Co Ltd had an extensive business network that included Thailand and Indonesia (Siam and the Dutch East Indies).

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