The King’s College Courier magazine recently wrote an article about the McCallum family, which discusses the history of McCallum Bros Limited,® and the development of the next generation of the company and family.
From early shipbuilding days in the 1860s, leading to transporting sand requirements for Auckland construction growth and much more, the McCallum family has built on its solid past and seen it become an even more relevant, stream-lined business.
The McCallum family story is a complex one, made more so by a predilection for giving members of each generation Christian names from the family’s past. But there is a strong pioneering spirit at its backbone and an indomitable work ethic which recognises commitment to family and community.
Not surprising then that at King’s College they responded to the shared values that have inspired three generations of McCallums, propelling each generation to choose tertiary study that will help them contribute to the growth and long-term prosperity of this well-grounded enterprise.
The earliest New Zealand member of the family was John McCallum [the elder], who arrived from Scotland in the 1860s. With a shipping background, it wasn’t long before he became involved in that industry here.
In 1866, he started McCallum and Macquarie Ship Builders in Auckland’s Mechanics Bay, building boats to service the rapidly growing seafreight trade in the Hauraki Gulf.
Moving into shipping freight business in the late 1800s, John carted everything from flax and metal to general cargo around the Gulf and as far afield as Gisborne and the northern harbours of Northland. About this time, he purchased from Sir John Logan Campbell two islands (still owned and farmed by the family) in the Gulf with a view to being able to keep his family self-sufficient in times of hardship.
FROM TOP LEFT: 1 Looking out onto the Hauraki Gulf. 2 This year the McCallum family joined the shipbuilders for the launching of the William Fraser in Miri, Borneo. 3 Taking a step back- formal dining. 4 Oysters with caviar. 5 The grand old homestead. 6 Cargo ship Kapua a. 7 Cargo ship Kapua 1. 8 William Fraser [senior]. 9 Jeddy, the Newfoundland, Callum and Jan together with, from left, Anna, Nelson and Fraser. 10 McCallum Macquarie slipway. 11 Nelson and Anna McCallum lashing a Chatham Islands load. 12 Sunrise over the oyster farm.
A few years on, John’s children purchased land adjacent to those islands in Clevedon, naming the farm Lismore after their father’s birthplace in Scotland. The brothers went into business together starting McCallum Bros Ltd, which now has the third generation involved and a fourth poised to continue the family tradition.
Famously known for its red rock aggregate “McCallum chip”, the business supplies and distributes sand and aggregates throughout the wider Auckland region, along with Northland, Coromandel and offshore islands. They also transport logs from less-accessible coastal blocks and are contracted for ongoing replenishment of the white sand on
Auckland city beaches.
Their maritime operations have grown enormously as coastal shipping is coming back into its own again due to the pressure on transport companies to reduce C02 emissions and reduce truck movements on clogged reading networks. A recently launched new vessel, the William Fraser, is built with state-of-the-art equipment to ensure minimal environmental impact including the most environment-friendly, low-emission engines available that meet US EPA Tier 4 Final emission standards- and low-impact dredging gear.
The company is proud of the fact that a great deal of raw material today is being moved by their state-of-the-art barges, thus reducing congestion on the roads. Their seagoing tug and barges are used in supplying the Chatham Islands, Great Barrier, Waiheke and other less accessible coastal regions.
At the turn of the 20th century one of the sons, William Fraser [senior], and his wife, Gwendoline, built the Homestead, now The McCallum Residence, to raise their three sons and two daughters on Lismore. A large Scottish inspired family jewel, it was built for entertaining and had a gardener’s cottage to help with the upkeep of the grounds.
All three boys went to King’s- the eldest John McCALLUM [senior] (Parnell/Town, 1943-46) and the middle son William Fraser McCALLUM [junior] (Selwyn, 1950-52). The latter, Callum’s father, was the sole owner of the business during the third generation and was instrumental in its survival and growth.
The youngest, Robert (Robbie) McCALLUM (Averill, 1965-69), started boarding school at an early age and went to King’s, of which he has fond memories. The Headmaster at the time, Geoffrey Greenbank, was a visitor to Lismore and his signature is in the old visitor’s book, along with that of later Headmaster lain Campbell.
Still living nearby, Robbie, together with brother William, continued to care for the residence, but the place had not been habitable until recent years. Then his nephew, Callum McCALLUM (Selwyn, 1975-79), son of John [senior], and his wife, Jan, took on ownership and responsibility in 2017.
What followed was a major make-over of this grand house, which has been home to five generations, restoring its former glory while bringing it into modern times.
kept secrets. Having recently opened its doors as a secluded luxury venue for weddings, corporate events/retreats and family occasions, guests can now experience what is truly “an elegant step back in time”- a chance to live the life of the landed-gentry. The Residence itself has accommodation for up to 18 guests.
Situated in a private bay on the Clevedon/ Kawakawa highway, just south of Auckland, The McCallum Residence offers a veritable paradise- four hectares of landscaped grounds, which run all the way down to the water and look towards Waiheke Island.
Serenity prevails, bird life is in abundance, mature trees surround the property, and boating and fishing are on the doorstep. That includes foraging for fresh oysters- something their ancestors used to do regularly, but which is now done very successfully on a commercial basis down the road at sister company Clevedon Coast Oysters.
The family, especially business manager Jan, worked closely with designers and tradespeople to reta in as much of the spirit of the original home as possible. The restoration work has been painstaking, with nothing spared in recreating the ambience of a grand family home of that era.
The furniture, much of it 17th-century French antiques owned by the original owners, has been restored – in many cases to better than new- and old majestic paintings, including a hauntingly
imperious one of Bishop William Thomas (of Waitangi Mission School fame and a regular visitor to Lismore), have been lovingly brought back to life.
Even the original colour scheme, now on-trend soft pastels, has been matched and the Scottish idiom is apparent in the occasional tartan and custom- like being welcomed at the door by kilt-wearing butler Dan. Each of the elegant eight bedroom suites has been given its own character and named after one of the family’s early sand-carrying scows.
Growing up as a child in this house, Robbie remembers his very creative mother, who was much younger than his father, as a collector of fine paintings and antiques, but also as a person who used to entertain frequently and foster strong connections with the local community. He still refers to the property as “the reservation” with all that that entails as a place to which a tribe returns.
It has been particularly gratifying for him, having long seen himself in the role of caretaker for the next generation, to see two years of hard work come to fruition. Callum and Jan have also been spurred on in their family custodial duties by the knowledge that their three children show every sign of wanting to be involved in the continuation and shaping of the family dynasty.
Whether it be maintaining the property as a viable hospitality venue, continuing to advance the family’s long-time shipping business, operating environmentally and sustainably, or growing the more-than-three-decade-old oyster farm’s growing export potential, all of them have eagerly embarked on appropriate tertiary education.
Callum and Jan’s three children have boarded at the College, where they enjoyed the family and team-focused culture, along with King’s traditions and values. They’ve grown up around and worked across all the family businesses.
Latterly, they have chosen to study at universities outside Auckland, which their parents think has been good for them, immersing themselves in subjects that will put them in good stead to continue the family journey.
Fraser (Selwyn, 2010-14) completed an LLB/
BCom at Otago, and is now in Denver doing a an LLM in Environmenta l and Natural Resources Law and Policy, and a Harvard business diploma. Nelson (Selwyn, 2011-15) is in Canterbury doing a BEng (Hons) and Anna (Middlemore, 2015-16), is completing a BCom at Otago, with a keen interest in the hospitality aspect of the businesses.
Jan says: “Juggling multiple businesses makes for interesting times” but both Jan and Callum are quick to acknowledge they rely on great teamwork by a group of superb people and a long-term strategy to get them where they are today. This is something they are proud to say is a work ethic instilled in them not just by their forefathers but also through a three generation attendance at King’s.
Returning to business number three -the farming of oysters. Having been supplying the local market since 1986 and now heavily into export, Clevedon Coast Oysters is the country’s third biggest oyster farm.
With a suitable coastal property and ancestral links to the harvesting and selling of oysters, albeit on a smaller scale, Callum and his father, John, saw the potential for aquaculture and started farming oysters near the old family property. Callum, who had holiday work sheep shearing and working on the land, gained an agricultural science degree before learning about marine farming while overseas. Together they set about producing export-quality oysters. But all the while Callum has continued to make a major contribution to the success of the family business McCallum Bros Ltd.
Harvested when the oysters are fat and juicy, their product is naturally caught rather than artificially spawned, and today the brand can be found all over the world.
Jan’s original freight-forwarding business has been instrumental in getting the containers to markets as far afield as Japan, USA and Russia. In order to keep up with demand for premium product, especially from Japan, they have formed a cooperative (JEMCO) with other top-end suppliers to ensure quality and quantity of supply. “It’s also an efficient way to fill 40-foot containers,” says Jan.