A special woman indeed Margaret Ivory 1848–1920
Photo: Balhaven truck registered to M. Ivory.
Was this New Zealand’s first woman in transport? Women may be a common sight in New Zealand’s transport industry today, but in the early 1900s they were a rarity, especially one like Margaret Ivory, who ran her own transport business in Wellington.
Originally from the UK, Margaret Morgan married brick worker George Ivory in Kent, England, in 1874. This was Margaret’s second marriage.
In September 1883, the couple and their children boarded the sailing ship Darra in London, bound for Australia as assisted immigrants. They arrived in Brisbane on 28 December 1883.
George died in Sydney in May 1901, and in 1903, together with daughter Alice and sons Charles and Stephen, Margaret moved to New Zealand, arriving in Wellington on the steamship Warrimoo.
The 1905–1906 New Zealand Electoral Roll shows the family living together at 233 Adelaide Road in Wellington. The occupation of the two boys is listed as carters, carriers.
In 1907 Margaret made an application to the Wellington City Engineers Department to build a cart shed on their property. Soon after this the family moved to another property close by in Hanson Street. Why this move was made is not clear, but it could be related to Margaret starting to buy ‘motor lorries’ for the business, as Grace’s Guide, a repository of information on British industrial history, reports that in 1910 the company “imported a Belhaven Motor Vehicle, which was the first motorised trucking vehicle in the country”.
The information along the side of the deck said M. Ivory General Carrier, Telephone 2-3-2-1. The 1916 Wellington City Council vehicle registration records show a 3-ton Belhaven registered to Ivory, registration number WN1454. (Back in these days vehicle registration was a function of local authorities, some 100-plus nationwide.) In 1920 the company had also registered a 24hp Leyland, and by 1923 a 25hp Vulcan (WN6942) and a 21hp Chevrolet (WN7569).
Margaret was still in control of the business in 1917, as she is cited as the defendant in a Supreme Court claim for £2000 damages due to an accident involving a motor lorry driven by one of her employees.
Photo: Hanson Street office home of S. Ivory and family
Shortly after this the control of the business passed to Stephen and was renamed S. Ivory.
Margaret died in October 1920, aged 72, and not long after her death the company moved its office closer to the Wellington waterfront, to the corner of Whitmore Street and Customhouse Quay, but continued to use the original site in Hanson Street for its vehicles for another 50 years. In 1922 the company was registered as a private company with a paid up capital of £2000.
The business was still using horses in 1923, as an article in the February 16 edition of The Evening Post reports that two horses drawing a lorry owned by S. Ivory bolted after taking advantage of the driver forgetting to chain the wheels of the lorry, smashing into a house occupied by a police sergeant.
In August 1929 the company was advertising stable manure for sale, but in 1936 it was advertising several double-horse lorries and spring drays for sale. Stephen was active in the industry for a number of years, including being an office bearer for the Wellington Master Carriers Association in 1924, and the Wellington General Carriers and Customhouse and Forwarding Agents Industrial Union of Employers in 1941. He died in Wellington in 1953. After his death a general manager looked after the business on behalf of the 11 beneficiaries of his will.
The entire family is buried together in Karori Cemetery in Wellington.
Photo: Wellington City Council record of Belhaven registration.
Footnote: The sailing ship Darra that brought the family to Queensland in 1883 ended her days as a coal hulk in Lyttelton Harbour. Her remains were still visible in 1990.