New claims rock jandal orthodoxy

Last updated 00:00 01/01/2009
MARK DWYER/Daily News
YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE JANDAL: Mary Deken, of Oakura, models her favourite pair of jandals. Mrs Deken and her family say their father John Cowie invented the jandal, and not Morris Yock as is commonly believed.

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The origin of the Kiwi jandal may be about to flip-flop.

Auckland man Morris Yock is credited with inventing the famous footwear, but a Taranaki woman and her brother say the kudos should go to their father, John Cowie.

Both Yock and Cowie are dead and the answer to the dispute went with them, but Cowie's son Des says he will "go to his grave arguing his father's case".

"Morris Yock was nothing more than an importer," he said.

"Dad always claimed the name jandal was his and was a shortened version of Japanese sandal," Mr Cowie said.

John Cowie began manufacturing the traditionally wooden Japanese sandal out of plastic, in Hong Kong, in the late 1940s.

Morris Yock imported the product to New Zealand from 1957.

The jandal scandal comes days before the first National Jandal Day next Friday, which raises money for Surf Life Saving New Zealand.

Mr Cowie's daughter, Mary Deken, of Oakura, said her father, a "real beach bum", would have been rapt with the idea of a day devoted to his creation.

"We've worn jandals since day one, all New Zealanders have," Mrs Deken said.

The family have grown up with the story of how their dad devised the shoe, but he was a humble man and probably not aware of its significance.

"There was never any reason for him to say anything, we now know it's the answer to a big question."

John Cowie was born in India, grew up in England and moved to Hong Kong after World War II, where he started the company John Cowie and Co Ltd and started manufacturing a range of products out of plastic.

The family moved to New Zealand in 1959.

John Cowie loved his adopted country and was happiest wandering along the beach in his jandals and a Swanndri (coincidentally designed and first made in New Plymouth).

Mrs Deken said the jandal definitely belonged to Kiwis, despite numerous attempts to claim it by ceaseless icon thieves Australia.

"Dad lived the rest of his life in New Zealand, all his descendants are here," she said.

 

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- Taranaki Daily News

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