Long-run ends for Cosgrove

ESTHER ASHBY-COVENTRY
Last updated 05:00 18/12/2013
brain cosgrove
JOHN BISSET/FAIRFAX NZ
LONGEVITY: Brian Cosgrove worked at his family’s firm for 49 years until his retirement last month. 

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When Brian Cosgrove joined the family company in 1965 it was at the forefront of making long-run metal products.

"It [long runs] was the start of a new revolution in the late 1950s," Cosgrove said.

He retired on November 28 after almost five decades in the innovative Timaru business.

"Instead of producing flat sheet metal and bending it at 2.4metre lengths, long runs were as long as could be carried."

Cosgrove's father, the late Daniel, established the company, Dan Cosgrove Ltd, in 1947 as a plumbing supplier employing about eight staff. It moved into roofing and now employs 30 people.

The founder bought the first long- run machine in the country, designed by Invercargill plumber Owen Marshall. It was made with a coil strip from Belgium, which saved on wastage from overlaps. After leaving high school Cosgrove spent four years working at a bank before deciding to join.

"There was no pressure to work there," he said.

His first roles were selling in the plumbing warehouse and working in the sheet metal workshop which was located where Warehouse Stationery is now on Stafford St.

Looking back, Cosgrove said there have been some dramatic changes in the plumbing and roofing industries including lead pipe used for waste systems until the mid-1960s whereas now there was plastic piping which is lighter and easier to handle.

"In the mid-70s we started getting variety, like a shoe shop, with coloured tap handles," he said.

But it was not just plumbing and roofing that Cosgroves produced, they had a foray into farm machinery and made grain silos.

Cosgrove and his brother, the late Daniel who was known as DC3, to avoid confusion with the other Daniels in the family, would drive around A&P shows with a mini silo on the back of a trailer to promote them.

The biggest challenge was getting a steel import licence for the raw metal.

"The licences were held by businesses that did not always use the product then they sold them at a profit. It was a trading commodity."

A highlight of the company's history was winning the tender to supply the concealed clipped rib roofing for QEII Park Stadium in Christchurch in time for the 1974 Commonwealth Games.

Though none of the next generation of Cosgroves have gone into the family company, Cosgrove is not disappointed.

He is a past president and life member of NZ Metal Roof Manufacturers' Association.

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- The Timaru Herald

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