Alvey History Beginning in Australia
Charles Alvey migrated to Australia in 1910 at the age of 45 to take up a new life in this country and make way for his family.
His first intentions were to try to start a cultured Pearl industry as he was being assisted to this country by an associate and friend who was the manufacturer of the Pearl Buttons produced by machinery made by Charles Alvey.
Unfortunately, on his arrival in Australia he was advised of his friend’s death and found himself stranded without money.
He was actually a painter by trade but could adapt his hands to other trades very successfully, and this enables him to get a job as an engineer in the sugar mill at Bundaberg. He lived in a bark hut with other workers and was fed by an old Indian cook. Thus began his career in this country.
After two years of hard work he was able to send enough money home which when put with the sale price of his lovely home and furniture at Stretchford, Birmingham, enabled his wife Edith ( nee Holloway ), daughter Edith, sons Charles jnr. and Kenneth to follow.
They embarked on the ship “Devon” and were very lucky to arrive at all, as when rounding the Cape of Good Hope the ship struck a whale and the top deck of the ship collapsed allowing the coal to fall through and endanger all on board. Many valuable possessions were lost, much to the disappointment of Edith and of course many others.
Fortunately they arrived safely in Australia but we believe that the ship was never seen again after it had left Australia for New Zealand.
The family found their new home to be very different and it was hard to adapt themselves so the strange houses on stilts with no fireplaces.
Charles returned to Brisbane to be with his family but had to work at the Ipswich Railway Workshops as a coach builder. When a little more money was saved he asked Kenneth to look for some land suitable for a home and in 1914 a block was selected on the banks of the Brisbane River at St Lucia,
This land was purchased from Mr Guyatt, Dave Guyatt’s grandfather who only charged 30 pounds and argued that Charles was illy to build there as the 1893 flood was some 30ft. over the height of the house.
When the house was built we believe it was actually built on the next allotment by mistake and Charles had to pay 60 pounds to purchase the block on which the original house still stands though a little changed as it has been added to and, in fact, new forms the centre part of our office,
In 1920 the firm of Charles Alvey was registered, and Charles produced about 20 reels per week on a treadle lathe. Though this lathe is a little changed and motorised it is still to this day an important piece of machinery in our factory. On Saturday morning Charles would carry his week’s productions into the city by tram and make his delivery to the warehouse. Hoffnungs were his only customer for quite some time but when son Ken joined him in 1923 production picked up and new customers had to be found,
Ken was a pattern maker and draughtmen by trade and served his time at Harveys later to become Sergeants. This training was certainly a valuable asset for the beginning of a new era.
About 193 3 a catalogue was produced, all photographs and art work being produced by Ken and his father. Ken was very artistic and poetic which accounts for the interesting layout and the verse at the end of each page, and slogans which stand to this day and of course the trademark, all designed at this time. This catalogue was really what started the Alvey reel on its way and its production was a credit to the designers even on present day standards.
When Ben Perkins joined the staff as an apprentice Fitter and Turner in 1936 the total staff numbered only 9 and of course very few machines,
In 1937 a partnership of Charles ALvey & Son was forned. Charles and Ken having equal shares. In 1939 war broke out and materials of course were not available for fishing reels so efforts were put into production of Bofor gun switch boxes, aircraft parts, steering boxes for landing barges etc.
In 1945 Charles passed away at his home at the age of 80, but his wife lived to the good age of 92 and died on the 23rd of March 1957 and saw quite a lot more expansion to this business.
In 1946 grandson Jack joined the staff after spending 6 years as turner and fitter at Mars Machine Tools.
New factory buildings were created at this point by our staff which were now increasing in numbers. Alen Munro to be one of the first of the new group of employees. As builders were not readily available at this time nor at prices we could afford to pay plus having the advantagrs of Ken’s ability to draw plans, we had quite an enjoyable time erecting the buildings in these early stages.
In 1952 Charles Alvey Distributing Co. was formed so as to bring Ken’s wife Alice and children Jack and Margaret into the business, Margaret working in the office around this time.
In 1957 three companies were formed, McQuarie Pty. Ltd. the holding company, Charles Alvey & Son Pty. Ltd. the manufacturing company and Charles Alvey Distributions Pty. Ltd. of course, did the advertising and distribution, still as now all privately owned.
In 1960, our first overseas export drive was begun by ken and Akice who tripped to the United Kingdom to meet our agent Tom Beckett of Auger Accessories who had been active for about 3 years. This was a very memorable event and the send off arranged by the family and staff we will never forget.
In 1966 Jack’s first trip to Los Angeles which had led to many more quite interesting trips and Trade Firs including areas such as San Francisco, Vancouver, Fiji, Japan, United Kingdom, New Zealand and one at Capetown attended to by John Nicholls. Exports are going to many other places in the world. Unfortunately, it was during one of these trips for a Trade Display, Japan in particular that Ken Alvey passed away on the 17th of April 1973. He was then at the age of 72. He did have a very full and successful life and saw the business grow from those 20 reels a week to a production pre-war if sine 20,000 reels per annum, then again in 1954 to 30,000 reels per annum if a value of some $96,000. In 1973 to 100,000 pieces of a value well in excess of half a million dollars. He also lived to see the day when this land, sixty-pound cost per piece, has risen to a total value sought after by many for high rise buildings and offices ranging beyond a quarter of a million dollars. However, it is also worth lots more to the firm and employees and for as far as we can see will remain this way.
“The Story of Alvey
The Alvey reel is accepted today throughout Australia, and in many overseas countries, as the most efficient and reliable reel marketed. It has achieved this popularity wholly on a faultless performance in the angling field. In competition fishing, often under very adverse conditions where gear must be reliable, users of Alvey reels built such an impressive record of championship wins that the superiority of the Alvey soon became well established.
To trace back the history of production, we must look back to the year 1920, when Charles Alvey, an English migrant, saw the need for a fishing reel that was easy to use, easy to cast, simple to maintain, and solidly constructed to give many years of trouble free angling.
Working on the basic principle of the Scottish Mallock reel, he designed a reel which allowed the body of the reel to be turned sideways when casting, permitting the line to strip freely from the edge of a specially shaped spool. This took away the problems of backlash and overrun common to users of the multiplying type of reel. When the reel was returned to the fishing position, it afforded the best positive direct rewind of the centrepin reel, which lost favour only because of difficulty in casting. So the Alvey reel came into being, combining easy casting and forceful rewinding. While it was revolutionary in its early stages, anglers came to recognise the advantages of using this type of reel.
The original factory, if it could be so called, was a small shed without electric power in the Brisbane suburb of St Lucia, where by using a treadle lathe, Charles Alvey painstakingly produced about twenty reels per week. His work was so meticulous that anglers called the Alvey ‘The reel you cannot wear out’.
By 1923 the demand had become so great that Charles Alvey’s son Ken, a qualified pattern maker and draftsman, joined the business and a partnership was formed. Together they steered the company into the 30’s, pouring all available profits back into new machinery and taking on more staff to increase production. By this time about 25,000 reels were being produced annually.
The year 1939 brought the second world war and an abrupt halt to Alvey production. Machinery was converted to assist the war effort by producing vehicle and aircraft components which were to be so essential over the following six year period.
It was not until 1945 that efforts could be turned again to the manufacture of fishing reels. Also in 1945 Charles Alvey passed away, leaving behind a devoted family to carry on the business that he had lived for.
Ken Alvey’s son Jack joined the firm in 1946 after obtaining his qualifications with a local engineering works. Jack also was a keen fisherman and champion distance caster, able to further the strong liaison already established between the firm and many of the top anglers of the day.
This association kept Alveys in touch with the ever changing trends, and brought about quite a few modifications to the reels which were suggested by the end users. In return the Alvey Company always has maintained a strong involvement in the promotion of the sport of Angling, giving support to the National, State and Divisional organisations, as well as individual clubs and such projects as the Junior Anglers Association.
The post-war demand for the product created a constant struggle to cope with necessary production. Buildings were erected and new machinery was installed, with every bit of available space used. Even with a staff of fifty people, many hours of overtime were worked, automatic machinery was introduced, and methods of production became more streamlined. By this time, overseas orders were starting to come in, adding further pressure on top of the domestic production requirements. In the early 1970s it became an absolute necessity that some future plans be made to move to larger premises, as no further expansion could be made at the St. Lucia factory.
Ken Alvey died in 1973 after leading a full and successful life. He was at least spared the anguish and heartache of the disastrous flood early in 1974 which caused havoc in Brisbane and severe damage to the Alvey factory. Enormous effort was required to bring manufacturing back on line two months later. The clean up was a dirty job but members of the public and many fishing club supporters donated their time and efforts to assist the Alvey family and staff in this horrid task. This temporary set back delayed the company’s expansion plans; however, they were postponed, not put aside.
Around this time, Jack Alvey’s eldest son Bruce completed an Engineering course and joined the company. With this union, the Father and Son partnership was re-established.
In 1976 the initial design for new factory and office premises appeared on the drawing board. From this point many months of consideration were given to the layout of all machinery to achieve optimum efficiency. Early in 1978 the dream started to become a reality when land was acquired in the Industrial estate at Carole Park, and tenders were called for construction. From this point things happened very quickly, and by September the building had been completed and the major shift had been accomplished.
In 1987 a major expansion of the Carole Park plant was executed, taking the buildings to the maximum size allowed on the area of land. Plastic injection moulding machines were installed, and a new range of products using the latest technology emerged.
This machinery allows the latest fibreglass, carbon and graphite materials to be used in the manufacture of the Alvey reels. With the purchase of the tooling for the fishing tackle items in the ‘Capstan’ range of products, Alvey became fully involved with the production and marketing of a wide range of fishing accessories such as hand casters, bait traps, bait buckets, tackle boxes, and other plastic items. This list will continue to expand in the future as we provide the anglers of Australia and around the world with value-for-money functional and reliable products.
In 1988 Jack’s youngest son Glenn joined the company, bringing with him computer, management and administration skills. The Alveys acquired the property next to theirs on the Carole Park industrial estate in 1990 to ensure the company’s expansion in the future is never held back by lack of space.
During the 90’s decade there was a major change in the methods of construction of our most popular reels. In the early 1990’s the first graphite back/fibreglass 4” (100mm) reel was designed and manufactured. An ‘Easy Cast’ system based on a very early 1930 system was developed and by using tough strong injection moulded plastics a new range of economy reels was started.
The 4” (100mm) and 5” (125mm) models incorporating the Easy Cast system certainly proved to be what the market wanted with tens of thousands of these models being produced.
Larger models in the 6” (150mm) and 6 ½” (165mm) were added to this range in the 1997-98 era. To retain the reputation of indestructible it was decided to retain the metal Ferguson style side cast on the larger series married with an ultra light yet ultra strong graphite back which literally bounces off the rocks or concrete.
In 1997 a fully vented graphite blue water salt water fly reel was added to the Alvey range in place of the older heavier metal and fibreglass SWF reel. This was well received by the market and reels were exported to USA, NZ and UK.
The year 2000 saw the release of the vented 6500 series reels followed by the 6000 series in mid 2001. These reels offer anglers a lighter sportier looking reel with a substantial investment by the company into new tooling to produce these.
Sadly in June 2001 Jack Alvey passed away after a long battle with cancer. Jack was widely respected throughout the fishing community and the Queensland Manufacturing businesses. In 1999 Jack was awarded an OAM for his efforts in promoting recreational fishing and strongly supporting junior anglers wherever possible.
Late 2001 will see the release of the first graphite vented 825 series boat reel. This will use a graphite back and vented spool to keep weight down but still offer the angler a powerful low maintenance reel for deep sea fishing.
The 825BCV Model also incorporated a rapid retrieve handle plate system. This is simply done by have the handles at different centre distances which can give you approximately 30% increase in recovery rate by using the small handle. No gears No bearings No problems. This system has now been adapted to a number of models with great success.
In 2008 the Turbo Cast System was developed. This injection moulded component stands the reel slightly further off the rod to increase the line flow during casting which will improve distance. Being made from nylon the turning action for casting is extremely smooth and has a nice feel to the operation. This system is now available on both the 600 and 650 series of reels.
2011 saw the importing of the first ever overseas made reel. The specialist CNC machined aluminium reel float fishing reel has been very well accepted into the market. This beautiful little reel runs on dual stainless steel ball bearings and works as well as it looks.
Since 2000 Alvey have built their range of imported fishing rods to 16 Models in 2012. These cover children’s rods through to surf models and now a specialist blackfish Rod. These also include 2 Telescopic rods to suit the ever growing numbers of grey nomads who love fishing and need an easy transportable rod.
In July 2011 the 475 CP CNC machined Alloy Blackfish reel was imported and released onto the Australian market.(Our first ever imported Alvey Reel)
2014 saw the release of the Model 6000C8 reel. This had the traditional rolled Stainless Back with a laser cut fishtail cross and a CNC machined Anodized Alloy spool made in China for us. It also incorporated a large single plate clutch with a Carbon clutch washer.”
Information supplied and used with permission from Bruce Alvey, manager of Alvey Fishing Reels. For further information on Alvey Reels and other Australian fishing reels there is a book called Australian Fishing Reels written by Bob Dunn or contact the Australian Fishing Museum.
Click here to view copies of selected Alvey Historical Documents
With thanks to Bruce Alvey for this information.