William Arnott (1827 – 1901) biscuit manufacturer
William Arnott’s success was founded on hard work, integrity and insistence on quality. He was a sincere Christian noted for his lovable and kindly nature. He and his wife were active in philanthropic work and the Wesleyan Church. He was elected a trustee of the church in Maitland; in Newcastle he was connected with the Sunday school for twenty-four years, in twenty of which he was superintendent.
William Arnott, biscuit manufacturer, was born on 6 December 1827 at Pathhead near Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland. He was apprenticed to a baker and confectioner and, with his younger brother David, followed his family to Australia, arriving at Sydney in the Sir Edward Parry on 17 February 1848. Both brothers were bakers in Maitland until 1851 when they went with separate parties to the Turon River diggings. William had no luck as a gold miner but did well baking bread and pies on the field and early in 1853 he was back in Maitland as a baker and pastry-cook.
He prospered until the two great floods of the Hunter River in 1857 brought disaster. The new building he had put up in 1856 was flooded and he had hardly recovered when he was flooded out again in 1861. In 1862 he was forced to compound with his creditors and in 1864 there were more floods. In February 1865 one of his creditors demanded full payment and in April his wife Monica, née Sinclair, died; he had met her on the voyage to Sydney and they were married in 1850.
Arnott moved to Newcastle in 1865. By September he was established in Hunter Street, Newcastle, and quickly built up a successful business, helped by his second wife, Margaret Maclean, née Fleming, whom he married at Morpeth in October. The move to Newcastle was made possible by loans from friends but he repaid all his debts within twelve months.
In the next few years the name of Arnott became famous for bread and cakes but especially for sweet and plain biscuits and ships’ biscuits, in which there was a big trade with the growing number of ships in port. Between 1869 and 1876 he acquired land in what became Union Street and built a family home and a factory fitted with the latest machinery.
Two sons by the first marriage were already in the business and the elder, James Haydon Leslie, now specialized in biscuits, while the younger, Samuel Sinclair, took charge of confectionery manufacture and later of accounts. From 1882 biscuits were sent by ship to Sydney, where the market proved profitable and became even more so when the Hawkesbury River railway bridge was opened in 1889.
In 1888 the family moved to Mayfield, near Newcastle, and in 1893 Arnott left his sons in charge and visited Scotland with his wife and a daughter. On his return in 1894 he bought a factory in Sydney and took his sons into partnership. He had some forty employees in 1880 and by 1894 the number had increased to nearly eight hundred in Sydney and Newcastle. He retired in 1899 and moved to Strathfield near Sydney, where he died on 22 July 1901. For several years the management of the business had been left to his sons but he had supported the plan for a new factory, built at Homebush between 1906 and 1908.
William Arnott’s success was founded on hard work, integrity and insistence on quality. He was a sincere Christian, noted for his lovable and kindly nature. He and his wife were active in philanthropic work and the Wesleyan Church. In 1857 he was elected a trustee of the church in Maitland; in Newcastle he was connected with the Sunday school for twenty-four years, in twenty of which he was superintendent.
An example of his honesty in business dealings was in 1883 when he repaid in full his 1862 Maitland creditors; they presented him with an address and a gold medal and held a luncheon in his honour. One of his recreations was rifle shooting. He joined the Volunteer Rifle Corps in 1860 and won the first three contests for the silver belt presented by the mayor of Maitland.
Complete article : http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A030053b.htm
SAO Biscuit: Our History and the Christian Connection
Australians have always had a curious attitude to their favourite biscuits. Eating them is not enough. We have to play with them. Long before someone thought to bite off the corners of a Tim Tam to slurp coffee up the centre, millions of Aussie children squeezed thin yellow and black worms out of two SAOs sandwiched together with butter and vegemite.
Made from ‘seven layers of flaky pastry’ to give them that ‘light bubbly texture’, SAOs were once Australia’s favourite biscuit. 525 million were sold annually in the early 1980s, dropping right back to 190 million at the beginning of this century—as the Tim Tam revved up in popularity.
Arnott’s started as a small bakery in Newcastle in 1865. By 1906, when the first SAO came off the production line, the biscuits with the famous ‘Rosella’ on the packet were no longer handmade but factory-produced. Many of Arnott’s delicious products have become more than food legends, they’ve become Aussie icons. The Tim Tam, the Iced VoVo, Shapes, Tiny Teddies and, of course, SAO.
Yes, the humble SAO was a household name. But stories persisted about its own name. One of the most enduring of all rumours is that the word SAO comes from the initials for Salvation Army Officer. There are several variations on this theme, including ‘Salvation Army Order’ and ‘Serve and Obey’.
The Arnott website : http://www.arnotts.com.au
Note also Australia’s Christian heritage and the SAO biscuit : https://atributetoaustralianchristians.wordpress.com/2010/11/05/arnotts-sao-biscuit
Edward Halsey – Adventist baker
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