Whitlock’s, steel a cut above

WAGONS, guillotines to cut steel, horse-drawn sulkies and ploughs were once the order of the day for J. Whitlock Rural Supplies.

But that was 100 years ago and today the third-generation Henty business deals in more modern farm merchandising like limestone and fertilisers.

On Saturday a 30-strong crowd of family, friends and long-time clients celebrated 100 years of service at headquarters in the town’s main street.

Now owned and run by brothers Bruce and Peter Whitlock and their wives, the business is as synonymous with the town as the Henty Field Days.

“It’s been a good business,” Bruce said.

“It’s always been run by a partnership of brothers which is pretty unusual.

“We’re proud of the fact we’ve had great support from the local community.”

It started in January 1912 when brothers Jack and Joshua moved to Henty from Rochester in Victoria.

What was then a blacksmith operational setup with 26 staff grew when Joshua and his wife Jessie’s three boys joined the business.

Over the ensuing decades the three brothers oversaw the transformation of steel manufacturing with the introduction of welding in the 1940s and other “modern” technology.

Bruce Whitlock Sr outlasted his two siblings and in 1966 his two sons Bruce Jnr and Peter joined him at work aged 17 and 15.

“In those days you didn’t talk about (what you were going to do as a profession) it just happened,” Peter said.

“You weren’t going off to uni or anything, we only went to school in Henty.”

Bruce Jnr and Peter have been at the forefront of J. Whitlock since the early 1970s when Bruce Snr passed away from a heart attack at an early age.

They say the fact they still talk to each other on a daily basis is a sign their relationship has endured the stresses of running a business.

But they concede the end of the line may not be far away.

Between them the brothers have five children but all of them have chosen to pursue other professions out of Henty and are now either working or studying to become bankers, accountants, agronomists, chefs or pharmacists.

“We’ll just keep on doing what we’re doing for a few more years yet,” Bruce said.

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