MCEWANS BAKEHOUSE AT MARKS POINT
David McEwan was born in 1887 in Perth, Scotland. His family then moved to Beith, about 20 miles SW of Glasgow. In 1911, Dave set sail for distant shores. He arrived in Sydney, and worked there for a short time before settling in Tamworth, where he plied his trade as a baker. He always believed in the advertisement that this was the land of opportunity.
After marrying Eva, 2 sons were born, and the family moved to Murrurundi, as the depression took hold, establishing their bakery business in Main St which proved to be very successful; as reported by Smith’s Weekly in Feb 1923. Here another 3 sons were born.
The final move was to Belmont. At first their business operated on Main St Belmont, opposite where the Reject Shop now stands and then a new bakehouse was built in Docker St, Marks Point. A further 2 sons were born. All 7 sons learned their trade from their father and followed into the family business.
George Boyd and other residents remember the pie cart coming to Swansea School in the 1940s at lunchtime to deliver pies, sausage rolls and cream buns. If the pie cart was not already at the school gate, the children would line up in eager anticipation. At first they would hear the horse clip-clopping over the Swansea Bridge; then, when they spied the horse drawn cart, a great cheer would erupt from the expectant youngsters.
Pupils would often buy a bun from the cart and then hollow it out whilst walking across the park next to the school. (It has since been named Quinn Park.) On the way, they would eat the delicious fresh soft bread from the middle as they walked to Weshe’s shop, where they would buy hot chips to stuff inside. The shop was located in Belmont St., opposite the pool.
[Sources: McEwan family; George Boyd.]
THOMPSON’S BAKERY AND PIES: 6 GENERATIONS OVER 3 CENTURIES
Thompson’s bakery was first etablished in Pit Town near Wallsend in 1891, after migrating from Warwickshire, England. A miner, Henry Thompon, sought a more enjoyable, alternative income. Producing eggs was not very successful, but Emma, his wife, began making cakes with the excess eggs. The miners loved them, so they set up a small bakery. They had 13 children and the family tradition of apprenticing the sons into the baking business began.
Son, Percy, took over the business in 1921; and also set up his own bakery in Beach St, Belmont South in 1923. They lived on the Pacific Highway, and kept the horses in the backyard. At this time, bread was not allowed to be baked on weekends. His son, Colin, developed Pro-rol bread in 1952. In 1957 Thompsons were the first to produce cheap bread to be sold through supermarkets. Pro-rol was eventually bought out by Tip-Top, 1979.
Percy’s grandson, Garry, had joined the family business, as was the custom, delivering bread. Only 18, he was asked to bake some pies at Beach St, in 1961, to keep the licence current as bread was being baked elsewhere. Borrowing a bit of money from his mother for ingredients, he made 3 dozen pies and took them to Swansea Hotel for tasting, but they proved to be too peppery. Batch 2 was successful, and began to divert customers from the neighbouring takeaway. The grumbling owner, seeing the potential trade the pies could bring, became his first commercial customer.
And so Thompson’s Pies was established, baking a range of 4 products – a meat pie, sausage roll, pastie and apple pie. His first oven was an 8-tray coke fired oven; and he would go to Catho pit and get scantling from the timber mill to fire the ovens. The site had a shop on the corner of the highway called Mary’s; with the bakery behind it in Beach St (now B V Glass). The house next to that was an office in the early days, then stock room; and the shed down the back was the workshop for repairs of machinery and vehicles. The varieties soon expanded to 15 and the need for larger premises became very apparent.
Land was purchased at Gateshead in 1986, and over 2 years a bakery was built while still baking at Belmont. Further extensions to Gateshead came in 1995. Garry’s son, Michael and daughter; along with granddaughter (who are the 5th & 6th generation) now run the business, serving Newcastle, the Hunter and the Central Coast.
[Source: Thompson family]