Page 1: Biography
Eady, Lewis Alfred
Music retailer, company director, benefactor
This biography, written by Fay Hercock, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1998. It was updated in February, 2020.
Lewis Alfred Eady was born in Auckland on 12 May 1891 into a staunch Congregationalist family, already well known in Auckland musical circles. His father was Lewis Roberts Eady, a musician who tuned pianos and traded in second-hand instruments from the family home near Partington's windmill, assisted by his wife, Rosina Eliza Thompson. In 1906, after an education at public schools, Alfred, the eldest son, joined his father's business. His brothers Ernest, Cecil, Raymond and Sydney were also to do so, and his uncle, Arthur Eady, who had founded an orchestra in Auckland, ran a rival music store.
By 1912 the firm of Lewis R. Eady and Son was importing pianos and selling sheet music, organs, gramophones and records from a two-storeyed shop in Karangahape Road. When the firm moved to Queen Street shortly after the First World War, Alfred became managing director.
Over the 1920s Alfred took an active part in business and civic affairs. He was elected to the Auckland City Council (1925–29) and the Auckland and Suburban Drainage Board, and joined a progressive lobby supporting town planning, a proposed civic centre, and the setting up of a metropolitan board for the management of public utilities. He organised a successful exhibition in 1928 while president of the Auckland Advertising Club. By the end of the decade he was playing a leading role in the local chamber of commerce, of which he was to be president in 1941 and 1942.
As a city councillor Alfred Eady was prominent in the library committee. In 1926 he presented Auckland Public Library with a collection of over 600 volumes of music and music literature, with an undertaking to continue to add to it. Once accommodated, the collection opened for public use in June 1928. That year, the firm, now Lewis Eady Limited, moved to imposing new premises, seven storeys high, on Queen Street. The specially designed building contained showrooms, a concert chamber which held 400 people, soundproofed audition rooms, and a booking office, as well as studios and professional chambers for music teachers and others.
By 1929, when the depression was affecting trade in expensive musical instruments, Alfred Eady was promoting radio. In 1930 the firm established its own station in the Queen Street premises. 1ZR was born out of Lewis Eady's desire to encourage religious broadcasting. It featured an influential group of pioneer broadcasters including 'Aunt Daisy' (Maud Basham), Dudley Wrathall and Rod Talbot. An immensely popular non-sectarian radio church, the 'Friendly Road', was run by 'Uncle Tom' Garland and 'Uncle Scrim', the Reverend Colin Scrimgeour. When the government banned all private sponsorship of radio programmes as part of its campaign to control radio broadcasting, 1ZR was sold to the Post and Telegraph Department, and ceased transmission in December 1933. (The broadcasters all moved on to 1ZB.)
Lewis Eady Limited continued to develop as an integral part of the city's musical and entertainment life. The firm donated grand pianos for use in the Town Hall in 1925 and the Pioneer Women's and Ellen Melville Hall in 1962. Aucklanders flocked to its booking office to reserve seats for popular shows. Sydney Eady opened his own music shop in Queen Street in 1933.
Alfred maintained his commercial and civic interests. In 1932 he established the first Junior Chamber of Commerce ('Jaycees') in the southern hemisphere, and during the 1940s took leading roles in the Rotary Club of Auckland and on the national executive of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of New Zealand. He was also active in the Congregational church.
On 17 February 1917 at Mount Eden, Alfred had married Agnes Amelia Adams, a teacher. Leisure time was spent with his wife and their son and daughter. An enthusiastic motorist, he also enjoyed boating and travel. He was a talented pianist, and supported the performing arts through the Auckland Amateur Operatic Society, the Auckland Festival Society and the Auckland Junior Symphony Orchestra. In 1956 he was appointed an OBE, made a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Musicians, and a Freeman of the City of London.
Lewis Alfred Eady died at Remuera on 21 April 1965, survived by his wife and children. His years as managing director of a prominent Auckland family firm had spanned major changes in the technology and the commercial environment of the music industry. His astute business skills and community service made him an outstanding member of a remarkable family whose activities ensured that the Eady name has remained synonymous with music and light entertainment in Auckland for over 100 years.