John Ballantyne

For service to Retailing
J. Ballantyne and Co Ltd

John Ballantyne was the founder of J. Ballantyne and Co. - the successful retailing business today simply known as Ballantynes.

John Ballantyne was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on September 27 in 1825 - the second of eight surviving children, and the oldest son. At an early age, he was sent by his parents to Berwick-upon-Tweed to be apprenticed as a draper.

In 1852, at age 26, Ballantyne emigrated to Sydney. John arrived in Sydney with very little money and joined the draper business McArthur, Kingsbury and Co. In 1853 he was sent to represent the company in Adelaide where he established a branch of the business and became a partner in the firm.

Ballantyne married Sarah Ann Thorne in 1854 – a fellow Scottish immigrant. In the 18 years that followed they had twelve children, eight of whom survived. After initially relocating back to Britain to raise his family, John returned to Adelaide to purchase a drapery business which became J. Ballantyne and Co. and was rejoined by his family in 1868.

After running the successful business in Adelaide, the family moved to Christchurch in 1972 with John purchasing the already prominent draper business Dunstable House and renaming it J. Ballantyne and Co. Over the next four years, John would see his business thrive. As a religious man, John developed his business with an unwavering philosophy of “honourable and upright dealings” and efficient and courteous service to customers in all matters – an ethos that gained the company great rapport during what was a time of great economic prosperity in the Canterbury region.

1878 saw John sell his business to a partnership including his eldest son Josiah, with his two other sons - William and Thorne – later buying in also. While retaining an active interest in the business, John pursued other business interests such as farming – purchasing Staple Farm at Ruapuna.

John returned to Britain in 1880 to run the London Buying Office – a supplier of J. Ballantyne and Co. and in 1883 appointed his son Thorne to run the London office while he returned to New Zealand to continue farming. Over the next six years, he added several other major properties to Ruapuna Farm and established forestry and irrigation initiatives in the region.

In the early 1890s, John moved to Timaru to capitalise on the increasingly affluent economy in the South Canterbury area with his store Victoria House, which was soon transferred to be a part of the Ballantyne partnership. John spent the rest of his years in Timaru at Ettrick Bank – a large house he’d purchased in the High Street overlooking the sea, only moving north for a couple of months each winter. He eventually retired there too before his passing on August 6, 1899. He died at age 74 from what was diagnosed as an enlarged heart and old age.

While he was not one for public affairs, he was well regarded in the community and was often sought by businessmen and civic leaders for insight and advice. His eulogies spoke of a patriarchal figure in Canterbury business and farming.  Additional to his successful business career, Ballantyne was a generous contributor to a number of charities including the Durham Street Methodist Church where he also served as a Trustee, Circuit Steward and was a Bible Class and Sunday School Teacher.