We sat with Ivor Sander at his lovely home in Melrose the week before last. Ivor was the author of the most recent Barrow history, done at the time of the centenary of the Barrow Construction group in 1997. We thought it would be a logical place to start our 125 Barrow anniversary journey. We hoped we would able to explore Ivor’s memories about his experiences, perhaps also seeking his advice for us, the storytellers 25 years on from when he was the author and sitting in our position.
Ivor qualified as lawyer and spent 30 years in the communication industry. He wrote quite a number of company histories (JCI, KPMG, Ernst & Young, Fedsure, HCI, LTA, UAl and ABSA) in addition to the Barrow history. He also wrote histories of the Rand Club, Country Club Johannesburg, Pretoria Country Club and the River Club of Johannesburg. Ivor is of the same generation as the fourth generation of Barrows, John, David and Douglas. He was at St Johns at the same time as David Barrow. He was ideally placed to write the Barrow history at that time given his familiarity with the family, who were known to him from his school days and through the social and sporting club networks of Johannesburg at that time.
Ivor talked about his mandate back then. Similar to ours, “write the Barrow history please’. He recalled his appreciation of being given free reign by the Barrow family to explore and consult as widely as he saw fit. He mentioned that he thoroughly enjoyed writing the Barrow history, taking pleasure from the sense of admiration and trust for the Barrow family from all walks of society and business circles in Johannesburg.
We spoke about the limitation of the publishing options available in 1997. Back then it was a book, the blue book that we see here in the images in this article. Today it could be anything. A book, YouTube footage, Facebook feeds, blogs linked to the Barrow website. Perhaps stories being told in the style of “fireside chats”. In 125 years of history, particularly when the skyline of Johannesburg (in particular) is adorned with the physical legacy of the output of the Barrow group, the richness of the many potential themes in the Barrow story takes storytellers almost automatically down the path of “look what we have built”.
And herein lies the most pertinent advice that we were given by Ivor. “Remember Mike and Jack (our very capable videographer and cameraman), the story is less about the buildings. It is more about the people behind the Barrow story. Don’t forget that”.
We asked Ivor for his memories of the Barrow family during his commission 25 years ago. His reminiscences echoed familiar themes that we have ourselves heard during the other interviews that we had to date in the 125 update. “Integrity and reliability, “their moral strength”, “excellence of building’, “their humility” and “a Barrow promise made is a promise kept”. He noted that the Barrows were highly practical people who produced (and continue to produce) some outstanding buildings.
He also highlighted the incredible contribution that the Barrow family has made over the years, “quietly and behind the scenes” to society in general, through their generosity and contribution to a multitude of causes.
Ivor spoke about his constant pleasure in seeing the Barrow building footprint expand during the last 25 years, particularly in the Rosebank area. He noted the innovation in building styles over the passing years and the eloquence of the Barrow buildings that he has seen in this period.
We made a good decision to meet with Ivor. We hope we heard what Ivor hoped we would hear, that the story is all about the people.