NCI Founders

NCI Founders

First Cheque, 1954

The first cheque, 1954, Jack de Chene, Alan Pitman, Les Whitcroft and Frank O’Halloran.

On 15 August 1954 National Can was established in North Fitzroy by Harry Tyrrell and Les Whitcroft, but the story began a few months earlier.

In June 1954, the two friends and work colleagues, Harry Tyrrell and Les Whitcroft, were lunching on a disused wharf on the Yarra River as they often had done, and during this lunch they decided to form a can company of their own. Harry and Les saw the opportunity for a small can company. At this lunch, Les said, “Harry you know how to produce them, and I’m sure I can sell them”.

Three months later Harry Tyrrell (General Manager) and Les Whitcroft (Sales Manager) had secured premises for the new company in North Fitzroy. Three friends and workmates joined the founding pair shortly after they took possession of the North Fitzroy building – Jules T “Jack” de Chene (Engineer), Frank O’Halloran (Canmaker) and Alan Pitman (Engineer).

Les Whitcroft and Harry Tyrrell in the yard of the original factory in North Fitzroy, Victoria, 1954

Les Whitcroft and Harry Tyrrell in the yard of the original factory in North Fitzroy, Victoria, 1954

The first order was not for cans but for metal straps for wooden Coca Cola cases. Alan Pitman recalled the working arrangements for the case strap job. Les Whitcroft was the guillotine hand, Harry Tyrrell fed the metal into the shaping machines and tied the straps into bundles, Frank O’Halloran set the machine and Alan Pitman made the dies to produce the strap ends. Invoice No.1 was for £133, maybe a small amount but it was the start.

The first can was manufactured on Tuesday 7 December 1954, 8oz cans for Cenovis yeast.

The founders started the company with a vision and set it on the road to success that has continued for over 60 years.