Published Monday, February 10, 2014

Jo Hedges Blog - Smyth History

When Matt Findel Hawkins announced at the OPMA President’s lunch last month that I was to be one of 2 Bloggers for February I was a little surprised. Yes, Mr FH has mentioned that OPMA members would be called upon to contribute a blog to the new OPMA website and would I be willing to do my bit and yes I do remember uttering some vague affirmation of sorts but never really thought he would take me up on it; so here I am wondering what would engage, interest and entertain you.

Jo Hedges Blog - Smyth History

Surely not some flagrant promotion of our media portfolio (too obvious) or my opinion on international representation (who cares ) or some witty anecdotes on some of my OPMA colleagues (too dangerous); so after some pondering I thought that you might be interested to learn the story, as told to me of how Smyth International Media Representatives was born.

Our founder, Frederick Albert Smyth, was a relatively wealthy young man at the turn of the last century; he did not work and enjoyed travel as did many young men of the late Victorian age. He also enjoyed playing cricket at Hampstead Cricket Club with his friends; during one such game of cricket Fred was asked if he was off on one of his journeys in the near future “Yes” came the reply “I am taking the boat to Canada at the end of the cricket season”. “Excellent” exclaimed his friend “would you mind taking an advertisement to a Canadian newspaper on our behalf as we wish to appoint a distributor for our products?” Now in those days advertisements were prepared on lead blocks and would have been quite heavy to carry but Fred being a good friend agreed and, armed with a letter of introduction to newspaper’s Chairman as well as the lead block, set off for Canada.

On arrival Fred was shown straight to the Chairman’s office where he was warmly greeted. Over a glass of Bourbon the Chairman thanked Fred for safely delivering the ad and went onto explain that this was the first overseas ad that the paper had received and as Fred clearly had the right connections in England would he act as the paper’s Overseas Representatives. Fred agreed and in 1909 formed F.A Smyth & Associates. As far as I know this makes Smyth International the longest established International Media Representatives in the world.

But that isn’t the end of the story; on his return to England, Fred befriended a young Australian journalist with a slight speech impediment who shared a love of cricket and travel. When the journalist returned to his native Australia he quickly rose through the publishing ranks to become Managing Director of the Herald & Weekly Times Group of newspapers in Melbourne; it was natural that he soon asked his old friend, Fred, to represent his newspapers in England. The journalist was Keith Murdoch, father of Rupert Murdoch, and to this day Smyth International still represents these newspapers which are now part of News Corporation Australia.

A few years later Fred met and married and in due course had a son; David. When David was old enough he joined his father and the family business became a limited liability company. On April 1st 1959 - F.A Smyth & Associates LIMITED was born.

105 years later; we trade under the name of Smyth International, although the official name of the company remains as F.A Smyth & Associates Ltd. We represent print, online and broadcast media in Australia, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, India, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and USA.

Having traded continuously through two world wars and many recessions  there are many other stories which have been told to me or have happened to me personally so I can regale you with these in future blogs if I am ever asked to write another – perhaps about the side of Reindeer meat which was sent over by our Publisher in neutral Sweden during the second World War or Funny mis-translations in the early days of international advertising or my first ever Finnish Sauna in Helsinki (perhaps not), why I was given my first company car or even how I ended up singing on stage at a protest rally in Sydney (mistaken identity ).

I am proud of my company’s long and rich history, the people I have worked alongside and of the professional values which I have endeavoured to uphold. My thanks to OPMA which has supported the industry since 1927 and which Frederick Smyth was one of the earliest founder members.


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