Obituary: M.G. Moodley, PMB’s shoemaker extraordinary

2012-04-25 00:00

ONCE described as the doyen of shoe makers in Pietermaritzburg, city businessman M.G. Moodley died this week after a short illness. He died at St Anne’s Hospital on Saturday, 13 days after his 90th birthday.

Moodley retired from business only when he was in his late 80s, having spent more than 60 years in the footwear industry.

He owned Balluci Shoes and MG Shoes.

He was a semi-finalist in The Witness feature writing competition in 2002 with the story of his life under the headline: “A journey in my shoes”.

He quoted an earlier Witness newsreport that said that his career read like an account of the shoe industry in Pietermaritzburg.

Moodley started work at the age of 16 in Sandals, a subsidiary branch of Eddels.

In 1948 one of his bosses invited him to join him in a new factory — Dick Whittington. He wrote back saying he would only join the company if he was appointed foreman. Shoe factories at that time employed only whites as foremen. His former boss J.A. Terblanche, agreed. Dick Whittington started on premises in Hayfields and by 1951 moved to a modern factory in Plessislaer.

The company expanded and Moodley was appointed manager of the new branch. He wrote that this came as a shock to the leather industry, “as I was the first manager of colour in a major company in South Africa.”

Moodley’s success in running the branch led to his being appointed a member of the board of directors at Dick Whittington in the late 1970s. When the proposal was first made it was vehemently opposed by the then chairperson.

Dick Whittington took over Eddels, which was facing a production crisis. In 1981 he was asked to take over the factory and raise production levels.

He started in February and within six months the factory was producing 4 000 pairs of shoes per day.

Eddels was sold, Moodley decided to retire. He opened an estate agency and a tote agency and ran a branch of the Allied Building society.

However, he could not quite leave the footwear industry and in 1982 opened a factory named MG Shoes. He sold it and could not settle down into a life of retirement. By 1987 he had opened a second factory, Ballucci Footwear in Woodlands.

Moodley was deeply religious, a spiritual journey which started in 1959 when he met the late Swami Sivananda, head of the Divine Life Society.

He established an ashram in Gertrude Street and travelled around the world on various religious pilgrimages. He became a devotee of Master Paramansha Yogananda and studied kriya yoga in the United States. He had an ashram next to his factory in Lincoln Road, Woodlands.

Over the years Moodley won awards for his business acument and marketing management.

A widower, Moodley leaves five children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

— Witness Reporter.

• nalini@witness.co.za

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