Brian Corbishley -so much to so many

2017-01-18 06:01
Brian David Corbishley (1937-2017).

Brian David Corbishley (1937-2017).

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THANKS to the amazing vision of one man, Brian David Corbishley, thousands of people throughout Umvoti and the rest of Africa have benefited in so many ways.

Brian, who died on 7 January at the age of 79, was a man of many parts - entrepreneur, businessman, educational visionary, creator of thousands of job opportunities around the world, mentor, friend and above all, very much a family man.

From a humble start, as a pack- house manager on a citrus estate in Weenen, he, at the age of 20, borrowed a small sum of money from his father to put into operation his belief in the vital­ need to feed billions of people throughout the world through the development of quality maize seed.

With the late Bill Walls he bought the majority shares in a fledging operation, which was to become the largest seed group In Africa. The start of this far-reaching empire was the registration of the Pioneer Seed Company on 27 May, 1958.

Over the next 20 years the company became a highly respected role player on the international seed market as it continued to expand its footprint across many borders.

With his innate ability to think "out of the box" and to foresee future needs Brian acquired a number of agriculturally linked subsidiary companies including Starke Ayres, Pidelta­, Kombat, Mascor, SA Triton Express, EGT and others.

In 2013, the company, now known as Pannar, was sold to Du Pont and Pannar (Pty) Ltd changed its name to Plennegy (Pty) Ltd,

Despite the incredible business successes and expansion Brian remained a humble, discreet gentleman, who hated any sort of fuss being made over him or his achievements, but was always content with what he was doing.

So many relied on his vision and business acumen, but he was basically a man of simple needs and pleasures.

He loved birding, the Kruger­ Park, crossword puzzles and soduku and of course, the daily weather reports. Brian had the ability to handle complex and complicated business deals, giving incredible attention to detail assisted by an amazing memory. Totally organised and focused Brian was relentless in his pursuit of his goal, attributes which he retained to the end.

Although he hated high school and boarding school even more, Brian firmly believed in the importance of quality education and the importance of keeping families together as long as possible.

This led to him and his wife Dot founding Wembley College in Greytown 20 years ago.

At the memorial service, attended by a 1 000 people last Saturday, in paying tribute to Brian he was described as "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma".

To elaborate, who else could start a seed company, with borrowed money, at the age of 20 to see it become one of the largest seed companies feeding millions in sub-Saharan Africa.

Who, as a man who hated vegetables and denied that vitamins existed, became the power behind the largest privately owned vegetable seed company (Starke Ayres) responsible for nourishing millions. Who, at the age of 60, did not think retirement, but started a school to leave a great legacy, which will have a positive impact on many lives for generations to come. The companies Brian founded, the many legacies he has left will grow from strength to strength.There may be challenges and changes along the way, but he certainly was the last one to stand still.

It is a great legacy he has left. Tens of thousands of people owe their jobs, education and family security to the companies he created and many more throughout the continent have food security.

Greytown stands proudly where it is today thanks to the decision taken by Brian Corbishley over 50 years ago to plant the seeds of his great legacy here.

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