Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Arida, Joseph Dominique (1863–1924)

by Diane Menghetti

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

This is a shared entry with Richard Dominique Arida

Joseph Dominique Arida (1863?-1924) and Richard Dominique Arida (1872?-1944), merchants, were born probably at Bcharré, Lebanon (Syria), sons of Dominique Arida and his wife Matilda, née Rafoul. The family was prominent among the Maronite community: another son was to become titular archbishop of Tripoli and patriarch of Antioch, and a nephew titular bishop of Cyprus. Following the Druse massacres in the 1860s and the building of the Suez Canal, the mountain villages of Lebanon declined. Two Arida brothers set up in Argentina whence Joseph (Yusef Lahoud) travelled to Brisbane, probably in 1881 or 1882. With the collapse of his first business in Queen Street, Joseph lost the capital he had brought to Australia. Having revisited Argentina, he opened a drapery at Charters Towers, followed by a wholesale warehouse in 1886, and sent for his younger brother Richard (Rachid Lahoud) who managed the warehouse when Joseph toured North Queensland in a hawker's caravan.

By 1892 the brothers had established outlets at Hughenden, Winton and Cloncurry. Within a few years they were producing their own 'JDA' brand boots, and trading by mail order and through travelling salesmen. Business was spectacularly successful. By the turn of the century Joseph spent much of his time in Europe and America, buying for the growing chain, while Richard acted as Australian manager. In 1908 J. & R. D. Arida amalgamated with Anthony stores which were mostly located at such mining towns as Selwyn and Normanton, and included a sizeable business in Collinsville.

Richard was a member (1900) of the Charters Towers Traders' Association, the School of Arts committee, the local hospital board of management and (from about 1907) the chamber of commerce. Appointed to the Townsville Harbour Board in 1916, he was also involved in the water and fire-brigade boards, the Towers Pastoral, Agricultural and Mining Association, and a number of sporting bodies. He was a co-guarantor of the Christian Brothers' school at Mount Carmel which helped to make Charters Towers a local educational centre. The Aridas were deeply committed to the labour movement and Richard was a trustee of a branch of the Australian Workers' Union. They saw no contradiction between their status as wealthy businessmen and their support for a movement which they regarded as fundamentally humanitarian and consistent with their involvement in the Catholic Church.

On 13 October 1884 Joseph had married Adma Rahma Antony in Buenos Aires. She travelled with her husband and was only rarely at Charters Towers. When World War I broke out they were at Mount Lebanon, and were interned by the Turks. Joseph bribed his way out of prison and escaped to the mountains; there he became known for his charity during the famine that followed the Turkish blockade. After the war he went to Khartoum where he had invested in real estate in 1904. Survived by his wife, two daughters and two sons, he died in that city on 21 March 1924.

Although he had retired in 1918, Richard remained principal shareholder and governing director of the company. Management fell increasingly to his niece Mrs Wadiha Anthony and to her son Albert Joseph who became manager in 1924. Richard turned to investment in cotton-growing and wool-milling. He became a director of Charters Towers Electric Supply Co. Ltd, North Australian Worsted & Woollen Mills (Charters Towers) Ltd and the Atlas Assurance Co. Ltd. Increasingly, however, his time was spent in study and public affairs. He spoke seven languages, delivered popular lectures on 'political economy', and was accepted as an authority on Egypt and the Middle East. Courteous, charming and engaging, he was 'one of the most respected men in the north'.

Photographs of the young Richard Arida show a short, neat man with generous eyes and a splendid moustache. He was as generous with words as he was with his time and money; the local newspapers delighted in reporting his lengthy and colourful speeches. Both brothers were known for their philanthropy. The Arida house had been a home to Lebanese immigrants who received business training there before setting out on their own. In 1932 Richard was awarded the Lebanese Distinguished Order of Merit for his service to the community in Australia. He died on 7 September 1944 at Charters Towers and was buried in the local cemetery. Richard had never married and the business was bequeathed to his partners the Anthonys who, in effect, had run it for many years.

Select Bibliography

  • Queensland and Queenslanders (Brisb, 1936)
  • North Queensland Register, Christmas ed 1894
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 8 Sept 1944
  • Northern Miner, 8 Sept 1944
  • Philips collection (James Cook University of North Queensland)
  • newsclippings collected by Mr R. D. Arida (privately held).

Citation details

Diane Menghetti, 'Arida, Joseph Dominique (1863–1924)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/arida-joseph-dominique-9380/text16479, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 27 September 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2017

Life Summary [details]

Birth

1863
Bcharre, Syria

Death

21 March 1924
Khartoum, Sudan

Cultural Heritage
Religious Influence
Occupation