Faces of Tamworth: flour miller John Basil Regan

The Phoenix Flour Mill.
The Phoenix Flour Mill.

John Basil Regan was born on June 15, 1903, at Tamworth, the fifth of seven children of Charles and Sarah Regan.

By the time Basil was born, the Regan business interests were well-established.

These included Charles Regan Ltd’s store (the ‘Palace of Trade’), as well as the George Fielder Phoenix Mill that had been acquired by Charles in 1912.

After initial education by the Dominican nuns in Tamworth, young Basil enrolled in 1915 at St Ignatius College in Sydney.

He seems to have enjoyed his time there, but left in 1920 before completing the leaving certificate to work in the family business and especially the flour milling side.

In 1922, the 19-year-old Basil went to England, where he was employed by Thomas Burton Ltd, flour-millers.

He completed the London City & Guilds course in flour-milling before training at Aynsome Laboratories, St Helens, and the Woodlands Ltd laboratories, Dover.

This training would prove to be very important, for Mr Regan would establish himself as a technological entrepreneur. 

In 1924, Mr Regan rejoined the family businesses, managing with his cousin the new flour mill erected in West Tamworth.

This became the main profit-earner for the family company.

Now established, Mr Regan married Kathleen Mary Cavanagh, a striking redhead and accomplished pianist, on September 30, 1931.

A son and three daughters followed.

In 1935, Mr Regan began experimenting with the manufacture of gluten and starch.

He employed an Irish milling engineer and by 1938 a process had been perfected, using wheat rather than corn or potatoes, and a starch factory had been erected.

Fielders Cornflour had been born. Not, mind you, that it actually contained cornflour!

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By 1945, the Regan family enterprises were one of Tamworth’s largest employers.

The main company that Mr Regan grew is now known as Goodman Fielders.

Mr Regan was also a board member and sometime chairman of the Tamworth Newspaper Co. Ltd, a director of East-West Airlines Ltd and later of Television New England Ltd.

He was also actively involved in community activities.

A devout Catholic and a devoted family man, Mr Regan died on July 14, 1987, at Normanhurst in Sydney. He was buried at Tamworth.

  • This article originally appeared in The Armidale Express, and has been lightly edited.