David Duncan was born 22nd January 1832 at Forfarshire in Scotland. His brother, Peter, followed on 27th December 1838. Both brothers were trained in smithery and fitting.
In 1863, Peter arrived in Lyttelton and became the business partner of Benjamin Cordery who was a Blacksmith at port. Two years later, Peter was set up in Cashel Street, working alongside the forge with Alex Scrimgeour. With the arrival of David in 1867, the brothers began to work together but the term of ‘P & D Duncan’ wasn’t used until 1874.
Encouraged from just simple farm machinery repairs to revolutionary inventing by William Boag (whose farm of Burnside is now the suburb), the brothers became very successful manufacturers of pioneering farm equipment.
Tragically, on Christmas Eve in 1869, the uninsured brothers lost their business facility to fire. With the great support of friends and clients, they re-established in Tuam street and never looked back. For the next decade, the pair won multiple awards for their impressive display of their farming equipment, ‘… doing much to develop colonial resources…’ at the Canterbury A & P Show. Contraptions such as two and three furrow ploughs, attachable potato planters and a drill which would sow both seed and manure at the same time were just a few examples that wowed the early Canterbury farming crowd.
The brothers took no part in public or political life, focusing mostly on their business affairs and attending St Paul’s Presbyterian Church every Sunday. David died on 1st July 1897 and Peter died on 3rd February 1907 after a long illness. Their sons continued on the business for many decades after.
The sole survivor of this business legacy sits at 204 St Asaph Street – the ‘P & D Duncan Ltd’ building. With strengthening done over the years and also following the September 2010 quake, the building has survived and the once forgotten piece of heritage now takes her deserved place amongst other remaining heritage buildings, at the age of 113 years (2015).
* Photo of interior of P & D Duncan courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library – http://mp.natlib.govt.nz/detail/?id=9120*
* Photo of P & D Duncan Heritage Building taken by Annette Bulovic*