Thomas Meikle, Businessman and Entrepreneur – Rhodesian Pioneers.

History of Thomas Meikle, Businessman and Entrepreneur  
Thomas Meikle affectionately known as Tom, Tom was one of the three Meikle Brothers who founded a company in Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe), he was regarded as a remarkable man, a very astute businessman and undoubtedly the driving force in the firm of Meikle Brothers. He was considered to be a man of vision and energy.
Thomas Meikle affectionately known as Tom, was born in 1862, he was the eldest son of John Meikle of Strathavon (Scotland) and Sarah of Avondale. The suburbs of Strathavon and Avondale in Salisbury (now known as Harare) were named after their respective birth places.
John Meikle was a master builder by trade, he studied mathematics at the Edinburgh University, John migrated to South Africa Natal in December 1868. At this point in time Tom was aged 6 and the other children on board of the voyage were Jeannie, Stewart and John or Jack as he later became known.
Tom was one of the three Meikle Brothers who founded a company in Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe), he was regarded as a remarkable man, a very astute businessman and undoubtedly the driving force in the firm of Meikle Brothers. At some point Tom moved to Bulawayo and in 1894 he opened a Branch and built a house in the suburb of Hillside.
He was a man of many fine qualities, and it is said that he could not abide slackers. A story is told when “… an elderly gentleman entering a Meikles Stores, the Manager was having tea, and on noticing a set of golf clubs in the corner, the gentleman enquired whether he was going golfing. The Manager replied that he usually closed early on Wednesday to get in a round of golf…” it is at this stage that Tom Meikle revealed his identity and ordered the Manager to take his golf clubs and never return.
He had a reputation of meanness, maybe it’s due to understanding of the value of wealth, and a story is told of how on a trip to England with a manager he preferred to stay in a cheap hotel and was content to travel in Third Class.

In 1898 he lived with his mother Sarah and his sisters in Bulawayo, they moved from Natal after the death of his father John. Thomas Meikle married Winifred Hubbard in 1907 and had four daughters, Marjorie Moxon, Peggy Thompson, Joan Hampshire and Jane Redrup. He died in 1939 and was buried at Mabukuwene Gardens. Mabukuwene is a tranquil place of indigenous trees and granite boulders in the suburb of Burnside, Bulawayo, it is run by the National Trust of Zimbabwe.

He was considered to be a man of vision and energy, and history notes that he did a lot for the development of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). His legacy is renowned to be the Thomas Meikle Trust and Investment Company, the company is prominent in stores, hotels, ranching and tea production.

The Meikle brothers established the financial giant Meikles in Southern Rhodesia. They arrived at Fort Victoria on 7th May 1891 and subsequently set up stores, built hotels, established mines and staked ranches in the territory.

In 2015 Meikles Hotel turned 100-years-old.  It was the brainchild of Thomas Meikles who envisioned a commitment to the “highest possible standard of service and product” – something that has become enshrined in the Meikles culture.  It has always been an iconic landmark of capital city Harare, one which has constantly and gracefully evolved through the colonial era of Rhodesia into modern- day Zimbabwe. Its position in the heart of the city has allowed its walls to bear witness to many events that have shaped the nation’s past.

Meikles Hotel: Historical Timeline

1869 – The Meikle family arrived in Africa from Strathaven, Lanarkshire in Scotland
1883 – At the age of 21 Tom Meikle, who was emerging as the dominant member of the family, moved to Barberton, South Africa to found a new transport service for the mines in the area. He achieved great success and was ably supported by his brothers Stewart and Jack.
1892 – The Meikle brothers expanded their transport business into Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).
1913 – Thomas Meikle decided to pursue his vision (originally conceived with brother Stewart before he died) of constructing a hotel on the influential site of Cecil Square (now Africa Unity Square) in the heart of the capital city. He maintained his permanent home in Bulawayo but kept an apartment at the hotel for his travels to the capital.
1915 – Meikles Hotel was officially opened on November 15.

1916 – An annex was added to the hotel and the total number of rooms reached 160
1926 – A steam laundry was added and was the first such facility in the city
1933 – The Thomas Meikle Trust and Investment Company was created
1934 – Dry cleaning equipment was added to the laundry.
1939 – Thomas Meikle died on 8 February and the trust was undertaken by his widow, Winifred (nee Dalzell) who became Chairman, and their four daughters and husbands who became board members.
1947 – In response to city plans to designate all property in the hotel area as a non-business area the Board completed plans for the rebuilding of the hotel, but failed to win a permit from the city planning authority.

1950 – Reginald Moxon (husband of Thomas Meikle’s eldest daughter Marjorie) became Vice Chairman of the Thomas Meikle Trust bringing an assurance of continued firm direction at a time when most of the founder’s early lieutenants were starting to retire.
1953 – Refurbishments were made to the front entrance, hotel foyer and dining room,
1956 – The construction of a new East Wing, over the old hotel’s beautiful garden, as an addition to the existing hotel was begun and completed two years later in 1958 just in time to accommodate a French rugby team on a visit to the country. The new wing had seven stories with 120 bedrooms.

1967 – The Meikles Hotel Football Club was formed and was indicative of the continuing high morale of the staff amidst political uncertainty in the country
1967 – In October a civic banquet was held at the hotel to mark the 75th anniversary of the foundation of the City of Salisbury (now Harare). 800 guests were in attendance.
1969 – It was announced that the Thomas Meikle Trust was to go ahead with plans to construct a new hotel in line with the international standards accorded to the world’s leading hotels.
1974 – The original hotel and adjoining buildings were demolished between March and September to make way for a modern and bigger hotel.
1974 – Construction of the new hotel began in September.
1976 – The new look Meikles Hotel was opened in November.
1980 – The 12-storey Meikles Tower Block was opened.
1991 – Five additional floors were added to the North Wing, containing luxury suites, including the current Club Rooms along with 10 additional banqueting rooms.
1995 – The Leading Hotels of the World invited Meikles to join its prestigious group, the first hotel in Zimbabwe to be given such notable international acclaim.
1997 – The South Wing, which comprises 187 rooms, was refurbished.
1998 – Meikles Hotel was voted “Best Hotel in Africa” by the International Executive Travel Awards.
1998 – The hotel became the first in Africa to achieve ISO 9002 status.

2011 – Meikles embarks on ambitious planning for a major refurbishment to take it into the modern era without sacrificing its elegant charm or rich pedigree.

2012 – Work commences on a major upgrade to restore Meikles to its world-class five-star stature in preparation for the hotel’s Centenary celebrations throughout 2015.

2013 – (September). The major US$9 million revitalisation of the entire North Wing and several public areas propels Meikles to modern new glory while retaining its traditional style, luxury and glamour.

2013 – Association of Zimbabwe Travel Agents (AZTA) votes Meikles as “Best City Hotel” for 20th time. The first AZTA award for Meikles was in 1992 and there has never been another winner in this category (there were no awards in 2004 and 2005).

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