Ralli Brothers

Ralli Brothers

The five Ralli Brothers, Zannis a.k.a. John (1785 – 1859), Augustus (1792 – 1878), Pandia a.k.a. Zeus (1793 – 1865), Toumazis (1799 – 1858), andEustratios (1800 – 1884) founded Ralli Brothers, one of the most successful expatriate Greek merchant businesses of the Victorian era.

Born to a wealthy merchant family of Chios, their father Stephenos Ralli (1755 – 1827) had settled in Marseilles, but recognised that the nexus of trading had changed in the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars, and sent his eldest son John to London to explore business opportunities.

Founding of Ralli Brothers

John started trading in oriental silk and Russian grain in exchange for British textiles, and fetched his brothers over to help, incorporating as "Ralli Brothers" in London. Brother Eustratios ran the textile export operations from Manchester, Toumazis sourced raw materials and grain from Odessa and Constantinople, Pandia financed it from the Baltic Exchange, and Augustus oversaw the Mediterranean operations from Marseilles.

Their move away from Greece was prescient as it preceded the turmoil that was about to befall the Ottoman Empire that resulted in the Chios massacre and subsequent Greek diaspora, and saw their traditional home markets closed.

They were quick to seize new opportunities created by wars, political events, and the opening of new markets, such as corn, cotton, silk, Opium Wars and fruit, rapidly establishing major trading operations across the Mediterranean, Russia, reaching out as far as St Petersburg, Taganrog, Tabriz, Alexandria, Smyrna, and Syria.

Although they employed more than 40,000 people at one time, control rested in the hands of the extended family. When Pandiya married in 1831, it was to Marietta (1810–1860) Scaramanga, another merchant from Chios, who family had significant trading operations in Russia.

From 1851 Ralli Brothers started operations in India with offices in Calcutta and Bombay that specialised in jute, shellac, teelseed, turmeric, ginger, rice, saltpetre, and borax [ [http://www.rallis.co.in/aboutus/history.asp Rallis India company website] ] , with 4000 clerks and 15,000 warehousemen and dockers.

Their American operations ran from New York and New Orleans, in association with their cousin Alexander Vlasto. They accurately gauged the grain opportunities that arose from the Crimean War, and were early traders in grain futures

Later generations

The partnership was dissolved on Pandias' death, but his nephew Stephen Augustus Ralli (1829 – 1902) passed the Russian business to the Scaramanga family, and re-constituted "Ralli Brothers" on the British, American and Indian operations. On his death it passed in turn to his nephew Sir Lucas Ralli (1846 – 1931) who continued the tradition of adroit investment.

They made fortunes by building on the Indian and American businesses, astutely shipping cotton and textiles after the American Civil War, and, from 1882, dealing in opium. From new offices in Pondicherry and Madras they dealt in 'Khandesh' Groundnuts, and when World War I started Rallis held the exclusive contract with the British War Department for jute sandbags [The Times 4 September 1916] .

The Great Depression saw the company beset with cashflow problems which forced the Indian operations to close and another Greek trading family, Argenti, stepped in to act as their agents. Ralli Co in the UK was acquired by Wolfson’s Great Universal Stores in 1963, then passed to Slater Walker and Cargill Cotton.

Cultural influence

The Rallis used their establishment in London and elsewhere to help the influx of Greek merchants that emigrated to set up in business and settle into their new countries. Although they maintained their Greek culture and religion, they mostly became assimilated and naturalised subjects in their adopted lands. Pandia had a reputation for fair dealing and avoided questionable deals and finances, and forced his standards on the other Greek émigrés with whom they did business, earning him the nickname of 'Zeus'.

Through their contacts, which included Byron, they rose to prominence in British business and aristocratic circles, with Pandia becoming a leading representative of the Greek Community in London and British Consul for the newly-independent country of Greece, and organised the Greek entry in the Great Exhibition of 1851.

Legacy

Perhaps influenced by their families' own experience, they and their descendants were frequent donors to medical charities operating in Eastern Europe and the Balkan wars. The family initiated the construction of Saint Sophia Cathedral, (co-funded by prominent members of the Greek community in London) and Pandia was instrumental in setting up the Greek Orthodox cemetery within West Norwood Cemetery in 1842. Antonius commissioned the Doric chapel to St Stephen there from John Oldrid Scott, now listed Grade II*. Some of the family also commissioned architects to create their own significant mausoleums there, including:
*Eustratious Ralli, a Doric temple by Edward Middleton Barry (Grade II)
*Antonios Ralli, a Roman-style temple mausoleum (Grade II)
*John Peter Ralli, a two-storeyed polychromatic mausoleum by George Edmund Street in his "streaky bacon" style (Grade II*.)

Notes

References

* [http://www.christopherlong.co.uk/per/rallibros.html Ralli family from Christopher Long website]
* [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/39298 S. D. Chapman, "Ralli, Pantia Stephen"] Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (subscription)
* [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/49030 S. D. Chapman, "Ralli, Stephen Augustus"] Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
* [http://www.fownc.org Friends of West Norwood Cemetery]


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