The History of the Dadabhay Family
The Origin of the Surname "Dadabhay"
Before the surname Dadabhay originated all the family were part of the Timol family, which included the Kaka and Jassat Families. The family used to be based in Bombay in those days, and not in Kholvad. "Dada" was a term used to refer to sailors who were in charge of changing the weapons on board ships. (Contrary to popular belief, the violent tendencies did not begin in Becker Street!!)
Early Family History
The family was initially based in South India. Bawa's grandfather, Mohammed Dadabhay, then moved to Bombay. Before the port was opened in Bombay, the port of Surat was a bustling centre of trade. This led to the migration of the family inland toward Surat. They never reached Surat, but decided to settle in the quaint, picturesque village along the banks of the magnificent (in those days at least) Tapi River - Kholvad.
Mohammed Dadabhay then moved to Reunion (around 1855), then moving to Mauritius (1858) and then Lourenço Marques (now Maputo) (1859) [The preceding dates and information may be inaccurate - it has been suggested that it was in fact Bawa who first moved to Reunion and Mauritius in the 1870s] . Bawa's brother, Ahmed, settled in Maputo (1859) where he owned a property behind the Masjid. His sister, Fatima, was married to a Patel [or possibly a Saloojee] in Reunion. Bawa had a third sister, who was married to Alloo - a wealthy sugar-cane farmer - in Bombay. Bawa possibly had another sister, Ayesha, about whom no further information is available.
In 1860, Bawa's father, Ebrahim, moved from Maputo to Durban where he married Fatima Bhyant. Ebrahim moved back to Kholvad around 1870. Around 1879, the family moved to Johannesburg, where they were one of the first five Indian families allowed into the Transvaal. The other families included the Gardees and Gokals.
Born in the 1830's in Kholvad, Yusuf (known as Bawa Essopjee Dadabhay) moved to South India as a young man. Rumor has it that he was married there to a lady from Hyderabad who soon passed away.
After returning to Kholvad for a short period, Bawa moved to Kokenjilla, in the district of Poona. Here he established a small business.
However, Bawa was again drawn to the allure of Kholvad. Bawa's step sister, Miriam Bibi, in Surat, was one of Ebrahim Toorawa's three wives. Bawa then teamed up with Ebrahim and moved to Bombay, where they lived in Kulsar Bazaar.
The family called him back to Kholvad, but his entrepreneurial flair drew him to Mauritius. This move was probably further encouraged by family reports of growing business opportunities filtering back from the exotic island. Together with members of the Toorawa family, he began a business in the area of Flic-en-Flac known as "FlacQ", which was situated close to the Masjid and river which was an important port of business during those years. Circa 1862, he moved to Port Louis where he opened a business on Louis Pasteur Street.
A firm believer in the phrase "Home sweet home," Bawa once more found himself in Kholvad. Prior to his move to the Seychelles, where he established a factory, Bawa ventured to Malaysia for a short period. Following on his success in The Seychelles, he moved his factory to Reunion joining his aunty Fatima who was married there. Here, Bawa married a local lady, Maria (later Mariam). The factory grew to be enormously successful. Tragically, the French bank with which Bawa dealt went bankrupt resulting in the loss of Bawa's fortune.
Devastated, he returned to Kholvad to try and find solace in his motherland.
Looking to once more rebuild his fortune, Bawa travelled towards Durban. He stopped off in Mauritius, where in partnership with a member of the Vanker family he purchased a boat-load of rice. He then journeyed on to Durban where he joined his good friend Ismail Moolla (Devon). They opened a business in King Edward Street.
Bawa then moved to Vrededorp in Johannesburg (1904-1907) where he opened a grocery store in 17th Street. In 1911 Bawa bought a property on the corner of Market and Bezuidenhout Streets for ₤4000, which had a Chinese bioscope in the basement and shops above. Bawa left the building in the care of a friend and returned to Kholvad.
Later, the family purchased the property on the corner of Bezuidenhout and Commissioner Streets. Sometime after his return from Kholvad, Bawa moved with his two children: Ismail and Suleiman and his grandson, Mohammed Ebrahim (Ayesha's son) to Vereeniging in 1917. Here they started I.E. Dadabhay. Mohammed Ebrahim then left and settled in Amersfoort.
In 1922, the family purchased the remainder of the block between Becker and Bezuidenhout Streets, which led to the construction of Eadie and Orient Houses (1935), under the guidance of I.E. Dadabhay.
Bawa passed away in 1941 and was laid to rest in Braamfontein Cemetery, Johannesburg.