Nicholas Loney: Lonely and Forgotten
Called the Father of Iloilo’s Sugar Industry, there is more to this gentle Englishman who, by love and romance to this tropical islands, settled at Iloilo as a trader in 1851 and was appointed the British Vice Consul in 1856.
Many credit him in developing the sugar industry which led to the sugar bonanza and eventually opening Iloilo to international sugar trade. Today, few Ilonggos know Nicholas Loney and his impact to Iloilo’s economy in the mid-19th century; a monument erected in memory of him can still be found at the end of Muelle Loney (Loney Waterfront) though it’s in dilapidated state.
So who was Nicholas Loney?
Born at Plymouth, England in 1826, he is the son of Admiral Loney of the Royal Navy. He first resided at South America but later decided to settle at Iloilo in 1856. As an appointed British Vice Consul on the time that general trade at Iloilo is flourishing, his function is to provide assistance and information to British and other foreign merchants. As a businessman, Loney is the first foreigner to put up a merchant firm in the city, Loney & Co.
Sugar production at the time was rising due to growing price of sugar in Manila and Loney further helped the hacienderos and farmers by providing loans, and purchasing modern machinery from Europe through his firm, Loney & Ker Co. thus increasing the efficiency of sugar production in Iloilo.
Loney and the Textile Industry
Some historical references suggest the relationship of Lonely and the untimely demise of Iloilo’s textile industry. Upon his arrival at Iloilo, Loney reported that the exported fabrics of Iloilo amounted from 400,000 Mexican pesos to 1,000,000 pesos annually. Located in a colony with an agriculture-dominant economy, Iloilo has attained remarkable degree of development in manufacturing textile. Loney even reported that almost every household has a wooden or bamboo loom for weaving. Sinamays and Pinas at that time are Iloilo’s major exports to other parts of the colony. Ilonggo textiles are always in demand and are usually every Thursday at the famous Jaro Market. Loney, claimed by some references as an agent of Glasgow and Manchester textile firms, was tasked to promote the cheaper British textile as a substitute for Ilonggo cloths and to encourage production of sugar to feed the growing number of British refineries. In the process of this task came the death of Iloilo textile industry as cheap British cloth entered the market and competed with Ilonggo textile.
The Economic Growth of Iloilo and the Sugar Boom of Late 19th Century
Nicholas Loney also encouraged improvements in infrastructure of the international port of Iloilo. He led the gradual reclamation of the western bank of Iloilo River and the construction of the Calle Progreso (present day Isidro De Rama Street) which became the location of numerous sugar warehouses at his time. Upon his death, Iloilo’s sugar exports amounted from 12,000 piculs to almost 300,000 and were in demand in England, America and Australia.
With prosperity coming from the sugar industry, Iloilo became the premier city of the islands; second only to Manila. Iloilo became another jewel in the monarch’s crown and was elevated to city status (ayuntamiento) in 1890.
Loney died on April 23, 1869 due to typhoid fever while exploring Mount Kanlaon in Negros. He died at young age of 41 and his loss was mourned by Iloilo.
Spanish, foreigners and Ilonggos in great numbers attended his burial. It was reported that hundreds of carriages, others driven by carabaos, escorted Loney to his resting place.
His name for many years was respected and venerated by Ilonggos for his great interest in developing the sugar industry of Iloilo.
On March 1904, the Municipal Council of Iloilo passed a resolution naming the long stretch of road along Iloilo Port as Muelle Loney or Loney Waterfront in honor of the Father of Sugar Industry of Iloilo.
Today, few people know Loney and his contributions to Iloilo’s economy. A monument found at the corner of Muelle Loney with a rusted marker still serves as a reminder of his efforts to improve Iloilo’s trade and sugar industry. But to ordinary people, the name Loney is only related to the avenue at Iloilo’s waterfront. Lonely at the end of his street, Nicholas Loney is forgotten and unnoticed by motorists or by passers.Tags: Iloilo City, Muelle Loney