MEMORIES of large desks and the smell of cigars linger in Polly Staveley’s mind, as she recalls childhood visits to her family’s business.

“I remember my father working very long hours and there being stressful times, but I also remember being incredibly proud when we were taken into his offices and seeing his and my grandfather’s big desks and the smell of cigars in the air.”

She adds: “I remember we often asked what exactly my father did, so as a joke my mother arranged that he would be reading ‘The Beano’ at his desk when my brother turned up once.”

Polly’s great-grandfather Thomas Lessels Dallas, OBE, set up an insurance business in Bradford 1919. One hundred years later, with the fourth generation family firm continuing to thrive, Polly holds the reins.

She took over as managing director at TL Dallas, now one of the UK’s leading independent insurance broking and risk management companies, in 2017.

Since then the company has grown substantially to boast a network of ten offices across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, providing services to 11,000 customers UK-wide.

“Due to our location the early success of the firm was very much built on the West Yorkshire textile trade and also the wider owner managed business community,” explains Polly. “ I guess that after the Second World War there were many opportunities for local families as well as immigrant families to start businesses, or continue with business established pre-war. Many of these flourished and some are still clients today.”

After studying maths and psychology at university, Polly joined Yorkshire Bank’s graduate training scheme. This provided a very good foundation in business, but after around nine years she became dissatisfied with large company politics.

“So I asked my dad if I could join him in the family business,” she says. “I started as a junior assistant, gradually working my way through the ranks and building up my portfolio. I was appointed director in 2008 before taking over as managing director.”

Women have always played a valued role within the company. Says Polly: “We have always had very strong women at TL Dallas, in fact I am told that my Great-Aunt Babbie pretty much ‘held the fort’ during the Second World War when my grandfather was overseas and then showed him the ropes when he returned properly in 1947. So….technically I am not the first woman at the helm and I would have loved to have asked my Great-Aunt Babbie for advice.”

Polly’s brother, Mackenzie is a director at the firm, which was formerly located at Forster Square and is now at Low Moor.

“We are especially proud that myself and my brother, Mackenzie, as fourth generation members of the Dallas family, are now leading the business to its next phase,” says Polly. “The success that has been seen over the last 100 years has laid the foundations for the business to continue growing and developing.”

TL Dallas was once visited by Winston Churchill. “This is documented in photos but sadly we don’t have much information about it,” says Polly. “My great-grandfather was standing as a Conservative candidate for Bradford at the time so I imagine he hosted Mr Churchill as part of his campaign.”

Thomas was a well-known figure in the life of Bradford. He was a former president of Bradford players and of Bradford rotary Club. In 1970, a newspaper reported how, aged 90, with failing eyesight, he had to get his housekeeper to read the Telegraph & Argus to him. At the time he lived in Harrogate overlooking the stray.

Ian Dallas served in the Yorkshire Regiment during the Second World War before taking the helm at the firm in 1947. His son Colin Mackenzie Dallas later became chairman of the group. He sadly died in 2012 aged 64.

To mark its century in business, TL Dallas pledged to raise £100,000 before the end of the year for four major charities that hold meaning for staff members: British Heart Foundation, Candlelighters, Mind in Bradford and Alzheimer Scotland. Additional support will also be provided for local causes including Sedbergh Youth & Community Centre.

Launched at Valley Parade to link with TL Dallas’ longstanding sponsorship of Bradford City, the charity initiative, which is backed by TL Dallas’s 120 employees across the UK, has seen on a series of challenges including skydiving, abseiling and concerts in order to reach the target.

“We are fast heading towards our target of £100,000 by the end of the year,” says Polly. “We plan to continue past the end of this year.

“It’s fantastic that we can celebrate 100 years of the firm by helping others, which is why we are so passionate about our charity campaign.”

Sadly, Polly did not meet her great-grandfather, “however I am told he was a hard task master,” she says. “He would probably think I was far too soft.”

She adds: “I am sure he would be very proud that the firm has made it to 100 years and that two of his great grandchildren are working here.”