To Million Mark
the biggest factor in the progress of Fortitude valley has been the keen
business rivalry between the T. C. Beirne and McWhirter families, which,
at all times, even from the earliest days, has been most intensive, but
still friendly. The two founders were originally business associates,
before becoming rivals.
at Maybole, Ayrshire, Scotland, James McWhirter, in 1898, opened up his first
shop, with a 33ft. frontage, on the site where the present big business now
arrived in Brisbane in 1880 and after several years in Australia returned to
Scotland. He came back here again in 1884, when he became associated with Mr.
Beirne in the capacity of general manager and temporary partner.
the return of Mr. Beirne from overseas, in 1896, Mr. McWhirter opened his own
its inception, the McWhirter business flourished and rapidly expanded through
the years, until, today it has grown into a magnificent block of buildings
occupying 61/2 acres of floor space, with over 50 departments, serving tens of
thousands of customers weekly. The staff growth, since its inception, has
risen from barely a dozen people to a number which at times, approaches the
the early days, footpath frontage of McWhirter’s was utilized for mass
displays of merchandise, and shoppers tied their horses to hitching posts
attracted by such values as English flannelette, 36ins. wide, for 2/11 a dozen
instances of the expansion of enterprise have been noted in other parts of the
world, and the story of this company’s growth is indeed as romantic as any,
when it is realised that, from a capital of less than £5000, the McWhirter
Company’s assets at the present time are in excess of £1,000,000.
Mail. May 25th 1953)
Mr Duncan McWhirter dies at 46
Duncan John McWhirter, 46, a joint managing director of McWhirters Ltd, died
suddenly yesterday morning after a heart attack. Mr. McWhirter was a grandson
of James McWhirter, founder of the Valley store. His elder son, James, 21, now the only
McWhirter in the firm heard of his father's death in hospital yesterday. He is recovering from an operation for appendicitis.
McWhirters will be closed from 2.30 pm to-day.
The funeral service will be held at the Hamilton Presbyterian Church at 3 pm, and the procession will pass the store on its way to the crematorium.
Bad luck run
Mr. McWhirter has been in indifferent health for months. Bad luck seemed to have dogged the whole family for the last two years.
James and the two daughters, Anne (19) and Marian (14 1/2) have all had appendicitis recently. His younger son, Ian (8), was in hospital with a broken hip after he fell out of a tree.
Just before that Mrs. McWhirter scalded herself badly on the back.
Duncan John McWhirter was a son of the late James Robert McWhirter and Mrs.
Adelaide McWhirter (formerly Adelaide Reid, of the well-known Brisbane
family). To London He was educated at the Southport School and at one time was
president of its old boys' association. He began his career with McWhirter's
at the age of 19 and trained in the dress material department.
He was sent to London and served an apprenticeship course with the famous London store of Selfridges. He also gained experience in the silk factories of Lyons, France. He rejoined the firm in Brisbane and then went overseas again in 1930 to manage McWhirter's London office.
He joined the board of directors in 1935, and in
1945 was made one of two joint managing directors, with Mr. H.G. Fielding.
During World War II he was a member of the Volunteer Defence Corps. He was a
member of the Valley Rotary, the Royal Queensland Golf Club, the Royal
Queensland Yacht Club, the Brisbane Club, Tattersalls, and the Queensland Turf
OUR BIG CITY FIRMS
growth of the Valley as a shopping centre has, during the last few years
proved beyond a doubt, that the metropolis is perceptibly extending in
that direction, and will continue to do so, as in the future wharfage
facilities extend to the lower reaches of the Brisbane River. One of the
largest establishments in the Valley at the present time is that of
founder of the firm, Mr. Jas McWhirter, was born in Ayrshire, Scotland,
and came to Brisbane 42 years ago. When after spending four years in the
employ of T.C. Beirne & Co., Mr. McWhirter, in 1899, opened a
business on his own account, in a small shop in Brunswick street, a shop
with only 33ft of frontage, there were not wanting those who thought the
venture a rash one. But the growth of the firm to its present
proportions, shows that the founder of the firm had a good head upon his
shoulders, and had the broad vision which makes the successful business
first the stock consisted merely of drapery, and some few years later
when the premises were extended, furniture, glass-ware and China, and
boot and shoe departments were added.
the year 1902 the firm purchased from Mrs. J. Williams the property in
Warner Street on which the present building of four storeys, which
fronts Wickham and Warner Streets, was built, and was occupied in 1912.
In 1918 the big bulk store on the opposite side of Warner Street was
built, and also a motor garage for the firm’s fleet of motor delivery
vans. In 1920 the business was floated into a limited liability company,
with the following directorate. Messrs. McWhirter, Fielding, O.J.
Lansdowne, and Mrs. M. Muir, the widow of a former director, and
daughter of the founder of the firm.
employees, of whom there were but 30 at first, now number 700 and not
the least pleasing item in this connection is the fact that Mr.
Fielding, who is now the general managing director, has been identified
with the firm from its inception.
premises are still growing, and at the present time a huge building of
five storeys is nearing completion in Brunswick Street where the
original premises were situated. The firm has also acquired the whole of
the buildings at the junction of Brunswick and Wickham Streets, and no
doubt before very long further buildings will be built on the corner
site. When that is done, McWhirter’s Ltd will rival Anthony Hondern’s
warehouse in Sydney.
the new building, now in course of erection is occupied, the firm will
have a floor space of five acres in extent.
success of this and other of our big city firms, proves the truth of the
Prime Minister’s statement, that Australia, and Queensland, in
particular, is in a most properous condition.
Mail. Sept 29,1945)
Messrs. Duncan J. McWhirter and Mr. Harold G. Fielding, who have been appointed joint managing directors of McWhirters Ltd., are following in their fathers' footsteps, both having occupied similar positions with the firm.
Mr. D. J. McWhirter
Mr. H. G. Fielding
Mr. McWhirter is the grandson of the founder of the business, and a son of the late Mr. James McWhirter, jun., a former managing director. He has been a director of the company since 1934.
Mr. Fielding is the son of the late Mr. George A. Fielding, who was managing director when he died in 1924. Mr. Fielding, who has been with the company since 1920, has held successively the positions of accountant and secretary, and was appointed to the board in 1937.
Mr. O.J. Landsdowne, chairman and managing director, has announced his retirement as from the end of this month of the management of the business. He has accepted the position of chairman of directors. Mr. Lansdowne has been with the company for almost 45 years. He became a director in 1920, when a public company was formed, and was appointed managing director in 1924.