MESSRS FOY & GIBSON, DRAPERS, COLLINGWOOD & PERTH
This red KGV 1d embossed cover has additional postage added, the green ½d and two brown-black 1½d KGV stamps each postmarked with ‘ROSLYN FARM/ 9-JAN 19/ WEST AUSTRALIA, with a red registration label with a manuscript Roslyn Farm, and the usual red crayon cross marking. It is addressed to Messrs Foy & Gibson, Hay St., Perth (Figure 1).
The reverse has the same ROSLYN FARM postmark plus a transit mark of Geraldton, W.A. and a REGISTRATION PERTH/ 11 JAN 19 reception postmark (Figure 2).
Mark Foy (1830-1884), draper, was born at Moystown, King's County, Ireland, son of Marc Foy, French emigré and flour-miller, and his wife Catherine, née Hennessy. He was educated at Banagher and was reputedly intended for the legal profession but because of family problems he was apprenticed to a drapery firm in Dublin. In 1858 he arrived at Melbourne in the Champion of the Seas. He probably worked first for Buckley & Nunn, but in 1859 he went to the goldfields. In 1861 he moved into a produce store in Castlemaine and he went to Bendigo in 1863 where his brother Francis had a wholesale produce business. Early in 1867, Mark went into partnership with Robert Bentley, a storekeeper. He returned to the goldfields and in September 1869 he was appointed magistrate for McIvor General Sessions, and by November he was elected a councillor.
With the decline of the town, he dismantled his shop, dissolved the partnership with Bentley and set up a new drapery shop in Smith Street, Collingwood, where he prospered. By 1875 he occupied three shops and six shops by 1880. In November 1882 he settled the Smith Street business on his son Francis, withdrew his capital, brought in William Gibson as Francis’ partner, and left with his wife for Europe. In San Francisco his health worsened and he died on 14 January 1884. Soon afterwards, Francis sold out to Gibson and moved to Sydney to establish a new business under his father’s name. Mark Foy was married twice, first in Ireland about 1848 to Mary Macken, by whom he had six surviving children, and second in Melbourne to Catherine Power by whom he had one son.
William Gibson (1842-1918) draper and importer was born in Glasgow, Scotland, son of JamesGibson, clothier, and his wife, née Dick. As a boy, he entered the firm of Mann, Byars & Co. He had risen to the position of cashier, with the reputation of 'honest, steady and industrious habits' at the time of his marriage to Mary Hislop in 1881 at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Glasgow. Later that year he resigned from the firm and in February 1882, with his wife and infant son, he sailed for Australia. From his early twenties Gibson had cherished hopes of setting up a drapery business; but once in Melbourne he did not rush into putting his plans to action. By the end of May 1882 he had obtained a position as New Zealand representative for the wholesalers, Beath, Schiess & Co. Late that year a chance to buy into a drapery business came when Mark Foy was looking for a partner for Francis.
The agreement setting up Foy & Gibson, drapers of Collingwood, was signed on 6 March 1883, with the 2 partners each putting in £5000. Francis continued as manager controlling both the buying and selling, while Gibson took charge of the office and routine work. Gibson naturally reserved, had a genial manner and an excellent memory for names and faces, and soon established good relations with customers and clients. As the business prospered, he began to resent Foy’s control over the buying and general management of the store. Matters came to a head in mid 1884 and it was decided to dissolve the partnership.
In August 1884, Foy went to Sydney where he established Mark Foy’s Ltd, and Gibson became the sole proprietor of the Collingwood store. Gibson set out to improve his overseas buying organization, and he established the practice of sending departmental buyers to Britain. Growth was rapid and he brought others into the firm, including 2 nephews. A huge four-storey hardware department was built next to the Collingwood store (Figure 3).
He was in London in 1893 when news reached him of the Bank crashes in Melbourne. He hurried back and by hard work and dogged determination kept the business going in the depression that followed. In 1895, he set up a branch of the firm in Perth, W.A., and in 1897 he transferred his overseas buying office from Glasgow to London. About the same time he began the manufacture of men’s clothing and shirts, ladies’ underclothing, millinery, furniture, bedding and hardware to supply the Perth and Melbourne stores. His large ‘Gibsonia’ woollen and hosiery mills developed from a few hand-knitting machines for producing men’s socks. He opened a store in Brisbane in 1903 and in Rundle Street, Adelaide in 1907. A Foy and Gibson advert for the Perth store is seen in Figure 4.
Gibson went to London for a six months visit in 1914, but the war conditions detained him there. On 5 November 1918 Gibson died, and he was survived by 5 sons and 4 daughters. His Australian estate was probated at £1,850,000, and his nephew John Maclellan carried on the business which survived until 1967.
The majority of the information on Foy and Gibson was derived from the on-line Australian Dictionary of Biography.