McDONNELL & EAST, GEORGE STREET, BRISBANE, QUEENSLAND, DRAPERS
A simple cover sent air mail with a brown 5d KGV Head stamp postmarked in 1933 has an indistinct KATHERINE/ ( )/ NORTH AUST postmark (Figure 1).
Edward A. Williams (1992) in his book The Postal History of the Northern Territory 1824-1988 on page 196 describes this postmark as "Type 8: NORTH AUST (30 mm rubber). 1927-21 February 1944. Issued in connection with the 1927 division of the Territory into Central and Northern sections" ( Figure 2).
The reverse has a roller cancel of BRISBANE/ 1933/ 20 JUL/ 10 30 PM/ QLD. with a partially legible slogan admonition: (Address Mail To Private?) P.O. BOX NO./ IT EXPEDITES DELIVERY (Figure 3).
Often called the 'Crossroads of the North' because of its location, Katherine is the fourth largest town in the Northern Territory and is located 312 kilometres south-east of Darwin on the Katherine River. With a population of over 9,000 people, Katherine is a modern thriving regional centre.. The Municipality of Katherine covers an area of 528 square kilometres and the Katherine Region is 336,674 square kilometres, or almost the size of the State of Victoria. The total population of the region is just over 17,000 people of which 29% identify themselves as being indigenous. The site of Katherine is seen at the green arrow (Figure 4).
A Queensland Government Heritage site praises the McDonnell & East Ltd building stating that it is "important in contributing to the evolution of upper George Street as a commercial precinct" as well as "important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of an early 20th century department store, including the incorporation of advertising into the facade to illustrate the building’s function". The three-storied brick department store was erected in several stages between 1912 and 1963. The firm was actually established in October 1901 at leased premises at 402-408 George Street and within 6 years McDonnell & East Ltd was well established as importers, cash drapers, tailors, outfitters, dressmakers and milliners, and by 1908 the sons of the founders had entered the firm. An undated (mid to late twenties?) photograph of the firm is shown in Figure 5.
The firm’s founders were Francis (Frank) McDonnell (1863-1928) born in Ireland and who arrived in Brisbane with his sister in 1886, with experience as a draper in Ireland. He worked for others in the trade and went into partnership with Hubert East and his son Hubert Fraser East, in 1901. McDonnell was interested in working conditions and went into politics as a Labour candidate, unsuccessful in Fortitude Valley in 1893, but victorious in 1896. He was successful with his 1900 Factories and Shops Act. He emphatically opposed Federation in the belief that it would increase unemployment. He did not seek re-election to the Legislative Assembly in 1907 but was appointed to the Legislative Council where he interested himself in Queensland’s industrial growth, especially promoting the cotton industry. He died in South Brisbane, survived by his wife, four sons and three daughters. His photo is shown in Figure 6.
Hubert East (1862-1928) was a life-long friend of McDonnell; he and his son Hubert Fraser (1893-1959) were both drapers, the father born in Ireland and the son in Brisbane. Their firm was run jointly with East and McDonnell as managing directors, until East snr died in 1928. Then Hubert joined McDonnell’s son sharing joint manager and director duties. Hubert jnr. had a deep involvement in the welfare of soldiers after WW 1, which gained him the award of C.M.G. He was heavily involved in many aspects of veterans’ affairs, devoting a large part of his life to former servicemen’s problems as a result of their wartime services. He died in Brisbane, survived by a wife, one son and two daughters. I have no information as to who carried on the management of the firm, on his death
This description of the firm’s founders is derived from the Australian Dictionary of Biography.