September 2018 marks the 120-year anniversary of the opening of McWhirter & Son, the cash drapery that went on to become one of Queensland’s biggest and best-loved department stores.
In 1894, my great-great grandfather James McWhirter senior began working for T.C. Beirne in his namesake business, and would stay there for four years – three of those in partnership with the Irishman, and two working alongside his son, also James. By 1898, James senior was fifty years old and, I suppose, tired of working for other men. So when Michael Piggott decided to vacate his Brunswick Street drapery opposite Beirne’s, and move his operation to Toowoomba, he saw his chance and seized it. McWhirter dissolved his partnership with Beirne and took over the lease on Piggott’s single-shopfront building, bought all his stock and changed the signage.