Chinese Merchants trading with storekeepers Brennan & Geraghty

Guest Blog – Presentation by Ken Brooks for Maryborough Library Local History Talk

Brennan & Geraghty’s Store in Maryborough is owned by National Trust Queensland (1975) and is operated as a museum about itself and its place in the community of Maryborough. Established in 1871 by brothers-in-law Patrick Brennan and Martin Geraghty, the store remained in the same family for 101 years until its closure in 1972.

The original Brennan and Geraghty store in Lennox Street, Maryborough. Photo courtesy of Maryborough Wide Bay and Burnett Historical Society Inc.

The original Brennan and Geraghty store in Lennox Street, Maryborough. Photo courtesy of Maryborough Wide Bay and Burnett Historical Society Inc.

Local Historian, Ken Brooks manages the Museum. His research into the store’s original trading records and searches in Trove and the Maryborough Chronicle have revealed the extent of Chinese merchants in and around the Maryborough district.

During August and #MulticulturalMonth, State Library of Queensland thanks Fraser Coast Libraries and guest presenter Ken Brooks for sharing this story of early cultural diversity in Queensland. #QMM2018 #frasercoastlibraries

Ken’s presentation – 6 August, Maryborough Library

…Because Brennan & Geraghty has a large intact collection of merchandise and trading records, it is possible to look at the range of customers and shopping habits in Maryborough.

Brennan & Geraghty’s customers came from varied ethnic and social backgrounds which show a diversity of cultures merged into the growing Queensland community.

In general, there are few original surviving records which help us to research the Chinese in Maryborough. The records held within Brennan & Geraghty’s Store archival collection provide us with basic information on those customers.

To add to this information we have looked at other sources, such as local newspapers and the Council Rate Books. From what we already know of the Chinese customers at Brennan & Geraghty’s Store, we understand they were largely buying fruit, vegetables and vinegar for probable re-sale in their own shops. Some of these customers also purchased fruit trees which they may have planted to establish their own orchards. Their accounts were generally paid quite quickly in comparison to European customers who often ran up large debts which were paid off over time.

Because of the lack of available information on Chinese people in this region, any research we undertake will hopefully enable us to build a better picture of Chinese life in this part of Queensland.

Letter from Chas Que Hue, Bundaberg, 22 August, 1891. Brennan & Geraghty Store Archival Collection.

Hand-written letters such as the one above sent by Chas Que Hue to Brennan and Geraghtys provides us with evidence of his purchases as well as payment of his account. It is quite likely the letter was written by a third-party, and it is probable that Chas Que Hue could not read or write in English.

Brennan & Geraghty advertised in local newspapers on a regular basis which brought attention to their diverse range of stock that they could provide.

Chinese Merchants from the same period (in the Wide Bay Region) advertised less frequently. Their adverts help us with various details such as where their shops were located.

An advertisement in the Bundaberg Mail, 9th March 1894 shows a range of fruit, vegetables and tea were sold from Que Hue’s shop on the corner of Bourbong and Walla Street in Bundaberg.

An advertisement in the Bundaberg Mail, 9 March 1894 shows a range of fruit, vegetables and tea were sold from Que Hue’s shop on the corner of Bourbong and Walla Street, Bundaberg.

What happened to Chas Que Hue and other Chinese Merchants who had traded with Brennan & Geraghty is largely unknown. Future research may unearth more information which will help fill in the many gaps.

Published with consent from Ken Brooks

Ken’s presentation on Chinese Merchants trading with Brennan & Geraghty is available as part of the Fraser Coast Local History Talks hosted on the library’s YouTube channel.