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In late 1881, a modest timber and iron branch store of the Brisbane based firm Kenion and Co., situated on the corner of Hawkins and “Lannercost Road”, Ingham, advertised an unusual consignment of goods to entice sales for a particular section of the community: children. On sale was a large assortment of colonial Queensland made wooden toys, imported novelties and treasures, a large Punch and Judy Show and a small quantity of washable, durable and unbreakable “Yankee Rubber Babies”! Christmas was coming and Kenion and Co., Ingham was stocking up.
From the beginning, Ingham’s branch store connection with the Brisbane firm was special. Clare Kate Kenion the only daughter of John Kenion, the Brisbane based proprietor, moved to Ingham after she met and married local branch manager, William Daglish. In 1883, a new manager John Philip Conroy was employed and he proved himself a canny businessman with an eye for opportunity. In 1885, he employed packer Lewin Cockrell to take provisions up to miners on the emerging tin fields of Kangaroo Hills, Ewan and Oakey Creek, only to double down on profit by packing their cleaned tin down the range to Port Dungeness on the return.
By 1900, he had relocated the store across the street to a new position and expanded the stores operations into a multi-department store which offered grocery lines, teas, coffee (ground on the premise), boots, clothing, and crockery. Under Conroy’s management, merchant lines were expanded to include working men’s clothing, hats, shirts, ties and collars: many sourced in Australia. He also imported leather footwear directly from the United States; Ladies fancy goods, drapery, skirts, silk and muslin blouses, trimmed hats, neck ware, ribbons, laces and fabric including muslins, Zephyr’s, and Sateen’s from England; and underclothing and hosiery specifically from Manchester!
Kenion and Co. stocked homewares, silver gifts, and wedding apparel including the rings and ladies trousseau’s. This was an innovation as couples no longer had to wait for orders to come from England. All mercantile lines were displayed artistically around the shop on counters and central tables with the discount “Shilling Table” the most popular display in November when set up for affordable Christmas gifts. It was truly “a wonderland for the little ones”.
John Conroy eventually purchased the branch store Kenion and Co with his brother Mr. William F. Conroy including the trade name. In 1924, they embarked on two major changes to the business commencing with the erection of large concrete store with a decorative parapet designed by Townsville Architect, Walter Hunt. They also formed a limited liability company, Kenion and Co., Ltd., and entered an agreement with Nolan’s Ltd of Townsville. It was then that Conroy passed the management over to Mr. B. H. Mullin but continued to remain with the business until 1928. By then he had been forty five years with the company. In an ironic twist, John Conroy died two years later just two months before the original manager - William Daglish.
Kenion and Co Ltd remained as a prominent store trading under its name until it was sold to the Penny’s chain in the late 1950s. It was later purchased by the current Coles Store chain who opened a Coles New World complex in December 1984.
Gone but not forgotten, Kenion and Co., was “The Oldest Established house in the District”.
Images provided by the Ingham Family History Photographic Collection.