This is the memoir of the McWhirter family, written by the great great granddaughter of James McWhirter, who came from Scotland to Australia in 1878. He founded McWhirter & Son, a department store in Fortitude Valley (“The Valley”) in Brisbane, which traded from 1898 to 1955. Myer acquired the business but retained the McWhirter’s name until 1966.
This book will appeal to Brisbane-ites of a certain generation.
” And after a while I begin to notice that, when you look closely, really look, the building is not as grand as it first appears to be. Birds are nesting in the eaves and, along the side of the structure that fronts Wickham Street, some of the lettering has disintegrated or fallen off, and has not been replaced. Once I’ve seen it I can’t unsee it: the passage of time, the decay.
“They remember the old shop fittings, the inlaid marble floors, the glass-topped wooden counters and the uniformed lift operators announcing the departments on each floor. They remember the festive window displays and the rooftop train at Christmas. I have been told that when Myer vacated the building in 1988 after selling it to developers, a skulk of ladies’ furs was found in the freezer. Well-to-do customers would leave them there over summer and, over time, perhaps as furs went out of fashion or the owners moved on, they were left behind.”
“In a city where so much built heritage has been torn down by corrupt developers or washed away by floods, the McWhirter building still stands, defiant, at Valley Corner.”
“Joan has always loved a day at the races. She loves the sense of occasion, she loves being seen, being photographed and written about, and knowing she is the envy of other women.”Quotes from the book.
- The AU Review: A compelling combination of family and local history, What Will Be Worn blends anecdotes and character studies with a well-researched exploration of an iconic Fortitude Valley building. With her family’s story running side by side with that of the store, author Melissa Fagan has turned a local history project into a lyrical meditation on fashion and family, giving What Will Be Worn an appeal unexpectedly broader than might first appear. This is a book for fans of Brisbane, biography, and stories with soul.
Author website: Melissa Fagan