Leather to Biscuits & Cakes

Gallagher's Kedron Tannery

M J Gallagher as a member of the Kedron War Council and Reparation Committee 1914-1920.

Michael Joseph Gallagher (1852-1944) born in Ireland and after going to the USA and England arrived in the Colony of Queensland in 1882 and, according to David Teague, in September1877 he bought a large block of land fronting Gympie Road between Rode and Kitchener Roads . He built the tannery beside a small creek running through the block and under Gympie Road. Gallagher built the family home on Gympie Road in front of the tannery but in 1901 built a new house, Glentanna on the corner of Kitchener and Gympie Roads. It was a 'grand' house as was that of Paul Maggs, another tannery owner, on the opposite side of Gympie Road. Glentanna was replaced by the existing service station and Maggs house by a car sales yard.

Gallagher was very prominent in the local community being a Councillor and President of the Kedron Shire Council, he subdivided much of his land into house building blocks and marketed them as the Glentanna Estate, he was a member of the Tannery Proprietors Association and various exclusive clubs such as Tattersalls. MJ was prominent in the Brisbane Catholic community and Archbishop Duhig presided at his funeral praising him for his simple faith and generous nature.

Gallagher's Kedron Tannery showing the creek in flood_540_2
Gallagher's Tannery (1902) on Gympie Road was on the banks of an un-named creek which flowed into Kedron Brook. The photo shows the creek in flood, some of the workers and a couple of carts probably carrying skins for tanning. Photo courtesy of John Oxley Library.

Tanneries and Creek Pollution

Pollution of waterways by chemicals and pollution of air by smell was a major problem with the tanneries.

The minutes of the Kedron Shire Council contain references to the regular complaints from ratepayers. The State Government finally passed laws to limit or prevent the pollution of creeks.

The following news item appeared in the Brisbane Courier 17/11/1922 p.8

Deputation to the Acting Home Secretary

Five members of Kedron Shire Council waited on the Act Home Sec Mr. Stopford to discuss the recent Order in Council preventing tanneries from using Kedron Brook for the discharge of chemicals, etc.

The acting chair of Kedron Council Mr. A Marquis said that an accident had resulted in a dam bursting and polluting the creek - no matter how much the chemically soaked water was filtered it turned the creek water black.

Councillor A Gibson said that in the south the waste was fed into the sewers but there were no sewers in Kedron - he thought that the Ithaca Tannery was getting a sewer - what about one for Kedron? He wanted expert advice - it was his tannery where the dam burst - had been going for 38 years and it would be a blow to have to close down. He had to get rid of 250,000 gallons of water per week - he asked the minister not to be too drastic.

Councillor M J Gallagher said that tanneries were the best disinfectant a district could have. Tanning was not an obnoxious trade.

Councillor S A Buck said the majority of tanneries spent money on filtration - don't blame the majority for the deeds of the minority.

Councillor F Fredricks he would be very regretful if the tanning industry had to be closed down.

Mr Stopford said he had to look after he people living near the brook. It was reasonable to expect that proceedings should be stayed till January. He would like the deputation to put forward some concrete proposals. He had heard that some tanners would occasionally empty their dams when they expected rain, but often the rain didn't come.

Gallagher and Gibson were both tanners

The Westons Biscuit Co.

Gallagher and Sons Kedron Tannery finally closed in 1960 due to the encroachment of suburban housing. The tanneries were classed as obnoxious industries mainly because of the smell.

The Weston plant was established in 1966 in a building which had no support beams for the roof allowing maximum use of floor space. It employed 450 people and produced 12,000 tonnes of products, 52 varieties of cakes and 48 types of biscuits.

The biscuit maker was a much more acceptable industry and employed many more people than the old tannery. Local people signed up to work there in the huge air conditioned premises.

The little creek disappeared underground but still emerged on the other side of Gympie Road and travels along behind the houses and businesses on the north side of Boothby street.

Top Taste Factory, Kedron
The new factory (1966) is very large, one of the biggest in the area. It presents a very clean image to Gympie Road with the broad brick wall and green grass. The name on the wall reflects the change over to cake making instead of cakes and biscuits.