Gravesites Of Tasmania



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Benjamin Dunkerley was born 1840 in Cheshire England .  He became a hatter and developed such skill with hat making machinery that he visited Germany from time to time to help manufacturers there set up operations.

 In 1874 Benjamin left England for Tasmania to check out the hatting prospects.  Satisfied that he could make a go of it independently, he asked his wife Harriet to join him the following year with the children.  The family lived in Hobart where another three children (Ada Harriet 1877, Florence 1879 and Gertrude Alice 1881) were born to them.  It was here that Benjamin later devised a piece of machinery that would cut the hair tip from the rabbit fur used in hat making.  Before then the job had been done tediously by hand.  The family was living at this time at a property called St. Helena which is now part of the Wrest Point Hotel complex.

Benjamin went back to England to patent his invention.  It should have made him, if not a fortune, at least a reasonably sound amount of money.  But Benjamin Dunkerley came out of the venture badly, losing a considerable amount of money.  He was a clever inventor, a good hat manufacturer but not a businessman.

In the late 1880’s Dunkerley moved his fur cutting and machinery business from Tasmania to Sydney and set up a small hat factory in Crown Street , Surrey Hills.  He continued to supply rabbit fur and machinery to hatters throughout Australia .

Soon to join him in business was a young Englishman, Stephen Keir.  He was born in Lancashire in 1879 and arrived in Sydney in 1902 to join the hat firm, Chas Anderson and Co.  He was there for two years, but not impressed by the way the firm was run, he resigned and started work for Benjamin Dunkerley.  Things went well, he was a diligent worker who caught the boss’s eye and also the eye of the boss’s daughter Ada .   Stephen Keir married Benjamin Dunkerley’s daughter Ada in 1905 at the Paddington Methodist Church .  Benjamin was so impressed with his son in law that soon after his marriage to Ada , he made him general manager of the Hatting Company.

The Australian slouch hat was designed by Colonel Tom Price in 1885 and was originally worn turned up at the right hand side to enable the troops to look their inspection officers in the eye.  It was first worn by the Victorian Mounted Rifles but by 1890 the whole of the Australian Horse wore the hat with the brim turned up on the left hand side to assist in arms drill.  With the introduction of the present service rifle there is no longer any need to have the brim turned up at all, however tradition is still maintained and it is turned up on the left.

The factory received a business boost in World War 1 when it was obliged to supply diggers’ hats.  Apart from sales to the Department of Defence the hats were sold through a York Street warehouse run by Mr. A.P. Stewart.  He had put an amount of capital into the business and the name Akubra was in vogue after that.

Benjamin Dunkerley died in 1918 knowing he was leaving the Company in the capable hands of his son in law.

In 1919 the Company moved to big new premises at Bourke Street , Waterloo where the company expanded rapidly.  Stephen Keir became a pillar of the Burwood Methodist Church and was in fact, one of their trustees.

The rest is history and Akubra hats are now seen in every country and every walk of life 

Original Akubra Hat Box Silverton NSW

Photographed by Kathie Pert Qld





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