As I continue digging through countless archives to discover the dusty
stories of old pocket watches, I can’t believe some of the tales I find!
Our fourth Australian pocket watch is no exception.
The pocket watch dates to the very early
1900s, potentially 1905, Swiss made. And you guessed it – the white
porcelain dial is marked with a personalised inscription - P. McKenna
Gympie, Q. I thought that this might be a tough one to crack, with only
two pieces of information to go off.
Gympie is a town located in Queensland,
Australia, about 160km north of Brisbane. Gympie is a famous area for
gold, which was discovered by a European Settler named James Nash, in
P. Mckenna was likely to be of Scottish or Irish descent, as the name
McKenna is the anglicised form of the Gaelic Irish surname "Mac
Cionaoith" or of the Scottish surname, "MacCionaodha". He was the owner
of a jewellery shop, ‘P. McKenna and Sons Ltd’, located on Mary Street,
Gympie. And his Jewellery shop was the best in town:
“The best house in Gympie for every class of repairs to jewellery is
that of Mr McKenna, which is in Mary-street. Mr McKenna is a practical
watchmaker and a first-class manufacturing jeweller. If you suffer from
headaches or your eyesight is bad, see Mr McKenna, who is an experienced
optician. Mr McKenna’s shop is well worth a visit. He has a very fine
stock of ornaments and gems and makes a speciality of wedding gifts.” The Catholic Press, Thursday 5th August 1909
With information on a singular P. McKenna
drying up, I broadened my search to the wider McKenna family of Gympie.
And here’s where it gets gritty! P. McKenna was the father of four sons -
Edward, Albert, Henry and George – whom he left his business to when he
died (assumed early 1900s). However, family and business didn’t mix
well. A brotherly bond between Edward and Albert soon turned into
brotherly bitterness. And on January 3rd, Edward shot his brother:
“Yesterday afternoon Edward Joseph McKenna was arrested by
Senior sergeant Frisch and charged with having unlawfully attempted to
kill his brother, Albert Joseph McKenna, who was seriously wounded
during a shooting affray on the business premises of P. McKenna and
Sons, Ltd., Jewellers, on January 3 last.” The Week, Friday 16th March 1928
Can you believe it?
Although the bullet wasn’t instantly fatal, it killed Albert three years
later, making for a whole page news spread in the Brisbane Truth.
“There was a wound in his back under the
left shoulder blade, six inches from the spine, which had paralysed him
from the waist downwards. For many hours, Albert hovered on the
borderline of life and death. Doctors did not think he could live. Yet
But he lived a living death. Paralysed, the bullet in his back in
such a position that it could not be removed, Albert knew long weary
days of hell . . . while Edward, silent morose, waited for the day when
he would face a judge and jury on a charge of attempted fratricide.
[...] Death, the doctors decided, was due to the pneumonia, aggravated by the paralysis which the bullet had caused.” Truth, Sunday 25 January 1931
Anyway, back to the pocket watch. It is nickel case, with a movement
made by “Ilix”. Although I’ve tried to find some information on Ilix
watch movements, the internet has no answers aside from eBay listings of
similar retailed pocket watches. I was hoping you might help me with
But the bit that puzzles me most: What was Mr. McKenna's first name?