George Marchant arrived in Brisbane from England in 1874, nearly penniless and uneducated having left school at the age of 10.
After a short period of country work, he found employment as a carter for a soft drink factory, then in 1877 married Mary Jane Dwyer who was to be a strong supporter in his subsequent business and philanthropic activities. In 1886 George opened his own soft drink and cordial factory in Brisbane thereby embarking on a journey of innovation and growth. First, he devised a method of sealing soft drink bottles which extended their shelf life and gave him a competitive advantage. Next, he invented a revolutionary bottling machine which significantly accelerated the production process and was widely adopted around the world.
In 1888 Marchants opened in Sydney, later in Melbourne, Adelaide, and Newcastle, in the process becoming the largest business of its kind in Australia. These achievements, then rare for a Queensland business, delivered substantial wealth to the Marchants. Importantly, while generating this wealth, George Marchant was a generous and forward thinking employer who was way ahead of his time: he employed women in his factories despite being pressured by unions not to; paid employees well for 8 hours of work; and also awarded bonuses out of company profits. His fairness as an employer and businessman reflected his clear personal philosophy and deep Christian faith. He described himself as a strongly developed individualist happy at not having been the beneficiary of unearned wealth which he regarded as being unhelpful for good spiritual development.
These views carried over into his extensive philanthropic contributions the most notable of which were: Montrose set on five acres at Taringa plus a further eight acres at Corinda to provide care and education for disabled children; 25 acres of prime Chermside land for the establishment of Wheller Gardens a state of the art aged care facility which continues to this day; and 100 acres of Chermside land to establish what is now known as Marchant Park. Among many acts of generosity was his contribution to the establishment of the alcohol free Canberra Hotel in Brisbane reflecting his life-long abhorrence of alcohol.
George Marchant is remembered as a nationally significant self-made businessman whose innovation was recognised world-wide. His philanthropic legacy to Queensland which, in today’s values well exceeds $100 million, is far outweighed by enduring community and social benefits he bequeathed to Queensland.