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Kelsall and Kemp (Tasmania)

Kelsall and Kemp (Tasmania) Ltd was formed in 1920, after English textile manufacturer and major shareholder, Kelsall & Kemp Ltd, selected Launceston as the site for its first overseas mill. Inexpensive water and plentiful female labour influenced choice of location, but the cost of hydro-electric power proved most decisive. Not scheduled for connection to the state government's hydro scheme until 1923, Launceston used the city's independent electric power supply to undercut its main opponent, Hobart. Production of flannel commenced at the new Invermay mill in 1923, with the assistance of a small core of skilled English workers. Insufficient share capital and the end of the post-war textile boom saw the mill struggle in its formative years.

Aided by tariff protection, Kelsall and Kemp turned a corner in the early 1930s and profitable decades followed. By the early 1960s, the mill was one of Australia's most successful in its field and employed 330. Strong performance led to a takeover bid that saw Kelsall and Kemp (Tasmania) become a wholly owned subsidiary of Kelsall and Kemp Ltd in 1963. Coats Patons, the parent company of Launceston's largest textile manufacturer, gained controlling interest in 1969. This coincided with a decline of fortunes for Kelsall and Kemp (Tasmania). The company would not again pay a dividend after 1970, and was severely impacted by tariff cuts in 1973. A major restructuring commenced in 1976, which included a name change to Doctor Textile Mills Ltd ('Doctor' being the company trade-name). Placed in liquidation soon after, the mill closed on 30 June 1977 and was demolished in 1996.

Laura Williams