The Ipswich Historical Society displays many artefacts from our extensive collection in the former Rhondda Collieries head office building. This building, designed by Robin Spencer, Architect, was constructed in 1976/7. In 1978 the office building and carport were awarded a Bronze Medal in the “Industrial Category” from the Australian Institute of Architects, Queensland Chapter.
Our Blacksmiths have built a working Blacksmith Shop with a replica of an old forge, modern forges and a replica WW1 Mobile Forge. This is a great drawcard.
Jim Donald House, an early 20th century miners' cottage, named for the hardworking unionist and parliamentarian, Jim Donald, is used to display coal mining exhibits, together with the exterior displays of mining machinery. Coal mining in Ipswich came to an end in December 2019 with the closure of New Hope's Jeebropilly mine. You can see one of the last blocks of coal taken from that mine on display in the house.
Jim Donald House
JIM DONALD - A SHORT BIOGRAPHY
Jim Donald was born in Redbank in 1895. He went to school at the Redbank Primary School. At age 14 when he had completed his formal education he began an apprenticeship as a cabinet maker before entering the mining industry as a winding engine driver. Here he began his long career as a union representative, holding the position of Vice President of the Queensland Colliery Employees Union in 1940, 1942 and 1943 and Secretary from 1943 to-1945.
The Queensland Colliery Employees Union in which Jim Donald was to play such an important role, was registered on 5 November 1908. The formation of the union had its genesis in coal owner Lewis Thomas’ decision in 1893 to convert his Aberdare mine to a cooperative in which the miners were shareholders. The Aberdare Cooperative Colliery Company was in existence for a decade before the colliery reverted to its original structure.
Despite its eventual abandonment, the cooperative experience gave impetus to the West Moreton coal miners’ desire for a trade union. The West Moreton District Miners’ Union was established in 1906 and, by the time it was succeeded by the Queensland Colliery Employees Union two years later, it had over twenty branches in the Ipswich and Rosewood areas. In its early years, West Moreton miners held leading positions in the union: Alf Waters, Jack L’Strange, James Pryde, Charles Kilpatrick and Martin Miller all served as presidents of the union. In the 1930s, men such as Jim Donald and Jack Pocock also came into prominence.
The 1930s were characterised by strife within the Queensland coal industry as miners fought for better wages and conditions. In 1937 there was a major strike at Lanefield in West Moreton which began with miners’ protests over ventilation. Management of the mine had little time for the men’s complaints. As Jim Donald reported:
‘The manager contended that things were not as bad as they [the mineworkers] imagined: that it was not the lack of ventilation that caused their pants to be saturated with perspiration within a very short time of commencing work , but this was the result of the men being free sweaters ...’
In the same year, following a pay rise granted to miners in NSW, Queensland miners put a log of claims to their employers. They asked for:
Reduced working hours
Mining industry pensions
Annual paid leave.
However, the employers refused to even discuss the claims. At mass meetings held in late September, 95% of union members declared their determination to win pay increases for Queensland miners. The case was put to the Arbitration Court and improvements in pay were awarded.
The following year Queensland miners were preparing for national industrial action. Jim Donald went to Brisbane and addressed the Queensland Trades and Labor Council which offered the miners their support.
He also spoke to the Ipswich Chamber of Commerce which, not surprisingly, gave him a vote of thanks but no offer of support. More practical support was elicited from local shopkeepers to help keep the miners fed during the strike. The 1938 national coal strike lasted for six weeks during September and October.
Following further strike action in 1940, one of the union’s long-standing claims was granted when, at the end of 1941, legislation for a mineworkers’ pension scheme was passed by the Queensland Parliament. As Jim Donald remarked, something that had been regarded as ‘an unpractical and Utopiandream’ was now a reality.
In May 1946 Jim Donald entered State Parliament as the Member for Bremer (the name of this electorate was later changed to East Ipswich). At the time Queensland was in the hands of the Labor party under the premiership of Edward Hanlon. The following year Jim Donald was elected as Secretary of the State Parliamentary Party in place of Mr J Healy who had lost the seat of Warwick. It was a position he would hold for the next 21 years.
Ten years later, in April 1957, the then Premier Vince Gair was expelled from the Labor party because of his conflict with the trade unions, specifically over the introduction of three weeks’ paid leave to workers under state industrial awards. Gair took a total of 25 defectors from the Labor caucus with him, including all the Cabinet members except Deputy Premier Jack Duggan, to form the Queensland Labor Party (QLP).
In June both the Labor party and the Country-Liberal coalition blocked supply to what was left of the Gair government, thus bringing the government down. At the election called for 3 August, the Country-Liberal Coalition under the leadership of George Nicklin came to power. It was the first time in 25 years that the Labor party had been in opposition in Queensland and only the second time since 1915. The Labor party would not return to power until 1989, ten years after Jim Donald’s death.
Following the death of Les Wood, Jim Donald served as Leader of the Opposition from April to August 1958 when he stepped aside after the re-election to parliament of Jack Duggan. From then until his retirement in 1969, Jim Donald served as an opposition backbencher and a hard-working parliamentary representative of the people in his electorate.
His activities included gaining an extra holiday for school children when the Premier visited Ipswich to open the show, lobbying for a train service to Ipswich on Saturday afternoons to suit the convenience of Mental Hospital employees who finished duty at 4 p.m, and securing £23,827 to fund a new bridge on the Brisbane-Toowoomba section of the Lockyer-Darling Downs Highway in Ipswich city. In 1954 he stood up in Parliament to secure recognition of the position of electricity consumers in Ipswich who were charged 10% more than metropolitan rates even though the electricity was generated in their city.
On the last day of each school year, he spent a hot and sticky December day touring his electorate, visiting as many school break-up functions as he could fit in. For many years Jim Donald was a member of the Ipswich Hospital Board. At his first meeting in June 1936 he found himself renewing his acquaintance with some old friends.
‘He confessed to his confreres that, when a youthful apprentice, he had helped Mr Cafferky to make the furniture of the board room. “I hope I give as good service as it appears to have done,” he added.’
Jim Donald died on 4 May 1979.
National Library of Australia, Trove website
Neumann, Shayne, House debates. ‘Blair Electorate: Ipswich Historical Society,’ March 2010.
Thomas, P., ‘The Coalminers of Queensland, Volume 1: Creating the Traditions,’ 1986.