Aug 15, 2018

Ross gets a blast from the past

Ross gets a blast from the past

Queensland history buff Ross Thomas admits he loves to talk.

But when his subject of interest is North Queensland’s mining history, that’s not such a bad thing.

Mr Thomas has that rare ability to bring the past to life with just a few words, so those attending his presentation, on North Queensland’s colourful mining history, during the North Queensland branch of AusIMM’s Business Professionals Week in Townsville in October are in for a treat.

His talk will take place at the Metropole in Townsville on October 24.

Mr Thomas developed an interest in North Queensland’s mining history during his time as a mines inspector in Charters Towers and admits it has developed into quite a passion.

That’s not surprising given some of the fascinating tales to have emerged from the early days of mining in the region.

Tales like the one featuring gold commissioner Thomas Griffin, who was executed in 1868 after he was found guilty of killing two fellow police officers near Blackwater in central Queensland and stealing the large sum of money they were escorting from Rockhampton to Clermont.

In a bizarre postscript, about a week after his burial Griffin’s grave was disturbed and those responsible took off with his head.

Another slice of Queensland mining history which fascinates Mr Thomas is the murder of four people in Mt Coolon near Collinsville in 1918 by Thomas Coolon.

Coolon said he shot the men because they had taken over a claim which belonged to him.

However, newspaper reports at the time suggest that one of the men killed, Bernard Thompson, was the rightful owner of the claim and that fact had been confirmed by both the Warden’s Court and District Court.

“The fact is that Coolon was legally claim-jumped,” Mr Thomas said.

“The accepted fact at that time was that if you didn’t ‘work’ a claim it could be taken from you.

“In this case, it also appears alcohol played a part in what happened.”

Mr Thomas was an executive producer on the movie Beneath Hill 60, which detailed the role Australian miners played in blowing up tunnels during WWI, and says Queensland’s mining history is full of interesting tales which would also work well on the big screen.

“I really believe something like Thomas Griffin’s murder of two police officers and subsequent execution would make a great movie,” Mr Thomas said.

“There are so many colourful events that would work as movies.”

Not surprisingly, Mr Thomas is a passionate advocate for the need to remember North Queensland’s mining history and believes more could be done to ensure the exploits of so many live on.

“We certainly have a number of mining museums around North Queensland, but I think more can be done to educate people about the specific historic sites around the region,” he said.

“There are endless trips to be made by anyone interested in our mining history.”


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