William McQueen left three legacies to Ipswich: his coal mines, his supply store and his family.
He emigrated from Scotland in the mid-1880s with wife Janet and infant daughter Alexanderina, settling in Ipswich. Initially William found work as an engine driver at Boyce’s quarry at Bundanba (as the area was then known) and West Moreton quarry at Blackstone. Within a few years he was moving up in the world with partners William Hardie and Richard Smith. ‘A future leader in the [mining] industry, William McQueen, began his proprietorship in the district in 1896 by extracting 40 tonnes of coal per day from the [Thomas] seam which he sold under contract to the Railway Department. However, in 1897 he moved away to open Box Flat Mine nearby which held out much better prospects, and this was his first step towards becoming a substantial coal owner.’1 Box Flat would later become infamous for the mining disaster that occurred there in 1972.
McQueen and Co. purchased the lease for this land at Swanbank from the Fitzpatrick family and mined the Aberdare seam successfully for about 75 years. The business partnership endured for many years until Hardie sold out to the other two around 1910-1912, then in the mid-1920s Richard Smith and William parted leaving McQueen the sole owner of Box Flat Mine. This company also worked the Parkhead Colliery known as Swanbank Dairy that in 1910 employed 12 hands and moved 20 tons of coal per day.2.
In 1912 William McQueen reported that business was “fairly good” with 80 employees and 200 tons of fuel being raised daily at Box Flat.3. Modernised equipment assisted this effort although this still involved the use of two ponies to haul the coal underground. There was a railway siding at the mine for coal transportation.
Despite business success, this period would have been personally sorrowful for McQueen as first his 11 year old son William died in 1911, and then wife Janet died in 1912. Janet and William had seven children although sadly not all lived to enjoy adulthood. William’s legacy lives on in Ipswich through his descendants. The new Ipswich City Council Deputy Mayor, Marnie Doyle, is his Great Great Granddaughter 4.
Mining & Hardware Supplies Co. Ltd was William McQueen’s other legacy to the rich history of Ipswich and its community. They sold mining equipment, tools and general household items. Its various premises were in the CBD on Brisbane Street so would have been very visible and recognisable to shoppers and workers, and a familiar part of the Ipswich landscape for generations. The company traded for several decades, operating from at least 1921 to 1964 – long after its founder’s death.
In 1926 Mining & Hardware Supplies expanded when C. J. Gordon’s White Arcade was acquired along with its stock of glassware, crockery, homewares and hardware. The two businesses occupied the same building and Mr Gordon was retained as manager. A few years later, responding to the popularity of motor cars and associated demand for garaging, a five bay parking shed was erected to the rear of Mining & Hardware Supplies’ ironmongery shop. This new development was viewed as exciting enough to be reported in The Queensland Times.5.
Later in that year the premises of the company were remodelled by architect M.W. Haenke with construction by W. Shearer. Following these additions and alterations to the two storey building, adjacent businesses were now Mr W.B. Parkinson Auctioneer, Londy’s Café, John Hunter & Sons’ boot business, with the White Arcade occupying a new shop.
William McQueen was a distinguished Ipswich businessman and eminent Queensland miner. It appears that he was also well-known and well-liked in social circles. In later decades he was a member of the Ipswich Club and an active member of the Eastern Star Lodge. He loved lawn bowls, often travelling to Brisbane and interstate to compete. From 1919-1920 William was President of Ipswich Bowls Club. It was while in Melbourne attending a bowls carnival in late 1927 that he became ill, dying early in the New Year.
His funeral in Ipswich was attended by several hundred mourners including a cortege of 60 motor cars – surely an impressive sight as it progressed from the McQueen residence, Rockton House in Blackstone, to the Ipswich General Cemetery. Representatives of the Tivoli & Rhonda Collieries, Qld Colliery Proprietors Council, Queensland State Government, Qld Colliery Employees Union and mine inspectors attended his funeral – hinting at the widespread esteem in which he was held.
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