James Lindsay Halbert
(The Sydney Morning Herald Page 7 Sunday.) 7/5/1937
After the death of James Halbert, 26 single, who was killed by a fall of earth in the Youanmi Gold Mine, on the Murchison goldfield, on Friday, the men held a stop-work meeting on Saturday the reason for which was not divulged. Meetings were held again today without a decision being reached but it is reported that the A.W.U. district organizer dissociated himself from the matter. The men affected, number 237, and have been idle since 4pm on Friday and there is no sign of a resumption. Essential services are being carried on by the staff.
(The West Australian (Perth, WA: 1879 – 1954), Tuesday 18 May 1937, page 10)
KILLED IN FALL OF EARTH. Inquest on young miner. YOUANMI, May 17 1937.
“A finding of accidental death with no blame attachable to anyone was returned today at an inquest concerning the death of James Lindsay Halbert (26). miner, of Youanmi, who was killed on May 7 by a fall of earth.
The jury added a rider that the stopes in the Pollard shaft workings should not be worked so high and that the mullocking instructions given by the District Inspector of Mines (Mr. G. Matheson) should be rigorously carried out. During the proceedings the jury visited the scene of the accident.
Many months have passed since workers first complained of the very unsafe conditions prevailing underground. Many men, who are experienced miners, have refused to go into places they considered unsafe and less experienced men have been employed and accidents have happened, with the result that many have had to spend months in the local hospital, while many more are away in other places and are still getting around with the aid of crutches, etc. All these accidents could easily have been fatal.
The feeling of antagonism and discontent was gradually becoming worse and worse until it was brought to finality by the lamented fatality mentioned. Men knocked off work and a mass meeting was held at which 225 passed a resolution of no confidence in the underground management.
Evidence of breaches of the Mining Act can be brought forward by dozens of members of our Union. The men remained solid and asked for the removal of the underground Foreman.
The Murchison, District Council of the A.L.P. heard our dispute and decided to support us, this being carried unanimously. They have demanded of the Government a full inquiry into the underground management.
The result of the deputation being that foreman Sellin was stripped of all authority, and Warrick to be in full charge of all underground work. A safety committee, which has been approved of by Inspector for Mines Mathieson, consists of Beatty and Doyle for underground, and Troy for surface. This committee, in conjunction with Warrick, will inspect any place which the men consider unsafe and also review any dispute with shift bosses, etc. The men can place the dispute at the committee’s hands any time during the three shifts. The proposition was accepted by the men by a very small majority, and it was decided to return to work at midnight, Sunday, May 16, under protest only.
We are further instructed to convey the members’ approval of the way in which Organiser Ellard has shown himself to be a first-class fighter for the welfare of the men. Although not approving of some things we did and advising us accordingly, he realised that life and death circumstances are paramount to breaches of the Arbitration Court.
Men have resumed work at the Youanmi Gold Mines. Following the receipt of the following telegram a meeting was called:
“Boulder. P. Troy, Youanmi: Dispute satisfactorily settled. Men to return to work immediately. Chamber Mines instructing Youanmi Co. similarly. Accrued holiday pay will not be deducted. Holiday clause in award operates as from first May. No victimisation. Sending further information by wireless. Advise when resuming work. P. Taaffe, President; Eileen Long, Act. Secretary.”
The meeting was attended by over 200 and much applause greeted the reading of the telegram, which shows a clear victory for united unionism.
The whole atmosphere at the mine has been changed, the civility of the staff being commented on by the men. Conditions from now on (thanks to the solidarity of the men) should be what white working men may expect and be entitled to in 1937. Looking back in retrospect it is interesting to learn several important lessons from our recent dispute. The storekeepers, for instance, organised to prevent credit and adopted an attitude to demoralise the men through the old starvation whip. Many workers on pay day paid all they could and then were politely told that all credit was stopped and food only supplied for cash. Fortunately, many of the old school of workers could instil into the workers (which the above tactics had made windy) the fact that we had the loyal support of our comrades in work throughout the whole mining industry and the Mining Executive and they would not see us starve. It had the desired effect and telegrams arriving supported the claim.
Mr. Fitgerald, General Manager, ridiculed our actions and made use of such expressions: “We have done a lot for the men. It is not right to pull pump men out, and the whole thing is very bitter.” “We had nothing like this in the old days.” When Organiser Ellard, Beatty and Troy acted as a deputation on the last occasion he refused to discuss the matter; When asked by Beatty, Troy, Doyle, McVeigh on Thursday to give us a definite undertaking re victimisation, he said, “We do not approve of that and do not do it; but mind you, no funny business.”
Onwards, miners! Join and work for the solidarity of the A.W.U.-the greatest force for good in Australian union circles.
Halbert family Grave at Karrakatta, which has been permanently removed for renewal!
Submitted by: “Pamela Bryant – from her book – The Halbert’s”