This page contains a brief history of Irvinebank with links to
further information. An account of the history of Irvinebank written by
long time resident Mike O'Callaghan, formerly office assistant for John
Moffat can be found by clicking
Queensland, 1880: Prospectors were beginning
to probe the western hills of Australia's Great Divide. Rich lodes tin, copper,
silver - lead and deposits of silver and gold drew people from the far
flung corners of the earth in search of fortunes, jobs and
In 1882 John
Moffat bought 'Gibbs' Camp' and renamed the place 'Irvinebank' after
his birthplace on the River Irvine, Scotland.
In 1884 a
treatment plant and smelter was built to process ore from Moffat's mines
and those of independent miners and 'tin scratchers'. Moffat built Loudoun House
and named the works 'Loudoun Mill', after the mill on the River Irvine.
In 1889, the
Vulcan lode was discovered by a party of italian woodcutters. The party
sold their interests to a local syndicate who floated the company and
attempted to prevent Moffat's investment in order to prevent his
monopoly over the field. But John Moffat bought his shares by proxy and
had control over the company within 6 months.
The Vulcan became
the richest and deepest tin mine in Australia and was the mainstay of
Irvinebank's economy for over 30 years.
With the wealth
generated by mining, north Queensland began
to develop. Secondary industries grew to service the needs of the
workers of the outback mineral
fields. Demand for food for the people and for the animals which were
such an important part of the economics of transport, stimulated the
development of agriculture on the Tablelands such as
industry. Ports developed on the coasts to serve the needs of the inland
population. Port Douglas and the nascent Cairns competed with
each other to provide the best road links and lobbied government and
private industry to build railways and transport infrastructure. In the
early years of Irvinebank's development, Port Douglas was the main
coastal port but when Cairns
won the race to be the railway terminus for Herberton, it won
the race to be the 'capital' of the tropical north.
communities of the arid and rocky wild ranges required good timber for
building works and housing. John Moffat bought land at Cedar Creek and
built a timber mill. He had some land cleared for raising bullocks for
his transport teams but was also an exponent of selective logging and
loathed to see the magnificent forests clear felled for agriculture. The
timber and bullock camp at Cedar Creek became the township of
generated from the Vulcan and other Irvinebank enterprises was invested
in developments south, west and north, at Mt Garnet, Chillagoe, Wolfram
Camp and points everywhere in between. For a complete list click
here. This region became known as 'John Moffat's Empire'. Today we
call it the 'Tropical
from the industry in 1912. Forced out under threat of liquidation and
accused of running his enterprise as a 'benevalent asylum', he left
Irvinebank under the management of his business partner, John Holmes
Reid and moved to his home and offices at Cremorne, New South Wales.
entrepeneur continued to work promoting the Moffat-Virtue agricultural
machinery that he had helped to develop during his lifetime, including
the Moffat-Virtue petrol-kerosene engine and some of the earliest
mechanised sheep - shearing equipment in Australia. He died at Toowoomba
in 1918, of a heart attack, possibly caused by the dreaded Spanish Flu,
which also killed his contemporary at Irvinebank, Dr W.E
on the northern mining fields were dangerous, unhealthy and poorly paid.
The Vulcan Mine was no exception. It was well known for its accidents
and by 1907 the workers remained unorganised and unrepresented.
It was in this
year that Edward
Granville Theodore began work at the mine. Some collapsing timbers
fell on his back and he carried the scars throughout his life.
In September of
that year, Theodore helped to organise the workers into what became
known as the Amalgamated Workers Association (AWA).
AWA, as it became known, was the first successful workers organisation
in north Queensland and grew to encompass workers from all over the
region in almost every industry.
The AWA also
propelled Theodore into a life of politics that was to see him become
treasurer of the State of Queensland, Premier and then Federal
Government, with Theodore as Treasurer bought the assets of Moffat's
company and brought Loudoun Mill back into operation to serve the needs
of the independent miners of the area. The mill became known as the
State Treatment Works and remained in State ownership until the 1980s.
The last crushing
of tin ore occurred in the early 1990s and today the stampers remain
quiet. Today Irvinebank contains many relics of its past. The townscape
is one of only two to have Heritage listing in Queensland (the other is