September 19 … history repeats itself

The Miners Memorial Day Service is held on 19 September every year – a date marking the anniversary of Queensland’s worst mining disaster in 1921 when 75 miners lost their lives in a coal dust explosion at Mount Mulligan in Far North Qld – a day to honour the memory of the many hundreds of mine workers who’ve lost their lives in Queensland mines, and in many other mines across Australia.

The Moranbah Miner’s Memorial opens – Australasian Mine Safety Journal

Mining accidents and disasters are preventable. But lessons from previous accidents and disasters are forgotten or ignored. And history repeats itself.

Multinational companies and shareholders want profits – but profits often means cutting back on health and safety for the mine workers. Accidents increase. Union strikes threaten. People die. And history repeats itself.

A memorial service held at the Box Flat Mine, Qld, on 31 July 1972. Image: Courier-Mail.

Side note: There’ve been unionists in my railway family since Queensland’s General Strike of 1912 when after a mass protest meeting of 10,000 people held in Market Square, the Tram Workers’ strike spread throughout Queensland with wide support. When Railway workers joined the strike, the government acted to break it up. With force.

Female supporters led by Emma Miller, well known suffragette, marched in solidarity with the strikers. And the protest turned violent. Folk lore tells of tiny, frail Emma sticking her hat pin in the Police Commissioner’s horse’s rump, causing him to be thrown from his mount.

Women unionists marching towards the north entrance to the Victoria Bridge during the General Strike of 1912.

‘The riding down and batoning of peaceful people, many of them being elderly and women and children on the footpath, was widely condemned, not only in union papers such as the Worker, but also in the more conservative papers such as Truth. It was initially called Baton Friday, but later came to be popularly known as Black Friday.’

The savagery against the strikers on Black Friday created a bitterness and hatred of the police, lasting for several decades. The strike also reinforced solidarity and collective identity of the Australian labour movement in Queensland.

And history repeats itself.

A few days ago, a miner lost his life in an underground mine outside Emerald in Qld, when the roof collapsed in on two workers installing an underground support structure at the Sojitz Gregory Crinum Mine. Mine safety experts are investigating.

The Monogah Mining Disaster, West Virginia. December 6, 1907 – over 360 deaths. “Worst mining disaster in American History”. 1,000 children lost their fathers.
Thought to have been caused by a coal-dust explosion – like in Mt Mulligan’s mine disaster.

Being excited by art-making again

Now don’t get too excited those of you who want me to paint something for you (no, I haven’t forgotten) … this is just the first stage to get me back into doing something that once meant the world to me – making art.

Detail from my Fire Door

In the days before words took over my life, paint, canvas, the smell of Gum Turpentine (okay, occasionally I do still sniff it once just for nostalgia), beautiful sable brushes, Phthalo Blue, Burnt Sienna washes, filled my senses. My abstract landscapes began to need words to complete what I wanted to say. Then the words became essential in the painting (as in the Element Doors installation) until they existed on their own. That was when I gleefully jumped on the good ship, Authorship

Every now and then, I felt a tinge of regret that writing has become more important to me than making art.

But, as I tentatively dip a toe in the water – quick gestural drawings that no-one will see, freeing up my hand and my eyes once again, reading articles on art making especially in the illustrative field, I’ve begun to rejoice in art like an old friend. 

 There is much to rejoice in the work of Australian illustrators and artists –  like Freya Blackwood, Sarah Davis, Ann James, Gus Gordon, Matt Ottley, Shaun Tan, Lucia Masciullo and a luscious palette of others.  

On the web I can follow the art and illustrating greats too.
Like fabulous, Irish artist and children’s book illustrator, PJ Lynch with his distinctive, beautiful and illustrations of fairy tales and his master draughtsmanship.

 And Tomie dePaola (here’s what he says about his creative process.) And I love my book about the life of Maurice Sendak, Making Mischief … by Gregory Maguire.

Becoming an illustrator for children’s books isn’t one of my goals, but who knows, maybe some of my paintings might lend themselves to a narrative. Most of my art has a narrative of its own already, but that’s not the point, is it.

Anyway, for the time being I’ll paint and draw as the whim takes me, when I need to get away from the stories I have on the go. Oh, for a life on the high seas!

Just kidding, wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.