Mount Morgan: Images and realities: dynamics and decline of a mining town
thesisposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 authored by Betty CosgroveBetty Cosgrove
Most histories and reports of Mount Morgan concentrate on the mining experience and financial achievements of the first Company rather than the mining town. This dissertation presents a social history of Mount Morgan that addresses the establishment, rise and fall of the town during the period of the first syndicate and succeeding company, 1883-1927. The thesis contends that the transformation of the landscape was to industrial, urban space where the working-class attitudes of miners and others defined a town character, despite the aspiration of many to social status through private enterprise and public influence. Further, the scope of research encompassed local involvement in colonial and state politics, and the presence of local government authority, law courts and press that placed an urban stamp on the town. Issues discussed also relate to geographic, climatic and single company influences that caused the difference between Mount Morgan and other mining towns that did not survive. The traditional perception of mining town impermanence was contradicted at Mount Morgan, where town and suburban communities were witness to a range of collective support in religious adherence, benefit associations, fraternalism and ritual, leisure, sport, education, and social cohesion in times of mining disaster. Moreover, despite increasing familial connections, antagonistic attitudes prevailed between the defensively parochial town of Mount Morgan and the nearby regional centre of Rockhampton. The rise of unionism at Mount Morgan challenged an apathetic working-class population to workplace solidarity in reaction to the Company's long established, almost feudal control of the town as well as the mine. It is argued that, despite a decade of failing ore markets and soaring production costs at the mine, the attitudes and actions of a union dominated workforce were paramount in decline of the town and ultimate closure of the mine. Mount Morgan survived the exodus of thousands of residents. A defiant place, the town exhibited a pride bolstered by the perpetuation of myths that presented a public image shielded from the life-long realities of economic and social adversity.