Jack O’Leary went as a young man from
the coalfields of Wales to the railways in
Queensland. Details of his life were sketchy
– he had taken his bride to live in a navvy
camp on the Mary Valley branch line out
from Gympie; then to Ipswich working
in the Railway Workshops; then service in
World War I; and finally holding a full-time
position in the Australian Railways Union (the forerunner of the RBTU), playing a significant role in this organisation.
The Author, Jack’s granddaughter, determined to fill in the blanks, and trawled through nearly a century of records at the Rail, Tram and Bus Unionin Brisbane. A fascinating tale emerged, of political intrigue that reached to the very top of the Australian government.
As I began my grandfather’s story, drawing on crumbling newspapers and bound minute books – each page, recorded in copperplate handwriting, signed by Jack – the characters jostled one another to leap into life. I needed to loosen my grip on the recorded facts and set these characters free to tell
their own story.
My role would be to ensure they told their tales truthfully.