The following is an extract from the book Many Ships to Mount Isa by unionist Pat Mackie who gained national and international attention as the leader of the strike at Mount Isa Mines in 1964. This is the early part of his story...
I looked for work, first, at Mount Isa Mines Company, as the only employer of miners around the district and who should be able to make use of my now considerable knowledge, experience and skill in mining.
The Employment Officer, Johnson, possibly influenced by Personnel Officer Stewart Tuck took good care to shovel me off.
They did that by offering me the very worst, poorest paid employment on the field, such as breaking up slag on the slag heap with a sledgehammer.
This was a Devil's Island deal that the Company often uses as a punitive measure for fractious miners.
When I declined bad work on the slag heap, he suggested that I should apply for work to Thiess Brothers, who were roadmaking in the district.
The American in charge there, Dave Davenport, was a good fellow.
He badly needed somebody who could splice, and as I was a damned good splicer, thanks to dear old Bosun Joe Gates, he started me off as a rigger.
I stayed with Thiess Brothers three years, going from rigger to plant operator, working all the different plants they had in the district, bulldozers, end loaders, grab shovels and all other heavy earth-moving equipment, getting time in for a crane ticket.
Meanwhile I began studying for and acquired a first class plant operator's ticket, and then, mainly on D9 Caterpillar tractors, I began working on the construction of the East Leichhardt Dam, built by the Mary Kathleen Uranium Company, owned by the English Rio-Tinto Company.
I'd joined the F.E.D.F.A. because that was the union that covered plant operators.
I had gone to some meetings and continually heard members griping, that Thiess Bros, were the worst employers in the district, their conditions were bad, their plant old and decrepit.
They should be straightened out, there should be more union activity there and so on, they said.
But I didn't project myself into union activity.
I just went to work and kept my nose to myself.
At the end of those three years, during a governmental and bank credit squeeze, Thiess Brothers ran short of work locally.
They sent me down to Julia Creek, 150 miles due east of Mount Isa, to work on the construction of one of the beef roads, operating an old and almost useless mobile crane.
Passing through Cloncurry, which held the record for Australia's highest temperature 127.5 degrees (Fahrenheit) , I noticed an impressive bunch of new cranes and new equipment being brought in by Americans to work on the strengthening of the railroad at the expense of the taxpayers for the benefit of Mount Isa Mines Company.
I made a trip in there 60 miles west of Julia Creek to enquire about work and immediately they gave me a job as a crane driver.
It was unique for me to be able to work with this brand-new Coles 30-ton crane and I enjoyed my few months on that hot job of reinforcing the Mount Isa railroad, at Cloncurry, with the Americans.
In December 1961, after eight weeks dispute at Mount Isa which turned into a lockout, the Company was short of miners and was advertising for men.
My railroad job with the Americans was ending, so I applied again for work underground with Mount Isa mines Company.
The same gentleman in the Employment Department again made it obvious that he wasn't going to five me a job.
I was preparing to return to Cloncurry one morning when a miner mate came knocking on my door and said, "Hey, Pat, you want to get down to the Employment Office!
"They're calling for fifteen miners today. Johnson has gone on holidays; you might stand a chance!"
I told the relieving employment man my qualifications and at once he employed, me, giving me the usual note to go to the doctor and X-ray department.
That was on December 11, 1961.
I did the induction course on the surface for three weeks, going to school to learn Mount Isa's methods of mining, going through the safety course and spending some time getting familiar with operations in all the surface and underground areas of the mine.
I was to begin in the usual way by working around the surface as a trucker, but a crane driver there who wanted to make more money learning I had a crane ticket, suggested I should go after his job and so free him to go underground in my place, a proposal accepted by the underground superintendent.
As a crane driver, I was getting £3/9/11 a day, no overtime and a bonus of £8 a week, (£1/12shillings bonus per day, irrespective of where you worked).
After a few months it was clear that, to be able to pay my way and my debts and to save anything at all, I'd have to try for something paying better.
One of the mining foremen agreed that he could use me underground, where they were short of contract miners.
As a condition of underground employment with Mount Isa Mines Company, under an arrangement between the Company and the officials of the Australian Workers Union, I was obliged to join that Union; and the Company was entitled to deduct dues owing to the union form our pay packets before the miners received a penny of what they'd earned.
This was not the law of the State: just an arrangement between them and the A.W.U. officials.
What happened after that forms the subject matter of another book, a sequel to this one called "Mount Isa, The Story of Dispute".
Written by Pat Mackie ... extract taken from his book "Many Ships to Mount Isa".
Researched by Kim-Maree Burton
The photographs are from the book "Many Ships to Mt Isa"