Originally two towns, Collie Cardiff and West Collie, the town was given it's current name in 1896 after
Dr Alexander Collie,
who explored the area in 1829.
The area was at first recognised as being useful for pasture land and timber production, but with the discovery of coal in 1883, Collie's direction was
from that point on well and truly set. The declaration of Collie as a town site in 1896 speeded the arrival of both resident population and associated
infrastructure, such as railway.
From this humble beginning Collie grew to become an important West Australian town, supplying the State with coal - the all important resource for power
production in railways, shipping, and generation of electricity.
Timber was produced in abundance from the surrounding hardwood forest and agriculture sprang up on the periphery, but these were all subsidiary to the
production of coal. Coal and coal related industry was (and still is) Collie's main economic base.
The known history of Cardiff can be neatly divided into two periods; the mining era from 1902 until 1960, and the present era.
Cardiff was originally a timber camp, but with the opening of the coal mine in 1903 the population swelled as miners and their families settled close
to the mine. Bound close by ties of kinship, school, work union and sporting loyalties, the Cardiff folk made up a colourful and tight knit community.
Cardiff's peak population was 600.
The gantry of the mine dominated the landscape: its lights and sounds part of the warp and woof of Cardiff Life. The mine, the river, the hall, the
train and the school, these were the focal points of old Cardiff life, and somehow or other everything revolved around them. The Masonic and Buffalo
lodges as well as the RSL met at the hall. There were balls and weddings, dancing classes, concerts and band practice, the Pictures and church services.
Pre WW1 Photographs show large numbers of people gathered by the river for celebrations. Even the Chinese market gardeners, industriously cultivating their
paddies on Smith's farm in the thirties, looked to the river for the water with which they ingeniously irrigated their crops.
The closure of the school at the end of the year in 1950 saw the gradual decline of the Cardiff mining community even before the mine closure in December
1960 as families moved into Collie for greater comfort. However after some years Cardiff came into its own again.
People who like to live an individualistic lifestyle away from town pressures bought the empty houses. 60 acres by the river was subdivided, soon farmlets
with new houses were springing up on them, and a new and different Cardiff community came into being. Problems this community have addressed have included
the threat of expansion of underground mining sterilising surface properties (no longer a problem), a drop in ground water levels and most daunting of all,
the complete dewatering of the wonderful river pools of the south branch of the Collie River, which have been Cardiff's pride and joy since settlement began.
A resolute and organised community have confronted all these problems with efficiency and determination. Solutions and investigations are ongoing. The
Cardiff Hall built in 1915, was restored and refurbished in the early 90's by voluntary labour and Lotteries Funding.
Collie Burn and Collie Cardiff began as settlements simultaneously, with the construction of the rail line from Collie to Cardiff in 1901. The Scottish and
Collie Burn Collieries attracted workers to Collie Burn and the Cardiff Colliery attracted workers to Cardiff.
Flooding from the river eventually led to the closure of both the Collie Burn mines before WW1.
Unlike its close neighbour Cardiff, Collie Burn did not have a school and the children travelled by train into Collie every day. However it did have a town
hall, Post Office and telephone exchange.
After WW2 the little settlement gradually fell into disrepair as families moved out and flimsy houses were moved or abandoned to the elements and the white ants.
The closure of the Cardiff mine, the availability of better housing in Collie, work in other areas and improvements to transport all contributed to the desertion
of the little village.
Only a few houses remain now of the many which once dotted the town area. Blocks which once contained houses have been absorbed into farmland, but if one looks
hard, remnants of the former village can be discerned. Chinaman's Bridge is still there as a reminder of the Chinese market gardeners who established gardens in
that area in the twenties and early thirties.
Driving up to Collie at night, on a high stretch of Coalfields Highway, there suddenly appears on the far left horizon a great blaze of many lights, like a large
city in the midst of the wilderness. These are the lights of Worsley Alumina Refinery.
Some kilometres further along the highway is the road into the refinery. Gastaldo Road; curving through re-growth forest it leads to the complex where bauxite
from the Darling Ranges is refined into alumina, the base product for manufacturing aluminium.
The only structures remaining of Worsley, once a thriving timber town are the large multi-peaked house, once the mill manager's residence and the St David's
Roman Catholic Church visible from Gastaldo Road. (the main township was north of these buildings)
Worsley was once bigger than Collie and its jarrah forest was once the largest stand of its kind in the world. The town has now disappeared and the spindly
jarrah regrowth is but a reminder of milling history. Milling started in the area in 1895 when James Port and Richard Honey began the tramway which is now
Beela Road. They also had two other mills, one on Victor Road and one opposite the present pole dump. Much of the timber from these mills was exported to
Britain through Bunbury port.
Coalfields Highway between the Worsley turn off and Roelands follows almost the same route that was used by the horse and bullock teams transporting timber
from these mills.
Worsley hit its zenith in 1902, with a population of 1500, a two teacher school, two butcher shops, two grocery stores a billiard saloon, an Anglican and a
Roman Catholic Church. It was a prosperous little town. The good days continued until 1914 but a gradual decline over each succeeding decade until 1953 was
marked by the closure of the school. The town, or what was left of it, disappeared.
The Worsley Alumina Refinery opened in April 1984, but few of its workers live in Collie, fewer in the Worsley countryside. Up to 2300 people have been
employed in Worsley expansion project, which began in 1997 and is drawing to a close. The temporary accommodation camp housed over 1400 workers at its peak.
The pole dump, the last remnant of Worsley's timber industry is being run by Rod Lee for firewood and fencing posts. Occupants of the Mill Manager's house
plan to restore the historic building and church to its former glory and establish a heritage orchard on the old Gastaldo homestead and orchid site.
Allanson, as it is known today was first called 'The 21 Mile' because it was twenty-one miles from Roelands. It was given that name by the old teamsters who
hauled the equipment to the new mine that was starting there - the first mine that was put down in Collie. The old dump is still there, by the oval, opposite the school.
Coal was discovered on the Collie River in the early 1880's in the locality of what became known as West Collie and was later re-named Allanson.
The coal story
There is still some contention about who first discovered coal in the area but the information we have gathered has produced the following story:
A shepherd called George Marsh was employed by Arthur Perrin. One day when George built his campfire in the evening as usual he noticed some black lumps in
the ground. After the fire had gone out the black lumps continued to smoulder until they were reduced to ash. Thinking this might be coal he reported the find
to Perrin who convinced George that there was nothing to it.
Perrin obviously recognised the coal for what it was as he arranged for George to 'find' work somewhere else and George left the area leaving Perrin the sole
claimant to the discovery. Perrin then spent the next few years trying to organise a reward for anyone who found coal and kept the secret to himself. He fell
ill and fearing he might die let the secret slip to his brother John. John could not keep a secret and the information got out.
A proposal was made to Arthur by David Hay and an agreement was duly signed. Hay had no more scruples than Arthur and along with his other partner, Dixon, Hay
set about taking up leases in the area and carefully omitting Perrin's name.
Finally the Government offered a 1000 pound reward for the discovery and both Perrin and Hay put in separate claims.
An enquiry found that Perrin had been the source of the information but his agreement with Hay meant the reward had to be equally shared.
Meanwhile the forgotten George Marsh had died and had no opportunity to be recognised as the original discoverer.
The Collie Commercial Coal Company was established in 1890 and set about digging shafts in the area to determine if payable coal could be found.
As is so often the case in the mining industry the company came so very close but gave up just before they hit 'pay dirt'. The next group to move in found a
coal seam just 6 feet from where the original company had stopped digging.
The Government's subsequent test drilling programme of the early 1890's showed optimistic results and, within a few years, numerous leaseholders began to
consolidate their interests.
One of the main groups to emerge was headed by William Thornboro Atkinson. With this group's interest lying in the West Collie area, and their enthusiasm to
begin full-scale operations, Atkinson can now be recognised as one of Allanson's earliest pioneers. A highly qualified Mining Engineer, he had participated
in the Government's earlier test-drilling programme and, in a report to the Premier, Sir John Forrest on 1894, had stressed what he considered to be the value
of the fireclay underlying the coal seams. He was convinced that the fireclay would possibly prove more valuable than the coal itself. Thus, when his group
formed the "Coalfields West, Coal and Fireclay Company Ltd." They, and other early companies, included the mining of fireclay in their prospectuses and when
he commenced sinking a shaft (on Mineral lease 31) in 1897, he also began the construction of a large brickworks on the adjoining Mining Lease (32) in anticipation
of a thriving dual venture - coal and fireclay.
On the 11th of November, 1897, instructions were issued to the Registrar of the Lands and Surveys Department that an existing file should be made the subject
of a new file: "Proposed new Townsite" some miles away from the Collie Townsite. This simple formality was to mark the first consideration given to West Collie
as a prospective settlement, on a par with the settlement of the Collie townsite.
Mr Atkinson made application to the Mining Registrar at Collie by Atkinson for the Mineral Lease of an area, the greater portion of which clashed with the
temporary reserve for the townsite. As Atkinson's mine was the only colliery in the area at the time, it can be reasonably concluded that the Collie district's
first private coalmine, the remains of which are still visible today by the Allanson Oval, opposite the school, was named the "Forrestville".
Following the closure of the "Forrestville" at the West Collie settlement, the interests of the Atkinson syndicate were taken over by the Moira Colliery Which
worked Mineral Lease 245 on the western outskirts of the Collie townsite - this mine later became the co-operative Colliery. By September 1905 it had been
noted that the population of west Collie was rapidly diminishing and therefore no further plans were prepared for subdivision.
Early mining attempts were less than successful with seams not opening up as expected, too much shale and faults causing mine collapses. In 1901 a fire in the
Wallsend Mine caused its closure for a number of months. Imported coal was cheaper than the local product - coal from Newcastle was in fact being used in
locomotive in Collie! and as Collie coal was said to cause too many sparks, it was banned in locomotives travelling in agricultural areas in summer.
Finally it was a shortage of coal from New South Wales (due to industrial problems) that saw things start to turn for the better in Collie.
It was not until January 28th, 1908, that the townsite of West Collie was officially declared when the Under Secretary for Lands notified both the Premier
of Western Australia and the Mining Registrar, Collie.
By 1913, there was an urgent demand for West Collie lots as the whole of those which had been thrown open for release had already been applied for to the
Lands and Surveys Department. In July, 1915, the Secretary for Railways wrote to the Under Secretary for Lands regarding a change of name for West Collie.
The name of the townsite of Allanson, formerly West Collie, was officially gazetted on March 31st 1916. "The area adopted the name Allanson to honour Allan
Wilson MLA., who was one of the earliest miners to work in West Collie. He was a civic leader, as well as being spokesman for the mine workers at both mine
and district levels. Mr Wilson was district secretary of the Mineworkers' Union from 1904 to 1910. While secretary of the union he won the right to represent
the electorate in the Legislative Assembly, holding the seat from 1908 to 1948". - " One Day in Collie" by HW Williams
In keeping with the true spirit of the early pioneers in the throes of establishing themselves as a community, one of the first community-based efforts of
the people of Allanson (after the establishment of the school) was the building of a hall, or "meeting place." The full force of the Great Depression hit
Allanson in 1931 when the "Great Westralia Coal Mine" ceased operations. History repeated itself. The Westralia met the same ultimate end as the ill-fated
"Forrestville" colliery and, although Allanson's population did not drop as immediately and dramatically as in 1898, from this time onwards we see the
beginning of a gradual decline. Allanson once again reverted from a thriving industrial centre to a "dreamy looking little wayside hamlet".
On January 29th, 1967 a special Allanson Progress Association meeting was held to decide what was to become of the Allanson Hall as the annual Water
Rates and Electricity Bills were gradually eating out the remaining funds of the association. It was decided that the hall would be sold by Public Tender.
A Mr Stan Walton bought the hall, complete, and transported it to Geraldton where he used the timber to re-build a house.
The Allanson Bushfire Brigade formed in the late 1950's as an offshoot of the Progress Association.
Today, Allanson displays its history in the landmarks and quaint buildings still characteristic throughout the town - memorials of what was once a thriving
community of mills and mine people.
The development of the late 1970's, of the Allanson Park "hobby-farm sub-division was the first sign of new growth. However, the revitalisation of the
local bush fire Brigade, the re-formation of the Progress Association and the Government's endorsement of its faith in the future of Allanson by the
building of a primary school is what shows promise of a rosy future. Extracts taken from "A History of Allanson - Our Little Bush School" compiled and
edited by Aileen Rusconi and Esther Saunders
Sections of the above text were provided by the Town of Collie for inclusion.