Monday 17 February 2020

Joseph Simpson

Joe was born on 2 April 1915, in South Shields in Newcastle-upon-Tyne UK, to William Simpson and Ada Ellen Hunt. He had little or no memory of his father who was killed in the First World War. When he was fourteen years old, Joe Simpson travelled to Sydney on board the SS Oronsay, as one of the Dreadnought Boys. Arriving on 1 August 1929, he was transferred to Glen Innes Experiment Farm by train, with six other boys from the ship.

Life at the training farm was not a happy experience for him. With the help of a lady who worked there, he absconded and headed north, down off the tablelands toward the Woodenbong area near the Queensland border. This was just weeks before the great Stockmarket Crash. Life did not get any easier, and in August 1930, he learned that his mother had passed away in England. He did find work, employed by a pig farmer at Wiangaree for some time, regularly driving pigs from the farm to the Kyogle sales, or to the railway yards. From there he moved to the Rock Valley area and worked on the O’Keefe farm. He was to spend quite few years in the area, also working for some the Italian immigrant families who had settled there.

In 1942, Joe married Elsie Mulvena. He worked at Larnook, just north of Rock Valley, on his father-in-law’s farm. Then in 1944 he enlisted in the army and, after some training at Fort Wallace in the Port of Newcastle, was posted north, to the Coast Artillery in Darwin. He served as Lance Bombardier at the Emery Point Battery. Joe played representative hockey and soccer in inter service competitions. In 1946 he was discharged from the army and returned to the farm at Larnook, to Elsie and the two children.

After finding it difficult to survive on the farm, the family left the area in 1952 and moved to Kurri Kurri in the Hunter Valley, west of Newcastle. Joe found work with a contractor cutting pit timbers, and later on worked in several coal mines in the Hunter Valley. These collieries included Elrington, Pelaw Main, Buchanan Borehole, Hebburn No. 2, and Rhondda. Twice during his time in the mines, he was stood down and managed to secure employment at the BHP Steel-works in Newcastle, and the Hunter District Water Board.

Joe Simpson
(Dreadnought Archives)

Joe was interested in community affairs, and from 1968–1977, was an Alderman on the Cessnock City Council and active in the Local Government Association of NSW. He was also very involved in the local Returned Services League (RSL) club and the NSW RSL Clubs Association. During his later working life, he was secretary/manager of Kurri Kurri RSL Club. He held this position for several years before retirement.

In 1975, he and his wife returned to his native England, the first visit in forty-six years, and followed with two more visits in 1977 and 1978. Soon Joe settled into retirement in Kurri Kurri, with plenty of opportunity to play lawn bowls at the local club. He passed away on 6 August 1993, aged 78 years. His wife, Elsie, lived on in Kurri Kurri until her death in 2012.

Joe’s life was not marked by great ambition and, in a sense, he stayed close to his roots - but his strength of character was such that he could effectively contribute, to his adopted country.