WWI Veteran Eric Ronald Inglis

The following story is by University of Queensland history student Lucy Howard. It was a pleasure to have Lucy and other students from Professor Peter Spearritt and Dr Geoff Ginn’s “Making History” course (WRIT3613) with us over a period of months delving into our WWI collections. The students also visited the Queensland Museum to discover the rich WWI holdings located next door to us here at the Cultural Centre…

Lucy conducting research in the John Oxley Library Reading Room

The final history course for my Arts degree, at the University of Queensland, was a research project in the form of an internship with the State Library of Queensland’s, John Oxley Library. We were to research an aspect of World War 1, and after viewing a sample of what was on offer at the John Oxley Library I soon realised the hardest task would be choosing just one area of interest to research.

With guidance from the State Library Manager of Arts, Simon Farley, I learned of an oral history recording stored in the Library about a WWI veteran. This began my journey into the history of Eric Ronald Inglis, born in 1898, northwestern Queensland jackaroo, pioneer, poet, light horseman in the 11th Regiment and station owner.

After listening to the cassette interview conducted by Eric’s niece, Gillian Coar, I discovered the John Oxley Library held a further eight boxes of Inglis related items. This was a fantastic find as a researcher and I felt overwhelmed with the abundance of material. It was an exciting experience to open each box not knowing exactly what it would contain about Eric and his father, James Inglis.

There is something marvelous about touching books that have clearly been used so much in the past hundred years by the owners. It is a strange sense of connection to be holding the items of someone you know little about, and with each page I turned, I began to carve a personality from the snippets of text, scrawls, photos and news paper clippings.

20 tonnes of Wool

Some of the items contained in the boxes were: woolshed architectural plans, books of accounts, photos of a horse-pulled cart carrying twenty tonne of wool to be taken to market, a photo of Eric Inglis in military uniform. One particularly special piece was a photo album, created by Eric’s sister, given to him for Christmas in 1913, full of photos of their life on one of the largest and most prominent sheep stations in Australia at the time, Wellshot. And another golden find was a memoire Eric had written in his 80’s, ‘Days Long Since’ about his life.

My research has led me to contacts in Longreach. I have been in touch with the Longreach Historical Society, and then to Eric’s nephew, John King, whom I have spoken to on a few occasions regarding Eric’s life. He was unaware of the files being stored at the State Library of Queensland and was pleased to hear they were safe and was surprised that a non relative was interested enough to look into them in detail. John has been able to provide me with a personal account of Eric Inglis which I value greatly and appreciate it is not something most historians are able to achieve due to the nature and era of their research.

Eric R Inglis 1919

To my great pleasure, this research has also helped other historians. In Longreach, Kaye Kuhn heard I was investigating a Veteran she had not come across yet. Kaye has been researching the people whose names are listed on the War Memorial in town, of which Eric’s name is absent. She was most interested to hear of Eric Inglis. I have forwarded my findings on to her.

Campfire Records
By E.R.I

That’s the place, with pipes well drawing,
Work’s now easy as can be,
Felling, chopping, adzing, sawing –
Around the camp fire after tea.

Postholes then are easy sinking,
Boring’s light work then to me,
Many a chap has got us thinking –
Around the camp fire after tea.

The overseer’s a gun at drafting,
Sometimes two ways, sometimes three;
All the lazy ones like grafting –
Around the camp fire after tea.

Fences built on plains and ridges,
Each a work of art to see;
Sometimes railway lines and bridges –
Around the camp fire after tea.

It’s then the boss can swim the river
Four long miles to the nearest tree.
Many a tale has made us shiver –
Around the camp fire after tea.

When some silent cove has spoken,
You can bet it’s sure to be
Of some record he has broken –
Around the camp fire after tea.

 

Lucy Howard

November 2013