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James Ballantyne (Jim) Henderson (1907–1998)

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James Ballantyne (Jim) Henderson (1907-1998) school teacher, miner, trade union official and Communist Party secretary

Birth: 7 February 1907 at Stonehouse, Lanarkshire, Scotland, son of James Leith Henderson (1878-1956), coal miner, and Annie, née Ballantyne (1880-1955), farm labourer. Marriages: (1) 17 October 1928 at Bowen, Queensland, to Ellen Duffy Meechan. They had two children, including one daughter. The marriage ended in divorce. (2) 21 December 1947 at Brisbane to native-born Janet Delisle Gentle (b. 1922), typist. Death: 4 June 1998 at Brisbane, Queensland. 

  • Grew up in Lanarkshire, Scotland, where his father was a coal miner and mother a farm labourer.
  • Arrived in Australia with his family, and settled at Blair Athol, Queensland. Was a teacher at Blair Athol state school, Queensland, then Collinsville state school.
  • Became active in Militant Minority Movement and Communist Party of Australia (CPA) in 1930s. After being transferred to Mackay and Einasleigh, resigned his teaching position and returned to Collinsville to work at State mine, as a surface labourer, then timekeeper, then weighman, until instructed by CPA to work underground.
  • Member of the Clerks' Union and Queensland Colliery Employees' Union (QCEU). Chairman of miners’ union, local branch.
  • Re-opened Collinsville and Scottville branches CPA and became branch secretary in 1934. Member, State Committee Qld, CPA, in 1937. Assisted in formation of North Queensland Guardian newspaper in 1937.
  • Elected communist member of Wangaratta Shire Council from 1939 to 1944.
  • During World War II he was secretary of Collinsville branch of CPA and Bowen Section Committee, member of CPA's North Queensland District and Queensland State Committees. Elected chairman of Collinsville branch of QCEU 1942, retaining position into 1950s.
  • Served for period as chairman of Collinsville Hospital Board.
  • Directed Fred Patterson's successful 1944 campaign for Federal seat of Bowen.
  • Refused leave to represent CPA at Royal Commission into 1954 Collinsville mine disaster. Communist candidate for seat of Fortitude Valley in 1956.
  • In 1960s was full-time worker for CPA and manager of CPA bookshop.
  • During the 1960s, with his wife and daughter, spent period in North Vietnam assisting in English translation and teaching. Also reported from Hanoi for Tribune.
  • Resigned full-time position in CPA and worked at Queensland University Library 1965-1966.
  • Left CPA to become Queensland secretary of Socialist Party of Australia about 1971.
  • Wrote short stories.

Diane Menghetti, The Red North: the popular front in North Queensland (Townsville, 1981); Pete Thomas, The coalminers of Queensland: a narrative history of the Queensland Colliery Employees Union. Volume 1 Creating the traditions (Ipswich, 1986); Guardian, February 11 1987.

Citation details

'Henderson, James Ballantyne (Jim) (1907–1998)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 20 July 2024.

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