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James Fordue (Rick) Rickaby (1866–1906)

by Peter D. Gardner

This article was published:

James Fordue (Rick) Rickaby, also known as James Fordue Rickerby (1866-1906) coalminer and trade union leader

Birth: 30 December 1866 at Coxhoe, Durham, England, son of William Rickerby (1832-1914), colliery weighman, later storekeeper, and Elizabeth, née Lee (1839-1918). Unmarried.  Death: 12 January 1906 at Collie, Western Australia. Religion: Described as a 'non-believer' although he was buried in the Anglican cemetery and friends subsequently had a cross erected on his grave. 

  • Birth registered as James Fordey Rickerby by his mother who signed with a mark.
  • In the 1881 census, aged 14, he was living at Esh, Durham, and working in a coal mine; his elder brother and sister were pupil teachers. In 1891 he was a stoker aboard HMS Firefly
  • Had arrived in Outtrim, Victoria by 1897, and was described as the 'popular' president of the Victorian Coal Miners' Association (VCMA) in 1898.
  • Visited England in August 1898. On his return to Gippsland he was blacklisted by Victorian companies as an agitator. According to Anthony Garrett he “had the courage to demand his rights”.
  • Went to Collie, WA, continuing to work as miner. In 1902 he was a delegate to the Collie River District Miners' Union. In 1903, when VCMA delegates Robert Semple & Tom O'Carroll spoke to Collie miners urging their support for striking Victorian miners, Rickaby also addressed the meeting. That year he was described as a shop assistant in the electoral roll.
  • In 1904, when more then 50 families arrived in Collie from the Gippsland district, he appears to have renewed his associations with them, and especially with co-operativists like Andrew Galloway. Appears to have been associated with the co-operative mine and store, both of which were originally run on 'Rochdale' lines.
  • was a Member of the Independent Order of Oddfellows. An affectionate appreciation after his death reported that “for the unctuous church goer Rickaby had a supreme contempt; he claimed and admitted no religion other than Freemasonry.
  • Was manager of co-operative store at the time of his accidental death on the South-West Timber Hewers’ Co-operative Society’s line.
  • Coroner’s jury found that his death was caused by his “leaving the concession train while in motion”, but there was “no evidence to show in what manner or for what reason deceased left the train.”
  • A month after Rickaby’s death the local newspaper reported the sudden death of his popular spaniel ‘Paddy’, also known as Claude Fitzherbert Paderewski.

Collie Mail
; Outtrim News; 1906 Victorian Royal Commission into Coal Industry; CRDMU MSS, Battye Library, Perth; Collie Cemetery; information from H. Rees, Collie, WA; P. D. Gardner, Too old to rat: the radical miners of South Gippsland 1893-1904 (Ensay, Victoria, 1994). 

Additional Resources

  • funeral, Southern Times (Bunbury, WA), 20 January 1906, p 3
  • inquest, Southern Times (Bunbury, WA), 23 January 1906, p 3
  • his dog dies, Collie Miner (WA), 24 February 1906 p 2

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Peter D. Gardner, 'Rickaby, James Fordue (Rick) (1866–1906)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 25 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Rickerby, James Fordue

30 December, 1866
Coxhoe, Durham, England


12 January, 1906 (aged 39)
Collie, Western Australia, Australia

Cause of Death

train accident

Cultural Heritage

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