Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Chipper, Donald John (1868–1917)

by R. T. Appleyard

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

Donald John Chipper (1868-1917), undertaker, was born on 2 February 1868 in Perth, son of Stephen James Chipper, landowner and publican, and his wife Maria Sophia, née Campbell. His grandfather John was one of the Swan River settlement's first colonists, arriving in the Caroline on 12 October 1829 as an indentured worker to James Henty with whom he stayed for approximately two years. Just after Henty left for Van Diemen's Land in January 1832, John was employed on a private contracting job at Greenmount in the hills outside Perth when he and a boy companion named Beecham were attacked by Aboriginals. Beecham was speared and died but Chipper escaped by leaping off boulders on top of a steep hill and running seven miles to safety. Not only was his escape miraculous, but the site of the attack became known as Chipper's Leap and for many years was a reminder to settlers of the days when Aboriginal-European relations were at their worst in the colony.

Donald's father, Stephen, was licensee in 1867-72 of the United Services Tavern in Perth from which horse-drawn coaches left for King George's Sound. It was an important service. Begun in 1856 by D. J. Chipper's uncle Thomas, shortly after Albany became the main port of call for overseas ships when Fremantle was deemed unsafe by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., the mail service linked the colony's two main settlements. Horses were changed at eight stops on a route which Thomas himself pioneered. At first he used a spring-cart which also carried mail to farmers along the way. The journey took up to two weeks and Thomas, at his own expense, had to maintain and improve the route including changing the road to avoid seasonal hazards. By 1879 travelling time for passengers and freight had been reduced to two days.

Educated at the Government Boys' School, Perth, Donald was apprenticed as a coach-builder, wheelwright and undertaker in 1884 and in 1889 established his own business in Murray Street in these three trades; by 1892 it was restricted to funerals. New premises were built in 1897 in Hay Street. Branches were opened at Fremantle and Kalgoorlie.

Chipper was a personable man, had a keen sense of humour, never drove a car but owned many, and travelled frequently to the eastern States by ship. He was a foundation member of the Grand Lodge of Western Australia and its first master (1900-01), and also senior trustee of the Grand Lodge of the United Ancient Order of Druids. Anglican by religion, he married at St George's Cathedral on 25 September 1889 Florence Edith Lima Maude, daughter of William Dale, immigration and charities officer with the Western Australian government. They had four children, including a son Donald John who carried on the family business. Chipper died on 13 March 1917 aboard the Katoomba off Albany, and was buried in Karrakatta cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • J. S. Battye (ed), Cyclopedia of Western Australia, vol 1 (Adel, 1912)
  • CS0 93, 5/2/1832 (State Library of Western Australia)
  • family papers (privately held).

Citation details

R. T. Appleyard, 'Chipper, Donald John (1868–1917)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/chipper-donald-john-5584/text9529, published in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 29 July 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

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