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Darker, Walter Bruce (1878–1950)

by Raymond L. Whitmore

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Walter Bruce Darker (1878-1950), colliery proprietor and company director, was born on 11 September 1878 at North Ipswich, Queensland, seventh of twelve children of Richard Thomas Darker, a locomotive foreman from England, and his Scottish-born wife Williamina, née Forbes. Educated at North Ipswich Primary School, Walter briefly worked with P. L. Cardew & Simpson, solicitors, before being employed by the local branch of the Royal Bank of Queensland Ltd. In 1904 he joined his brother Thomas in a book-selling business in Brisbane Street, Ipswich, and later began to take an interest in the coal-mining industry. One of his aunts, Johanna, was married to the colliery-owner Joseph Stafford, in whose mining operations Richard Darker had invested. When Stafford died in 1917, Johanna formed a partnership with Richard and his son Walter in order to continue running the Stafford Bros collieries. Following Richard's death in 1921, his place in the partnership was filled by Walter's brother, Tom. Johanna Stafford died in 1925. Walter then became chairman of the Darkers' mining interests which were floated as the Whitwood Collieries Pty Ltd.

Formidable commercial, negotiating and consultative skills made Walter Darker a leading figure in the State's business community. He was president of the Queensland Colliery Proprietors' Council (1921), of the Ipswich Chamber of Commerce (1919-23) and of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Queensland (1924-29, 1931, 1933); the first Queenslander to be president (1929-30) of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia, he was also chairman (1929-30) of the Australian national committee of the International Chamber of Commerce. Chairman of the South Brisbane Gas & Light Co. Ltd, the Royal Insurance Co. Ltd (Brisbane branch) and of Allan & Stark Ltd, he was a director of several other enterprises, among them the Brisbane Permanent Building & Banking Co. Ltd. Darker was a tireless contributor to community activities and a generous philanthropist; he was, as well, a prominent Rotarian and a Freemason. During World War II he chaired (1940-43) the State division of the Australian Red Cross Society.

In the 1920s Darker, who never married, had joined other members of the family at Woodston, their home at Clayfield, where he lived for the remainder of his life. A self-educated man with simple tastes, he enjoyed gardening, boating and occasional fishing. He possessed a rare combination of business acumen, an instinct for community leadership and the knack of getting on with people, which he honed into a powerful commercial tool. While attending a Masonic function at Ipswich he died on 25 March 1950 and was cremated with Anglican rites. His estate was sworn for probate in Queensland at £115,592; his benefactions included the endowment of undergraduate scholarships in the faculty of engineering at the University of Queensland.

Select Bibliography

  • R. L. Whitmore (ed), Eminent Queensland Engineers (Brisb, 1984)
  • R. L. Whitmore, Coal in Queensland, vol 2 (Brisb, 1991)
  • Notable Men of Queensland (Brisb, 1950)
  • Queensland Times, 28 June 1898, 21 Mar 1905, 26 Mar 1907, 27 Mar 1950
  • Brisbane Courier, 9 Apr 1938, 27 Mar 1950
  • private information.

Citation details

Raymond L. Whitmore, 'Darker, Walter Bruce (1878–1950)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/darker-walter-bruce-9902/text17531, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 13 December 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

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