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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Newman, James Malcolm (1880–1973)

by Ruth S. Kerr

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

James Malcolm Newman (1880-1973), mining engineer and grazier, was born on 20 June 1880 at Caboolture, Queensland, fourth of eight children of Irish-born parents James Newman, a labourer who later became a farmer, and his wife Elizabeth, née Irwin. Malcolm attended Brisbane Grammar School and studied mining and metallurgy at the University of Sydney (B.E., 1901). In 1902 he went to Broken Hill where he worked as a trucker, timberman, miner and assistant-surveyor. Two years later he was employed as a surveyor and mining engineer with Peak Hill Goldfield Ltd in Western Australia; by 1907 he was general manager. At St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Perth, on 3 October 1908 he married Elizabeth Maud; they were to have one child before being divorced.

In 1908 Newman was appointed a consultant to Mount Morgan Gold Mining Co. Ltd, Queensland. He joined the company's engineering staff and produced (with G. F. Campbell Brown) an authoritative paper on the geology of the Mount Morgan district. Resuming practice as a consultant in 1912, he worked (1913) on the Yodda goldfields in Papua before going to the Malayan tinfields. During World War I he served with the Malay States Guides and trained as an army engineer officer in Australia. He and F. G. Pratten formed Alluvial Tin (Malaya) Ltd in 1923. In the swamplands of lower Perak they discovered deposits of tin-bearing alluvium which could be mined by deep dredging. Their bucket-dredges were soon lifting and treating up to 400,000 cubic yards (305,822 m³) of material per month. After extending their activities to Siam, Borneo and Burma, the partners began to sell Alluvial Tin and its associated companies in 1927.

Newman settled at Caboolture, in a timber mansion with thirty-eight rooms. On 16 February 1927 at the general registry office, Brisbane, he married Gwendoline Nita Stephensen (d.1973), who was sixteen years his junior. He invested extensively in the region between Deception Bay and the Conondale Range, buying dairy farms, a pineapple plantation, grazing properties and cattle-studs. He also acquired Anthony Lagoon cattle-station in the Northern Territory and used aeroplanes for property management. To increase the carrying capacity of his land, he sank bores and experimented with fertilisers. An office-bearer in the Aberdeen-Angus Society of Australia, he regularly exhibited cattle from his stud at D'Aguilar, Queensland.

In the 1930s Newman formed companies which dredged for gold along the Grey River in New Zealand. He then set up Tableland Tin Dredging N.L. and Alluvial Prospectors Ltd, and introduced bucket-dredges to extract tin from the Mount Garnet district of North Queensland. The Commonwealth government appointed him controller of minerals production in 1942 and asked him to increase local output of strategic minerals, such as tungsten and tin. When he moved temporarily to Melbourne with his family, the Royal Australian Navy took over his house. He subsequently donated the building and 11½ acres (4.7 ha) as a war-veterans' home. Back in Queensland, he lived at Beachmere.

A director (from 1938) and chairman (1949-62) of Mount Morgan Ltd, Newman reformed its mining processes and supplied the growing market for pyrites. He served on the Mount Morgan Technical College committee and supported the introduction of mining engineering at the University of Queensland. In 1957 he was appointed C.B.E. He was awarded the medal of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy for 1960. Business acumen and timing had ensured success in his ventures, but at heart he remained a 'bush cocky'. He died on 23 November 1973 at St Lucia and was cremated. The daughter and six sons of his second marriage survived him, as did the daughter of his first.

Select Bibliography

  • Presentation of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy Medal to J. Malcolm Newman on Thursday June 29th, 1961 (Melb, 1961)
  • J. Kerr, Mount Morgan (Brisb, 1982)
  • R. L. Whitmore (ed), Eminent Queensland Engineers (Brisb, 1984)
  • Heritage, no 18, Sept-Nov 1980, p 22
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Ruth S. Kerr, 'Newman, James Malcolm (1880–1973)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 21 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

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