10 June, 2021
New book explores Felton’s history
Felton District Histories, a new book by Ian Whan, details the history of Felton from its early days as Felton Station to the past century of family life and farming to the community effort to stop a coal mine from being established in the area.
The book is divided into three chapters that delve into different periods in Felton’s history.
The first chapter focuses on the early settlement of the Felton district, which was dominated by Felton Station and its long-time owner James Tyson.
Mr Whan sheds light on how Mr Tyson, Australia’s first native-born millionaire, managed to hold on to his property at its full extent for so long when the other stations around were being subdivided.
The second chapter is based around family life and farming in Felton following the death of Mr Tyson and the breakup of Felton Station.
A story on Bob Free, a resident of Felton for over 90 years, is prominently interspersed throughout the chapter as an exemplar of how things have changed over the years.
The inspiration to write the book came from a conversation Mr Whan had with Mr Free.
“Bob Free had a story to tell,” Mr Whan said.
The third and final chapter focuses on the community effort to stop Ambre Energy’s proposed coal mine going ahead.
In 2008, it was revealed that Ambre Energy planned to build an open cut coal mine in the heart of Felton Valley, where the coal would be converted into liquid fuel which was a stronger commodity at the time.
This chapter has a strong personal attachment for Mr Whan, as he was heavily involved in the movement through his position as president of the Friends of Felton organisation.
Mr Whan said it was hard to overstate the importance of the coal mine not being created.
“Had the coal mine been allowed to be established and operate, it would have been the end of farming in Felton.”
He said the coal mine would have ruined the aesthetic value and tranquility of the area.
The chapter covers the legal details of the battle between a multi-national company and a small community that banded together and won.
A letter from Queensland Premier Campbell Newman in 2012 sealed the victory for Mr Whan, Mr Free and the Friends of Felton.
Mr Whan said the first chapter was his favourite to write, including explaining what squatters are and exploring closer settlement on the Darling Downs.
“I really did enjoy researching how settlers came to the area,” he said.
The journey of James Tyson was equally interesting to him.
“It is a fascinating story about one man’s determination to accumulate land and wealth,” he said.
Mr Whan first became attached to the Felton community in 1992 when he bought a 100 acre property.
Although he worked in Brisbane until ten years ago, Mr Whan said he maintained his Felton property to visit on the weekend.
“I feel a strong attachment to the land and country people,” Mr Whan said.
Since his book was printed a few weeks ago, Mr Whan said he has already received a lot of positive feedback from the public.
“People seem to be enjoying it a lot.
“They have said it gave them a sense of how Felton opened up,” he said.
Felton District Histories is available to be purchased for $20 from the offices of The Clifton Courier and The Pittsworth Sentinel.
An official book launch is to be held at Rudd’s Pub in Nobby on Friday 25 June at midday.