Remembering a respected local
WORD spread quickly around Dalby that James Clarke had died.
A ground swell wave of sorrow swept over the town, as it seems almost every one had realised this benefactor of the town was no more.
The news was not entirely unexpected as James had suffered a heart attack a fortnight before.
He had rallied for a while but then bronchitis had set in and he passed away peacefully that Wednesday morning in August 1908.
The next afternoon the funeral took place.
Public buildings were draped in black and business places were closed.
The funeral procession was led by the Town and Hibernian bands.
The coffin was borne shoulder high by the past officers and brethren of the Oddfellows Lodge.
They were followed by a long procession of vehicles and horsemen.
The local newspaper summed it up this way.
“The very skies seemed to mourn, so grey and sorrowful they looked, and ever and anon a light sad spay of rain descended to the earth.”
His headstone can still be seen in the old Monumental Cemetery at Dalby.
James Clarke, the well respected citizen of Dalby, had spent almost 40 years in the town.
He was born in Belfast in 1839 and as a young man of 24 arrived in Australia and eventually made his way to Dalby in 1868 and opened a general store.
Later in 1870, trading as J Clarke Universal Store he operated the business for 33 years in Cunningham St.
Some time after he arrived in Dalby, he married Charlotte Wilson who had also come from Ireland.
The couple had four sons and two daughters. During his busy life he found time to be an alderman on the Town Council and was a member on such organisations as the School of Arts, Northern Downs Pastoral and Agricultural Association, and Dalby Hospital Board.
He was a member of the Presbyterian Church and a trustee of the Oddfellows Hall.
He also owned 1500 acres of land at nearby Wellpark and also leased land on which he ran livestock.
In 1903, he sold his business and retired.
At that time he returned to the old country for an eight month holiday.
Inspired from what he had seen overseas he planned and built the first butter factory for Dalby.
He organised pick-ups of cream in out lying area and encouraged the established dairying industry to grow.
He even devised a system to help farmers who were falling behind in their payments.
His descendants remained in Dalby for a long time after his passing.