R.I.P. Jim Harbison

Jim Harbison was a good friend of all who had an interest in Moonta and it’s history. With my own Phillips family roots in Moonta, I first came to know Jim in the 1970s. But probably few knew him as well as Ros Paterson.

The following was written by Roslyn Paterson OAM:

Jim Harbison OAM was a wonderful mentor to many students, researchers, authors and historians. He had an enquiring mind and read extensively. His own research on the mines at Moonta was all encompassing and enabled many conservation projects to proceed with federal and state funding.  For many years he was the president of the National Trust, Moonta Branch and took the branch from an upstairs room in the Moonta Town Hall to the large former Moonta Mines School. From his dry cleaning shop in the main street of Moonta he would draw up the volunteer rosters and sort out the change bags for the Moonta Mines Museum and the Moonta Miners Cottage. Using his extensive knowledge  he was responsible for the granting of properties and mine sites in the Moonta Mines area to the National Trust.  He was also the major  local player in the Moonta Mines  State Heritage Precinct. The iconic engine houses in this area were saved and restored as a result of Jim’s perseverance.  It was because of these two massive projects  and his unfailing support for the heritage of Moonta that  I recommended him for bard ship.

Jim was the son of one of Moonta’s doctors, and like many of this profession, he had the most hard to read handwriting!  He was educated at Prince Alfred College in Adelaide and after a year or so at Adelaide University  studying medicine, he returned home to Moonta and became the town’s dry cleaner. However, his shop was primarily the place for tourist information, the National Trust informal meeting centre and the place to learn about Moonta’s history.  Jim and Betty were married in their mature years and had no children.  They were a loving couple who supported each other in their myriad of activities. In many ways Jim was an old fashioned gentleman. Did not use a mobile phone, computer, electric typewriter or an answering service. If you wanted to talk to him it was best to ring him at 7 a.m. before he went out into his garden or out to his beloved museum.

On a personal note it was Jim who encouraged me to transfer my membership from Kadina to Moonta because of the greater involvement in Cornish mining at the latter branch in the early 1970’s. And when  I needed a job because of the downturn in farming, it was Jim who recommended me for the registrar’s position at the Moonta Mines Museum. Because of his research skills I was able to unlock the riddle of my Phillips family tree after years of searching for a headstone in the Moonta Cemetery.  I valued his friendship, counsell and yes,  we will all miss him.

Jim died on Tuesday 15th June at the Moonta Hospital, and his funeral [took place] at the Moonta Mines Uniting Church.

Roslyn an Dyghow
Official Bardic Representative in Australia

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4 thoughts on “R.I.P. Jim Harbison

  1. Hi there! Im currently doing the phillips family tree for my husband.Were you looking for Mary Ann and George Phillips headstone?Look forward to hearing from you.

  2. Hi Mandy … George and Mary Ann Phillips are my emigrant Phillips ancestors, and I’ve been to the Kadina Cemetery and photographed their headstone, both before and after its restoration. Are you connected to the family in any way? If so, let me know.

  3. Thank you for this story about Jim. Jim put his heart and soul into preserving and promoting Moonta’s heritage. He was devoted to Betty, to the end, then continued alone for some years.

    Jim and Betty lived and ran their business across the main street from my family in Moonta during the 1960s when Dad was a bank manager there. They gave us wonderful support when Mum became seriously ill in 1970 and then died at Moonta Hospital early the following year. It was a privilege to know Betty and Jim Harbison and to be able to introduce my own children to them many years later.

  4. .Hi Alona.George phillips and Mary Ann Kemp are my husbands great great grand parents.I also have a photo of their headstone.I only noticed the other day that you have left comments on ancestory.com which is great.Have you looked at the Kemp family history as you will find this very useful.I also have the headstone pics of George phillips and wife Annie Collette.Look forward to hearing from you.

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