Hidden history revealed as Ipswich icon gets a new lease on life

WB Darker descendant Mark Muir and family members remember going to picnics in Queens Park and likely sitting in the rotunda there. Little did they know then that the rotunda erected in 1949 was dedicated to one of their own.

Walter Bruce Darker was an Ipswich born-and-bred business leader and philanthropist, involved in everything from book selling, mining, chamber of commerce, Rotary, Australian Red Cross Society and more.

The original rotunda was dedicated to WB Darker in honour of his contribution to the community. He passed away, aged 71, while attending a community function in 1950.

The iconic piece of Ipswich history was re-opened at the weekend, refurbished and in a new location.

Mark Muir mother’s Nell is the grand-daughter of William Alfred Darker, cousin of Walter Bruce Darker.

He only found out recently about the extensive family tree. He has been living in Bundamba for several years and admitted to going to the park and rotunda, without a shred of knowledge of who it had been named after.

“The history is very interesting, it’s just one of those things I suppose. I can’t tell you much about WB Darker but we are all from the same clan,” Mr Muir said.

“We originally came from North Queensland. Mum said there was a story WB visited the family in the north at some point, before my time.

“I am told that William Alfred was sent initially to Bundaberg and then to Townsville to establish the railway up north. We were not familiar with the Darker family that remained in the south-east corner.”

The rotunda has been relocated with the agreement of the State Department of Environmental Heritage and Protection to allow easier access, as a similar path to the previous location would have meant intruding significantly on the open space of Queens Park.

The rotunda’s new seating was custom-designed in house and constructed by council, with elements of WB Darker’s initials incorporated into the seat design, showing how projects of this significance can be delivered successfully and efficiently for the people of Ipswich.

Shortly after works began we discovered more about this chap, who few had heard of, apart from the original dedication plaque and his life story, while descriptive comments humanised an otherwise forgotten home town bloke.

This gave more vigour to the work and the decision to both tell his story in an interpretative sign and a formal opening as a reaffirmation of the value people like Walter Darker have made to the city of Ipswich.

Cr Cheryl Bromage

Chairperson, Infrastructure and Emergency Management Committee

Rotunda refurb a tribute to colourful character

The WB Darker Memorial Rotunda has undergone extensive work by council, including replacing the floor and footings, posts, roof sheeting and seating.

The new rotunda was rededicated as affirmation of the Rotary Club of Ipswich and council’s appreciation of Darker’s work for the city.

WB Darker also ran a florist, and plants such as lavender, rosemary and daisies were chosen to surround the rotunda both to complement the historic nature and for their low-maintenance qualities.

Learn more about Ipswich icons and historical heroes.

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