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On Tour: The storyteller and Ipswich General Cemetery ghosts

Historian Jack Sim

Historian Jack Sim is a storyteller.

His love of history developed from when he was just a child.

But the historians he met back then, and some he talks with even today, were more interested in famous architects and rich people who built mansions.

“I was on a school excursion in Brisbane, at an old building built by convicts. I asked a question about what the convicts were like who built the building,” Mr Sim remembers.

“Well I copped a ruler across the hand and a lecture that ‘it wasn’t the convicts that were important, but the architect who designed it’.

“I’m from a working class family and I saw ordinary people were affected deeply by tragedies in their life. It was the darker side of life that to me, had a big impact on people.

“It started a lifelong desire to find out these stories that are easy for anyone to connect with.”

Mr Sim believes there is real value in ghost stories whether you believe in ghosts or not.

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“Interestingly, old ghost stories are based on true facts. They often preserve old stories of tragedies and keep local history alive,” he said.

“A good example is the story of the founder of the old ambulance station at North Ipswich.

“Former superintendent W.C. Tomkins founded the brigade in 1901 and lived above the station. He died in the building in 1934.

“His name have been perpetuated by his ghost story that was told to every Queensland Ambulance officer who ever worked there down through the years. That is where the value is.”

Mr Sim has spent many years researching ghost stories in Ipswich and is working with Ipswich City Council on a new ghost tour on 27 April.

One of the sites he will be taking his guests will be the Ipswich General Cemetery.

Mr Sim’s mother’s family are from Ipswich and his grandmother, great-grandparents and great-great grandparents are buried at the Ipswich General Cemetery.

Mr Sim recounts one of the great ghost stories of Ipswich, the one about James Ryan who claimed he was one of the members of the infamous Kelly gang. Mr Ryan is said to be Daniel Kelly.

While he wasn’t the only person to claim he was part of the Kelly gang, it looked like his story had something that the others didn’t.

Ned Kelly’s mother is said to have branded her children and family members so their bodies could be recognised. 

Mr Ryan had suffered severe burns to his legs and under the burns you could see that there were initials branded into his flesh. D on one leg and K on the other.

The story was unique and he was widely believed at the time. He made regular appearances at the Brisbane Exhibition to show his scars as proof.

He was an old man when he was walking along the railway track between Redbank and Ipswich when he was decapitated by a coal train. The experienced drivers would tell the younger drivers to look out for the headless ghost of the Kelly gang when they passed that section of the track.

Ipswich First

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