Ion (Jack) Llewellyn Idriess 1889-1979

Dedicated to the Life and Works of

A timeline for the first "half" of Jack's life up to 1927.               This timeline is a “Work-in-Progress” - can you help?

The timeline refers to the more adventurous period of Jack’s life up to his late 30’s and before he became an established author. Its objective is to set dates against his adventures. However, establishing a credible timeline of this early part of Jack’s life is difficult.

Dates declared by Jack's biographer, Beverley Eley, sometimes seem inconsistent (due to Jack's failure to date many of his diary entries and size and time restrictions imposed by her publisher). Nevertheless, the timeline below has been created using Eley’s biography, Ion Idriess, as its main source.Beverley Eley also wrote a short biography and "Events in the Life of Ion Idriess" in the two collected works, Ion Idriess's Greatest Stories. This reference can be used as a timeline for the rest of Jack's eventful life. 

Because Jack did not date his work this timeline is necessarily subjective and other interpretations are possible. Some assumptions must be made because except for his war diaries, it was not until 1926 that Jack started to put dates against his diary entries.2 In this timeline incontrovertible “milestone” dates are highlighted.

As distinct from setting dates against Jack’s adventures, to establish the sequence of events some of Jack’s books were used: Men of the Jungle3, Lightning Ridge4, The Silver City5, Back o’ Cairns6, The Tin Scratchers7, and My Mate Dick8.


In 1889 Jack’s father travelled for his work to Tenterfield NSW (three months before Jack was born) and his wife joined him later.9 Registered as “Ion Windeyer”, Jack was born on 20 September 1889 at Waverley NSW to Walter Owen and Juliette (Julia) Idriess.10

4 years – In 1893 the Idriess family moved to Lismore.11

5 years and 11 months – On 6 August 1895, at Jack was enrolled at the Lower Boorie Provisional School, Lismore.12

8 years – In 1897 the Idriess family moved to Tamworth.13

11 years and 3 months – Turn of the century.

11 years and 4/5 months – In 1899 Walter travelled to Broken Hill and the rest of the family followed early in 1901.14

15 years and 8 months – Jack won an Under Sixteen essay competition; "The District in which we Live" and prizes for lettering.15

15 years and 3 months – During the Christmas holidays in 1904 Jack was driving a grocery cart for A,C, Williams grocery store of South Broken Hill.16

Sixteen – In 1904 Jack left school. His first job was at Medical Hall Chambers at Argent Street, Broken Hill where he was a bottle washer.17

Sixteen – In 1904 Jack got his next job at White and Hosier, ore buyers, of Chloride Street Broken Hill.17

Seventeen – In 1905 he joined the Broken Hill Proprietary Company working in the Assay Office.17

18 years and 2 months – Jack had completed his first and second years of Chemistry with honours and in November 1907 he completed his final Assayer Examination with honours in Chemistry and Assaying.19

18 years and 2 months – On the very day Jack completed his examinations he contracted typhoid from drinking contaminated creek water.20

18 years and 4 months – Julia Windeyer-Idriess died on 13 January 1908.21

18 Years and 4 months – After Julia’s death Walter took Jack “straight to Sydney” – probably sometime late in January 1908.22

18 Years and 5 months – Arriving sometime in February 1908, Walter left Jack in the care of Jack’s step-grandmother, Kate Eldershaw.23

18 Years and 6 months – During March 1908 Jack worked on the coastal steamer SS Newcastle.24

18 Years and 7 months – Jack signed on to a station near Narrabri NSW for six months in April 1908 and left after five months in August 1908 at the age of 18 years and 11 months.25

19 Years – Two months’ work – September and October – as a labourer at Moree NSW.26

19 years and 2 months – For four months – November 1908 to February 1909 inclusive – Jack was horse-breaking at Moree27

19 Years and 6 months – For two months – March 1909 to April 1909 inclusive – Jack was on a ring-barking team at Collarenabri NSW.28

19 years and 8 months – For five months – May 1909 to September 1909 inclusive – Jack worked on Woorawadian Station NSW as a rabbit poisoner.29

20 years and one month – Jack arrived for the first time at Lightning Ridge in October 1909.30 Eley said he arrived in 1908 but this cannot be so (after all his mother died in 1908).

20 years and ten months  – Jack’s first article was published in the Sydney Mail on 13 July 1910.31

COMMENT  When Jack first arrived at Lightning Ridge he said he worked alone and then worked with another partner before he met “Old Tom” Peel.31 Then he worked with Tom for a while before Tom bullied him “for months” into writing his first article. He got the royalty cheque a month later.32 So the implication in Lightning Ridge is that Jack got his first cheque sometime in the middle of his first stay at the Ridge.

21 years – When Jack left Lightning Ridge in September 1910 he would have been there about 11 months (Eley said eight months).33

21 years – For five months – September 1910 to February 1911 – Jack was droving near Narrabri NSW.34

21 years and 5 months – For a few weeks in February 1911 1910 Jack worked on Dungelear Station NSW as a rouseabout.35

21 years and 6 months – Jack arrived at Lightning Ridge for the second time in 1911 (probably about March).36 Eley said he stayed two years.37 This is probably not right. It is more likely that he was there for about a year.

22 years and 5 months – Visit to Sydney in February 1912.38

22 years and 6 months – Left Lightning Ridge in March 1912. Eley said it was 1910.39

22 years and 8 months – Arrived Cairns and Wondecla about May 1912.40 Jack said he had left Lightning Ridge “a few months” earlier – March 1912.41

COMMENT  Beverley Eley says he was there nearly two years from 191242 but this does not seem to fit with Jack's date of enlistment in 1914. Jack was more probably there for about six months to October 1912 when he was 23 years old.

23 years and 1 month – Cooktown & Annan River Mining Company.

COMMENT  Eley said Jack was 23. He was probably there a month or so around October 1912. Jack said this was the beginning of 11 years on the Peninsula (1912-1923?).43

23 years and 2 months – Rossville, mining alluvial tin for about three weeks in November/December 1912. Jack said he wrote about it “46 years later” in 1958.44

23 years and 3 months – MtFinnegan, hydraulic mining for three weeks in December 1912.45

23 years and 4 months – Labouring at Home Rule for one month in January 1912.46.

23 years and 5 months – Blind stabbing for tin at Slaty Creek – February 1912.47

23 years – Jack was registered as a Miner on the Electoral Roll at Ayton QLD in 1913.48

23 years and 6 months – Mt Hartley. Eley said Jack was 24, so fourteen months – March to 1912 to April 1914 inclusive when Jack would have been 24 years and 7 months.49 A miner’s Right was issued to Jack in Cooktown on 16 September 1914.50

COMMENT  Eley wrote that Jack met the Baird brothers at this time (after the Mount Hartley period) and said the adventures of Men of the Jungle occurred before Jack enlisted for WWI. However, in Men of the Jungle Jack hinted that at least some of the adventures occurred after the war.51 It does not seem possible to fit all of these adventures into just the few years between leaving Lightning Ridge and WWI. It is more likely Jack experienced at least some of the adventures in Men of the Jungle in one of two significant gaps in his history (from 1918 to 1920 and from 1920 to 1925).52

24 years and 8 months – Jack then went prospecting for gold with Dick Welsh. Three months from May to July 1914 inclusive.53

COMMENT  Eley devoted only half a page to this period in Jack’s life (described in My Mate Dick) but it is not necessary to locate all of the adventures in My Mate Dick in the period before WWI because the book is clearly bits and pieces of Jack’s memories of Dick written nearly fifty years later. Jack’s mateship with Dick began before WWI when they were working for the Annan River Tin Mining Company around 1912.54 Their friendship continued after WWI and after the Howick adventure. It is more likely that some of these adventures occurred in the two periods – 1918 to 1920 (after the war) and  from 1920 to 1925 (after the HowickIsland adventure).55

24 years and 11 months – Prospecting for gold at Cape Melville for one month in August 1914.56

25 years. On learning that war had been declared. Jack travelled from Cape Melville to Townsville via Cooktown and Cairns to enlist for WWI. From September 1914 – Cape Melville, one week – Cooktown, one week – Cairns, two weeks – Townsville, one week.57

25 years and 1 month – Enlisted on 26 October 1914.58

COMMENT    Jack served with the 5th Light Horse Regiment at Gallipoli, Sinai and Palestine. He was wounded and evacuated to hospital three times and almost at the war’s end, he was discharged because of his last injury.

28 years and 8 months – Discharged on 10 May 1918.59

28 years and 9 months – Jack was at Snowy Baker’s Gym for about three months from June to August 1918 inclusive when he would have been 28 years and 11 months.60

28 years and 11 months – In Grafton on 23 August 1918.61

29 years and 6 months – Jack was in Brisbane by March 1919 and witnessed a mob riot at a trade unionists protest march broken up by police with bayonets.62  

COMMENT  Beverley Eley wrote that, “The first four years back in the Peninsula after the war appear to have been spent with Dick (Welsh) …”.63 However, there were only just over two years between Jack’s discharge and the Howick adventure. She said Jack left Brisbane sometime in 1920 and quoted a newspaper report about Jack giving a blood transfusion (see note 59). She goes on to write (albeit briefly and obviously sourced from My Mate Dick) about the adventures of Jack and Dick Welsh but this does not fit with the date that Jack actually went to Howick. It is more likely that My Mate Dick was based on adventures before and after WWI but also after Howick.64

Thirty years and 6 months – Jack was reported in the press as returning from a marginally successful prospecting trip around the Daintree and Normanby Rivers. He was with a “party of three returned soldiers. Jim McJannett said the three were Dick Welsh and Norman and Charlie Baird.65

31 Years – Arrived on Howick Island in (early?) September 1920.66

31 years and 5 months – Back in Cooktown early in February 1921 after being rescued from Howick.67

1921 to 1925 – Cape York Peninsula. Although she briefly describes the Howick adventure, in just a few pages she skims over the next five years.68

COMMENT  What did Jack do in those “missing” years? There is some evidence that Jack was still prospecting but he was also in Brisbane and in Grafton NSW.

31 years and 5 monthsIdriess and party (probably with Dick Welsh) prospecting around the Starcke country.69

33 years and 2 months – From November 1922 to March 1923 inclusive Jack was in Grafton at his siter Ildyce’s home writing Madman’s Island.70

33 years and 6 months – Jack was widely reported in the Australian press to have given a blood transfusion to another war veteran in Brisbane on 27 March 1923 (Eley said 1920).71

36 years – Eley said Jack was visiting Grafton NSW late in 1925.72

36 years and 7 monthsIn a Cairns Post (QLD) published on Wednesday 28 April 1926, Jack discounted a suggestion of a rich gold discovery in the Cooktown-Daintree area.73 For the interview to be possible, it might be reasonable to assume he was in the Cooktown area.

COMMENT  At the end of the second Madman’s Island Jack said he was going off again to look for his mate Dick Welsh. It is also possible that he again sought out Norman Baird (Charlie Baird was never heard from again after he returned from the Great War). That is, some of Jack’s adventures in Men of the Jungle could have been experienced in the 1920’s and not all of them necessarily occurred before the war.

It is likely that the Cape York adventures Eley describes as Jack’s experiences after the war (and before the Howick adventure) were in fact after he left Howick. Eley said Jack’s, “eleven years spent on the Cape York Peninsula were punctuated by visits to Grafton and Sydney…”, so his stay at Grafton in 1922/1923 to write Madman’s Island could have been one of these visits.74

33 years and 9 months – Jack was reported in the Argus newspaper to have provided a blood transfusion to another war veteran in Brisbane in March 1923.75

33 years and 7 months – There was a draft manuscript of Madman’s Island ready by 12 April 1923 when Jack sent it through his friend Alec Chisholm to George Robertson (of Angus and Robertson) who returned it – unread.76

35 years and 9 months – In June of 1925 Jack gave his address as 378 Park Road, Paddington.77

36 years and 10 months – On 22 August 1926 Jack left on the Somerset for Cape York.78

37 years and 8 monthsMadman’s Island was released prior to the end of May 1927 and by mid-1928 it was clear that the book was a failure.79

39 years – In 1929 Jack got a letter from Angus and Robertson telling him to give up any idea of becoming an author.80

COMMENT  Fortunately, Jack was already writing again and his career as an author had begun. His life of free adventure was virtually over. For the second half of his life Jack based himself in Sydney and almost all his travels were for the purpose of publishing more books. See Beverley Eley's "Events in the Life of Ion Idriess" in the two collected works, Ion Idriess's Greatest Stories




1        Eley, B. (1995), Ion Idriess, Harper Collins, Sydney, AUS.

2        Idriess, I. (1932b), Men of the Jungle, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, AUS.

3        Idriess, I. (1940b), Lightning Ridge, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, AUS.

4        Idriess, I. (1956), The Silver City, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, AUS.

5        Idriess, I. (1958), Back o’Cairns, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, AUS.

6        Idriess, I. (1959), The Tin Scratchers, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, AUS.

7        Idriess, I. (1962), My Mate Dick, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, AUS.

8        Eley (1995), p107.

9        Eley (1995), p19.
Idriess, (1956), p1.
Idriess, (1940b), p5.

10      NSW Registry, (1889), Births, Deaths and Marriages, Ion Windeyer, 007796.

11      Eley (1995), p19.
Idriess, (1956), p11.
Idriess, (1940b), pp8-10.

12      Eley (1995), p20.
Idriess, (1956), p6.
Idriess, (1940b), p9.

13      Eley (1995), pp21-22
Idriess, (1956), p29.
Idriess, (1940b), pp10-11.

14      Eley (1995), pp3, 22.
Idriess, (1956), p31.
Idriess, (1940b), p11.

15      Barrier Miner (Broken Hill), 26 May 1904.

16      Eley (1995), p24.
Barrier Miner (Broken Hill), 18 April 1935

17      Eley (1995), p24.
Idriess, (1940b), p20, 22.
Barrier Miner (Broken Hill), 7 September 1950.

19      Barrier Miner (Broken Hill), 18 January 1907.
Barrier Miner (Broken Hill), 18 January 1908.

20      Eley (1995), p7.
Idriess, (1956), p208.
Idriess, (1940b), p30-33.

21      Eley (1995), p3.
Barrier Miner (Broken Hill), 14 January 1908.

22      Eley (1995), p27
          Idriess, (1940b), p34.

23      Eley (1995), p27.
          Idriess, (1940b), p34.

24      Eley (1995), p29.
          Idriess, (1956), p209.
          Idriess, (1940b), pp34-35.

25      Eley (1995), p29-30.
          Idriess, (1940b), pp36-44.

26      Eley (1995), p31.
Idriess, (1956), p211.
Idriess, (1940b), pp45-46.

27      Eley (1995), p30.
Idriess, (1940b), pp47-49.

28      Eley (1995), p31.
Idriess, (1940b), pp50-53.

29      Eley (1995), pp33-34.
Idriess, (1940b), pp64-73.

30      Eley (1995), p35.

31      Sydney Mail, 13 July 1910.
Lightning Ridge Historical Society, 18 March 2009.

32      Eley (1995), p37.
Idriess, (1940b), p141.

33      Eley (1995), p38.

34      Eley (1995), p38-39.
Idriess, (1940b), p83.

35      Eley (1995), p39.
Idriess, (1940b), p135.

36      Eley (1995), p40.
Idriess, (1940b), p140.

37      Eley (1995), p40.

38      Eley (1995), p40.
Idriess, (1940b), pp210-217.

39      Eley (1995), pp41-42.

40      Eley (1995), p43.

41      Idriess, (1958), Back o’ Cairns, p6.

42      Eley (1995), p45.

43      Eley (1995), p50-52.
Idriess, (1959), The Tin Scratchers, p47.

44      Eley (1995), p53.
Idriess, (1959), p81.

45      Eley (1995), p54.

46      Eley (1995), p54.

47      Eley (1995), p55.

48      Electoral Roll, QLD.

49      Eley (1995), p56.

50      Idriess, (1959), photograph opp. P181.

51      Eley (1995), pp57-59.
Idriess, (1932b), Men of the Jungle, p114.

52      Eley (1995), pp96-99, 102-105.

53      Eley (1995), p66.
Idriess, (1932b), p212

54      Eley (1995), pp64-65.
Idriess, (1959), p79.

55      Eley (1995), pp96-99, 102-105.

56      Eley (1995), p67.

57      Eley (1995), pp70-74.

58      Defence Service Records, National Archives of Australia, Idriess, Ion Llewellyn.

59      Defence Service Records, National Archives of Australia, Idriess, Ion Llewellyn.

60      Eley (1995), p96.

62      Eley (1995), p98.

63      Eley (1995), p98.

64      Eley (1995), pp98-99.

65      Cairns Post, 16 March 1920.
McJannett (        ), Personal Email.

66      See Appendix Two.

67      See Appendix Two.

68      Eley (1995), pp102-105.

69      Cairns Post, June 1921.

70      Eley (1995), pp102.

71      Eley (1995), pp102-105.

72      Eley (1995), pp104-105.

73      Cairns Post (QLD), Wednesday, 28 April 1926.

74      Eley (1995), p99.

75      The Argus (Melbourne, VIC) Thursday, 29 March 1923 (et al).
Eley (1995), p98.

76      Barker, (1982) George Robertson, PP169-170.

77      Eley (1995), p104.

78      Eley (1995), pp107-111.

79      The Advertiser (Adelaide SA), 21 May 1927.
          Eley (1995), pp112, 115.

80      Eley (1995), p124.