Alex Palmer

(1927 -2021)

Alex Palmer was a prolific researcher and writer of books on goldfields history. In his work he was always supported and accompanied by his wife Elizabeth, who predeceased him by exactly six weeks.

I had known Alex for some decades and our conversations were mainly around our mutual interest in the history of the goldfields. His writing took place after his retirement and their hobby for many years was lapidary and rock hunting.

It was not until I had to winkle some background out of him as I was quietly proposing him for an Order of Australia that I realised how little I knew. Unfortunately dealing with Canberra is fraught with peril and illogical decisions. A problem that I faced, was, that Alex being an independent researcher over many years, meant that finding old associates to support the submission was difficult as he had outlived most of those that he had dealt with. But, as with our growing realisation that taking the ‘king’s shilling’ is the way to ruin, we must be prepared to raise our own cultural heroes from within us and treat the diktats of the politicians and bureaucrats as the poisoned bait that they are. Through his books Alex will live on forever in Western Australian history.

Alex was born at Mt Barker and educated at CBC Fremantle and St Louis College Claremont and graduated from the UWA in “beer and billiards”. He roamed the Pilbara prospecting for some time, cut sugarcane at Cairns for a season, and returned home to work six years in the hardware and glass trade. It was during this time he married Beth Secombe. They had two children and then their world collapsed, he was unemployed. Three years on and with two further children, he studied and worked part time, days and nights, with the unwavering support of his wife, graduating with a degree in chemistry in 1962.

He undertook radio work for NASA at Muchea around 1960. The next 25 years were in the employ of the SEC. Whilst at Muja Power Station near Collie he found great joy in examining the fossils of the Galatea coal seam, finding and adapting new water sources for the Station and finding garnet crystals the size of lawn bowls being used locally as door stops which rekindled his interest in nature.

Alex and Beth joined the WA Lapidary Club in 1967 and the field trips created an interest in the history of those places. Nine books were the result from 1981 to 2012. All of these are available from Hesperian Press.

We very much miss the visits of Alex and Beth, and Sang Hee always sighed over their leaving as they walked hand in hand down our pathway.