Author Dale Jacobsen has written a book about her grandfather called Union Jack which discusses his role in bringing down corrupt state governments.
Author Dale Jacobsen has written a book about her grandfather called Union Jack which discusses his role in bringing down corrupt state governments. Brett Wortman

Dale follows train of thought

DALE Jacobsen spent nearly a decade researching and writing her book Union Jack about her railway worker and stern unionist grandfather, Jack O'Leary.

The book was a labour of love for the Maleny-based author, and she said her motivation to write the book had begun with an interest in her family history.

"Initially, I knew nothing about my grandfather's history," she said.

"My family didn't want to talk about him because he was a part of the union, and he was quite conservative.

"So I decided to dig my toes in and find out more."

Dale spent 10 years researching, poring over 100 years of records from various railway unions, putting the data on spreadsheets to form a timeline of events, searching state archives, and piecing together glimpses of history to form her story.

Her research revealed a tale of corruption and political unrest during a time of strikes and union bashings in Queensland in the 1920s.

The story of hardship faced by railway workers was much bigger than Dale had ever anticipated.

"The more I researched, I realised that it wasn't just a story about my grandfather - not just about one man," she said.

"It was about what affected politics at the time, and exposing crooked dealings.

"It was a big story that needed to be told."

Among the chaos at the time, her grandfather Jack, a socialist railway worker and fiery unionist, befriended Fred Patterson, a young lawyer and member of the newly-formed Communist Party.

Together, the men attempt to bring down the corrupt activities of then state premier and Labor leader Bill McCormack, and his friend Ted Theodore, a former premier.

The more she wrote of the story, the more the characters came to life, and a chronicle of people rising above adversity developed.

"I noticed that the characters jostled one another to leap into life," she said.

"And with that, I was able to find recorded fact and weave a story."

Dale said Union Jack was more than just telling a chapter of history, but also was important for her family to discover and develop a better understanding of the past.

This was a story Dale felt was most important for her mother - Jack's daughter - to read, after spending a lifetime being ashamed of her father.

"My mum went from being a woman who didn't really know much about her father, who was kind of ashamed of him, to being someone that looks at him now as being a hero, and someone she is really proud of," she said.

"I always said that even if it didn't get published, the story was about more than that."

Dale is working on two new historical novels as well as a spin-off of Union Jack about the 1927 South Johnston Sugar Strike.

She also has written a script for a musical performance which will feature at the Woodford Folk Festival later this year.

Dale will hold an author's talk at the Maleny Library next Thursday.