‘He gave so much’: Adored CQ miner, footy coach farewelled
WORK and leisure took Raymond “Tiger” Slater across the country and around the world, but it was a small Central Queensland town that held a special place in his heart.
Baralaba was his birthplace, where he started his long and successful career in mining and where he met the love of his life and future wife of 67 years, Wilma Torenbeek.
It will now become his final resting place after his death in Maryborough on July 13 this year, aged 85.
Tiger leaves behind Wilma, their children Lyn, Chris, Alwyn, Graham and Mark and their partners, 11 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren.
He cherished them all; they were his pride and joy.
For the family, Tiger was their rock, their guiding light, their “true north”.
“He had many loves in his life - Wilma, his children, his sons and daughters-in-law, his grandchildren, and great grandchildren, his close friends,” Mark said.
“He loved a hot cup of tea in the morning, he loved a beer, he loved a pie, he loved the footy, he loved travel, he loved to dance, he loved animals and they loved him.”
Tiger was born on May 26, 1935, the second of four sons for Fred and Merle Slater.
The family lived in a corrugated iron miner’s cottage, which now forms part of the Baralaba Historical Village.
It was a loving household and Tiger and his brothers enjoyed a carefree childhood.
Tiger enjoyed nothing more than to “bob a cork” in the Dawson River with his mother, something which would give rise to a lifelong love of fishing.
He was equally passionate about rugby league, a game in which he excelled.
A fierce defender, he was part of the Mount Isa rep team that won the Foley Shield for the first time in 1969.
He was also a highly regarded coach and left a lasting impression on the young players he mentored.
Among them was ‘Baby’ Saltmere, who was part of an under-17 team Tiger coached in 1978 and, on hearing of his passing, sent this tribute to his family.
“We were privileged and honoured to have him as our coach,” Baby said.
“Tiger taught us ethics and morals and facts of life and the most important thing was respect.
“He also taught us how to be young men.”
Tiger started work alongside his father at the Baralaba coal mine, the first of many mines where he would ply his trade.
He was in his mid-teens when he met Wilma, and they were married in Mount Morgan in 1952.
Their family was expanding and to secure better wages, Tiger accepted a job at Mount Morgan Mine.
He and Wilma and three young children relocated to the town, moving into a house at the top of Gordon St, opposite the Anglican Church.
The Slaters completed their family with the arrival of two more sons – Graham and Mark.
In the early 1960s, Mount Isa was looming as the state’s new mining hub and Tiger saw a promising future there.
He packed up the car and set off solo on the 1300km journey west across unsealed roads. He lived in his car beside the Leichhardt River until he was able to pass a medical, get a job and find somewhere for the family to stay.
Wilma and the children soon followed, and the Isa would become their home for the next 28 years.
Tiger continued to develop his expertise as an underground miner and specialised in shaft sinking, a niche field in which he became an expert.
Mount Isa Mines sent him around the world to share his experience and trouble shoot problems for their sister companies. He went to South Africa, the UK, Canada and the United States and to Western Australia and Tasmania.
He loved an adventure and would later travel extensively with Wilma, visiting many countries including Fiji, India and New Guinea.
With their family grown, the pull of the grandchildren took them to Maryborough, with Tiger working on a fly-in fly-out roster with the Osborne Mine.
He retired in 2000 but was always keeping busy.
He relished time helping Graham in his shed at Port Hedland where he could also continue his love of fishing, driving the tractor and slasher at Alwyn’s property in the South Burnett and, more recently, helping Mark do odd jobs around his home at Agnes Water.
He was still body surfing at the age of 80.
Graham said Tiger and Wilma were a wonderful partnership, and their wisdom and guidance was invaluable.
He said Tiger was devoted to his family and always wanted what was best for his children.
Rather than having his sons follow him into the mines, he wished for them to be tradesmen.
“He worked so hard to make his family go forward and did not wish for it to follow his past,” Graham said.
A stroke confined Tiger to a wheelchair for the last three years of his life, a cruel blow for a man who had a genuine zest for life and always lived it to the full.
Mark said Tiger would be sorely missed by so many people.
“Tiger was a wonderful man who was much loved and respected by his family and by his friends.
“He gave us all so much.”