Collie was named after Dr Alexander Collie RN, a ship’s surgeon aboard the HMS Sulphur, who explored the region and in 1829 discovered the river from which Collie took its name. The area was originally recognised as being ideal as pasturelands and for timber production, however with the discovery of coal in 1883, Collie's direction was set.
The town was formally declared a townsite in 1896 and from its humble beginnings Collie grew to become an important West Australian town supplying the State with coal, the all-important resource for power production in railways, shipping and the generation of electricity.
Suggested reading for those looking for more information on Collie and its history:
"100 Years of Collie Coal" edited by Catherine Stedman; "One Day in Collie" by H.W. Williams, “A Rich and Diverse History; a Snapshot of Collie from 1898 – 2010” by John Bird. These publications may be purchased from the Collie Visitor Centre.
A memorial to Dr Alexander Collie is located on the lawns of Forrest Street in Collie.
It is widely believed that coal was discovered in Collie by a stockman, George Marsh. Marsh was shepherding for Mr Arthur Perren who had a pastoral lease on the Collie River. In 1883 Marsh collected some dark rocks from the river’s edge and placed them on either side of his campfire. To his amazement the “rocks” caught alight.
In the early years Western Australia relied heavily on railways in developing the inland regions. Essential to the railways were coal for the fuel for steam engines, and water – both of which were plentiful in Collie. This abundance of resources led to Collie becoming the second largest rail centre in the State after Fremantle. Coal is still transported by rail from Collie today.
Collie with its large jarrah forests provided hundreds of thousands of wooden railway sleepers essential in building the rail network over which the railway tracks were laid.