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Billy Clare

billy clare

William Edward Clare, the publisher of the Fremantle Advocate, was a foundation and life member of the Fremantle Workers Social and Leisure Club. He was thought in 1956 to have been the founder and first President, but documents from the newspapers of 1914 do not support this folklore.

His name was remembered in the Club building in Henry St in the name of the Billy Clare Club Cafe, and on a memorial mirror, and there was a photo of him in the lobby.

Billy Clare was born in 1863 at St. Helen's, Lancs, came to Australia in 1888, and died Friday 5 April 1940.

There is a bio of WE Clare here, by Warren Bert Kimberly, from his History of West Australia, Niven, Melbourne, 1897; as pdf here.


Billy Clare and His Colorful Career


THE romance of the "Coolgardie Miner" I have already touched  upon in one of my sketches, but the story as told by its founder is aa colorful as anything In Australian Journalism. One day In June, 1893, a young Englishman employed in the famous Bayley's Reward mine was counting his fortnightly pay just received when the manager, Captain Beaglehole, asked him if he was not a printer, and getting an affirmative reply, went on— "Well, why not start a paper In Coolgardie?" "No cash." "Then call a meeting of the Progress Association and form a syndicate or a company." That young fellow was "Billy" Clare, and possessing quick perception he jumped at the idea. Off he went and the muster was held in the Exchange Hotel, built by Evan Wisdom (afterwards Brigadier-General Wisdom, who served through the Great War and was subsequently appointed Administrator of German New Guinea at Rabaul). The urgency of a local newspaper was admitted but the prospectors had a queer idea of the financial equation they wanted Billy to do all the pro- ducing while they divided the profits. Nothing doing! Then the genial Wil- liam retired to bis camp and reviewed the proposition and the prospects. Finally he decided to go to Perth and see if he could


and an old press to turn out a weekly news sheet. Money was limited, he could not afford a seat on the coach, so there was nothing for it but to do the 800 miles per boot. Think of lt, you chaps who ride in trains, or motor buses, or trains, or "streamline" models of 1937. Would you tackle 300 miles there and 300 miles back on your corns? Well, Billy Clare did, and his great hike was a veritable odyssey. On a Sunday morning he took the track with 7lb. of flour and a 2lb. tin of beef. The tramp to Southern Cross was not lonely. How could it be with hundreds of excited "swampers" hurrying to the land of golden promise and singing to the welkin in anticipation. He reached Southern Cross, 114 miles, at the end of the fourth day. and I believe he had a refresher, probably two refreshers, in spite of the shortage of silver. Then he rolled himself In his good old rug and camped under the "fly" of the warden's tent. With daylight he was up again, enjoyed a rasher of bacon, replenished his commissariat and off again on his


At the Merredin Rock he left the beaten track and traversed the Tootalgin Forest, now a great wheat field, but then without habitation, until he struck Mr. Luke, an Englishman, who had started a sheep station with a few hundred Jumbucks. He was a cultured man and entertained his unusual guest. After a further stretch of lonely migration Billy reached another isolated settler, Martin by name, who insisted on calling the new goldfield Goolgardie. "Why, man," he said, "we knowed there was gold there 20 years ago and we'd a-had lt only a pote wrote a pome about us and bust up our syndicate." York was now within coo-ee, and from there he boarded a train and steamed into Perth. It took weeks to rake together scraps of printing material, including a lot of "pied" type and an ancient lever press, the Government Printer, the "West Australian" and Horace Stirling contributing. Eventually the "plant" was sorted out and packed, the conundrum being how lt was to be transported to the vicinity of Fly Flat. The railway from Northam to Southern Cross had been started and the contractor, Joe McDowell,


to the head of the construction works. Finally, he landed in Coolgardie with some of his plant, but the remainder was missing. However, Harry Gregory, then running a galvanised iron tank factory, volunteered to go down the track and rescue the lost press and type. He found lt and never lost sight of it till he landed it in Coolgardie. That was a Tuesday and Billy and his "comp.", Dick Stone, red-headed and fiery as a red bullant, determined to issue the first newspaper on the following Saturday. Jack Drake, a New Zealand journalist, took charge as editor and reeled off reams of lively copy, assisted by "Dryblower" Ted Murphy, and a Salvation Army officer and other volunteers working night and day. On Saturday the "Coolgardie Miner" appeared, the whole issue going off like hot cakes. It was a financial success from the jump and in a very short period an up-to-date press and new type was ordered from the East, and it was while Billy Clare was down in Perth taking delivery that he


and made him editor on the spot. In the meantime there had been quick changes in the "chair." Jack Drake had the gold fever and struck out into the mulga. "Smiler" Hales took charge and made things lively — who does not remember his description of the first wedding In Coolgardie? It was a classic. Jack Underwood was another recruit, who later struck out for Klondyke, and he was for years editor of a big daily In Seattle. Jack Cameron, a fine journalist, also steered the "Miner," but wanderlust led him to America and to the Riviera, where he ran a paper and joined the British consular service. All these men were out of the common and rose to eminence, and they all loved Billy Clare. After Billy's high flight in London he returned to Perth and again launched into journalism. His first venture was the "Sunday Chronicle," published on Saturday nights. But it did not catch on and he passed it over to Joe Charles. Next he started "Clare's Weekly," with Jack Cameron as editor, and it did take on. He


as a cartoonist; and a Mr. Symons, a Melbourne stockbroker and trenchant publicist, who had figured as "Attlcus" in the Melbourne "Leader" (the "Age" weekly), while Mrs. Cameron (Jack's mother), an accomplished pen-woman, took charge of the social section. Meanwhile Billy, of all men, built a brewery at the behest of Tom Aitken, a scion of the malt-and-hops Aitkens, of Melbourne. But the two alien interests did not assimilate, and the brewery dropped into the hands of Messrs. Horgan, Pennyfather and Vansetti. As a brewery, however, lt was unique in its rapid succession of unmitigated failures, till finally the late Henry Seligson, financier, had lt converted into a dwelling for his family. As Billy put it to me: "It was but a small concern, but lt housed a world of trouble (and broad comedy) which I relish in memory to this day." The fate of "Clare's Weekly" was more tragic. It looked a sure winner till a fire broke out in the printing works and the whole place was gutted, a model plant and machinery being destroyed. Arson was suspected, provoked by a thirst for revenge, yet the coroner deprecated inquiry and refused to take action! "Clare's Weekly" faded, the


and knocked down to A. C. Morgans for £500. The name was then altered to "The Argonaut " and Hal Colebatch (now A.G. in London) took charge, but somehow it failed to prosper, notwithstanding that it was a well-written Journal. Billy then went in search of an auriferous bonanza in the goldfields outback, having as mate Bill Lockhart, one of the keenest prospectors and finest bushmen In Australia. But Golcondas were elusive and Billy came back to journalism. He had 3000 shares (one-third) in Vesper's "Sunday Times," which he sold when the "People's Tribune" passed out. A flutter with the "Bunbury Herald" followed, but the meddling of the local syndicate was fatal. Hic Jacet! Later Billy ran  the "Fremantle Herald" and the "Fremantle Advocate," the story of which would be a best seller. Of late, W. B. Clare, the hero of many ventures in W.A. goldfields and metropolis - has been feeling the weight ot years, and compelled to retire from the arena. But he still retains his memory of  stirring days and can interest one with his reminiscences.

The Sunday Times, 24 October 1937



The funeral of the late Mr. William Edward ('Billy') Clare, of 31 Ocean road, Cottesloe, who died on Friday last, took place in the Church of England portion of the Karrakatta Cemetery on Monday morning. The rector of St. John's Church, Frmnantle, the Rev. Canon E. M. Collick, conducted the service at the graveside, in the presence of a large and representative gathering. Canon Collick, in the course of an address, referred in very feeling terms to the wonderfully good and useful life of Mr. Clare, whom he had known since they were both young men on the goldfields. The canon said that Mr. Clare was always an inspiration to meet, jovial, cheery, always a bright soul, fearless in his convictions, but absolutely just and fair. His attractive personality was imposing. He (the canon) had journeyed back from England with him on one occasion and during that trip was in very close touch with him and he could truthfully say that Mr. Clare was one who was not only very highly respected, but really affectionately regarded by all. His passing would be greatly felt, as he was one of the State's real pioneers and one who had assisted in no small measure in its progress. On behalf of himself and those present the canon expressed sincere sympathy with the bereaved relatives. Mr. Clare, who was born at St. Helen's, Lancashire, England, came to Australia in 1888. He arrived in Western Australia at the commencement of the gold rush in 1893 and took a printing plant to Coolgardie by team from York. This was in 1894, and on the goldfields his staff included 'Smiler' Hales, the late F. O. Vosper, the late 'Dryblower' Murphy, the late John Drayton and Messrs. J. H. Armstrong and William Robertson, the two last-named being still resident in Perth. Mr. Clare held interests in many newspapers from time to time and was one of the very few remaining citizens who had a first-hand and intimate knowledge of the very early goldfields days. He was of a quiet and unostentatious disposition, but his versatile knowledge of general topics and his extensive travel experience made him a most interesting conversationalist, and he was held in very high esteem in the community. He leaves a wife, two sons, two grandsons, two granddaughters and two great-grandchildren to mourn their loss.

The Kalgoorlie Miner, Thursday 11 April 1940

Passing of Billy Clare

A dear friend of "The Sunday Times" and of thousands of old goldfielders and of Western Australians generally passed away on Friday in the person of Mr. W. E. Clare at the age of 78.
Billy Clare, as he was fondly known in and outside the profession, came to Coolgardie in the roaring days, founded the first daily paper and led many a stirring fight for goldfields' interests in the years that followed.
Later he figured in journalism in Bunbury and Fremantle, and his virile pen was always at the service of the suffering and oppressed.
He was one of the old-time newspaper men who fought for what he thought was right, and declined to fashion his doctrines to the varying hour, and his generous heart was always ready to respond to the needs of his fellows.
Many will miss him and many will treasure rich memories of their association with his charming and cultured personality.
He was a good journalist, a fine citizen and a dear, friendly soul who drew to him friends from every section of the community.
Peace to him!

The Sunday Times [Perth], Sunday 7 April 1940: 1


A Returned Man Reminisces

The almost unbelievable changes that have been wrought In England, industrially, socially, architecturally and generally, cannot be better explained and exemplified than with a chat with the just-returned Billy Clare.
Always of a keen, observant nature, during his last stay in England he travelled extensively all over the country, seeing with a mind broadened by long travel and experiences in other countries, the kaleidoscope ot the Mother Country as few others would be able to do.
One of the first and most prominent thoughts expressed by him is the fact that Australia, and particularly Western Australia, has good cause and reasons to be proud of its newspapers. England, once the home of the sober and solid newspaper of the type of 30 years ago, the London 'Times,' the 'Manchester Guardian,' the 'Daily Telegraph.' 'Post,' 'Standard' and a dozen others that stood four-square for high ideals In journalism and politics, has few remaining that have not descended to the Yellow or, Screaming Press. The exceptions are, of course, the 'Times' and a few others, but a visitor to London especially is appalled by the cheap and shoddy ways and means of boosting circulation in ways that a few decades ago would have been laughed off the streets and newspaper stands. Does Bradman get out cheaply, a flock of news-gulls inkily scream lt from the steeples. Does favorite race moke fail to win the 'Two Thirty' or some other country cum suburban flutter, a score of printed sheets flame it from kerb and placard, from board to poster and from blazing sky-sign to captive balloon. Trifles such as would have been the tit-bit of puny kerbstone rags a few years ago. are sent smoking hot off the presses of papers owned by millionaires, and while tennis results wipe European politics off the journalistic map, the scandal of someiIneffable Hollywood hero and vaudeville doll shout down the real reliable news of its soberer rivals. Even the good old reliable murders of aforetime are second to jazz-andcocktail corroborees and football finishes, the space alloted when Australia ls ahead in a Test being equal to that one time given to a poodle show.
The city, i.e., the Stock Exchange, Throgmorton-avenue, the Bank and Mansion House, are now thronged with hordes of pale youths, clamoring for the latest from Goodwood. Newmarket, Elstree and the Wimbledon courts. Where of old staid stockbrokers met and discussed British bonds, big company issues, thousands speak and seem to think of nothing but the raids on night clubs, s.p. joints, stage divorces and ballet-girl elopements. Somewhere in dull-looking, quiet banks, offices, and clearing houses, staid and sober men. bankers, merchants, finance experts and political chiefs care for the welfare of the nation. The rest seems tinsel and effervescences. Hundreds of society women carry one or more poodle.
Away out in the far suburbs and country, strong, healthy women still bear children.

The Sunday Times [Perth] 15 July 1934


That grand old newspaperman, Billy Clare who died last night, was once mistaken for Mark Twain.
There was a striking likeness to Mark Twain and once he was cheered when he attended a smoke social at the Savage Club, at which the famous author was also due.
When Mark Twain was introduced to Mr. Clair [sic], he remarked: 'That old saying, 'Never the twain shall meet.' is all wrong.

The Mirror [Perth] Saturday 6 April 1940: 8


Billy Clare's Experience

Mr. "Billy" Clare, the well-known newspaper proprietor, who returned from a holiday tour last week, relates an incident which occurred when he visited a town tn North Wales. In stature and appearance Mr. Clare is not unlike Mr. Lloyd George, and at the Welsh town he was accosted by an aggressive-looking stranger, who inquired if he was the "little Welshman." When he (Billy C.) gave an assurance that he was not that famous personality, the stranger told him it was just as well, as he would not have been alive from that moment.

The Sunday Times [Perth] 15 October 1933

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