Fremantle Stuff > Hitchcock's History
By J.K. HITCHCOCK
History of the Harbour
By J. W. B. STEVENS
Published by authority of FREMANTLE CITY COUNCIL 
[Page 2 has a photograph of Admiral Charles Fremantle.
Page 3 has a letter from Admiral E.R. Fremantle, Charles's nephew.
Page 4 has a photo of Frank Gibson who was mayor 1920-23, 1927-29, and therefore at the time of the publication of the book.]
The committee entrusted with the task of publishing the History of Fremantle have been compelled to reject much valuable material through lack of space. An obvious difficulty in the path of the historian of this period arises from the nature of the subject, embracing as it does such a variety of independent - not to say incongruous - topics, that it is no easy matter to preserve anything like unity of interest in the story.
We are not sufficiently far away from the period of the narrative to secure the historian from the charge of undue prejudice or partiality. Yet Mr. Hitchcock is deserving of much commendation for the sobriety of his judgments, and for the skill he has shown in arranging his complicated story. With unwearied assiduity he devoted himself to the examination of many manuscripts, and became possessed of such a collection of authentic materials for the narrative, that the reader will be brought into a sort of personal acquaintance with events recorded. To the eye of the critic, there may seem some incongruity in a plan which combines objects so dissimilar as those embraced by the present History. The philosophical and biographical sides perhaps match indifferently the historical factors of the work, but without this mixture the narrative would lose much of its charm, and the personal touch which is one of its most pleasing features.
To Mr. Stevens also, the Committee desire to express grateful thanks. His handling of the Fremantle Harbour section is masterly, and the wealth of information provided adds greatly to the value of the narrative.
To those others who have assisted, viz., J. J. Mahood, G. L. Sutton, F. Hollis and M. J. L. Uren, the Committee recognise their indebtedness.
Fremantle: THE S. H. LAMB PRINTING HOUSE 1929
[Page 6 has a photograph of the Town Hall.]
From the readers of these memoirs the writer asks an indulgent hearing; firstly, because he is fully aware of their literary demerits, and secondly, because of the indifferent state of his health during most of the time that he was engaged in their preparation.
It was with considerable diffidence that he undertook the task of compiling a ”History of Fremantle,” because he recognised that there were others far better qualified to do justice to the theme.
Although the writer has lived through three-fourths of the period covered by this ”History of Fremantle,” and most of the facts herein recorded are matters of personal recollection, there are episodes and facts that had to be gleaned from various sources. It is fitting that the authorities consulted should be acknowledged. Condensed in some cases, and amplified in others, the information afforded by the following has been availed of:- Kimberley's ”History of Western Australia,” ”Twentieth Century Impressions of Western Australia,” Dr. Battye's ”History of Western Australia,” the Official Year Book of Western Australia, newspaper contributions by Mr. Julien Strong, many records of his father's work in the colony possessed by Mr. H. Flindell, the Fremantle number of the ”Western Mail,” and information supplied by Messrs. Foxworthy, Plint and Raymond - Secretaries, respectively, of the Fremantle Building Society, Chamber of Commerce, and Literary Institute.
The account of the wreck of the Rockingham was first related to the writer in 1873 by the late T. W. Mews, Senr., who then resided in Henry Street, and who was one of the passengers on that ill-fated vessel. His narrative agreed substantially with an article that appeared some years ago in the ”Fremantle Herald,” and the particulars therein given have been quoted in a condensed form.
In conclusion, the author trusts that his efforts will at least result in dissipating some of the mist that surrounds the hazy past - a mist which would have been less dense if early residents, who once possessed old diaries and letters, had realised how greatly such mementoes of the past would have been prized by future generations, had taken pains to preserve them.
J.K.H. STATE CENTENARY YEAR
District Members of Parliament
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:
Mr. J. CURTIN.
Fremantle: Mr. J. B. SLEEMAN.
South Fremantle: Mr. ALEX McCALLUM (Minister for Works)
North-East Fremantle: Mr. FRANK ROWE.
West Province: Mr. W. H. KITSON (Honorary Minister).
Mr. E. H. GRAY.
Mr. G. FRASER.
Captain Fremantle's Arrival - Foundation Day Events - Pioneers' Privations - Early Chroniclers' Impressions - The Years that Followed.
The succession of events that might be said to constitute a modest history of Fremantle has not been without romantic interludes. Little incidents though they might have been, they lived in the memory of the oldest residents and were recounted to later arrivals with evident pride. Volumes could be filled with the narratives of the pioneers, but in this retrospect it is proposed to record only the most important points in the story of the growth and progress of the town and the port.
There is romance for those who seek it in the rapid growth that followed the gold discoveries of the early nineties, and there was romance in the dreamy town which for more than sixty years before that decade slumbered peacefully by the placid waters of the Indian Ocean,”the world forgetting and by the world forgot."
There are few in Fremantle to-day who could recall the town of fifty years ago. So strong was the infusion of new blood during the early years of the gold rush, and so many of the pioneers have passed away, that, to those who remain, the town of those bygone days belonged to a different age as it belonged to a different century.
It is natural enough that little of the old town has survived. There would be little of it that would be tolerated to-day, and it is scarcely a matter for regret that the new has almost obliterated the old. For many, however, it is not a matter for great rejoicing to see ancient landmarks disappear under the juggernaut of progress.
As is generally known, Fremantle derived its name from Captain Charles H. Fremantle, of H.M.S. Challenger, which anchored off Garden Island on April 25, 1829, three years after Major Lockyer had founded the settlement at Albany. Captain Fremantle landed on Arthur's Head, and on May 2 took formal possession in the name of His Majesty King George IV. The exact spot where he landed was indicated in a despatch to the Admiralty dated October 8, 1829, wherein he said that:-
"The landing took place in a little bay close to the mouth of the river, to the southward of it, being the only landing in that neighbourhood where boats could go with security, the bar at the entrance of the river generally being impassable.”
No doubt that little bay would have been the indentation in the shore between Arthur's Head and the little promontory (Anglesea Point) from which the Long Jetty was later constructed. The landing would have been made somewhere near the western end where later a tunnel was made through the rocky head, and it was there that the first jetty was situated.
Foundation Day has always been observed on June 1, although it was on June 2, 1829, that Captain James Stirling, with Surveyor-General Roe and the first contingent of 68 settlers, arrived at Fremantle in the transport Parmelia. The Parmelia grounded on a bank that still bears her name, but was floated off the next day and the Governor and his fellow settlers landed on Garden Island. On June 18 Lieutenant-Governor Stirling landed on Rous Head, and it was from there that his first proclamation annexing the colony to the British Empire was made. A detachment of the 63rd Regiment from H.M.S. Sulphur had landed the previous day to be in readiness for the ceremony.
In the possession of a member of the Historical Society of Western Australia is a picture depicting the landing, painted from a sketch made on the spot by Jane Eliza Currie, the wife of Captain Mark John Currie, who was present at the function.
The first arrivals suffered many hardships amid heart-breaking surroundings. It was chronicled that:-
"When Fremantle was first occupied, the land was separated from Arthur's Head by a chain of pools, and the all-pervading sandiness of the long stretch of low-lying coast reduced the ardour of the bravest of the pioneer band. They arrived in the depth of winter; few or no tents had been provided for their accommodation, and no sort of cover had been prepared on shore. The weather, even for winter, being unusually severe, the unfortunate women and children were exposed to the most harassing privations and had frequently to sleep under umbrellas as the only covering from the deluges of driving rain that swept up from the Indian Ocean. Champagne cases, pianos and even carriages were later used in improvising temporary dwellings. Only with the greatest difficulty could those unfortunate people, unused as they were to rough colonial life, light fires for cooking purposes.”(In those days lucifer matches were unknown.)
The settlers appeared to have faced the situation with courage and determination, for in January, 1833, a visitor from Van Dieman's Land thus recorded his impressions of the infant town:-
“Fremantle's appearance is certainly a bed of sand, but in most parts of the townsite, upon several allotments, is found a
vein of sandstone about two feet from the surface, sufficient in quantity to build a cottage on each and to wall the land. I was astounded - as, doubtless, all those who visited that settlement have been - that the same bed of sand will produce vegetables such as cabbages, carrots, turnips, onions, potatoes, and peas, than which nothing could be finer. There is scarcely an allotment in Fremantle fenced in and inhabited that has not a well of excellent fresh water."
In his diary (1834), George Fletcher Moore gave a less flattering description of the town, which, he said, was
"a bare, barren-looking district, the shrubs cut for firewood, the herbage trodden bare, a few wooden houses among ragged-looking tents and contrivances for habitation, one poor hotel and one poor public house into which everyone crowded. The colonists are a cheerless, dissatisfied people with gloomy looks, who plod through sand from hut to hut to drink grog and grumble out their discontent to each other."
Moore must have been in a cynical mood when he wrote in that strain, because the subsequent progress of the town proved that the pioneers, who laid its foundations, were anything but the drunken lot of grumblers he made them out to be.
By 1842 the town was well laid out and contained two hotels, Government buildings and three or four stores. The landing place was at the western end of the tunnel which had been pierced through Arthur's Head to connect High Street with the then existing jetty. From then until after the arrival of the first batch of convicts in 1850, apparently the town did not make very rapid progress, for a writer of that period wrote that-
“Fremantle was a small, insignificant place, scarce worthy of the name of town."
Apparently High Street had a few respectable-looking houses as well as one or two hotels of fair proportions, but what is now the centre of the town had only a few stringy-bark cottages dotted here and there. The writer said that
“It was indeed a dismal spot. North and south, as far as the eye could see, there was nothing but miserable sand covered by stunted bushes."
The institution of the convict system inspired the struggling settlers with fresh courage and gave a great impetus to Fremantle. Later a serious setback was experienced by the exodus of a number of desirable colonists who were attracted to the newly-discovered Victorian goldfields. The discovery of gold in Western Australia resulted in the return of many who had been attracted to Victoria, and with them came thousands of new settlers eager to make their fortunes on the Golden Mile. Some attained that ambition, but the majority gained
[Page 12 shows a photo of the Round House in 1831 - with the left hand steps still in existence and the right hand flight closed.]
little money from their prospecting; many established businesses in Fremantle, Perth and the new settled districts. Fremantle's share of those boom days was a large one, and the ”Roaring Nineties,” as they were called, ushered in a period of prosperity for the town. That prosperity was interfered with by the removal of the railway workshops from Fremantle to Midland Junction, and from 1901 to 1911 business in Fremantle was in the doldrums. A recovery was delayed by the economic results of the Great War, but when the world's markets again became dependable, Fremantle began to take on the guise of a huge warehouse for the stowage of the State's primary products for export and the merchandise brought from other countries and other States for consumption within Western Australia. In that guise the town has again found prosperity.
Parmelia's Pioneers - Colony's First Babies - First Town Allotments Sold - Distinguished Early Settlers - Shipping Arrivals - Peel's Expedition.
To reflect the true nature of the progress of the town, the growth through the years should be set down chronologically, and, so far as possible, without destroying the continuity of the relation of certain events, that has been done in the pages that follow.
The transport Parmelia arrived at Fremantle on June 2, 1829, and as a matter of historical interest the official list of passengers is given hereunder, the ages of junior members being shown in parentheses:-
Captain Stirling, R.N. (Lieutenant-Governor), Mrs. Ellen Stirling and William and Andrew (3) Stirling; P. Broun (Colonial Secretary), Mrs. Caroline Broun and MacBride (2) and Ann (6 months) Broun; Commander M. J. Currie, R.N. (Harbour Master), Mrs. Jane Currie; John S. Roe (Surveyor-General) and Mrs. Matilda Roe; H. C. Sutherland (assistant surveyor) and Mrs. Ann Sutherland; W. Shilton (clerk to the Colonial Secretary); Charles Simmons (surgeon); Tully Daly (assistant surgeon); Mrs. Jane Daly and Jessie Jane (8), Joseph T. (6), Henry John (4), Edward N. (2) and Elize Rose (2 months) Daly; Alex. Fandam (cooper) and Mrs. Mary Fan-
[Page 14 has a photo of Lionel Samson, 18289, and some sort of representation of John Bateman, 1830.]
dam; William Hoking (artificer), Mrs. Mary Hoking and John (14), William (12), Mary (10), Thomas (8), David (6), and Charles (2) Hoking; James Morgan (storekeeper), Mrs. Rebecca Morgan and Rebecca Morgan (12); James Drummond (agriculturist), Mrs. Sarah Drummond and Thomas (18), Jane (16), James (15), John (13), Johnson (9) and Euphemia (3) Drummond; Thomas Davis (smith), Mrs. Catherina Davis and John (3), Charlotte (2) Davis; James C. Smith (boatbuilder) and Mrs. Sarah Smith; George Mangles; George Eliot; Thomas Blakey and Mrs. Sarah Blakey; John Kelly and Mrs. Elizabeth Kelly; James Morgan (11); Richard Evans; Margaret McLeod; Mary Ann Smith; Ann Shipsey; Patrick Murphy; Frederick Ludlow and Mrs. Mildred Kitts Ludlow; Jane Fruit; Charles D. Wright; Elizabeth Gamble and James Elliott.
It has frequently been claimed that the birth of the first white child, a daughter of Surveyor-General Roe, took place on Christmas Day, 1829, but there are authentic records of four births in Fremantle prior to that date. Because they were the first babies in the colony, they are recorded hereunder:-
On June 10, 1829 - Joseph, the son of John and Jane Mitchell.
On October 26 -Thomas, the son of Joseph and Eliza Cox.
On November 7 - John Fremantle, the, son of John and Sarah Purkis.
On November 15 - John, the son of Owen and Margaret Jones. Mitchell, Cox and Jones were seamen serving on H.M.S. Sulphur.
During 1829, twenty-one vessels arrived at Fremantle, and as the vessels that arrived during that and the following year may be said to have brought the ”Pilgrim Fathers” to our shores, the list is given below. The tonnages of the visiting craft are shown in parentheses and the number of passengers, if any, thereafter:-
April 25 - H.M.S. Challenger; June 2 - Parmelia (443), 69; June 8 - H.M.S. Sulphur, with a detachment of 63rd Regiment; August 5 - Calista (316), 73; August 6 - St. Leonard (362); August 23 - Marquis of Anglesea (351) 104; September 20 - Thomson (266); September 22 - Amity (175); October 5 - Georgina (403); October 6 - Lotus (397), 60; October 9 - Euphemina (288), 12; October 12 - Orelia (382), 11; Caroline (329), 66; Cumberland (444), 4; October 17 - Governor Phillips; October 19 - Atwick (341), 72; October 22 - Admiral Gifford (43); November 11 - Lion (275); November 14 - Dragon (134); December 15 - Gilmore (500), 182; and H.M.S. Success.
On September 5 the sale of the first town allotments took place, the buyers being W. Lamb, J. Hobbs, L. Samson and T. Bannister. A few
months later John Bateman purchased another allotment. Of those names two - Samson and Bateman - are still prominent in the town and they were the founders of the two oldest established commercial houses in the State. The firm of L. Samson & Son was established in 1829, its founder, Lionel Samson, having arrived in the colony that year by the Calista. The business has enjoyed a continuity of existence from its foundation up to the present time, and the spirit merchants' licence taken out at its inception has remained in force from that day to this. Associated with its earlier fortunes was Alexander Francisco, the maternal grandfather of Sir Walter James, K.C. Later Francisco conducted a wine and spirit merchant's business on his own account and held the position of postmaster. The pioneer storekeepers at Fremantle were Messrs. Leake, Samson and McDermott.
Although the firm of J. and W. Bateman was not established under its present name until 1860, its genesis dates back to 1830, when John Bateman, the great-grandfather of the present principals of the firm, arrived from England by the Medina and founded a business which is now in the front rank of commercial houses and which has played its part in the development of the State.
Among the passengers on the ship Gilmore, which arrived in 1829, was Captain Armstrong, a Waterloo veteran, whose wife was a daughter of Neil Gow, the celebrated Scottish violinist and composer. Whether the mantle of the famous musician has fallen upon any of his numerous descendants in Western Australia, has yet to be demonstrated, but certainly the military instinct that distinguished Armstrong who fought under Wellington, seems to have been transmitted to succeeding generations, for it is said that the names of no fewer than fifty of the clan are recorded upon various rolls of honour throughout the State.
In February, 1830, the colony's first newspaper, the ”Fremantle Journal,” was issued. It was hand-written and was sold at 3/6 a copy. An original of one of the issues is in the possession of Dr. J. K. Couch, of Perth.
In May and June of that year severe storms caused much loss and discomfort to the settlers.
In December a native was shot and killed while robbing Butler's garden at Melville. A few days later the blacks killed Butler's servant, a man named Entiwistle.
The following vessels arrived at the port during the year, tonnages being shown in parentheses and passengers, if any, thereafter:-
January 9 - Nancy (382), 68, and Norfolk (536), with a detachment of the 30th Regiment; January 15 - Leda (188), 3; January 17 - Skerne (121), 12, and H.M.S. Cruizer; January 20 - Minstrel (351), 46; Parmelia (443) from Java, and Industry
(87); January 25 - Eagle (107), 19; January 28 - Lady of the Lake (243), 6; January 30 - Wanstead (364), 88, and Tranby (264), 39; February 12 - Hooghly (465), 116; February 13 - Egyptian (359), 78; February 16 -Thomson (266), and Thames (366); February 26 - Protector (383), 64; March 12 - Warrior (478), 106; March 15 - Emily Taylor (207), 5, and Prince Regent (527); March 18 - Emelia and Ellen (83), 9; March 31- Bussorah Merchant (53), 7; April 30 - James Pattison (510), with soldiers from India; May 6 - Brittania (190), 38; May 8 - Bombay (315), 16; James (196), 70, and Eliza (391), 3; May 14 - Rockingham (423), 175; May 19 - Orelia (382) and William (337), 8; July 6 - Medina (467), 52; July 16 - Skerne (121); August 24 - Edward Loomb (347), 21, and H.M.S. Comet; September 22 - Thistle (57), 1; November 12 - Orelia (382), 3; November 29 - Faith (135); December 28 -Nimrod (231), 1.
The passengers on the Rockingham came out under the auspices of the Colonisation Company promoted by Thomas Peel to form a settlement in the new dependency.
Ill-fortune attended the venture from the start. Outside the mouth of the Thames the ship parted her anchor and drifted onto the dreaded Goodwin Sands. At the rise of the tide the vessel was extricated from her perilous position without injury, but in the Channel a furious gale denuded her of every stitch of canvas. For a while the ship was in considerable danger, but she rode out the gale in safety and, in a dilapidated condition, managed to make Falmouth Harbour. There she was refitted, and after a fortnight's delay, proceeded on her voyage, which was uneventful. When she dropped anchor off Garden Island, the master was confronted with the problem of the navigation of the line of islands and uncharted reefs that intervened between the vessel and the shore. The captain was afraid to attempt any of the passages through the reef in the absence of any definite information concerning soundings, but ultimately a man-o-war's boat came from the mainland and a naval officer took the ship safely in, and the Rockingham, in May, dropped anchor off Clarence about 13 miles south of Fremantle.
As the vessel lay at anchor the elements rose in fury against her, and Peel chose that inopportune time to commence the work of disembarkation. He ordered all the single men to proceed to Garden Island, and they were placed in four of the ship's boats. The boats' crews tried to make the island, but the gale was blowing so hard in-shore that they were carried to the mainland beach. Most of the boats overturned in the surf, but the occupants reached land in safety. The ship fared no better than the boats, and was cast onto the beach broadside on. As she struck, the quarter boat, which was drifting by, was secured and by that means an attempt was made to land the married men and their families.
[Page 18 has a photo of Thomas Mews at Lot 59 Henry St - but a different one from that on my Mews page. The caption reads THE FIRST POST OFFICE.]
Whipped by the wind, the breakers dashed themselves upon the beach with terrific force and it was an anxious moment for all when the quarter boat overturned in the breakers and scattered its human freight in the surf. A rush was made by the single men on shore to assist the struggling men and women in the water, and all the voyagers were brought safely to shore. The beach offered no shelter to the castaways and no stores or provisions had been brought ashore.
A scanty supply of food was later obtained from the ship's stores, but those rations were soon exhausted and a period of semi-starvation followed. A wooden house, that had been thrown overboard from the ship during the storm, was secured and erected to accommodate some of the stranded migrants. The remainder had to find cover at night as best they could, and many slept in old casks or under other extemporised shelters. They remained at Clarence for about a year waiting patiently for Peel to fulfill his contract to place them on the land, but when winter came the weaker among those who had not moved away, died from exposure and the lack of the bare necessities of life.
Learning of the wretched plight of the Rockingham's passengers, Governor Stirling invited them to Perth, and most of the survivors accepted the invitation. With the tools they had brought for use in the new settlement they built boats to enable them to reach the capital to which, at that time, there was no road from Clarence. Having found their way to Perth, the survivors were absorbed in the population of the colony, and thus ended the abortive attempt to found an agricultural settlement under the auspices of Peel.
Deserted by his party, Peel lived for many years in solitary indigence on his huge but unproductive estate, and he died almost a pauper. His last resting place was in the little cemetery at Mandurah.
Among those who arrived by the Rockingham, which may be regarded as the Mayflower of Western Australia, were the heads of many families whose names and their descendants are well known to-day in all parts of the States, including, among others, the following: Edwards, Padbury, Mews, Glyde, Tuckey, Adams, Read, Stirling and Leeder.
[Page 20 has a drawing (?) of Daniel Scott and a photograph of Edmund Stirling, 1832.]
Colony's First Press - Public Buildings Constructed - Postal Department Established - Arthur's Head Tunnel Made - Town Allotments Sold - Early Evangelists - Loss of the ”Green" - Colony's First Exports - Parkhurst Reformatory Boys.
The town's babyhood days were full of trials for the settlers, and, from the perspective of generations later, those trials - then a workaday experience - are reflected in the truer light of the tribulations of pioneers who did their share towards the establishment of a portion of the British Empire.
In the pre-convict era the settlers had to depend entirely upon their own strong arms for the labour necessary to keep themselves and for the erection of public institutions, and when consideration is given to what was accomplished by a handful of people, a feeling is engendered that the civic and social senses were stronger in our ancestors than in their descendants.
To the outer world the town was hardly known in 1831, when twenty-seven vessels arrived from overseas, but that year there were signs of growth when a township called Kingstown was laid open for selection at Rottnest. Lots were sold to R. M. Lyon, C. Northcott, and D. Scott, and subsequently to others (see Appendix ”A"), but the town never advanced beyond the paper stage.
A monthly service of boats between Fremantle and Guildford was established, as no roads worthy of the name were in existence then. A canal was cut through Point Walter spit, and that shortened the distance between Perth and Fremantle by about two miles. The canal was allowed to silt up, and consequently the wayside inn that catered for the boats' crews and passengers traversing the river was abandoned, as Point Walter ceased to be a stopping place. Traces of that old halfway house near the water's edge may still be seen a few yards west of the jetty.
In December the colony's first printing press was landed from Van Diemen's Land, and from it was issued the ”Fremantle Observer,” the first issues of which were printed by Charles Macfaull and W. K.
Shenton. That little press and a copy of the paper may be seen to-day in the Perth Museum. Its history has been concisely expressed by Edmund Stirling, who subsequently owned it.
The libel that was the cause of the colony's only duel was printed on that press. The duel was fought in 1831 on the south bank of the river to the west of the present traffic bridge, the combatants being a Scotch lawyer named Clark and a merchant named Johnstone. The latter was fatally wounded and Clark was committed for trial, but acquitted, duelling being a venial offence in those days. The pair of duelling pistols used in the encounter are now in the police museum, in Perth.
The first locally-grown wheat was ground into flour in Colonel Latour's horse flour mill, which was situated on the corner of Market Street and Bay Street, during 1831. (See ”Industries.")
It was in the same year that the Round House on Arthur's Head, commonly known as Gaol Hill, was built. That is the oldest building in the State, and it was said that within its enclosure was the spot where Captain Fremantle hoisted the British flag on May 2, 1829. It seems more probable, however, that Captain Fremantle would have selected for that purpose the highest point on Arthur's Head, which would have been where the first lighthouse was afterwards erected. Until 1849 the stocks stood outside the Round House, but those ancient instruments of correction were then fast falling into disuse and soon afterwards were abolished.
Prior to the colony becoming a penal settlement, minor offenders against the law were incarcerated in the Round House, but those convicted of more serious crimes were transported to Tasmania. Afterwards the Round House was used as a lock-up. The old police station and constables' quarters were situated on each side of High Street near the tunnel.
The first recognised cemetery, the old burying ground in Alma Street, was opened in 1831, and was in use for over twenty years. After the opening of a cemetery in Skinner Street, the only interments permitted in Alma Street were those of persons who had near relatives buried there.
The first grave to be marked by a headstone in Alma Street appeared to have been that of Mrs. Mary Ann Morrell, the wife of John Morrell, who died on October 8, 1832.
During 1832, thirteen vessels arrived at Fremantle, and that year saw the planting of the first vineyard in the colony. The vines were planted at Hamilton Hill by Charles Macfaull and Edmund Stirling, who obtained them from the Cape of Good Hope.
Twenty-one vessels arrived during 1833.
In that year two brothers named Velvic were murdered by natives between Bullscreek and Bannister Lagoon. Midgegoroo, one of the leaders of the tribe, was afterwards taken and shot on the spot where the Perth Deanery now stands.
The colony' s first horse-race was held on South Beach on October 2, 1833. Captain Taylor, of the Helen, who imported some Timor ponies, and C. Smith and J. Weevil were the organisers. The races were reported in the ”Perth Gazette” of those days as follows:-
”The first race was for ponies, the stake being a subscription purse of five sovereigns and the starters were Captain McDermott's Dandy, Captain Taylor's Doctor and Teaser, Leeder's Bob, Solomon's Tinker, and Samson's strangely-named More in Sorrow Than in Anger. The first heat was contested between Dandy and Tinker. Within a few yards of the winning post, Tinker's rider, Master Butler, whether with the intention of jockeying or from accident we will not pretend to determine, cleverly sidled his antagonist off the course. In the second heat Dandy's rider retaliated and Tinker bolted at the start, Dandy coming in without any competition. The third heat was well contested between Tinker and Dandy, the latter winning. In the second race there were two starters: George Leake's Jack and Samson's black mare. Jack won. In the third event there were three starters: Captain Erskine's Perouse, S. G. Henty's Jack, and Scott's Grey. The latter beat Jack after a good race, Perouse bolting off the course. The fourth and last race was for ponies, and the stake was three sovereigns. Five ponies were entered, but most of them preferring the branch roads soon after the start, the run was more amusing than edifying.”
In 1834 a Postal Department was established. Mails between Perth and Fremantle were carried by a runner whose remuneration was £1 per week. The road between the two centres was then a mere bush track through sand, as the river afforded a better and cheaper means of transit for both goods and passengers.
That year was also notable for the fact that wool was exported from the colony for the first time, some 7,385 pounds being sent to England.
On August 8, 1834, Captain James McDermott, one of Fremantle's first merchants and landowners, was drowned when his vessel, the Cumberland, was wrecked in Mangle's Bay. Captain McDermott, an Englishman of Irish descent, was an officer of the East India Company until 1829, when he arrived in Fremantle in his own vessel. He established a business on Marine Terrace between Henry Street and Collie Street. Later the premises were acquired by the Government and used as Fremantle's first Customs House. A wooden residence for the Collector was added to the original buildings. J. Munro McDermott, of Northam, who is a great-grandson of Captain McDermott, has some of the cabin furniture of the Cumberland and a log book in which sales of provisions to H.M.S. Challenger in 1829 were recorded.
On January 31, 1835, John Bateman was appointed as the first
[Page 24 has a photo entitled HIGH STREET IN 1840.]
postmaster at Fremantle. The first post office was in a little vine-clad cottage that stood well back from the street on lot 59 in Henry Street. Some idea of the smallness of the business transacted may be gleaned from the fact that the address and date of receipt and delivery of every letter posted was recorded in a book. Imagine that being done nowadays!
In May of the following year, the first locally-built sea-going vessel was launched at Fremantle. She was named the Lady Stirling, but was not identical with the paddle steamer of the same name that plied between Perth and Fremantle from 1857 until the late seventies.
The excavation of the tunnel under Arthur's Head was commenced in 1837. It has often been erroneously stated that the tunnel was the work of convicts, but it was completed long before the first batch of convicts arrived, as was also the Round House that stands immediately above it. Another tradition is that the tunnel was cut by whalers to facilitate the transport of barrels of oil, but it is extremely unlikely that the whalers would have carried out such a costly work on Crown property. The more probable story is that the work was done by a detachment of sappers and miners who were stationed at Fremantle at that time, as it was a necessary public undertaking in order to connect the town with the only jetty then existing.
In 1837 the Fremantle Whaling Company, which had been established the previous year, began operations by capturing a whale off Carnac. Long before that American whalers were frequent visitors to those waters and reaped a rich harvest. The day of kerosene had not then dawned and the odoriferous whale-oil in the old-fashioned chimneyless and smoky lamps was the only illuminant except candles. In those days whales frequently came into Fremantle Harbour at certain periods of the year, and for many years whaling was a staple local industry. Probably the industry reached its zenith in the fifties and sixties. The rival crews then were those of John Bateman and Joshua J. Harwood, and when whales were sighted the boats of the two firms were manned immediately, while the townspeople congregated at various vantage points to watch the race for the prizes to be won. During the whaling season the natives came to Fremantle in hordes and feasted to satiety on the scraps after the oil had been boiled from the blubber.
The whalers' storehouses were cut out of the rocky cliffs south of the tunnel, and there were their ranges of furnaces and try-pots. Their long, sharp boats were always kept ready for instant action with oars, harpoons, baskets of coiled line, lances and muffled rowlocks conveying an idea of the energy and activity of the whaling parties in their palm days.
In 1848 the Fremantle Whaling Company ceased operations and the assets were taken over by Patrick Marmion, who continued the business.
Between 1829 and 1837, Crown grants were issued for Fremantle
[Page 26 has photos of John Thomas, 1830, and Joshua J. Harwood, 1835.]
Town Allotments and the names of the purchasers are shown in Appendix 1. The fact that so many of the first comers became landowners indicated that they had confidence in the future progress of the settlement, but a number of the allotments were abandoned by the original owners who left the colony, and for other reasons. Those allotments fell into other hands and those who ”jumped” them eventually obtained valid titles by virtue of adverse possession for a statutory period that at first was 21 years, but was afterwards reduced to twelve years. Among such abandoned holdings was the area comprising Richmond (110 acres), the corner on which the Union Stores now stands, allotments on the corner of Norfolk Street and Marine Terrace, and allotments in Mouatt Street, Short Street, Victoria Road and the corner of Queen Street and High Street. In the fifties the greater part of North Fremantle east of where the railway bridge now stands was granted free to Colonel Bruce and members of the enrolled pensioner force, the land to the west having been previously taken up by William Pearse, who kept a dairy in that locality.
Early in 1838 the native prison at Rottnest was established and Henry Vincent was appointed as the first superintendent.
The first temperance society in the colony was established in Fremantle during the following year.
Early in January, 1840, the ship Shepherd left for London with the first shipment of the colony's produce.
Later in the same year the foundation stone of the old Wesley Church in Cantonment Street was laid by Governor Hutt. The building was enlarged in 1896, but was demolished in 1929.
The Rev. George King, LL.D., the first Anglican minister in Fremantle, was appointed in 1841. He proved an earnest and enthusiastic worker, and for eight years ministered most zealously to the spiritual wants of both whites and aboriginals. With but meagre aid from the Government, Mr. King established schools for native children collected in the bush, and besides devoting his time and energies to that object, he conducted services as far afield as 50 miles south and 20 miles east of Fremantle. In 1849 failing health, caused by his arduous labours, compelled him to leave the colony, and upon his departure he was presented by the parishioners with a valedictory address couched in the most affectionate terms.
The signatures to that address embraced the names of so many of Fremantle's earliest residents, whose descendants are now in the town, that they are recorded hereunder:-
F. Scott, Alf. Davies, Harriet and Jane Adams, E. Pace, H. Davies, M. Chidlow, A. Helpman, Lydia Jones, A. and S. Woodward, C. Conway, George Woods, R. M. Worthy, H. Lewis, L. Woods, A. Francisco, Richard Lewis, Martha Cox, Charlotte Francisco,
M. A. Harding, John Spencer, Lydia Bell, S. E. Harding, Sarah Spencer, William Duffield, E. Bateman, J. P. Dempster, C. E. Scott, M. A. Bateman, Susan Pearse, M. A. M. Worthy, J. Bateman, George Woods, A. E. Dempster, S. Taylor, J. R. Pingelly, Ellen Le Messurier, O. Lodge, M. A. Pingelly, William Owen, M. A. Scott, J. R. Pingelly, Jnr., Adelaide Owen, Walter Bateman, E. and Mrs. Pingelly, Ann Sainsbury, Sarah Woodward, Arthur Pingelly, John Sainsbury, E. Wood, Ella Pingelly, William Pearse, D. Agett, E. Duffield, Caroline Duffield, Mary Ann Agett, Ann Hodges, G. R. Mitcheson, M. A. Lodge, Eliza Sloane, Mrs. Mitcheson, John Bateman, J. Hankerson, M. A. Bobin, John Davis, E. Hankerson, Joseph Bobin, Eleanor F. Davis, John Thomas, John Wellard, C. F. A. Thomson, Elizabeth Thomas, George Bell, Horace Thomson, Elizabeth Adams, Clara Duffield, Caroline Adams.
The foundation of the old lighthouse at Rottnest was laid on January 21, 1842. At that time, and for many years after, Captain Edward Back, progenitor of the Back clan at Fremantle, was in charge of the pilot station at Rottnest. He came of an old seafaring stock and was related to Admiral Sir George Back, the Arctic explorer. After his retirement from the pilot service, Captain Back frequently acted as nominal master of vessels, whose actual masters were unable to comply with the conditions under which no ship could clear the port unless her master held a certificate of competency.
On April 6 of the same year the foundation stone of the old St. John's Anglican Church was laid by Governor Hutt. That church stood in the centre of King's Square, which comprised the block of land bounded on the south and west by Newman Street and William Street, and on the north and east by Adelaide Street and Queen Street, the site of the old church being that portion of the existing High Street which lies between the present church and the Town Hall Chambers. The High Street of that day, therefore, had a church at one end and a gaol at the other.
The mystery of how the church acquired possession of King's Square was a subject of much controversy in bygone times. Both King's and Queen's Squares were originally set apart as breathing spaces for the people, but somehow it came about that a church was built in the centre of the former. Eventually it was decided to bisect both squares and run High Street through them. The Church of England claimed and established ownership over the whole of King's Square, and had to be bought out. When the erection of a new church was contemplated, the town bought from the church all that portion of the square south of the present church enclosure, retaining part of it for the extension of High Street and a site for the Town Hall, and selling the triangular portion east of the Town Hall, on which shops were later built.
The town suffered a similar loss of territory in connection with the Park, which originally included the land on which the old Lunatic Asylum (now the Old Women' s Home) was built, and from thence to Quarry Street, the land between Quarry Street and the present park area being sold to private people and built upon.
How Fremantle lost its much-prized recreation ground, the ”Green,” may be briefly stated here. In the early days the area between Phillimore Street and the river, extending from Cliff Street to Pakenham Street, was shallow water, the present irregular line of buildings along the south side of Phillimore Street marking what was once the foreshore. The townspeople, by constituting themselves ”working bees,” reclaimed the land and planted it with couch grass, creating the old recreation ground that was known as the ”Green.”The people were naturally very wroth when it was proposed to resume that land for railway purposes , but ultimately they were appeased by being granted £500 for improvements to the Park. Fremantle's first railway station was afterwards built on the reclaimed area. It is now the site of the Customs House, Chamber of Commerce and other buildings, the new railway station having been built at the foot of Market Street.
In 1842 the sailing vessel Simon Taylor arrived from London with 219 immigrants. Among the arrivals on that vessel were four families from one small village in Berkshire. They were Samuel Caporn, his wife and nine children; a family named White, who settled on the Canning and their descendants are now spread over the whole State, and the Hitchcocks, ancestors of the writer of this history.
In 1843 the ship Success was stranded at Fremantle during a gale and was saved only after great difficulty and expense. That ship was purchased in 1852 by the Victorian Government, her crew having deserted her for the goldfields, and was used as a floating prison. Fifty years afterwards she was acquired by Americans and exhibited in the United States and in British ports as a convict show ship. The vessel is now 88 years old and is about to make another voyage to Australia to be converted into a floating museum. That ship was not identical with H.M.S. Success, in which Captain Stirling made his first voyage to the colony.
In the year that the Success stranded, the sailing vessel Shepherd arrived at Fremantle from London with 29 immigrants. She grounded between the Stragglers and Mewstone Rocks, but was lifted clear before much damage was done, and anchored in Gage Roads.
The same year a vessel arrived from Lombok with a cargo of rice, pigs and ducks. The vessel was not allowed to discharge, the Government refusing permission for the sale of the cargo at Fremantle.
In 1843 the population of Fremantle was 387.
In June of the following year the first shipment of horses left Fremantle for India, and in the same year the first execution of a white person took place in Fremantle.
[Page 30 has a representation with this caption: THE FIRST ST. JOHN'S CHURCH IN HIGH STREET. Laying the Foundation Stone of Oddfellows' Hall, 1866. Copyright, Nixon]
The first execution was that of a boy from the Parkhurst Reformatory (see 1848) named John Gavin, who was employed at Pollard's farm at Dandalup. There, on February 21, he murdered George Pollard, aged 18, while he slept. Gavin was tried on April 3 and sentenced to be hanged and suspended in chains. At the trial he confessed his guilt and said the murder was the result of an uncontrollable homicidal impulse. He was hanged three days later, the place of execution being about ten yards to the north of the Round House.
That year some seamen reached Fremantle in an exhausted state, having walked from Jurien Bay, where they had been cast ashore from the American whaler, the Cervantes.
On February 24, 1845, a heavy north-west gale did much damage to buildings and shipping.
Later in the year Fremantle was visited by H.M.S. Driver, the first steamer to enter Gage Roads. The novel sight caused the look-out man to mistake her for a ship on fire.
The first shipment of sandalwood from Fremantle was made in December, 1845, and the export of that commodity has continued up to the present time.
Three vessels, built of jarrah, were launched during 1846. Two were built at Fremantle, and one, capable of carrying 300 tons, at Mandurah.
The first Roman Catholic place of worship in Fremantle was opened that year. The denomination purchased a house situated on lot 67 in Henry Street, and that was converted into a little convent and a room set apart for a chapel. The chapel was served on Sundays by a priest from Perth. There was no resident priest in Fremantle until 1855, when the first Sisters of St. Joseph - four in number - arrived with several missionaries. Soon afterwards the building of a presbytery, chapel and convent was commenced in Adelaide Street and Parry Street. Lay brothers trained in carpentry did much of the work, which was finished in 1859. Since then the convent has been enlarged by the addition of another storey and schools have been built. Recently the old presbytery was demolished and a more ornate structure erected on its site. The old chapel still stands, but has been superseded by a new and imposing edifice built in front of it.
In 1846 the barque Unicorn sailed from Fremantle for the United Kingdom with a cargo of produce valued at £30,000.
In July and August of the following year, heavy rains and floods were experienced, and during that period the first shipment of Abrolhos guano was sent away.
The first Town Trust for Fremantle was gazetted in April, 1848. (See Municipal History.)
[Page 32 has photos of Wallace Bickley MLC and of Charles Manning, in his Freemasons togs.]
In the same year a project to remove the bar at the mouth of the Swan River was strongly opposed by the people of Fremantle, who feared that it might lead to the shipping being taken to Perth. Nevertheless, an unsuccessful attempt to carry out the work was made the following year. It was nearly half a century later before any but small vessels could enter the river.
In September, 1848, the Government schooner Champion returned from the Abrolhos after an unsuccessful quest for treasure supposed to have been buried there in 1727 by the mutineers of the Dutch ship Zeewyck.
Bishop Short arrived from Adelaide on his first pastoral visit to Western Australia in November, 1848, when he consecrated St. John's Church.
Between the years 1842 and 1849, which was before the convict era, about 150 boys were sent to the colony from the Parkhurst Reformatory. Most of them had been guilty merely of some boyish prank that to-day would have earned them only a mild lecture and a caution in the Children' s Court. Having been taught useful trades, the majority of them have been numbered among the best and most estimable of the pioneer colonists. Many of them, in fact, founded families, members of which have played no inconsiderable part in the development of the colony.
First Batch of Convicts - Influence on Colony - Public Works Undertaken - Social Work Active - A Visit from ”Bully” Hayes -Volunteer Forces Organised -Exploring Parties' Experiences - "The Year of the Flood" - Early Journalism - The First Election - Arrival of the Fenians - Transportation Period Ended in 1868.
The most notable event of 1850 was the arrival, on June 1st, of the ship Scindian with the first batch of convicts, the date synchronising with the twenty-first anniversary of the foundation of the colony. In addition to the convicts and military guards with their wives and families there arrived by the Scindian, Captain Henderson, R.E., Comptroller-General of convicts, and a large staff of officials, including [Thomas] Dickson [Dixon], principal overseer, and James Manning, clerk of works. Later a number of tradesmen were brought from South Australia to instruct the convicts in the various trades in which they were to be employed.
As no preparation had been made for the reception of the convicts, the first batches were quartered in premises rented from Captain Daniel Scott, fronting Marine Terrace, Collie Street and Essex Street, extending half-way-up to Essex-lane. The only part now  remaining is used as a warehouse and extends from the Esplanade Hotel to Essex-street.
That temporary prison reverted to Captain Scott when the convicts were transferred to the new prison erected by themselves on the hill. The numerous outbuildings at the rear of the main building were then converted into tenements which, in the course of time, degenerated into mere hovels and what was known as the Old Establishment Yard became the slum quarters of Fremantle in the sixties and seventies, the tenants being mostly ticket-of-leave men and their consorts, the demimonde always to be found in a seaport town.
From 1850 to 1868, in which year transportation ceased, 9,721 convicts were landed at Fremantle. In the convict days a bell was rung at 9.50 p.m., and anyone in the street ten minutes after it ceased ringing who could not give the answer ”Free” to the policeman's challenge of ”Bond or Free?” was promptly escorted to the Round House. At the time of writing that old building seems doomed to demolition. Steps in that direction had been taken when the protestations of those interested in the preservation of relics of a bygone day prevented the intention from being carried out.
As an offset against the influx of the criminal element the convict system was the means of introducing about 2000 persons consisting of military pensioners with their wives and children. A contingent of those time-expired soldiers came out as guards over the prisoners in every convict ship. A large number of them were retained in the enrolled force to guard the convict establishment and others became warders or policemen or entered into other pursuits. Many of them were veterans of the Crimean War and Indian Mutiny, and others were comparatively young men who had been invalided home from India early in their military career. On the whole they were a valuable addition to the population; numbers of them accumulated property, and many of their descendants are to be found occupying prominent positions, both in private and official life.
The erection of the Convict Establishment was commenced in 1851. In that and the following years the Imperial Government carried out by prison labour a number of other works, among them being the Commissariat buildings in Cliff-street, the pensioners' barracks in South Terrace, the warders' quarters in Henderson Street, the Comptroller's residence, known as ”The Knowle” (now part of the hospital), the North Fremantle traffic bridge as originally constructed and numerous other works of public utility, including roads, streets and public buildings. With the exception of the old court-house,
which was demolished to make room for pilots' quarters, all those buildings and the North Fremantle bridge are still standing, and are monuments to the stability of the work done by the convicts.
The convict system is referred to frequently in this history, and it may be well to emphasise that the class of men transported to the colony bore no comparison with the desperadoes who were sent out to New South Wales and Tasmania. Western Australia was made a penal settlement at the request of the settlers in a time of stress and in the agreement made with the British authorities it was expressly stipulated that neither criminals of a reckless or dangerous class should be sent out, nor should any female offenders be transported to the colony. The latter condition was strictly carried out, but a portion of the male prisoners proved not up to specification, and it was from those that the chain gangs were formed and recruited. The majority of the convicts proved sincerely desirous of becoming good colonists and succeeded in doing so. Among them were lawyers, doctors, teachers, ex-bankers, journalists, ex-clergymen, civil engineers, architects, master mariners, accountants and others whose presence in the community tended to elevate rather than lower the moral standard of the people. At one time records existed in the prison of particulars of the crimes for which the convicts were tried and convicted in England. Those particulars, sometimes maliciously amplified, of every ex-convict's crime and punishment at times became public property, but on the inauguration of responsible government all those records were burnt.
Although the colony became a penal settlement on its twenty-first birthday, the first settlers were a class of people far superior, both from a social and moral point of view, to those of the first settlers of any other Australian colony, or perhaps of any colony in the world. They were gentlemen of culture and good position and sons of men of high social standing, but in spite of that the government of the other Australian colonies insisted, up to the early eighties, that passengers from the Swan River settlement must carry a pass certifying that they were not gaol birds. Those passes were furnished by the Customs authorities upon the payment of 1/-. They were of two different wordings, one for ex-convicts, and one for those who had never been confined within prison walls. The pass issued to the man who had completed his sentence read:-
”This certifies that the bearer, John Brown, is not a convict of the Crown in Western Australia.”
The other type of pass read:
”This certifies that the bearer, John Brown, is not, and never has been a convict of the Crown in Western Australia.”
It can be imagined how closely the police in the eastern colonies watched the movements of a visitor from the Swan River settlement from whose pass were omitted the three significant words ”never has been.”
[Page 36 has a photograph with the curious caption THE ONLY JETTY, 1870 - referring to the short jetty, before the Long Jetty was built.]
Singularly enough, South Australia, the only State with an unblemished record, was the first to withdraw that obnoxious requirement. That was done at the instance of Mr. Sandover, Senior, a member of the South Australian Parliament who resented his sons being called upon to prove that they were not convicts every time they returned to their native city from a visit to the western colony.
The Fremantle Literary Institute was established in 1851 under the designation of the Fremantle Mechanic's Institute. It amalgamated with the Working Men's Association in July, 1868, at which time it was housed in a small building at the corner of Cliff-street and Dalgety-street. The librarian at that time was H. W. Young, who had been a solicitor in England. The Institute now has its own splendid property in South Terrace erected on land granted by the Government. The foundation stone was laid by the late Elias Solomon, M.H.R., on March 15, 1899, the certificate of incorporation having been obtained two years previously. Since that time the Institute has steadily progressed. An excellent assortment of magazines and periodicals are available, the Institute is well managed, is financially sound and is an acquisition to the town.
In the same year the New Swan Lodge M.U.I.O. of Oddfellows was formed. The hall built by that institution in William-street was erected in the early sixties, but was demolished a few years ago, having outlived its usefulness as well as its stability. Until the erection of the present Town Hall the Oddfellows' Hall was used for all civic purposes. The Oddfellows were an extremely popular and influential institution in the old days, and their annual procession on August 18, which was followed by a banquet in the evening, was always looked forward to as an event of some importance.
At that time amusements were few and in the long intervals between the visits of professional entertainers, some good amateur dramatic performances were given in the old hall. One of the devices for relieving the monotony of the community was the holding of spelling bees with prizes for the winners. Those orthographical contests were as much in vogue as crossword puzzles are to-day, and it was rather humiliating for a competitor who misspelled a word to have to suffer the indignity of being ordered before a large audience to ”Stand Down!” Another form of amusement was the propounding of conundrums on local topics, prizes being awarded for those which were adjudged the best.
The water police force was organised in 1852 and continued as a separate body until it was amalgamated with the land forces after the opening of the new harbour. The water police of the old days were a fine type of men selected with great care from an always overloaded list of applicants. Being mostly young seamen with an ambitious
[Page 38 has photos of John Bateman and Thomas Mews - obviously not the same John Bateman as on page 14.]
turn of mind many of them took advantage of the opportunities their occupation afforded them to study the art of navigation. The sea carrying trade of the State at that time was maintained entirely by sailing vessels and some members of the force graduated from water police constables to master mariners.
On September 5 of that year the barque Eglington was wrecked on the North Beach and several lives were lost. Among the barque's passengers was the wife of William Bartram, who was a partner with the late Edward Newman in the old Fremantle firm of T. and H. Carter and Co. Mrs. Bartram was coming from England to rejoin her husband, but perished in an attempt to land from the wreck. She was one of the last to be buried in the old Alma-street cemetery. One of the survivors from that wreck is still living in the person of C. J. McMullen, who was for many years local court bailiff at Fremantle and is now residing in Claremont. For a long time after the wreck beachcombers from Fremantle made frequent visits to the locality to draw upon the supplies of casks and cases of wines and spirits that they had buried in the sand. Specie valued at £35,000 was sunk in ten feet of water but was recovered.
About the same time Captain Douglas, of the Louisa, was drowned in crossing the bar at Fremantle.
The building of the old Congregational Church was commenced in 1852. It was completed in 1854 and enlarged in 1857. It is now used as a Sunday School. The manse was erected in 1862 and the new church was commenced in 1875 and completed in 1877. The first pastor of that denomination to be stationed in Fremantle was the Rev. Joseph Johnston, or ”Father” Johnston as he was affectionately called, who held the pastorate for nearly 40 years and won the love and respect of all, irrespective of class or creed, with whom he came in contact. He died in 1892, but memories of his inestimable public offices and private virtues are still cherished by old residents.
The cemetery in Skinner Street was dedicated in 1852 and continued to be used until the opening of the present cemetery in 1899. The oldest tombstone in the Skinner Street cemetery was that of Lieutenant Edward Colvin Oakes of the 28th Bengal Infantry, who died on October 7, 1852.
The Commissariat buildings were erected in 1853, and after serving the purpose for which they were built in connection with the convict system they were used successively as post office, Customs house and the offices for the State Shipping Service. They are still in use to house minor governmental departments.
An extraordinary school of schnapper and skipjack appeared at the mouth of the river during that year. Over three tons were secured in a few hours.
The first postage stamp, the black swan, came into use in 1854.
In that year unusual activity prevailed in Fremantle consequent
upon the public works that were being carried out by the convicts. The townspeople were so proud of the town that they petitioned Lord John Russell to cause the seat of the government to be removed from Perth to Fremantle. The request was refused.
In the same year the residents of Guildford agitated without success for the removal of the convict establishment from Fremantle to their town.
Dr. G. C. Attfield, then a young man, arrived in the colony in 1854 to take up a position of medical officer to the Imperial establishment at Fremantle. Those duties he filled until 1879. He was allowed a private practice and for a goodly part of that quarter of a century he was the only medical man in Fremantle, having under his care not only his private patients but the convicts, enrolled guard and warders and their families. After his retirement he returned to England and his death at Hove in Sussex occurred only about four years ago at the remarkable age of 101. Dr. Attfield married a daughter of Surveyor General Roe and his name was perpetuated by a Fremantle street being named after him.
The erection of the unique building at the corner of Pakenham Street and Short Street, known to old residents as ”Manning's Folly,” was erected in 1858. It was built by a contractor named Sharpe for the late C. A. Manning and received its name because of the peculiarities of its architecture and the immense amount of money expended upon its erection and exterior embellishments. Its flat roof and glass facades, later replaced by masonry, gave it the appearance of a huge hothouse. Until the death of Manning in 1869 it was occupied by him as a private residence. Afterwards it was occupied by the late Wallace Bickley and then for a number of years by Tolley and Co., wine and spirit merchants. Subsequently it was used by various tenants for trade purposes but eventually it was allowed to fall into a state of disrepair and was deemed unsafe and ordered to be demolished. Manning seems to have had a penchant for flat-roofed houses as the one at the corner of Essex Street and Marine Terrace was of his creation, as also were two others in South Terrace, which were demolished a few years ago.
The steamer Trois Amies arrived from Melbourne in charge of her owner, W. H. Campbell, the intercourse by steam with Eastern colonies being much appreciated by local residents.
The schooner Sara was built at Preston Point by William Owston. She was lost in 1856 at Port Gregory.
In 1854 the jetty in the south bay was completed, and in that year Fremantle, for the first time in its history, had a population of over 1,000, the official figures being 1,607.
The steamer Lady Stirling, the second of that name, was launched at Fremantle in February 1857. She was brought out from England
in sections and reconstructed in Fremantle by J. J. Harwood. She ran between Fremantle and Perth with passengers and cargo for more than 20 years.
In 1857 Fremantle was visited by that notorious pirate and freebooter, ”Bully” Hayes. He arrived from Singapore in the C. W. Bradley, a barque of 198 tons sailing under the American flag. At Singapore he bought as much valuable and easily portable property as he could and had it sent aboard his ship, promising payment on the next day. The C. W. Bradley, however, suddenly sailed from Singapore without clearing at the Customs and neither Hayes nor the vessel were ever seen again at Singapore. Hayes and the C. W. Bradley next turned up at Batavia where the freebooter bought a quantity of valuable goods from Dutch merchants, paying them with drafts that proved worthless. Sailing from Batavia Hayes arrived at Fremantle on January 30, 1857, and remained here for some six weeks enjoying himself. He was a nice looking young man, could sing well and was always well and neatly dressed. He made an impression in Perth and Fremantle and was in society, being particularly popular among the ladies and officials. He became engaged to marry Miss Scott, daughter of the harbour master.
At that time the colony was in a depressed condition, so the C. W. Bradley was advertised to leave for Adelaide, fare being: cabin, £15; steerage, £10. On March 11, 1857, the vessel sailed with six cabin and 88 steerage passengers. D. and F. Scott, relatives of Hayes' prospective bride, were among the cabin passengers. The vessel returned to Fremantle and sailed again for Adelaide on June 24, 1857, with 99 passengers, so Hayes must have done well out of those two voyages.
He was not so well received on his return to Fremantle, as in the meantime the schooner Swallow had arrived from Singapore, and her master, Captain Allen, had given the colonists a true account of Hayes' doings in Singapore, but Hayes' plausibility was so great that he was able to befool several Perth business men.
A Portuguese barque named the Estrella de Norte had been stranded at Fremantle and refloated. Working a swindle in conjunction with the captain of that vessel Hayes bought a cargo of jarrah on credit from Mr. Yelverton at Busselton, and the Portuguese vessel took the cargo to Adelaide. Meanwhile Hayes had proceeded thither in the C. W. Bradley, but found on arriving at Adelaide that his Singapore creditors had got on his track. Both the Estrella de Norte and the C. W. Bradley were seized and sold and Hayes levanted from Port Adelaide. He skilfully eluded pursuit and it is an astounding fact that for 20 years afterwards he was able to pursue his nefarious career as pirate, searover, blackbirder and debaucher of white and coloured women and children. Known as the ”last of the buccaneers” he became the scourge of the South Seas and perpetrated swindles in Java, San Francisco, New Zealand and Sydney. A blackguard and a bully he
[Page 42 has another Nixon photo, captioned THE TOWN AND RIVER BAR IN 1876. Good photo of Manning's Folly.]
eventually came to an inglorious end at the age of 48 when his cook, a young Dutchman, killed him aboard the schooner Lotus.
The cutter Mystery (16 ½ tons) was built at Perth by Peter Hedland in 1857. Later in that small vessel he discovered and named Port Hedland in the north.
During the following year the ship Nile (763 tons) arrived from London in charge of Captain Johnston. She was 110 days out and brought 12 saloon passengers (including the first Anglican Bishop of Perth, Bishop Hale), 71 steerage passengers, 34 crew and 270 prisoners. In the same year R. S. King despatched to Colombo on the Nile the first shipment of grapes to leave the colony. After a voyage of 51 days they arrived in good condition.
An event recorded in 1859 was the escape of five convicts from the Fremantle prison. One of the Rockingham immigrants, James Read, who, old residents will remember, occupied a small cottage on the beach in Russell Street, at one time farmed a portion of Garden Island known as Sulphur Town. His wife and family resided there with him. The escaped convicts landed on the island, robbed him of £150 and brutally maltreated him as well as destroying his boat so that he was unable to communicate with the mainland until the harbour authorities visited the island a fortnight later. Meanwhile the convicts had cleared off in their stolen whaleboat and reached Shark Bay where subsequently four of them were arrested by the Fremantle Water Police who had gone in pursuit of them. After their terrible experience the Read family left Garden Island, but the old man never fully recovered from the severe handling he received from the runaway convicts.
In 1859 a census showed that Fremantle's population had increased from 1,607 to 2,946 in five years.
Two men, J. H. Duffield and John Luff, were smothered in 1860 when the sides of a well which they were sinking (on the property of Mr. Easton in East Fremantle) caved in.
The year 1861 saw the organisation of a volunteer force in Fremantle. The movement was enthusiastically taken up by C. A. Manning and it may be mentioned that he was buried early in the morning of the day the Duke of Edinburgh landed (February 4, 1869) and in order that the volunteers could pay their respects to him at the graveside as well as form a guard of honour to the Duke, the funeral took place at dawn. Manning's descendants have inherited his military interest and won decorations for distinguished service during the Great War. After the death of Manning the volunteer movement became moribund but it was revived in 1872. The reorganised force was under the command of Captain R. M. Sutherland, the other commissioned officers being Lieutenants G. B. Humble and Michael Samson and Ensign E. H. Higham. Among the non -commissioned officers were some old
[Page 44 has photos of W.D. Moore and Edward Newman, both MLC.]
Crimea and Indian Mutiny veterans whose insistence on discipline and efficiency tended to make the volunteer force almost the equal of the regulars. The ”Barracks Green,” now the oval, was used as a parade ground for both pensioners and volunteers and it was there that Captain (afterwards Colonel) Finnerty and Sergeant Major Latimer put the young recruits through their facings often at daylight and at other times by moonlight. The old Colonel expected them to attain the same proficiency as the Imperial Army veterans in the barracks who had been drilling all their lives and who manoeuvred with clock precision. The volunteers had to provide their uniforms and accoutrements and had to keep them clean, the slightest delinquency in that respect would result in the culprit receiving the stern order on parade to ”Fall out, you're dirty!” On completing 12 years' service the volunteer was entitled to the grant of a town allotment or 50 acres of country land, but later he was given the option of accepting £2/10/-. Most of the volunteers accepted the cash because land was not worth much in those days.
In 1861 a difficulty of some moment arose respecting the regulations under which lightermen were required to provide heavy security before they were permitted to land Customs goods. The Dolphin arrived with a full cargo in April and as the boatmen would not give the security the vessel was kept waiting, the captain being powerless to do anything. In defiance of the regulation Bateman and Maxworthy sent a lighter to the vessel and landed some goods. Next day they were both arrested and the boat seized. Governor Kennedy's action was held up to obloquy and a petition for the cessation of proceedings and a remission of the £20 fine imposed upon Bateman and Maxworthy was acquiesced in by the new Governor (Hampton).
That year the sailing vessels Tartan and Lord Raglan sailed from Fremantle with full cargoes of wool and other produce; F. Gregory's exploring party including Maitland Brown, McCourt, W. S. Hall. Turner and Harding left Fremantle in the barque Dolphin on April 23 for the north and J. and W. Bateman organised a party under James Turner for pearl fishing at Nicol Bay.
A money order office in connection with the post office was opened in February, 1862, and that year flour, pearl shells from Shark Bay and a consignment of cotton were exported for the first time.
Heavy floods occurred in June and July of that year, which was always spoken of by old residents as ”the year of the flood.” The Swan River overflowed its banks to such an extent that all the low lying land at North Fremantle was submerged and residents had to leave their houses, which, in some cases, were flooded up to the roof. Much damage was done to the property and flotsam of every description, including dead cattle, etc., came down the river and was swept over the bar. A woman in bed at the pensioners' barracks was killed by lightning. A heavy gale in May caused damage to the jetty in the South Bay and created floods in Cliff Street.
The schooner Fitzgerald, owned by John Mews, was wrecked near Fish Rock.
The growth of the export of the colony was reflected in the fact that four vessels sailed for China with full cargoes of sandalwood, the Dolphin left for Madras with a cargo of sleepers and the Gloucester left for the United Kingdom with 4,922 bags of copper ore, 949 bales of wool, 21 bales of whalebone, 10 cases of pearl shell and sundries.
The post office savings bank was instituted in 1863 and in that year a summer residence was erected at Rottnest by prison labour for the Governor.
The following extract from Mrs. Millett's book ”An Australian Parsonage” affords a glimpse of the town as it appeared in 1863:-
”Although considered the chief port of the colony, it is but a small, unpretending town, and one which makes but a slight impression upon a newcomer. In the main street and in the three or four short thoroughfares that connect the sea jetty with the river pier and wharf there are a few handsome and substantial houses belonging to either the Government or to some of the principal inhabitants. In these streets, too, are situated the larger and more important shops, or rather stores, of the chief traders of the town. The colonial church is well placed at the point where the main street branches off into two roads at a considerable angle to one another. On the point of ground between those two diverging streets and facing the very centre of the main street as it leads from the shore stands the church surrounded by a large churchyard. Although the situation of the building is good it cannot lay claim to much beauty either externally or within. It is of fair size and sufficiently commodious in its arrangement, but that is all that can be said of it. The Roman Catholics possess a much prettier and more ecclesiastical-looking building and their convent and clergy house are neat and tidy looking buildings. The town bears somewhat of that untidy, unfinished look inseparable from half-completed streets and unpaved footpaths, There are no continuous rows of shops, but all the minor stores and open fruit and fish stalls are scattered about in all directions and do not make nearly as good a show as if collected into a regular compact street. This gives the town a bare and deserted appearance as if no business were transacted, which is really not the case, although the trade is certainly not a lively one.”
It was the beginning of 1864 that G. B. Humble took charge of the Government Boys' School in Adelaide Street, which he conducted until 1889. He performed the duties of that position in conjunction with those of town clerk for most of that time. The school had no second master in those days, the assistant pupil teacher being the late Frank Pearse, who afterwards became one of the richest
men in the State. Mr. Humble's predecessor in the school was an Irishman named Whiteman, and the Roman Catholic Boys' School on the opposite side of the street was conducted by another Irishman named Rooney. A battle royal took place every lunch hour between the scholars of the two schools and to such lengths were hostilities carried that a different lunch hour had to be arranged for each school.
In 1864 a convict named Wildman, who was serving a sentence of 15 years' imprisonment, impressed the authorities with a plausible story that he knew where there were some rich deposits of gold in the vicinity of Camden Harbour. He offered to point out the locality if he was granted a free pardon. His story was that eight years previously, while mate of a ship named the Maria Augusta bound from Rotterdam to Java, the vessel put into Camden Harbour owing to an accident to her rudder and that while there he had picked up several nuggets of gold which he afterwards sold to a bullion merchant in Liverpool for £416. He would not divulge the precise locality of his alleged find but volunteered to act as guide to any party going in search of it on the condition stated. The Government granted the pardon and agreed to contribute £150 towards the expenses of the expedition. Some of those who were disposed to act on Wildman's report caused inquiries to be made in Liverpool as to whether a parcel of gold had ever been sold to a merchant there and the reply was to confirm the convict's statement. The outcome was that a syndicate was formed, and a party that included Wildman proceeded to Camden Harbour in the New Perseverance of which Captain Owston was the master and owner. She was a new schooner built by himself at Preston Point. On reaching their destination the party experienced some trouble with the convict guide who turned sulky and obstinately refused to reveal the locality of his alleged discovery. He was put in irons and the party was compelled to prosecute the search on their own account, but met with no luck. It was thought that the whole affair was probably a hoax conceived by Wildman in the hope of gaining his freedom.
The first shipment of wool from the North-West arrived in Fremantle that year and the first pile of the traffic bridge over the Swan River at North Fremantle was driven. The Sea Ripple, of 188 tons, built in London for J. and W. Bateman for the coastal trade arrived at Fremantle. The Fremantle Working Men's Association published their first annual report showing a membership of 151 and the issuing of 1,729 books.
In the early part of 1865 a search party was despatched to the North-West in quest of the missing explorers Panter, Harding and Goldwyer. The party was in charge of Maitland Brown, in memory of whom, coupled with the names of the explorers, a statue was erected on the Fremantle Esplanade by his friend, G. J. Brockman. The search resulted in the discovery of the bodies of the three unfortunate explorers who had been murdered by natives. The remains were brought to
[Page 48 shows a photo from 1887, captioned THE RIVER IN 1887, SHOWING WILLIS' POINT. Good photo of the first railway station.]
Fremantle in the Clarence Packet and interred in the East Perth cemetery on May 17. While returning to the coast the search party were attacked by natives. Maitland Brown received a letter of thanks from Governor Hampton with other marks of distinction. The Harding referred to was a son of Captain Harding, the Fremantle harbour master who was drowned off Garden Island two years later.
The first Freemason's Lodge in Fremantle was formed in 1865.
In 1866 the first bank was opened in the town, when the National Bank of Australasia Ltd. opened a branch under the management of R. H. Sutherland.
On December of that year Captain Owston' s schooner, New Perseverance, was wrecked in Cossack Creek. She was driven so far on the land by a tidal wave that it was impossible to refloat her, and it was said that her stranded hull was subsequently used by G. S. Seubert as a taproom when that enterprising individual secured a licence for the sale of liquor in Cossack.
The first shipment of articles of produce and manufacture of the colony was sent in the David and Jessie to Melbourne for the Intercolonial Exhibition.
The year 1867 was notable for the number of maritime disasters. On February 23 the Lass of Geraldton bound from Fremantle to Bunbury capsized in a squall off Mandurah and seven lives were lost, G. Shenton, Senr., her owner, being one of the number. The only survivors were the master, Captain H. O'Grady, and a seaman named Dandy, who reached the shore in an exhausted condition after a seven miles swim. Captain O' Grady afterwards became master of various deep sea ships trading to India and China. In February, 1877, when in command of Pearse and Marmion's barque, Amur, that vessel and six others were loading at the Lacepede Islands when indications of one of those terrific cyclones that periodically occur in that region, became apparent. Captain O'Grady immediately got under weigh and boldly made for the open sea where he weathered the storm while every one of the other vessels at the island was driven ashore and wrecked. Three of those, the Cingalese, Bessie and Mary Smith were afterwards refloated and repaired by the veteran shipwright, Robert Howson. Captain O'Grady received £100 from the underwriters in recognition of the seamanship by which his ship was saved from disaster.
On March 3 Padbury's schooner Emma left Nicol Bay, now Cossack, with 42 passengers on board and was never heard of again. Many of the passengers were early settlers of the Roebourne districts who intended returning with stock to form other stations, among them being George Francisco and Trevor Sholl, eldest son of the Resident Magistrate, R. J. Sholl. The same month the cutter Brothers went down with a loss of six lives while on a voyage from the North-West.
On June 23 Captain James Harding, the harbour master, with his boat crew were going to the assistance of the barque Ivy and the
[Page 50 has photos of F.B. Shenstone Flindell and Wm Silas Pearse.]
barque Strathmore which were dragging their anchors in a strong gale when the boat capsized and all were thrown into the water. A rescue party went out in charge of John Tapper and found one of the men (Patterson) clinging to the boat. Captain Harding and four of the crew had got on with him, but, becoming exhausted, were washed off. One of the crew, Peter Thompson, alias Dandy, had left on an oar hoping to reach shore and obtain assistance, but he was never seen again. Dandy was one of the two survivors from the Lass of Geraldton, which had foundered off Mandurah a few weeks previously. Captain Harding was the maternal grandfather of Sir Edward Wittenoom.
The ”Fremantle Herald” was established in 1867, and for many years it was regarded as the leading organ of public opinion in the colony. It was founded by James Pearce and William Beresford, associated with whom were James Roe and A. H. K. Cole. Beresford had at one time been Anglican Dean at Cork and Roe had been an Anglican clergyman. The ripe scholarship of those two men, combined with the journalistic ability of Pearce and Cole, placed the paper in a leading position. Beresford's scholarly articles, together with his clever pungent facetia under the heading of ”Chips by a Sandalwood Cutter” were the literary sensation of the time, making the ”Herald" a power in the land and a paper to be conjured with. The ”Herald” always advocated a progressive policy and persistently stressed the need for harbour works in Fremantle, the construction of railways and the introduction of responsible government.
An incident in the early history of the ”Herald” is worth recalling. In one of its earlier issues some miscreant, actuated no doubt by a desire to bring about the downfall of the paper, secured the insertion of some original poetry. As a metrical composition it was of a high order of merit, but both the editor and the printer failed to notice that it was an acrostic, the first letters of the lines, read downwards, forming a sentence of an obscene nature. That was detected by an early morning reader (D. B. Francisco), who at once apprised the editor, who immediately took prompt measures to collect the paper, and those who did not notice the sinister nature of the poem made all sorts of conjectures as to why the paper was called in. Some ascribed the editor's action to a fear on his part that some criticism of Governor Hampton's methods of dealing with the notorious bushranger, ”Moondyne Joe,” by confining him to an iron cage, might lead to trouble. Eventually the secret leaked out, and when it did there were some who would have given a pretty good price for a copy of that particular issue of the ”Herald.” Many people in high places quailed before the pungent and fearless criticisms of the ”Herald,” and one of those, it was thought, was responsible for ringing in the poetical contribution that might have landed the editor in gaol. The managers were shrewd men and were rarely caught napping. When Edmund Stirling and Arthur Shenton, editors respectively of the ”Inquirer” and the ”W.A. Times,” were imprisoned for libelling judge Burt, the ”Herald” hit that functionary just as hard but evaded the meshes of the law in a clever
manner. After a few words of caustic comment it proceeded somewhat like this:-
"In view of the law of libel we leave to our readers to surmise what further comments we would have made, if we dared, in the blank space below."
The remainder of the column was left blank.
October 2nd of that year saw the opening of the North Fremantle traffic bridge. That was built by convict labour, the stone for the approaches being quarried by the chain gang. Previously both passengers and vehicles were conveyed across the river by ferry boats worked by convicts . "Moondyne Joe," the famous gaol-breaker , claimed to have been the first man to cross the bridge on the day it was opened, he having escaped from prison the previous night . The bridge was originally a camel-back structure being so built in order to permit sailing lighters to pass under it. It was cut down to its present height and strengthened when it became necessary for the trams to cross the river, the need for the great height having disappeared when the low level railway bridge was built and steam lighters had replaced the sailing craft.
On November 18th the town was excited by the election for the Legislative Council. Kimberley's history records that the town was gaily decorated with flags on the occasion. When the votes were counted the result was:-
Walter Bateman 209
E. C. Newman 112
C. A. Manning 99
R. King 2
In 1868 another newspaper was launched in Fremantle under the name of the "Era." That paper was owned and published by the versatile George Barrow. In the day time he acted as accountant for L. Samson & Son, and in the evenings he occupied his time in the production of his newspaper. The novelty of that quaint little journal lay in the fact that it was set up and printed by the lithographic process in the same manner that cheque forms are done. To secure that result the whole paper - news, leading article and advertisements - was written out in a free copperplate hand, involving considerable labour, the only return for which was a limited sale at 6d. per copy. Needless to say the career of that artistic production was of short duration. While it lasted Fremantle had two papers, as at present. In the course of the century Fremantle has seen the birth of many newspapers, but none of them have died of old age. The arrival of the Hougoumont on January 10th with the Fenians on board marked the end of the transportation period that had existed for 18 years. The Fenians were not desperadoes by any means, yet the decision of the Imperial Government to send them to the colony created quite a scare among timid people. To allay those fears H.M.S. Brisk was sent to Fremantle, where she remained for some months. A company of the 14th Regiment was also sent from New Zealand, though the enrolled guard of military pensioners already here was ample for coping with any
outbreak of unarmed prisoners that might have occurred. In addition there was also a comparatively large force of volunteer riflemen.
Up to 1868, when the Medical Registration Act came into force, anyone who liked could practise as a doctor. The Act permitted all who had been previously practising medicine to register whether they held a diploma or not, consequently every chemist in the place registered. Not one of those pseudo-doctors is left.
First Telegraph Office - A Disastrous Gale - Chamber of Commerce Formed - Old Ocean Jetty - ”Roaring Sixties” - Public Bodies Founded - Fenian Sensation - Loss of the Gem - Pioneer Steamship Serivce - The Father of the Railways - Convict Establishment Taken Over - Vanguard of Prospectors.
The following years were crammed with activity. The improved communication with the other Australian colonies and the markets in Europe stimulated the settlers, and the town grew in size and importance. Institutions for the benefit of the townspeople were established and the principal port flourished under the early influence of the growth of the colony.
In February, 1869, Fremantle was en fete, the occasion being the arrival of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh in H.M.S. Galatea. The Royal visitor was met with a most enthusiastic reception by all sections of the community. During his brief stay His Royal Highness was the guest of the harbour master, Lieutenant Croke, R.N., under whom he had formerly sailed as a midshipman. During the stay of the Galatea almost anything that could float was utilised to take visitors off to the ship.
On June 21 of that year the telegraph line to Perth, which was built by private enterprise, was opened, the first office being an old cottage standing back from the road at the rear of where the Madrid Restaurant now stands in High Street. The first operator was W. Holman, who had been an officer of Mrs. Habgood's barque Zephyr, and the first messenger was the late W. T. John, then a boy. The first telegraph cadet was Horace Stirling who was appointed to take charge of the Fremantle office. Horace Stirling was afterwards closely allied with telegraph extension throughout the State and was a keen observer and a well known historian. In April, 1871, the Government
[Page 54 has a photo captioned THE DEEP SEA JETTY IN 1886. It's not one I've seen anywhere else.]
bought out Stirling and Fleming, by whom the line had been constructed.
The population of Fremantle in 1870 was 3,796.
In the early part of that year the schooner Adur was despatched from Fremantle with stores for the Forrest exploring expedition which had started out on March 30. The explorers arrived at Esperance on July 2 and successfully reached Adelaide on August 27. That was a remarkable feat to be accomplished without the aid of camels and was only surpassed by another and more hazardous expedition by the same explorer in 1874.
In March, 1871, Fremantle was declared a municipality (see Municipal History) and about the same time telegraph communication was extended to Guildford.
In that year the Western Australian Bank opened a branch in Fremantle. Up to that time the only bank operating in Fremantle was the National Bank that stood on the site now occupied by the National Hotel. Telegraph lines to Toodyay and York were opened on January 6, 1872, and to Albany on December 26 of the same year.
On March 10 of that year the most severe gale in the history of Fremantle swept over the town and created great devastation among the buildings and shipping. With one exception every overseas vessel in the harbour was driven ashore, but most of the coasters escaped as the weather-wise skippers of those small craft had taken the precaution of running over to Careening Bay at the approach of the storm.
Dr. H. C. Barnett was appointed colonial surgeon at Fremantle in 1872 and held the position until 1895, when the office of colonial surgeon was abolished, but Dr. Barnett continued as medical attendant to the Lunatic Asylum.
The coaster Flying Foam was lost on a voyage from Champion Bay to Fremantle. She was supposed to have foundered at sea.
On May 29, 1873, a requisition was drawn up for a meeting to take steps to form a Chamber of Commerce in Fremantle. The names of the persons who signed that document will bring back memories of the early days of Fremantle. They were:-
W. D. Moore, Lionel Samson, R. King & Son, A. Francisco, Pearce & Owston, M. Higham, John McCleery, R. M. Habgood & Co, J. & W. Bateman, D. K. Congdon, W. Owston, John McGibbon, W. E. Marmion, E. Solomon, M. Samson, B. C. Wood, W. Holman, R. M. Sutherland
[Page 56 has photos of Rev. G.J. Bostock and Rev. Joseph Johnston.]
The first committee meeting was held on June 2 when there were present:-
Messrs. W. D. Moore (in the chair), W. E. Marmion, John McCleery, E. Solomon, J. de M. Absolom, J. McGibbon and E. H. Higham.
The chamber was then called the ”Western Australian Chamber of Commerce” but at a later stage the name was altered to ”The Fremantle Chamber of Commerce.” It was resolved to approach the Government for a grant of land and that request was acceded to, a piece of ground in Henry Street being vested in trustees. Its position was considered unsuitable and subsequently it was exchanged for a site in Phillimore Street, upon which the existing building was erected. The new building was opened on October 12, 1912, by His Excellency Sir Gerard Smith. The Perth Chamber of Commerce, as at present constituted, was not established until 1890, although a body with similar aims was formed in Perth as far back as 1853. The following have filled the office of president of the Fremantle Chamber since its foundation:-
1873-1895 - W. D. Moore
1895-1900 - J. W. Bateman
1900-1901 - J. M. Ferguson
1901-1903 - Chas. Hudson
1903-1905 - E. Allnutt
1905-1906 - A. E. Braund
1906-1907 - D. Gilfillan
1907-1909 - D. Patterson
1909-1911 - W. E. Moxon
1911-1913 - Tom Carter
1913-1915 - J. Stewart
1915-1917 - F. W. Barrymore
1917-1918 - G. F. Moore
1918-1919 - J. W. Bateman
1919-1921 - A. W. Leonard
1921-1923 - J. F. Allen
1923-1924 - F. W. Barrymore
1924-1925 - J. F. Allen
1925-1926 - J. W. Bateman
1926-1928 - S. T. Edwards
The membership now numbers over 80, the office bearers being:-
President, J. W. Bateman; Past-President, S. T. Edwards; Vice-Presidents, Messrs. J. F. Allen, J. W. Hugall and A. E. Mann. Mr. A. F. Plint, A.A.I.S., has been secretary since 1918 and among those who preceded him was Mr. (afterwards Sir) Henry Briggs, who held the office from 1883 to 1895.
The institution has done much to advance the progress of the port.
The telegraph line was extended to Busselton on November 27, 1873, and that year saw the completion of the first section of the old Ocean Jetty. That section ran in a south-westerly direction from Anglesea Point and the structure was afterwards extended in a westerly direction to a total length of 2,830 feet, the depth of water at its head being 20 feet on the north side and, 21 feet on the south. The first section was constructed by Mason, Bird and Co., of the Canning Saw Mills, and later two extensions of 1,000 feet and 450 feet were carried out by R. O. Law and Matthew Price. The jetty was little used after the opening of the river harbour in 1897 and after being closed to traffic and used only as a promenade for some years, it was doomed to demolition in 1921. That old jetty was historic for over its planks the first representatives of many families now well established
in Western Australia made their first entry into the Golden West.
The first Good Templar Lodge in Fremantle was formed in 1873.
The telegraph line to Geraldton was opened in May 13, 1874, and early in that year Fremantle extended a hearty welcome to Colonel Warburton and his party, who arrived from the North-West by the schooner Mary Ann (Captain John O'Grady) after travelling overland from South Australia to the De Grey district, the trip occupying 9 1/2 months. That was the first occasion on which camels were seen in the colony.
During that year Fremantle sheltered for a time that prince of romancers, the notorious Louis de Rougemont. His real name was Louis Grin and he arrived in the colony as a valet to Governor Robinson. A Swiss by birth, but able to speak English fluently, he was a suave and voluble individual and by his oily tongue succeeded in duping several Fremantle tradespeople, from whom he obtained advances to prosecute a pearling venture, which advances he never repaid. Among his victims were Pearse and Owston and John McCleery, but the person on whose gullibility he worked most was a reputedly wealthy old gentleman named Coulson, who was staying at the same hostel. He cajoled that simple -minded old gentleman into financing him in the purchase and outfitting of the cutter Ada. In that vessel he sailed from Fremantle and his creditors saw no more of him or his lugger. In the course of time it was reported that he and his crew had been killed by natives in the far North-West, but it was afterwards learned that he had made his way around to Torres Straits and finally landed in England. The ”Wide World” Magazine published thrilling stories of his adventures and exploits, and they made his name famous, earning for him the sobriquet of ”the modern Munchausen.” During his stay in Fremantle de Rougemont lodged at the boarding house kept by G. A. Seubert, a three-storey building that stood on the present site of the Union Bank. It was the best establishment of its kind at the time and was the favourite resort of the North-West pearlers as well as of shipmasters, who in those days spent most of their time on shore while their ships were lying out in the roadstead, the discharging and loading being done by lightering. The pearlers flocked from the North-West in large numbers during the off season and before steam communication with the Eastern States they went no further than Fremantle. Being well equipped with money, they made things hum in the town during their stay. Much has been heard of the ”Roaring Nineties” of the golden era, but many old residents retain pleasant memories of the ”Roaring Seventies” of the pearling era.
The Fremantle Benefit Building and Investment Society was founded on February 17, 1875, and its success has been due to the sound and
progressive lines upon which the boards of directors have continued to mould its policy. The first directors were:-
Messrs. W. S. Pearse, J.P., M.L.C. (president); D. K. Congdon, J:P., M.L. C.; W. E. Marmion, M.L.C.; E. H. Higham, M.L.C., and E. Solomon, J.P., M.L.A.
All those gentlemen were prominently identified with the commercial interests of the town, and since that time many other familiar and highly respected names have been intimately associated with the history of the society, including, among others:-
James Manning, J.P.; John McCleery, G. D. Ralston, John Snook, E. F. Duffield, J. A. Herbert, W. Owston, Junr.; G. A. Davies, George Pearse (president 1907-1908), George Edwards, E. W. Davies, M.L.C.; W. F. Samson, J.P.; W. T. John, J.P., and Captain Foxworthy, J.P.
On the resignation of the first president, the Hon. W. S. Pearse, M.L.C., who occupied the position for 20 years, the chair passed in April, 1895, to the Hon. D. K. Congdon, J.P., M.L.C., by whom it was held until his death in 1907. The present directorate comprises:-
Messrs. W. Hooper (president since 1908), G. G. John, G. F. Payne, J.P.; G. B. Humble, J.P., V.D.; G. E. Pearse, C. M. Purdie, J.P., and John Cooke, J.P.
During the first two years of the society's operations, the duties of secretary were carried out by John McCleery, who, on joining the board of management in 1877, was succeeded by G. B. Humble, by whom the position was held for 25 years. In January, 1903, the office passed to J. E. Humble, who had previously acted in that capacity for 12 months. Following his demise after a long illness in 1912, the present secretary, J. H. Foxworthy, A.C.U.A., A. S.A.A., was appointed.
The Good Endeavour Tent of Rechabites was opened in Fremantle in 1875, and in that year Fremantle joined in the welcome to Ernest Giles, the explorer, who travelled overland from Adelaide to Perth. In that year also the sailing vessel Spinaway arrived from England in the charge of Captain Pringle. She was built to the order of J. & W. Bateman for the Mauritius and China trade, and Robert Howson, afterwards one of the chief shipwrights of the port, was ship's carpenter. He was an expert boat-builder and his shipyard on the South Beach was for many years a hive of industry and many coasters and pearling luggers were built there by him.
Describing Fremantle in 1876, Henry Taunton, the author of a book entitled ”Australind,” wrote:-
”Fremantle consisted of one principal street made up of hotels and stores and a few Government buildings, including the Imperial convict depot, a lighthouse and a number of private dwellings all glaring in whitewash. A few churches made up an apparently sleepy but really flourishing township, which might be described as a city of public houses, flies, sand, limestone, convicts and stacks of sandalwood.”
[Page 60 has Nixon's photograph captioned THE TRAFFIC BRIDGE AND REGATTA, 1888. In the foreground are three young men taking their leisure on Cantonment Hill.]
Quite a sensation was created in Fremantle in April, 1876, by the escape of six Fenian prisoners from the convict establishment. The rescue was engineered by the Clan-na-Gael Society operating through agents in America. Towards the end of 1875, two plausible individuals, who gave the names of Collins and Jones, arrived in Fremantle, but the object of their visit was veiled in mystery. It transpired that they were emissaries of the Clan-na-Gael Society and their mission was to rescue Fenian prisoners. For that purpose the barque Catalpa had been acquired by the secret organisation, and in due time arrived in the guise of a whaler. Meanwhile Collins and Jones had everything in train, and it was surmised by many that they had the assistance of some of the prison officials in carrying out their scheme. Six Fenians were smuggled out of the prison in broad daylight and driven rapidly to Rockingham, where they were received, on board a whaleboat and taken to the Catalpa in the offing. Their flight was discovered and the police boat, in the charge of Coxswain Mills, was sent in pursuit in the hope of intercepting the fugitives before they reached the ship. The police boat overtook the barque and the crew distinctly saw Collins and some of the Fenians calmly leaning over the bulwarks, but they were unable to effect their capture. The Catalpa stood to sea and the police boat returned to Fremantle, where she reached about 10 o'clock at night. It was then decided to despatch the steamer Georgette armed with an old cannon and with 50 of the enrolled pensioner force on board under Major Finnerty, to demand the surrender of the escapees. On coming up with the Catalpa, the Georgette signalled her to stop, and no notice being taken, a shot was fired under her stern. The Catalpa continued on her course and another shot was fired across her bow. The barque then hoisted the American flag. J. F. Stone, superintendent of water police, demanded the surrender of the six prisoners and gave those on the barque fifteen minutes to decide, threatening, in the event of a refusal, that he would fire into the barque and disable her. Pointing to the American flag, the captain replied: ”I do not care what you do: that flag protects me.” The fiery old Major wanted to fire on the ship at all costs, but the more cautious Stone, who was in charge of the expedition, would not allow it, fearing that it might lead to complications with America. It might have been dangerous to have interfered with an American ship in 1876, when the Alabama compensation of £3,000,000 had been paid by England for a breach of international law. As nothing more could be done, the Georgette returned to Fremantle, where an excited crowd awaited news. Business was practically at a standstill and the ceremony of the laying of the foundation stone of the Masonic Hall, which had been fixed for the afternoon and had been looked forward to as a big event, attracted but little attention.
The most notable of the Fenian prisoners, John Boyle O'Reilly, escaped in 1869 in the American whaler Gazelle. He was a man of great literary ability, and after landing in America he became the editor of the ”Boston Pilot.” He published a work of fiction treating with
[Page 62 has photos of W.E. Marmion, and Barrington Wood, the first mayor of Fremantle.]
convict life in the colony under the title of ”Moondyne Joe.” His poetical efforts included ”The Dukite Snake,” ”The Monster Diamond,” and ”The Dog Guards at Rottnest,” all being stories of a penal colony.
In May the people of Fremantle were mystified by the peculiar circumstances surrounding the foundering of the cutter Gem in fine weather and within sight of the anchorage. The Gem was an English-built vessel, over 40 years old, and of unusually large size for cutter rig. She was on a voyage from Dongarra to Fremantle and was seen inside of Rottnest making for Fremantle before a light breeze, but she vanished as completely as if she had been a phantom ship. Boats immediately put off to where the cutter had been seen and found the top of her mast sticking out of the water, but not a trace of the passengers or crew. To this day the mystery has never been solved. The beaches were patrolled for some time afterwards, but no bodies from the cutter were ever recovered. A theory advanced was that the wheat in the vessel's hold became swollen and burst the hull, and that the bodies of the crew and passengers were devoured by sharks; but that that could have happened in such a short space of time in waters where sharks were not numerous, seems almost beyond the realms of possibility. The mystery surrounding the sad occurrence caused some imaginative people to believe that all on board had been kidnapped and the cutter set adrift outside Rottnest by some ship whose mission was to secure the remaining Fenians in Fremantle prison. Among the victims of the catastrophe was Joseph Johnston, only son of the Rev. Joseph Johnston and brother of Mrs. S. F. Moore, of Claremont.
That year there occurred a controversy concerning the Lacepede Islands. The French barque Force de la Roquette loaded a cargo of guano at the Lacepede Islands, the super-cargo, Mr. Roberts, claiming that he had the right of removal as he was the discoverer of the deposits. The Government Resident at Roebourne fined Roberts £100 for illegal removal and the Government allowed the ship to depart after the payment of a royalty. Roberts also claimed, on behalf of the vice-consul of the United States at Melbourne, his right of possession to the islands by virtue of an Act of Congress, but the claim was not admitted.
In 1877 Fremantle was much perturbed over the question of a railway route to Perth. The matter was keenly discussed by the town councillors on July 27, and the desire on the part of a few interested people in the Legislative Council to have the line constructed on the north side of the river was scathingly condemned. Councillors were of opinion that the most direct and easily constructed route would be by keeping near the road to Canning Bridge, thence through South Perth and across the river near the Bazaar Terrace jetty. That opinion was emphasised by the statement that such a route would offer the least obstruction to the navigation of the river, but all the protestations were of no avail.
Telegraph communication with South Australia was opened in December of that year.
That year also saw the arrival from the United Kingdom of the schooner Airlie (236 tons), which had been bought by her owner and captain, J. M. Ferguson, who had been master of various craft on the coast for many years. He was a son of Dr. Ferguson, an old colonist of Perth, and later established a business in Fremantle and for many years did good work for the welfare of the town. At one time he was president of the Chamber of Commerce. The Airlie was burnt after years of service at Cossack.
In 1878 James Lilly established the first regular steamship service on the coast by placing the s.s. Rob Roy, in the charge of Captain Craig, on the run between Geraldton and Albany, with Fremantle as her headquarters. Lilly may be considered to be the pioneer of steamship services in this State. The Rob Roy was followed by the Otway, and in 1882 the Adelaide Steamship Company purchased those vessels and placed the South Australian, in charge of Captain Laurie, and the Victorian, in charge of Captain Lockyer, on a regular run from Fremantle to the eastern colonies.
The Good Samaritan Lodge of the Sons of Temperance was opened in Fremantle in 1878, and the Star of the Sea Lodge of the Hibernian Catholic Benefit Society was founded in Fremantle the same year.
The erection of the new St. John's Anglican Church in Adelaide Street was begun in 1879, and in that year the first sod of the Fremantle to Guildford railway was turned by Governor Ord.
The first shipment of bullocks from the north arrived at Fremantle during 1880, and in that year H.M. schooner Meda arrived from England in the charge of Captain Archdeacon to commence a survey of the coast.
After a prolonged agitation, a half-holiday on Wednesdays, afterwards altered to Saturdays, was conceded to clerks and shop assistants during 1880.
The railway from Fremantle to Guildford was formally opened by Governor Robinson on March 1, 1881.
The name of an old Fremantle resident, the late F. B. S. Flindell, must ever be honourably associated with the building of that railway, for had it not been for his efforts, the undertaking might not have been entered upon until many years later, as vested interests in the river traffic strongly opposed it and they were backed by the conservative element in the community who urged that the time was not then ripe. To combat those objections Flindell spent months on the roads between Fremantle and the eastern districts collecting data of the traffic that passed over them. That he did at his own expense and without any hope of personal benefit, as he was then 70 years of age. In the end
[Between pages 64 and 65 there are two photos of South Beach. One is captioned OPENING OF SOUTH BEACH SEASON 1928, while the other shows THE BATHING POOL (SHARK-PROOF NETTED), SOUTH BEACH.]
his untiring advocacy had the desired result, and he lived to see his cherished object brought to fruition by the extension of the line from Guildford to York. This pioneer may rightly claim to be the founder of the Royal Agricultural Society, which claim can be substantiated by records in the possession of his son, Mr. H. Flindell, of Fremantle.
In May 1881 Prince Edward and Prince George (now His Majesty King George V) visited the colony as midshipmen on board H.M.S. Bacchante.
A census taken that year showed that the town's population was 4,133.
In 1883 a proprietary grammar school was established in Fremantle and a school house, now Girton College, was built at the top of High Street, a trained master (Henry Briggs) being brought from England. In 1886 the master resigned and established a school of his own, which resulted in the closing of the first school and the ultimate occupation of the building by the new school, which had a course of great prosperity until the retirement of Briggs in 1897. Briggs afterwards achieved distinction in the political arena and was president of the Legislative Council when he was knighted.
In 1882 the schooner Pet collided with a whale and overturned off Cape Leeuwin. All the crew were saved except the master, Captain Littlejohn.
In March, 1883, the s.s. Macedon, bound for the North-West with a survey party on board, was wrecked off Rottnest. No lives were lost. Mr. (now Sir) Walter James was one of the passengers.
The same year an epidemic of measles of a malignant type broke out in Fremantle. The mortality among adults was unusually heavy and the epidemic nearly wiped out the remnant of aboriginals in the district.
A contract was let in that year to Messrs. J. & W. Bateman to construct for £56,531 a line of telegraph from Geraldton to Roebourne. The line was opened in 1885.
The railway to Chidlow's Well was opened in March, 1884.
The West Australian Shipping Association was established in 1884, the prime mover in its foundation being the late J. W. Bateman. Upon his initiative the Association was founded, Captain Marden being appointed its London manager, while a board of directors with Bateman as honorary secretary guided its destinies at this end. The Association met with bitter opposition from the London brokers, who made efforts to retain their hold on the trade. Competition became so keen that freight from London to Fremantle at one time was as low as 5/- per ton, but the Association held its own until eventually a compromise between the parties was reached by which the local merchants achieved their object of freeing themselves from the incubus of high freights, and at the same time establishing their Association permanently in the overseas trade.
[Page 66 has Nixon's photograph of HIGH STREET IN 1888.]
Sir John Coode visited the colony in 1885 for the purpose of reporting on harbour construction.
In that year the railway to York was opened on June 29 and the telegraph line to Roebourne was opened on October 1.
Scott's [Scots] Church was established in Fremantle that year. The services were conducted by a lay preacher until the first settled minister, the Rev. Robert Hanlin, arrived. Mr. Hanlin held his first service in the Oddfellow's Hall on October 17, 1887, and faithfully served his church for 35 years, when failing health compelled him to retire. During his long and fruitful pastorate he won the respect and esteem of all sections of the community and his strenuous work on behalf of his church will long be remembered by those who were associated with him.
Under an agreement with the British Government the convict establishment and the convicts were handed over to the colonial government in 1886. The Comptroller General of Convicts and all the organised machinery disappeared and the local prison system took its place, the few remaining convicts becoming ordinary prisoners until they completed their terms. In 1888 the enrolled pensioner force was disbanded and thus the last phase of convict administration automatically came to an end and the colony became the land of a buried past and a brilliant future.
A party of prospectors, mostly New Zealanders, arrived from Wyndham in 1886 in the schooner Myrtle. Those men had been unfortunate in their prospecting at the Hall's Creek goldfields, but were the pioneers of systematic prospecting and later became a great help in the discovery of gold reefs in various parts of the colony. Among them was A. E. Brown, of Auckland, who established a boat-building yard in Marine Terrace, from which were launched many fine craft, including pearling luggers, yachts, etc.
The Fremantle Rowing Club was founded that year and the club became noted for its regattas on June 1 and for its excellent annual dance, which was one of the chief social features of the town for many years.
The Fremantle Town Hall was opened on June 2 (see Municipal History) and on the evening of the following day the new building was the scene of a tragedy that created a painful sensation in Fremantle. During a children's ball that was being held in connection with the Queen Victoria Jubilee celebrations, a young single man named William Conroy, the licensee of the National Hotel, sought admission to the hall some time after 11 p.m., but as he had no invitation, besides being apparently under the influence of liquor, Councillor Snook, an elderly gentleman who was acting as doorkeeper, refused to admit him. Thereupon Conroy went back to his hotel and returned with a loaded revolver and shot the old gentleman. The shot was not immediately fatal, but Snook died a few weeks later. Conroy was put on trial for wilful
[Page 68 has photos of Michael Samson and Adam Armstrong.]
murder and, being found guilty, was sentenced to death. Strenuous efforts were made to obtain his reprieve, but without avail. For the crime Conroy suffered the extreme penalty on November 18, 1887, being then 30 years of age. He was the last man to be hanged within the precincts of Perth gaol, all subsequent executions being carried out at the Fremantle prison.
In April of that year many Fremantle families suffered bereavement by the loss of relatives in a terrific cyclone which occurred off the Ninety-mile Beach, about 180 miles from Cossack. Over 200 lives were lost and almost the entire pearling fleet was destroyed.
A contract was let to R. O. Law in 1887 to build a new approach and extend the sea jetty by 1,000 feet in a westerly direction towards Gage Roads. The original section was only 15 feet wide and had a narrow approach and the new section was made 42 feet in width. That was the second section to be built to the sea jetty and it is of interest to record that Law at the time of signing the contract was a minor, and at that early age gave evidence of his ability to undertake and complete a big job. Twenty-five years later Law secured a contract for the demolition of the structure, the jetty being of no further use and a danger to pedestrians using it.
The telephone exchange at Fremantle was opened on January 1, 1888, and in March the foundation stone of the new Wesley Church was laid.
The telegraph line to Broome and Derby was opened on April 9, 1889, and the Great Southern Railway, which was built by Anthony Hordern under a land grant concession, was opened for traffic on June 1 of that year.
Reports of gold indications from the Yilgarn district created considerable interest, and prospecting parties led by Captain Hughes and John Tuckey were organised and despatched to Golden Valley. Any person who had been to Ballarat or Bendigo was considered of value and was pressed into service. The equipment for most prospecting parties in those days was a two-wheeled cart with two horses in tandem.
News of Gold - Boom Days - Town Water Supply Opened - Responsible Government - Commencement of Harbour - First Mail Steamers - Banks Suspend Payment - Pronounced Building Activity - Wrecks of Carlisle Castle and City of York.
The ”Roaring Nineties” were boom days for Fremantle. At the port thousands of gold seekers arrived from the Eastern States and overseas, and the feeding and housing of the newcomers created an unprecedented amount of business. Hotels and boarding houses sprang up and warehouses were built to cater for the increasing demand for merchandise. Many who were unsuccessful in their search for gold returned to Fremantle to settle and the demand for houses resulted in a boom in the building trades. The amount of shipping using the harbour and the returns from the Customs told of the business caused by the influx of people and the larger importation of merchandise.
In 1890 news of the discovery of gold in Yilgarn and Southern Cross created a stir and from Fremantle was fitted out a few score prospecting parties. The town soon became lively with newcomers from the Eastern States and merchants and shopkeepers had their first indication of the busy and prosperous period that followed.
In that year the town's water supply was commenced and it was a matter for pride that Fremantle was the first town in the colony to organise a water supply. The revenue from the sale of water that year was £1,004.
On October 1, 1890, the anniversary of Trafalgar Day, the Moreton Bay fig tree in the triangle of Adelaide-street and Edward-street was planted by His Excellency the Governor, Sir William Robinson, in commemoration of responsible government being granted to the colony. The tree was provided by Phillip Webster, one of the auditors of the Fremantle Municipal Council, who, with the mayor and councillors, attended the Governor and handed to him a gold-painted spade with which he performed the ceremony. It was intended that the spade should be placed with the municipal treasures, but it disappeared. Webster, it should be recorded, planted most of the trees growing in St. John's Church grounds.
In December, 1890, the first election under responsible government was held, the members elected to the Legislative Assembly for the Fremantle district being:—
Fremantle: W. E. Marmion (who received the portfolio of Minister for Lands).
North Fremantle: W. S. Pearse.
South Fremantle: David Symon.
W. D. Moore was appointed by the Governor to represent Fremantle in the Legislative Council as, under responsible government, the Council did not become elective until the population of the State reached 60,000 which did not come about until 1893.
The Presbyterian Church in South Terrace was erected in 1890.
In 1891 a census taken disclosed that eight towns in the colony had a population exceeding 500. They were:-
Perth, 8,447; Fremantle, 7,077; Albany, 2,665; Geraldton, 1,218; York, 1,199; Newcastle, 742; Guildford, 726, and Bunbury, 572.
The Midland Railway was opened as far as Gingin on April 9, 1891, and in that year Mr. C. Y. O'Connor, the designer of the Fremantle harbour, arrived from New Zealand. That year also saw the opening in Fremantle of the Robin Hood Lodge of the Ancient Order of Foresters.
The barque Thornliebank (1,405 tons) was burnt while at anchor in Owen's Anchorage. The vessel brought a cargo of rails from England. Later she was reconditioned for use as a coal hulk and recently was scuttled outside Rottnest.
The year 1892 was a memorable one, as it marked the discovery of gold at Coolgardie, an event that ushered in a new era for Western Australia. Gold, the lodestar of the ages, attracted many men of progressive ideas, and the State's chief port was the richer for their advent. The town was filled with people from the Eastern States.and every vessel that berthed was overcrowded with men anxious to reach the find and stake out a claim. Merchants, shipowners and traders in the Eastern States, recognising the business to be done, either appointed agents in Fremantle or established branches in the town, and business boomed. Local merchants and traders experienced great difficulty in obtaining supplies to feed and fit out newcomers clamouring for attention. The influx of the large number of people stimulated local residents towards progressive undertakings, and the air of prosperity induced a companion feeling of optimism.
[Page 72 has Nixon's photograph of THE S.S. SULTAN AND FORMAL OPENING OF THE HARBOUR IN 1897.]
Another momentous event of that year was the commencement of the river harbour. From very early days efforts had been made to design a secure harbour at Fremantle, but until C. Y. O'Connor was appointed to the position of Engineer-in-Chief in 1891, the general feeling was that it would not be practicable to open the mouth of the river and build a commercial port inside. Some eminent engineers had examined the position and reported upon it, and all had favoured a harbour built within protecting breakwaters in Gage Roads; but O'Connor, with the foresight that marks true genius, saw clearly that any harbour built outside would be costly, and probably impossible to enlarge as the business of the State grew, whereas, if the mouth of the river could be successfully opened, extension up the river would be easy. While respecting those first adverse professional opinions, O'Connor differed from them, and he designed the present inner harbour and was able to combat successfully the extensive opposition he met. In November, 1892, the first truck of stone was tipped at Rous Head by Lady Robinson, and that was the commencement of the North Mole and the construction of the Fremantle harbour as it is to-day. At the end of four and a half years dredges working on the rocky bay inside the estuary of the Swan River had dug away sufficient of the obstruction to enable small vessels to enter the harbour, and in April, 1897, two overseas sailing vessels discharged their cargoes at the new wharf. They were followed by the s.s. Sultan, then on the Singapore run, which steamed into the new harbour on May 4, thus marking the commencement of a new era in shipping in Western Australia. (See F. W. B. Stevens' “History of the Harbour.")
Before the construction of the harbour works, the contour of the river below the bridges was quite different from that which meets the eye of the late-comer. What used to be known as Willis's Point was a triangular-shaped promontory whose base extended from near the site of the present railway station to a spot opposite Edward Street, the land tapering off to a point that reached to within a stone's throw of the northern shore of the river, leaving only a narrow deep-water channel for boats to pass through. In the centre of that promontory was a miniature, rush-fringed lake where wild ducks often paid the penalty of their temerity in approaching too close to the haunts of man. That portion of the land jutted out beyond the limits of the present wharf and was dredged away in the process of constructing the river harbour, the soil being used for reclaiming the shallow bay to the westward of the point.
The telegraph line to Wyndham was completed in January, 1893, and to Karridale and Quindalup in April, and railway communication with Bunbury was opened on September 8 of that year.
The old volunteer fire brigade station in Croke Street was erected in 1893. It has since been dismantled, a new building for the permanent firemen having been erected in Phillimore Street in 1908.
A considerable dislocation of business occurred in 1893 consequent upon the collapse during the previous year of the Victorian land boom.
[Page 74 has photos of mayors D.K. Congdon and Elias Solomon.]
The banks suspended payment, and all except the Western Australian Bank and the Bank of New South Wales closed their doors, with the result that traders who had credit balances had their money tied up, and those who were working on overdrafts were in an even more sorry plight. Eventually all the banks retrieved their position and their clients suffered no actual loss.
The year was a busy one. The rush of people passing through the town to the goldfields continued and the construction of harbour works and the erection of new buildings in the town were responsible for an increase in the population.
The boom created by the continuous gold finds was also a feature of 1894, when merchants, retail traders and almost every resident in the town had a prosperous year. The building trade was particularly good, but tradesmen were scarce and building material, with other commodities - especially mining stores and equipment - were in greater demand than supply. Consequent upon the activity on the railways and the construction of public works, the trade of the port was good. Branches of banks and Eastern States merchants and shipping companies were established as a result of the production of gold in the Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie districts.
In the following year the goldfields gave every evidence of permanency and the influx of people continued. The building trade of the port and town increased so rapidly as to create a shortage of bricks. To relieve the situation a shipload of bricks for use at Fremantle was brought from Melbourne. Merchants had to hustle to meet the demand for (goods and had a remarkably busy time indenting, receiving and passing on the requirements of the increased population.
The Orient mail steamer Orizaba was wrecked on February 16, 1895, during a thick haze which had been prevalent for some days, on a reef on the western side of Garden Island.
In March of that year a commencement was made with the work of converting the Barracks Field into the present Oval, and that year saw the privately-owned Midland Railway, which was opened in sections, completed to Geraldton.
In the West Australian Year Book for 1895 it is recorded that "the Fremantle Casualty Ward had been changed into a hospital," and as there is no record of the Fremantle hospital before that date, it can be surmised that the institution was a branch of the Perth Public Hospital. The management of the hospital is vested in a board nominated by the Government. The, first board was appointed on October 25, 1897, and consisted of the following:-
Hon. H. Briggs, Hon. A. B. Kidson, Hon. D. K. Congdon, Messrs. E. Solomon, J. Lilly, S. Connor, J. J. Higham, W. T. John, and Doctors Hope, White, Birmingham and Wheeler.
The hospital is ideally situated on eight acres of land in an elevated position overlooking the outer harbour and surrounding islands. The institution is in all respects up to date. It comprises five airy wards and a detached children' s ward. With the completion of a new surgical ward recently, the hospital can now accommodate 128 patients. During 1928 1,330 patients were admitted to the hospital and there were only 119 deaths. In the out-patients department 17,629 patients were treated.
Members of the present board are:-
Messrs. P. G. McMahon (chairman), J. M. Farrell, F. Rowe, M.L.A., H. L. Knapp, F. E. Gibson, J.P., C. W. Molyneux„ A. Turton, A. McLeod, Doctors E. C. East and H. Field- Martell, and Mesdames Waddell and Laidlaw.
The resident medical officers are:-
Dr. H. C. Caulfield, M.B., B.S. (Melb.); Dr. H. E. H.. Ferguson, M.B., B.S. (Melb.), and Dr. V. G. Crowley, L.M.S.S.A. (Lond.).
The cost of operating the hospital for a year amounts to £17,915.
In September, 1898, the railway line to Kalgoorlie was opened for traffic. The trade of Fremantle expanded rapidly; the large public works of the Mundaring Weir, the new harbour and new railways brought a continuous stream of people to the town. The building of hotels, banks, warehouses, shops and residences reached a high level, if not a peak period. Skilled tradesmen in all classes of trades had a good year. The increased gold yield gave confidence to financial, shipping, insurance and mercantile institutions, and their increased activities were reflected in the trade passing through the Customs and banks.
On May 4, 1897, the s.s. Sultan steamed up to the wharf, being the first official steamer to open the new harbour. The Municipal Market buildings in South Terrace were erected that year and the first wood block road built in the State was put down in High Street by E. H. Gliddon, the town engineer. (See Municipal History.)
The vast undertaking known as the Coolgardie Water Scheme was begun in 1898. That work was unique in the history of engineering, and nowhere had a work of equal magnitude been entered, upon.
The Salvation Army Citadel in William Street was erected in 1898.
The Boer War began in South Africa in 1899, and, in common with the other Australian States, Western Australia contributed six contingents consisting of 922 men, many of them from Fremantle. Western Australians killed during that campaign numbered five officers and 33 non-commissioned officers and men.
In October of that year a much-respected resident of Fremantle, Captain Riddell, of the schooner Ethel, together with his son and mate, were murdered on the pearling grounds by a Malay crew. The per-
petrators of the crime were brought to Perth and convicted of murder, and hanged.
On October 9 of that year the foundation stone of the Sailors' Rest in Marine Terrace was laid by Sir John Forrest. The building comprised a large hall with seating accommodation for 150 persons, separate apartments and sitting rooms for officers and men and private quarters for the missioner. It was designed to provide opportunities for seamen to spend their leisure hours in comfortable and wholesome surroundings. It was founded mainly through the efforts of the late Mrs. T. W. Smith.
During a severe gale in July the sailing vessel Carlisle Castle was wrecked off Rockingham; the whole of the officers and crew, numbering 22, were drowned. On the same day the sailing vessel City of York was wrecked off Rottnest, 11 of the crew being drowned and 15 saved. A monument to the memory of the dead was erected over the grave in the cemetery by public subscription. The Fremantle Cemetery was opened in June.
Removal of Workshops - Royal Visitors - Harbour Trust Formed - Admiral Henderson's Visit - Abortive Dry Dock Scheme - Fremantle and the Great War - Trouble on the Waterfront - War Memorial Scheme - Riots on Victoria Quay - Collapse of Railway Bridge - Visit of German Cruiser Berlin.
This century opened inauspiciously for Fremantle when, in pursuance of a proposal first mooted in 1895, Parliament decreed, by a narrow majority, that the railway workshops should be removed from Fremantle to Midland Junction.
It had become necessary to devote most of the area at Fremantle on which the railway workshops were situated to harbour requirements, and it was contended that no other suitable site for them was available in the immediate vicinity of Fremantle. By the people of Fremantle that was never accepted as the real reason, the opinion being strongly held that the Government of the day yielded to the pressure exerted by influential parties who owned land in the neighbourhood of the new site. As a result of the removal the population of Fremantle was less by several thousands and the removal brought disaster to many of the local tradespeople.
[Page 78 has a photo of SCHOOL CHILDREN ON THE OVAL, 1927, possibly on the occasion of the visit of the Duke and Duchess of York.]
In March Elias Solomon was elected as Fremantle's first member of the House of Representatives in the Federal Parliament, the opening of which took place on May 9, 1901.
The Baptist Church in South Terrace was erected that year.
The year 1901 was made memorable by the visit of Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall (the present King and Queen). It was intended that the first landing of the Royal visitors should be at Fremantle, and every preparation had been made to receive them. Unfortunately, after passing Breaksea, the Royal yacht, the Ophir, encountered such heavy weather that it was decided to run into Albany in order to save the Duchess and the ladies of the party the discomforts of a rough passage. That contretemps gave Albany the opportunity of being the first to welcome the Royal visitors, who then came to Perth by train, the Ophir continuing her voyage to Fremantle. The Royal party visited Fremantle on July 26, when ringing cheers greeted them from the throats of 20,000 people and the National Anthem was sung by 1,700 children. The Duchess was pleased to bestow the name of ”Princess May Girls' School”upon the girls' school that had been just completed at the corner of Cantonment and Edward Streets. Before the departure of the Royal pair, the Duchess christened the main quay on the south bank of the river and bestowed upon the wharf the title of ”Victoria Quay” in honour of the reigning Queen.
On March 26 of that year Sir John Forrest laid the foundation stone of the Trades Hall in Collie Street, the land having been given by the Government, who also made a substantial cash donation towards the building fund. The building was opened on June 23, 1904, by W. H. Carpenter, M.H.R., the first Labour representative for Fremantle in the Federal Parliament.
In the ten years between the census the town's population had nearly trebled itself and had grown from 7,077 in 1891 to 20,444 in 1901.
An explosion occurred at the Fremantle Powder Magazine in 1902, causing the death of one man.
On March 7 of that year the death occurred at Fremantle of C. Y. O'Connor, the eminent engineer who planned and carried out the Fremantle harbour works and the great Coolgardie water scheme. Both works stand as a monument to his genius, and a statue overlooking the harbour of his creation was erected to the memory of that distinguished man.
On August 23 of that year the Woodman's Point lighthouse was opened.
[Page 80 has photos of mayor Wm F. Samson, and yet another Bateman, this time John Wesley Bateman.]
The first Harbour Trust for Fremantle was appointed on January 7, 1903, the members being:-
Messrs. Robert Laurie, M.L.C. (chairman); A. G. Leeds, C. Hudson, A. Sandover and T. Coombe.
Mr. F. W. B. Stevens, who had been associated with the harbour scheme as secretary to C. Y. O'Connor, was appointed secretary and has held that position ever since. The present commissioners are:-
Messrs T. Carter (chairman), J. H. G. Taylor, W. H. A. Tanner, L. L. Bateman and P. G. McMahon.
The construction of the tramways system was commenced on February 5, 1905, and completed on April 11, 1906.
An outbreak of bubonic plague occurred in 1906, but, owing to suppressive measures that were vigorously and promptly taken, its ravages were restricted and only two cases had a fatal ending.
The Fremantle Starr-Bowkett Society was founded in January, 1907.
The s.s. Windsor, with a cargo of sandalwood shipped by Paterson and Co., was wrecked on the Abrolhos on February 2, 1908, with a loss of five lives.
The Fremantle Fire Brigade, which previously had been a volunteer body, was reorganised on a permanent basis and a new station erected in Phillimore Street, the foundation stone being laid by the Hon. James Price on June 19, 1908.
In 1910 Admiral Henderson was brought out from England by the Commonwealth Government to report on an Australian Naval Defence Scheme. He was greatly impressed by the fine sheet of water at Cockburn Sound and recommended the establishment of a base there. With certain modifications the Commonwealth Government decided to give effect to Admiral Henderson's recommendations, and money was provided in the following year's estimates for the preliminary survey. That work was proceeded with, and in May, 1913, the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) officially opened the works and hoisted the Australian flag. During 1913 work was temporarily suspended at the base while inquiries were made as to the suitability or otherwise of the surrounding country for the construction of a graving dock. It was contended that a site at Mangle's Bay was more suitable for a graving dock, and the Government of the day decided to engage the well-known engineering expert, Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice, to report on the matter. As a result of his investigations, the original scheme was proceeded with and work resumed at the base.
The Government resumed the whole of Garden Island and a strip of land running along the coast for six miles in length and one and a half miles in width. The redemption of that land involved the removal of the magazine as well as the Woodman's Point Quarantine Station.
Over 300 men were employed at the base and it was anticipated that the scheme would take about 15 years to complete and would cost about £7,000,000, but in 1921 the whole scheme collapsed. The men employed on the undertaking were dismissed and the plant and material were left to the mercy of the elements. Such of it as had not been stolen or rotted was eventually sold for the proverbial song, which means that it was practically given away to anyone who would take the trouble to cart it away.
How hard Fremantle was hit by the removal of the workshops to Midland Junction is reflected in the population returns, which showed an increase of only 400 between 1901 and 1911.
The State Steamship Service was inaugurated in 1912 (see Shipping), and in that year the State Government made an attempt to provide a dry dock for Fremantle. The work was commenced in July, the site selected being at Rous Head. It proved to be ill-chosen, as it transpired that no stable foundations existed for the work. The scheme was abandoned, but not until nearly £250,000 had been expended. The proposed graving dock was to have been 850 feet long by 150 feet wide.
The Steamship Owners' Federation and Employers of Waterside Labour Association were established in 1913.
In 1914 a severe drought was experienced throughout the State. The newly-developed wheat lands, the older cultivated areas and the pastoral lands all suffered, with the result that the trade of the town and port was seriously affected.
While the Great War is not a subject for the local historian, it may not be out of place to record the fact that Fremantle nobly played its part in the great drama that began on August 4, 1914. In no other part of the Empire was the call to arms more magnificently responded to. The separate figures for Fremantle are not available, but the enlistments from the whole State totalled over 34,000 men. Of those 32,231 went overseas and only 23,670 returned. In proportion to its population, Western Australia's contribution to the expeditionary forces, as well as to war loans and a variety of other funds such as Red Cross, etc., was higher than that of any other State.
In compiling a record of notable happenings relating to Fremantle, it sometimes becomes necessary to refer to epoch-making events which, while they are not matters of purely local history, yet affect Fremantle as a unit of the great Australian Commonwealth. Foremost among those was the unparalleled military feat by which, in the landing at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915, the Australians covered themselves with glory and established Australia's claim to the status of nationhood. Though many Fremantle homes were desolated through the sacrifices made in the performance of that magnificent achievement, the day of its accomplishment must ever be held as historic in the annals not only of Fremantle but of every town in every State whose heroic sons took part in it.
On January 10, 1916, the new ”Nine-to-Nine” liquor laws came into operation. Previously hotels could open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
A strike of waterside workers in 1917 created a bad impression because the despatch of much-needed supplies to men at the front was seriously interfered with. The Trans-Australian Railway - Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie - which had been constructed by the Commonwealth Government, was opened for traffic in 1917, and the first train left Perth for Adelaide on October 23.
At the end of 1918 and in the early part of the following year a severe epidemic of pneumonic influenza swept over the town and claimed many victims. Every State in the Commonwealth underwent the same experience. Some of the commercial houses found it difficult to carry on owing to the fact that practically the whole of their staffs were stricken by the disease.
In November of that year news of the Armistice was greeted with much enthusiasm by a war-sick community. Early in 1919 J. W. Bateman, in conjunction with other prominent citizens, initiated a movement having for its object the erection of a memorial to perpetuate the memory of the Fremantle members of the A.I.F. who gave their lives at Gallipoli or in France and other theatres.of war. The project hung fire for some time, but was eventually taken up with some vigour and pressed to a successful issue.
The Fremantle Business Men's Association and the Fremantle Fruiterers and Greengrocers' Association were formed in 1919.
May of that year will long be remembered, by the occurrence of the most serious labour trouble in the history of the town. Following the strike of waterside workers in 1917, a number of volunteers, who were non-unionists, were employed on the wharf. Their presence created a deal of friction that culminated in a demonstration by unionists to bring pressure on the Government for the removal of the free labourers. That was followed by an interference with the free labourers at their work. On Sunday, May 4, the police were strengthened to uphold the law and they met with violent opposition. On their arrival the excitement grew to fever heat; stones were thrown and the ugly tones of angry men and women were raised against the police. The Riot Act was read by Magistrate Dowley and the clashes between the police and the mob were frequent, many of both sides being injured. One lumper, Tom Edwards, was killed.
The most notable event of the year was the visit of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. His reception was most enthusiastic, and wherever he travelled throughout the municipality vast crowds assembled to bid him welcome.
A continuous chain of strikes unsettled commerce and industry. Few occupations, including even the civil service, escaped temporary dislocation. Even the breweries were affected by a strike of the ”Bottle-o” men.
[Page 84 has Nixon's photograph of HIGH STREET IN 1896. It includes Nixon's own sign! It also shows the Town Hall, and the building which was called The Broadway, and is still on the corner of Market and High Sts and is currently tenanted by 7/Eleven.]
That year saw the abolition of the late Friday shopping night.
The following year was ushered in by a disastrous strike of locomotive engineers, but the matter was settled by the Arbitration Court.
In April of that year the Fremantle Smelting Works were closed owing to a depression in the lead market and high freights.
The jubilee of the Fremantle Municipality was celebrated that year.
A departmental estimate of the town's population in 1921 was 25,534 people.
In September and October, 1922, the leading newspapers of the State ceased publication for five weeks owing to a strike of their mechanical staffs. A strike of railway engineers was also in progress for several months.
The newly created Licences Reduction Board was appointed and commenced to function during the year.
In December, 1924, a series of disputes between the maritime unions developed in Fremantle in common with all the other Australian ports. At the close of the year the shipping service between Fremantle and the Eastern States was practically suspended.
That year the Collier Government extended the benefits of the 44-hour week to the whole of the employees of the Public Works Department, numbering about 3,000, and raised the wages of the 7,000 employees of the Railway Department by three shillings per week.
The strike of waterside workers continued in 1925 and was followed by a strike of British seamen.
On April 4, 1925, a poll on the prohibition question was taken and resulted in a victory for the ”wets.”
On July 23 a sensation was created by the collapse of the Fremantle railway bridge caused by a washaway of the sandy embankment at its northern end. Fortunately it occurred at an hour when few trains were running. As it was, the transport service between Fremantle and Perth and inland places was paralysed for many months while temporary repairs to the bridge were being effected. Undue strain was placed upon the road bridge, over which all goods and passengers had to be carried to and from the North Fremantle railway station, which had become the terminus for the time being.
Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of York visited Fremantle in 1927. The Royal pair were everywhere received with the utmost enthusiasm, the loyalty and devotion of the people being strikingly demonstrated at each public appearance.
On April 8 of the same year the first consignment of bulk petrol to reach the State was discharged at Fremantle.
The old St. John's Rectory in Cantonment Street was demolished in 1927 to make way for the expanding field of wool export. Among the many estimable clerics who from time to time occupied that venerable building, special mention should be made of the Rev. G. J. Bostock, who laboured with much acceptance in the Anglican fold for
[Page 86 shows two medicos, Drs Birmingham and Barnett.]
about twenty years between the fifties and the seventies. Like the Rev. J. Johnston, he conducted a Young Men's Society that provided intellectual pabulum of a very high order for the young men of his flock, essays, lectures and debates being the instruments of mental culture he most favoured. In that sphere of his activities he had an able coadjutor in Dr. H. C. Barnett, who was a very cultured gentleman and was possessed of a wide knowledge of affairs in departments other than his profession. He was also a man of iron nerve, for it was said that he amputated his own leg while at sea, and as that statement was published more than once during his lifetime and never contradicted by him, it was probably true. Dr. Barnett was a frequent contributor to the Press under the pen-name of ”Uniped” (one foot).
An impressive ceremony took place on Anzac Day, 1928, the occasion being the dedication by His Excellency Sir William Campion of the tablet on the fallen sailors' and soldiers' monument, in the course of erection on Monument Hill. On Armistice Day, the memorial being completed, the Lieutenant-Governor (Sir Robert McMillan) performed the unveiling ceremony. Both functions were attended by an immense concourse of people desirous of paying homage to the memory of the fallen heroes.
The collapse of a strike in May left the members of the Fremantle Lumpers' Union in a worse position than before the trouble, inasmuch as the monopoly they recovered in 1919 was again nullified by virtue of the licensing provision of the new Transport Workers' Regulations.
In September of that year the port was visited by the Berlin, the first German warship seen in these waters since the war.
First Town Trust - Town Council Created - A Veritable Pooh-Bah - Movement for Town Hall - Lighting of Town - Water Supply - First Wood Block Road - Fremantle Tramways and Electric Lighting Board - Serving the Suburbs.
The first record of a body being entrusted with the control of civic affairs in Fremantle is to be found in the ”Perth Gazette” of April 22, 1848, wherein there was a notification of the appointment of a Town Trust, the personnel of which was:-
Chairman: Captain Daniel Scott. Members: Messrs. A. Francisco, William Pearse, Alfred Davies, John Bateman and E. Yelverton.
We have been privileged to consult a book of ratepayers of 1855 to 1859, from which it appeared that C. A. Manning was honorary rate collector for the Town Trust. The town lots were numbered from 1 to 589, and the assessment for all lots in 1855 was £1 per annum, payable in two moieties of 10/-, each of which was noted in the book.
The book also records:-
”That at a special meeting of ratepayers held at the Court House, Fremantle, on Tuesday, April 1, 1856, an assessment of twenty shillings was levied on all allotments within the town of Fremantle for the present year, to be paid in three instalments of six shillings and eight pence, for the purpose of finishing Pakenham, Henry, Mouatt and Leake Streets and other purposes."
Following that minute are the lot numbers and names of owners of each allotment, and it is interesting to note that at that time no less than 199 lots were Government property, presumably not then sold, so that the annual rates collected would have been about £400.
With the steady growth and increasing importance of the town, the democratic spirit of the citizens began to manifest itself in a demand for municipal government, and on February 27, 1867, a meeting of ratepayers was held in the Oddfellows' Hall in William Street for the purpose of electing a chairman and councillors. The following representative citizens were present at that meeting:-
Messrs. J. G. Slade, R.M. (chairman); E. Newman, W. D. Moore, W. S. Pearse, Captain W. D. Jackson, E. Solomon, W. E. Marmion, E. H. Higham, W. Jose, H. M. Lefroy, Joseph Doonan, James Herbert, John Chester, J. J. Harwood, George Armstrong, John Henderson, W. Leach, Henry Albert, George Thompson, J. H. Duffield, D. B. Francisco, W. Hayes, George Curedale, and a number of others.
Up to that time the civic affairs of the town had been administered by the Town Trust, but the necessity for the creation of a body endowed with more extensive powers then became apparent. Consequently the privileges conferred by the Municipalities Act were availed of and a ballot was taken which resulted in the election of the following councillors to represent the three wards into which the town was divided:-
Chairman W. S. Pearse; Councillors - West Ward: George Pearse, G. A. Davies and Herbert Dixon; North Ward: W. E. Marmion, John Chester and D. B. Francisco; South Ward: W. Jose, W. Hayes and Lucius A. Manning; Treasurer: W. D. Moore; Auditors: Messrs. H. M. Lefroy and Joseph Doonan.
On March 10, 1871, the newly-constituted body held its first meeting: at John Thomas' Albert Hotel (since rebuilt and renamed the Commercial Hotel). At that meeting it was resolved, on the motion of W. E. Marmion seconded by W. Hayes, that George Thompson be appointed clerk and collector at the remuneration of 6 per cent. on all moneys collected exclusive of fines. A letter from John Henderson was read applying for the position of Inspector of Nuisances and Supervisor of Works. After some discussion it was proposed by G. Pearse and seconded by H. Dixon, that the person to be appointed be paid £50 per annum for his services. As an amendment, L. A. Manning proposed and W. Hayes seconded that the sum of £40 be paid to the person appointed to the office of Supervisor, Inspector of Nuisances and Inspector of Weights and Measures, and the amendment was carried. It was decided to call for applications by advertisement for the position. Other business dealt with included instructions to the chairman to procure a common seal for the council to be engraved with a swan and ”Fremantle Municipality” around it. Also it was decided that consideration be given to the preparation of by-laws under the ordinance constituting the municipality at a future meeting, and that minutes of all meetings be furnished to the newspapers for the information of ratepayers. A resolution was carried that levels of the town be taken either by employing a competent person or by asking the Government to do it. The municipal estimates showed an anticipated revenue of £600, which was allotted to improving the streets and extending the sea wall to Fitzgerald Terrace. Up to that time the rates levied upon property owners were merely nominal, as convict labour was available and was provided free for street and road making, but that concession was greatly curtailed by Governor Weld in the early part of 1873.
For a time the council meetings were held at Thomas' Hotel, then a small office was secured at the corner of High Street and Adelaide Street, on the site now occupied by Robin's tobacconist shop, and later the venue was changed to the Oddfellows' Hall.
A further step forward was taken in 1883 when Fremantle was raised to the dignity of a corporation presided over by a mayor, B. C. Wood being the first to occupy that position. The following list shows the mayors of the municipality:-
1883-1885 - B. C. Wood
1886-1888 - D. K. Congdon
1889-1891- E. Solomon
1892-1893 - W. F. Samson
1894 - D. K. Congdon
1895 - G. A. Davies
1896 - 1898 - E. Solomon
1899 - J. McHenry Clark
1900 - E. Solomon
1901 - E. W. Davies
1902 - L. Alexander
1903 - T. Smith
1904-1905 - F. Cadd
1906-1907 - M. Samson
1908-1909 - W. A. Murphy
1910 - E. H. Fothergill
1911 - W. A. Murphy
1912 and 1914 - J. F. McLaren
1915-1918 - W. E. Wray
1919 - W. Montgomery
1920-1923 - F. E. Gibson
1924-1926 - John Cooke
1927-1928 - F. E. Gibson
1929 - F. E. Gibson
[Page 90 shows Nixon's photo of the RECEPTION TO GOVERNOR SMITH, 1896. Gerald Smith was governor 1895-1901.]
It will be noted that a number of those wore the mayoral robes for several terms. Much shorter than the list of mayors that of successive town clerks is as follows:-
1871-1874 - George Thompson
1874-1904 - G. B. Humble
1904-1910 - S. J. McMillan
1910-1921 - H. T. Haynes
1921-1929 - James Shepherd
George Thompson was an ex-solicitor from England and afterwards founded the firm of Thompson, Sendy and Company. For the first 15 years of his term as town clerk G. B. Humble also held the position of headmaster of the Government Boys' School, and for 25 years of his term he was also secretary of the Fremantle Building Society.
Early in the eighties Fremantle began to think that it was time to get into long pants and the municipal fathers considered that the Oddfellows' Hall was a mean habitation for their increasing importance. The Government had granted the council a site in South Terrace on which it was intended to erect a town hall, but in 1877 the councillors showed commendable judgment in purchasing for £500 the block now graced by the town hall. As a result of a meeting of ratepayers held in May, 1881, E. Solomon, the chairman, renewed the application for the Government's approval of a project to build a town hall and added ”the cherished hope that with assistance from the Colonial Treasurer and free convict labour a structure, that would be a permanent ornament and utility to the town as well as a lasting monument to His Excellency's, administration, would ere long be erected in the town.” The estimated cost of the building was not to exceed £10,000 and it was proposed to spend £6,000 immediately. The citizens must have lost their enthusiasm because in 1882 the proposal to float the necessary loan was vetoed by the ratepayers. Later on the project was revived with some success with the result that the foundation stone of the town hall was laid by Governor Broome on September 10, 1885. B. C. Wood was mayor at that time, but when on June 22, 1887, the building, was opened, D. K, Congdon wore the mayoral robes, and the ceremony was regarded as one of the most important features of the Queen Victoria Jubilee celebrations. The total cost of the building was £15,000, of which the Government contributed £2,000.
At the time the erection of the Town Hall was commenced, the population of Fremantle was only about 5,000, so that the undertaking was one of considerable magnitude for such a small community. That those responsible for its erection were far-sighted and had bright hopes for the future, is attested by the fact that they have bequeathed a building which, after more than 40 years of civic duty, is still capable of satisfying the needs of a population that is now over six times as large as when it was built.
Before passing to the maturer progress of Fremantle, it is interesting to note that the first sale of land for non-payment of rates took place
[Page 92 shows photos of Robert Howson, shipbuilder, and James Lilly.]
in July, 1872, when nine lots were sold for arrears. One sale was declared void by the Government on technical grounds. Until the Municipalities Institutions Act was passed in 1871 the council had no power to resort to that method of recovering rates, hence the practice in the early days of jumping absentee-owned lots went unchecked.
The growth of the town since the opening year of the present century is reflected in the following figures. In 1900 the annual value was £111,000 and rates amounting to £ 11,000 were collected. In 1928 the annual value had increased to £196,000 and rates amounting to £38,000 were collected.
In 1884 the first money (£100) was voted for street lighting by gas. In those days the advantages of the municipalisation of public services were not realised, and that gave an opportunity to a syndicate promoted by A. Gra. Rosser to obtain from the council permission to light Fremantle with gas. Negotiations resulted in the Fremantle Gas Company securing a monopoly which was not interfered with until the inauguration of the municipal lighting system in 1906.
The water supply question has long been a source of anxiety to the Fremantle Council as well as to the townspeople. Up to about 1898 the town was supplied mainly from privately-owned wells, but in that year the town was reticulated, and a supply laid on wherever required, the water being drawn from a well in the gaol yard. A main was laid down High Street and connected with the prison pump, various bores being afterwards put down to keep pace with the steady growth of the town and suburbs. The supply was inadequate, if not insanitary, and the position was improved when the town was connected with the metropolitan water supply system. Even now the port is not provided with a water supply commensurate with its development or sufficient to meet the demand that would be made upon it in the event of a serious outbreak of fire.
The first piece of wood-blocking road put down in Western Australia was constructed by E. H. Gliddon, town engineer of Fremantle, in 1897-1898. The work, which was undertaken in High Street between Cliff Street and Adelaide Street for a distance of 25 chains, covered 6,840 square yards and was laid at a cost of £7,000. No doubt present-day engineers would be glad. to install more wood-blocking provided it could be accomplished at the same price. An examination made recently of the blocks showed that very little wear had taken place. The six-inch concrete foundation was in perfect order and the wood blocks would have been in a similar condition but for the fact that the tram lines were laid in the centre of the road, with the result that water percolated under the blocks with disastrous results. The main portion of the roadway is still in existence and, if some means could be found for the perfecting of the joints between the tramline and the wood blocks, it would provide a satisfactory roadway for many years to come.
In this connection it would not be inopportune to mention that the width of High Street is 49 feet from building line to building line, but when the original survey was made, that main thoroughfare was 66 feet wide. The early city fathers decided that such a wide street was too expensive to maintain and invited owners on either side to encroach to the extent of seven and a half feet, with the result that to-day the principal street is congested. Steps are being taken to. resume portion of the land previously given away to early owners.
North Fremantle originally formed part of the north ward of Fremantle, but having regard to its geographical position, the ratepayers of that district considered that they would fare better by forming a separate municipality. Accordingly that portion of the ward lying on the north of the river seceded from the parent body and was gazetted a municipality in 1895.
With East Fremantle the case was different. Before becoming a municipality, East Fremantle, like the Melville Road Board district, formed part of the Fremantle Road Board. It was anxious to become incorporated with the Fremantle municipality, but as overtures in that direction were repeatedly rejected by Fremantle, it constituted itself a separate municipality in 1897. The Melville Road Board came into existence some three years, later. Prior to becoming a municipality, East Fremantle possessed a separate Board of Health acting independently of the Fremantle Road Board. That was formed to enable the residents to cope with the nuisance arising from the old slaughterhouse which was located in the centre of Plympton.
To the following falls the honour of representing the ratepayers of Fremantle during the centennial year:-
Mayor: F. E. Gibson, J.P. Councillors - City Ward: W. J. Sumpton, J.P.; R. Rennie, and F. Hollis, J.P.; Central Ward: J. Stevens, J.P.; J. M. Farrell and E. M. Davies. South Ward: B. T. Daly, J.P.; J. E. Wilson, and C. D. Kerr, M.B. North Ward: G. W. Shepherd, J.P.; A. Grigg and F. W. Martin.
The Fremantle Tramways and Electric Lighting system is a municipal enterprise owned conjointly by the Fremantle and East Fremantle Municipal Councils. It had its inception in 1904 when, under the authority provided by a special Act of Parliament, the councils entered into an agreement with Noyes Brothers to design and superintend the construction of the scheme. Prior to that stage being reached, representatives of the municipalities of Fremantle East Fremantle and North Fremantle had held preliminary meetings to discuss the possibilities of the scheme and to consider the advisability of undertaking the work. Early in the proceedings North Fremantle decided not to join in the
[Page 95 has a very arty photo by Nixon showing THE TWO BRIDGES IN 1906, referring to the 1866 High Level Bridge and the 1896-8 Low Level Bridge.]
venture, so that it was left to the other two councils to continue the negotiations. Satisfactory arrangements having been made, the next step was the election of a board in the terms of the Act as, until that was done, the proposed agreement with the contractors could not be finalised. An election was held in June, 1904, Councillor Nicholas acting as returning officer for the Fremantle portion of the election and Mayor Angwin, M.L.A., performing the same duty for the sister municipality. The first board was constituted.:-
Frank Cadd, Mayor of Fremantle (ex officio); E. Solomon, representative of Fremantle owners; C. S. Nathan, representative of East Fremantle owners; R. J. Lynn, representative of Fremantle occupiers and Harry Bennett, representative of East Fremantle occupiers.
The ownership of the system was vested in Fremantle and East Fremantle Councils in the proportions of six sevenths and one seventh respectively.
Nine days after the election the Board ratified the agreement made between the councils and Noyes Brothers. The necessary material was ordered and on February 6, 1905, the construction work was commenced. On November 30 of that year tram traffic was opened on the South and East Fremantle routes, Beaconsfield and Marmion Street routes being completed shortly afterwards. The work was completed on April 11, 1906.
Soon afterwards an arrangement was made with the North Fremantle Council under which the board undertook to supply that municipality with electric light and power, the North Fremantle Council to convey the current to its customers within its borders. During the second year of operations the question was raised of the extension of the tramway system to North Fremantle and in that connection the North Fremantle Council again preferred to be a customer rather than a partner in the scheme, and opened negotiations for laying down its own system. That line was opened for traffic on September 30, 1908. Later the Melville Road Board entered into a similar agreement with the board in respect to both electric light and tramway extensions in its district, but on October 1, 1928, that section of the tramway system was taken over by the board, the Melville Road Board finding that the loss on operations was too great a drain upon its resources.
In 1909 the board found it necessary to duplicate the South Fremantle route and most of the East Fremantle line and later extensions were made to the Beaconsfield line.
That the undertaking has proved a good investment is evidenced by the fact that it has paid full interest and sinking fund on its borrowed capital, written off preliminary expenses and large sums for depreciation, besides contributing,profits to the municipalities amounting to over £28,000. The progress of the town since that public utility came into existence is illustrated by the following figures. In the first
year of its operations the gross revenue of the board was £23,706, last year it was £137,760. The gross profit in the first year was £2,192, last year it was £26,968. In the first year the trams earned £19,266 and carried 1,963,636 passengers and in the year ending August 31, 1928, they earned £56,729 and carried 6,082,611 passengers. The first manager and engineer was Albert Mitchell, who held the position until his death in 1926. Since his demise the system has been operated under the joint control of the secretary, J. T. Bold, the tramways engineer, J. Ridgway, and the electrical engineer, H. Richardson. The present board consists of:-
F. E. Gibson (Mayor of Fremantle), ex officio, J. F. Allen (chairman), J. Cooke, H. J. Locke and R. Rennie. J. T. Bold has filled the position of secretary and accountant since the inception of the undertaking.
Seafaring Pioneers - Early Overseas Trading - Shipping Disasters - Advent of the Steamer - Interstate Companies Operate - Captain T. E. Shaw - Early North-West Vessels - Singapore Run Opened - Captain Andrew Mills - State Shipping Service.
Because of her position as the principal port of Western Australia, Fremantle's history has been affected largely by the progress of marine navigation and the improvements of ocean transport and means of communication. As a port Fremantle was born in the days of sail, she achieved importance in the steamship era, and in these days of the motorship age she has become the busiest of all Australian ports for oil fuelling.
Up to the early eighties, the whole of the coastal cargo and passenger trade was carried on in small sailing vessels of 25 to 60 tons. The trade with China, Straits Settlements, Java and Mauritius was catered for mostly by vessels owned by J. and W. Bateman until the establishment of steam transport rendered them unprofitable. The trade with England was maintained by sailing vessels of 300 to 500 tons, which discharged their cargoes into lighters in Gage Roads, as craft exceeding 100 tons could not berth at the old south jetty.
In these days of big ships it is interesting to note that in 1839 Captain John Thomas had built a little cutter of 22 tons named the Emma. After being employed for a time on the coast, she was lengthened and her tonnage increased to 25 tons. In that diminutive craft Captain Thomas traded to Adelaide, Hobart, Mauritius, Singapore, Algoa Bay and the Cape. In 1846 he built the Empress, of 125 tons, and he employed her in the same trade until 1858, when he bought the Rory O'More (296 tons), which he commanded for some years. After his retirement from the sea he engaged in farming at Ravenswood and later built and managed the Albert Hotel. He came to the colony in the Gilmore in 1829 and died in 1907 at the patriarchal age of 92. He it was who, after leaving the sea, taught most of our old-time coasting skippers all they knew of navigation, and that was very little, as most of them used to find their way about by instinct or rule of thumb. In those go-as-you-please days certificates of competency were not required, and anyone could be a shipmaster or practise as a doctor or dentist without his qualifications being put to the test. There was consternation among ancient mariners when certificates were first brought into vogue. Many of them, though they were splendid seamen and had sailed vessels for years, could pass only after several attempts the most rudimentary examinations they required, and some never passed at all. Unkind people said that the gift of a bottle of whisky to the examiner greatly facilitated the acquisition of a ticket in those days.
Half a century ago shipbuilding was a thriving industry at the port, and although no very large vessels were launched, those that were built suited the requirements of the time. Probably the largest vessel ever built in the State was one of about 300 tons built near the mouth of the Murray at Mandurah in the middle forties. She was named the Ocean Queen. About the same time a brigantine of about 125 tons named the Empress was built at Fremantle for Captain John Thomas. Other vessels built in Fremantle between the sixties and eighties and considered to be fairly large in those days, were the Janet (226 tons) built by James Storey; the Iris (206 tons), built by Robert Howson; the Laughing Wave (161 tons), built by W. Jackson; the Rose (100 tons) built by Robert Wrightson, and the New Perseverance (127 tons), built at Preston Point by Jones and Owston. Other locally-built vessels of about 100 tons were the Mary Herbert, the Azelia, and the Pet. Quite a number of smaller vessels for the coasting trade and luggers for pearling were built by T. W. Mews, W. A. Chamberlain and A. E. Brown.
Before the sea-carrying business passed from sail to steam, quite a number of local people were identified with the shipping trade between Fremantle and overseas ports. During the century of the State's history the following were owners of foreign-going ships whose home port was Fremantle:- Luke Leake, Captain Dempster, Captain Dan Scott, Captain John Thomas, J. and W. Bateman, Pearse and Owston, W. D. Moore, W. E. Marmion, Padbury, Loton and Co., Shenton and Monger,
R. M. Habgood and Co., James Herbert, Senior; Captain John Tuckey, Captain John Abbot and Captain J. M. Ferguson.
In the early days marine insurance premiums were so high that shipowners preferred to carry the risks themselves. Whether they gained or lost by that policy is problematical, but certainly the losses sustained by some of them seemed to outweigh the cost of insuring. Messrs. J. and W. Bateman and W. D. Moore were the heaviest losers in that regard. Batemans lost the following vessels:-
Flying Foam (Captain Reeves), which foundered between Geraldton and Fremantle; Twinkling Star (Captain Long) struck a reef west of Garden Island; Star (Captain Shepherd), on which the late John Bateman was a passenger, wrecked on the Murray reef where the Bungaree (Captain Cornford) met a similar fate while on a voyage from Java to Fremantle; Bessie (Captain Shaw) was burnt in Batavia Harbour; Thistle (Captain Williams) was never heard of again after she sailed from Bunbury for Capetown.
In the cases of the Flying Foam, Twinkling Star and Thistle, all on board were lost. Other smaller vessels belonging to the firm and engaged in the pearling industry were lost in the great cyclone of 1876.
W. D. Moore lost the following vessels:-
Swan (Captain Peterson), at Port Irwin; Rose (Captain Reid), in the China Sea; Rosette (Captain Vincent), in the cyclone off Cossack (all lives lost), and the Janet (Captain Miles), off Rottnest.
The naming of Bateman's ships was always a prerogative of the lady members of the family, and their selection of the names invariably took a poetic turn, as indicated by Sea Ripple, Laughing Wave, Flying Foam, Sea Spray, Wild Wave, Star, Iris, Ivy, etc.
The first steamer to ply along the coast was a little vessel of 100 tons named the Xantho, belonging to C. E. Broadhurst. Her career was a short one, as she was wrecked in December, 1872, while on a voyage from Geraldton to Fremantle. She was followed by the s.s. Georgette (212 tons), owned by Connor and McKay, which took up the running in October, 1873. On her first trip from Albany she ran on the Murray reef and narrowly escaped becoming a total wreck. She was floated off and continued in the trade until November, 1876, when she foundered off Busselton while on a voyage to Adelaide with a cargo of jarrah. It was on that occasion that Miss Grace Bussell distinguished herself by her conduct in plunging into the surf on horseback and rescuing a number of the passengers. Thereafter she was known as the ”Australian Grace Darling.” After the loss of the Georgette the late James Lilly put the Rob Roy (267 tons), and later the Otway (271 tons) in the service. After a few years Lilly sold the steamers to the Adelaide Steamship Company, he becoming the local manager and holding a large number of shares in the company.
[Page 100 has photos of people involved in shipping: Capt T.E. Shaw, and Capt Andrew Mills.]
Up to the early nineties the Adelaide Steamship Company enjoyed a monopoly of the steamer service between east and west, as well as on the coast, but, when the influx from the Eastern States set in consequent upon the discovery of gold, other companies saw opportunities for lucrative business, and soon, in addition to the Adelaide Steamship Company, the passenger and cargo traffic was maintained by the Australian United Steamship Company, Mcllwraith McEacharn Ltd., and Howard Smith and Co. Lilly and Co. acted as agents for all the companies for a start, but as the business expanded each company opened its own office. The Melbourne Steamship Company entered the service at a later stage.
Before passing to later days, this section would not be complete without a reference to Captain T. E. Shaw, who was identified with the port's shipping industry for a period of 42 years. He came to Fremantle as master of the English-owned brig, Sea Nymph, in 1867. His vessel became a total wreck through being driven ashore from Gage Roads during a heavy gale, and he accepted the command of J. and W. Bateman's new brig, Laughing Wave. In that vessel he was engaged in the China trade for many years and then transferred to the barquentine Iris, which was built by Robert Howson for the same owners. On retiring from the sea he took up the position of marine superintendent for Batemans and occupied that post until failing health reduced his activities. He died in 1909.
Captain Shaw was a keen business man whose services were highly valued by his employers, who entrusted him with their business in foreign parts. Mention of the Iris calls to mind the fact that the vessel, while under the command of Captain Shaw, once made the trip from Cossack to Fremantle in four and a half days, a notable achievement for a sailing vessel and one that no steamer has yet surpassed.
The first native-born West Australian to obtain a Board of Trade master mariner's certificate was the late Captain Charles Henry Watson. After gaining experience in coasting vessels in 1871, he shipped as an able seaman on Padbury's barque Bridgetown, bound for London, and seven years later he returned to Fremantle in command of R. M. Habgood and Co's. full-rigged ship Zephyr. Prior to that he was awarded the Royal Humane Society's medal for gallantry in saving life at sea when chief officer of the ship Hesperides trading between London and Adelaide. A brother to the late Captain T. E. Shaw was in command of the Hesperides at the time. After he retired from the sea Captain Watson was a port official at Port Pirie (South Australia) for some time, and he then returned to Fremantle, where for many years he was manager of Randell Knight and Company' s lighterage business. When that business closed he was engaged for some time in navigating new luggers from Fremantle to the pearling grounds.
The first regular steamship service on the North-West coast was maintained by the Adelaide Steamship Company under contract with the Government. The company placed the s.s. Albany (878 tons) in the service and she carried mails, passengers and cargo between Fremantle and Derby.
The first steamer to trade between Fremantle and Singapore was the antiquated steamer Natal, which came on the coast in 1883. She was owned by the West Australian Steam Navigation Company, which was composed of city and port merchants and others. The Australind followed in 1887 and she was specially built for the coastal trade. In 1890 the first steamer of the Ocean Steamship Company (an offshoot of the Holt Line), the Saladin, was placed in the service under the command of Captain Bell.
In 1894 the combined service of the West Australian Steam Navigation Company and the Ocean Steamship Company placed the Sultan on the run, and she was followed by the Karakatta (Captain Talboys) in 1890. The Karakatta was lost on Swan Point at the entrance to King Sound in 1901, and she was replaced by the Minilya and the Saladin was replaced by the Charon in 1902. The following year the Paroo replaced the Australind and the Gorgon replaced the Sultan in 1908. The Minderoo entered the service in 1909 and the Centaur and Gascoyne have been more recent additions.
All those vessels have served the country well. The commanders have been very fine men, and perhaps none better known than Captain Andrew Mills, a West Australian, who has commanded the Australind, Minilya, Paroo, Minderoo and Gascoyne. There is no man living who knows the North-West coast as well, and his popularity with station owners and residents of the outports is a tribute to his worth. An unassuming personality, master of his job, with a record of many years' service without accident on a difficult coast with varied tides, banks and dangers, to navigation, he represents a type of deep-sea master mariner who is a credit to Fremantle, his home port.
In 1912 the State entered into the shipping business. Its fleet at the end of 1914 consisted of the Kwinana, Western Australia, Eucla and Una. In 1915 it acquired the captured German steamer Prinz Sigismund, renamed the Bambra, and in the same year the new motor ship Kangaroo was added to the fleet. She was used to transport wheat and flour overseas during the war and in 1920 was refitted in England to meet the requirements of the trade between Fremantle and Java and Singapore via North-West ports. The State now has two new motor ships, the Koolinda and the Kybra, running on the north-west and south-west coasts.
The advent of steam sounded the death-knell of the sailing ship, but the owners of the large vessels employed in the overseas trade found buyers for them in China, and the small sailing coasters were eagerly snapped up for the pearling industry. Through the steamship era and into the motorship age no vessels of any size have been built at Fremantle, although the Public Works Department recently delivered a new hull for a dredge and the work of building another hull has been placed in hand.
Fathers of the Town - Lionel Samson and Descendants - The Batemans - The Higham Family - C. A. Manning - W. D. Moore - W. E. Marmion - Edward Newman - Elias Solomon.
At this centennial period it is fitting that we should pay a tribute to the pioneers who blazed the track and made the path easier for those who were to follow.
It has been the lot of the writer to live through seven and a half of the ten decades that have passed since Captain Fremantle hoisted the British flag on the south head of the Swan River. He has seen Fremantle grow from the status of a fishing village to its present proud position, and it has been his privilege to know personally many of the stout-hearted men and women whose activities, political, civic and social, have contributed to that transformation. In this review it is proposed to refer briefly to some of the persons and families associated with the first half century of the town's existence. Later comers have, of course, done much for the advancement of the town and deserve honourable mention in its annals, but as the part they played in its development will be well within living memory, the record of their achievements may be left for future chroniclers to recount.
The Samsons, the Batemans, the Highams, the Pearses, the Moores and the Mannings were inseparably associated with the growth of Fremantle and must always have a foremost place in the first half century of its history. A prominent place in the port's roll of honour must also be given to the names of Marmion, Newman, Francisco, Solomon, Thomas, Harwood, Congdon, Davies, Humble, Pearce of the ”Herald,” Captain Daniel Scott, Doctors Simmons, Shipton, Attfield and Barnett and the Reverends Bostock and Johnston, and Father O'Reilly and many others who played a meritorious part in the political, social, industrial and intellectual life of the town between its infantile and jubilee stages. Exigencies of space forbid more than a passing reference to the services rendered to the community by those Pilgrim Fathers who laid the firm foundations upon which we should rear the superstructure that shall be worthy of them. In their day and generation all worked unselfishly in their several spheres and have left their footprints in the sands of time.
[Page 104 has photos of Henry Briggs and J.J. Higham.]
Before referring to some of the pillars of the past, it is interesting to record that Fremantle enjoys the proud distinction of being the headquarters of the three oldest establishments in the colony namely:-
Lionel Samson and Son founded in 1829.
J. and W. Bateman founded in 1857.
W. D. Moore and Co. founded in 1862.
The firm of J. J. and F. G. Higham may also lay claim to an ancient lineage as although engaged in different business it is an offshoot of the old firm of M. Higham and Son which was established in 1858.
Lionel Samson, founded in 1829, the oldest commercial house in the State, was a member of the nominee Legislative Council that prevailed before the semi-elective system came into force. He also rendered valuable public service in many other directions. Two of his sons, Michael and William Frederick, were mayors of Fremantle and worthily upheld the traditions of the Samson clan.
The original John Bateman, who came to the colony in 1830, was the first postmaster in Fremantle and was a member of the first Town Trust formed in 1848. His eldest son, John, became the largest shipowner in the State and employed a large number of men in the whaling and timber industries. Another son, Walter, was Fremantle's first representative in the semi-elective Legislative Council which came into being in 1868. A grandson, John Wesley Bateman, succeeded to the business established in 1857 under the firm name of J. & W. Bateman, which he had previously managed for many years after the death of his uncle, Walter, and the retirement of his father. He took an active part in everything appertaining to the trade of the port and promoted the West Australian Shipping Association in 1884. For five years in succession he was president of the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce.
William Pearse came to the colony with one of the 1829 contingents of settlers, and was a member of the first Town Trust in Fremantle. His eldest son, William Silas, was the first chairman of the council in 1871, and also represented the town in Parliament. Another son, George, was a member of the Town Council and later of the Municipal Council, as was also the youngest son, James, who later was a mayor of North Fremantle. Another of the Pearse family engaged in business at an early age and was reported to have amassed a fortune of over £750,000. Through the generosity of his widow a goodly portion of that huge estate was devoted to private benefactions and to charitable institutions.
The Higham family arrived in the colony in 1853 and established a business that grew to be one of the largest in the town. The eldest son, Edward Henry, represented Fremantle in the Legislative Assembly, as did his brother, John Joseph, who for many years controlled the old firm of M. Higham and Sons. Both were public spirited members
of the community. Another son, Harry, became a wealthy pastoralist, and was reported to have left an estate worth upwards of £250,000.
Charles Alexander Manning came to the State in the early days from the West Indies. He brought considerable wealth with him, and became the largest landowner in the town. He eschewed politics, but interested himself in municipal affairs and was the originator of the volunteer movement in Fremantle. He was the first Grand Master of Freemasonry in the colony, and the first and honorary keeper of records and collector of rates for the Fremantle Town Trust. A book of his writing in 1859 shows a complete list of 357 ratepayers of whom the following nine names are still on the Council's books as owning the lots for seventy years:-
Lots 9 and 10 - L. Samson.
Lots 53 and 54 - J. Bateman.
Lots 133 and 135 - C. A. Manning.
Lot 300 - J. Manning.
Lot 401 - J. Duffield.
Lots 420 and 421 - A. Davies.
Lots 424 and 425 - William Pearse.
Lots 89 and 90 - S. Moore.
Manning was an enthusiastic amateur astronomer, and he built an observation tower on Manning Hall for that purpose.
William Dalgety Moore was a nephew of George Fletcher Moore, who came to the colony in 1829, and whose interesting book ”Ten Years of the Early History of Western Australia” afforded some fascinating glimpses of the colonial life in the remote past. Born at Middle Swan in 1835, he entered into business as a general merchant in 1862, and his name was identified with many large commercial enterprises in the colony. In 1870, when the semi-elective Legislative Council was reconstituted, Moore was chosen as one of the two elected members to represent Fremantle in that chamber, his colleague being Edward Newman. He was the first president of the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce, which was inaugurated in 1873, and continued to fill that office until 1895. Moore was always foremost in any project tending to the prosperity of his native State.
William Edward Marmion was born at Fremantle in 1845, and at the early age of 23 began to devote his time and talents to the betterment of his native town. He filled many public positions with conspicuous ability, and in 1870 entered political life as one of the three unofficial members of the Legislative Council. Later he was elected to represent the town in Parliament, and continued there for many years, being elevated to Cabinet rank when the first ministry under responsible government was formed in 1890. His death in 1898 was regarded as a national loss, and as a mark of the high esteem in which he was held, a monument to perpetuate his memory was erected in Fremantle by public subscription.
Edward Newman, principal of the old-time firm of T. and H. Carter and Company, was a man of brilliant intellect, and in 1870 he, with W. D. Moore, was elected as one of Fremantle's two representatives in the first elective Parliament. He was an extremely able debater and speedily made his mark as a legislator. But for his untimely death in 1872, he would undoubtedly have attained to eminence in the political arena. He was always in the forefront of any movement calculated to benefit Fremantle.
In the middle period of the century many names could be mentioned of men who devoted their time and talent to the service of the town. One, Elias Solomon, deserves mention here because of his excellent record. He was a councillor in 1877 and was afterwards mayor on six occasions. He was a member of the Legislative Assembly from 1892 to 1900, when he retired to enter Federal politics as the first member for Fremantle in the House of Representatives. He was the first chairman of the Tramway Board and was president of the Literary Institute, a chairman of the Hospital Board and Cemetery Board, a member of the Technical School Board and Consular Agent for Italy.
The other early residents referred to deserve a more extended notice than can be given here. It must suffice to say that all acted well their parts, and in the times in which they lived, fought against odds to make their town the flourishing place that it is to-day. Happily descendants of most of them are numerous amongst us and are worthily following in the footsteps of their forefathers. With the exception of Major Humble, J.P., V.D., who is now in his ninetieth year, all the old-time bearers of the patronymics above mentioned have crossed the Great Divide. Of them it may be truly said -
Life's work well done,
Life's race well run,
Life' s crown well won,
Now they rest.
Having traversed most of the outstanding events relating to the history of Fremantle during the century just closing, and, incidentally, having introduced the reader to some of the old residents, the writer's task is ended. Failing the appearance of a local chronicler gifted with a more facile pen, he has endeavoured to place on record
[Page 108 has photos of George Humble and James Shepherd, both town clerks.]
a few incidents of those old times that are now rapidly fading from memory, and if anything he has written should inspire a keener appreciation of the hardships and failures, as well as successes, experienced by the founders of the State, his effort will not have been in vain. Much more could be written, but it is not the aim of this fragmentary memoir to present a surfeit of the meanderings of an old-timer through the misty vistas of the past.
Those of us who are in the sere and yellow leaf are perhaps too prone to dwell in the shadows of what has been, but to those of the younger generation the question of what is to be is of more vital importance at this juncture and demands all the thought they can bestow upon the perplexing problems that confront them. Nevertheless a little retrospect will remind them of the difficulties their forebears met and surmounted when blazing the trail and will inspire them with courage to face the future with the same resolute spirit as that which animated those who have gone before.
The last half of the century has seen many innovations and kaleidoscopic changes. Prior to that we had in this State no seagoing steamers, no airways, no telegraphs, no telephone, no holidays, no old-age pensions, no maternity bonuses, no picture shows and no free education. On the other hand there were no adulterated foods, no epidemics, practically no rates and taxes, no red-raggers, no paid politicians, no strikes and no unemployed.
During that period we have seen the coming and going, among other things, of the crinoline and chignon, the Dolly Varden and porkpie hats, the Grecian bend, the bustle and tight-lacing; but let no one smile at those little vanities of a bygone era, for they were not one whit more deserving of ridicule than are some of the feminine fads and fashions of the present day.
But with all their drawbacks, lack of luxuries and limited means for enjoyment, the old days when everybody knew everybody were not without their charm, and it is safe to say that the little community of fifty years ago was richer than we are to-day in the two essentials which humanity is striving for, health and happiness, to neither of which does a plethora of wealth always contribute.
The good old times, the grand old times,
They may be thought too slow;
But give me back the good old days
Of fifty years ago!
The following are the names of the purchasers of allotments between 1829 and 1837, and are recorded here because they represent the pioneer residents of the town:-
Lots 3/5 W. Lamb
Lot 6 Okeley & Wood
7/8 Richard Lewis
9/10 John Hobbs
11/12 Dan Scott
15/17 Geo. Leake
18 Wm. Lamb
19 Robt. M. Lyon
20 R. Maydwell
21/22 Henry Vincent
23/24 W. & P. Chidlow
25 W. S. Rogers
26 Philip H. Dod
27/28 Lionel Samson
29/30 T. Bannister
31 Robt. M. Lyon
32 Wm. Dixon
33/34 W. & P. Chidlow
35/36 Chappell & Rogers
37 Cleoph Chappell
38 Philip H. Dod
39 Henry Willet & Co.
40 Munday & Davey
41 Geo. Williams
42/43 Hugh McDonald
44 P. H. Dod
45/46 Walter Pace
47 Adam Armstrong
48 Chas. Macfaull
50 C. Cass Junr.
51 Robt. Jordan
52 Geo. Leake
53/54 Lionel Samson
55/56 Wm. Heard
57 John Gresswell
58 W. H. Harris
59 John Bateman
61 P. H. Dod
62/63 Henry Chidlow
64 Adam Armstrong
65 Eliz. Macfaull
66 W. H. Reveley
67 Geo. H. Watts
68 Wm. Dixon
69/71 John Morell
72 J. Weavel
73 G. F. Johnson
74 J. T. Gellibrand
75 John R. Phillips
76 John Weavel
77 John Duffield
78 Richd. Wardell
79 Chas. Smith
80/81 W. R. Steele
82 H. E. Henderson
83 E. Spencer Junr.
88 G. F. Johnston
89/90 H. E. Henderson
91/92 Henry Willet & Co.
93 Wm. Keats
94 Jas. McDermott
95/98 Jas. Solomon
99/100 Wm. Lamb
101 John Duffield
102/103 Dan Scott
104/105 G. F. Johnson
107/108 Thos. Puckrin
111 Ann Waylen
113/114 G. F. Johnson
115/116 Henry Willet & Co.
117 W. H. Smithers
118/119 Jas. McDermott
120 Jas. Munday
121 J. W. Davey
122 J. A. Dutton
123 Geo. Lloyd
124 J. A. Dutton
125 Joseph Cooper
126 Wm. Habgood
127 Joseph Cooper
128 Wm. Keats
129 John Duffield
130 Richd. James
131/132 Wm. Ledgard
133 John Dudley
134/135 Geo. Williams
136/137 Robt. Thomson
139 Jas. Cockman
140 H. Rice Bond
141 James Pearce
142 Wm. Lewington
143 John Thomas
144 John Spencer
145 Jas. Willis
146/147 Jos. Bobin
148 Wm. Habgood
149 Wm. Forward
Lots 150/ 151 Jas. Henty
152 Dan Scott
153/155 Hy. Edw. Hall
156 Francis Reglim
157 John Gresswell
158 Hy. Woodward
159/160 Thos. Watson
161 Hen. Rice Bond
170 W. K. Shenton
171/174 Wm. Nairn
175 Wm. Bourne
176/177 Jas. Henty
178 John Morrell
179 W. & P. Chidlow
180 Francis Reglim
181 W. Mead Lewis
182 Jos. Robin
183 Chas. F. Leroux
184 John Purkis
186 Jas. Day
187 Francis Reglim
191 Hen. Rice Bond
192 Richd. C. Fussell
193 Whiteman Freeman
211 Edw. Smith
220 Jas. Solomon
221 Francis H. Byrne
222 Jas. Henty
223 Henry Camfield
224 Raphael Clint
224 Wm. Marrs
225 Chas. D. Ridley
226/228 Jas. McDermott
229/230 P. A. Latour
231/232 W. K. Shenton
233 Chas. Green
234 Wm. Smith
235 Jas. F. Thomas
237 Alfred Waylen
238 Thos. Bailey
239 John Truslode
241 John Morrell Junr.
242/243 John L. Morley
245 Geo. Lloyd
247 Thos. Harwood
248 John Williamson
249 Edwin Peake
250 John Duffield
252 Thos. Bailey
253 Luke Leake
254 Wm. Littlemore
255 John B. Cox
256 Jas. W. Davey
257 Thos. Harrison
258 W. A. Manning
259 F. Whitfield
260 T. R. C. Walters
261 Bridget Edwards
262 H. Willet & Co.
263 Henry Chapman
264 John Wade
265 Robt. Draper
266 Richd. Lewis
267 Dan Scott
268 John Pellit
269 John Gresswell
270 Jas. Walcott
271 John R. Phillips
272 C. R. Churchman
273 Fred Lipscomb
274/275 John Bateman
276 John Morrell
277 Chas. Foulkes
278 Geo. Dumnage
279 Wm. Lamb
280 Wm. Tanner
281/283 W. F. Graham
284/285 John Ferres
285½ John Ferres
286/286½ W. T. Graham
287 Wm. Brown
288 Hen. Rice Bond
289 Wm. Tanner
292 Wm. H. Harris
293 John Morrell
294/295 John Bateman
296 Geo. Williams
297 J. Bateman Junr.
299/300 John Gresswell
301 Sam. H. Moore
304 Jos. Broughton
305 Paul Lockyer
306 Joseph Kay
307 Henry Willet & Co.
308 A. Summerland
309 John Crisp
311 Wm. A. Manning
312 Alf. Hawes Stone
313/315 H. Willet & Co.
316 John Grambier
317 Wm. S. Wood
318 Henry Bull
319/320 Richd. Lewis
321 Walter Sleep
322 Magnus Johnson
323 Richd. Bilcher
324 Jas. Lloyd
325 John Duffield
327 Jas. Lloyd
328 Jos. Morris
329 Jas. Lloyd
329A Jas. Lloyd
330 Wm. Burges
331 Paul Discombes
[Page 112 shows a Nixon photo of HIGH STREET IN 1929. It's looking west from in front of the Town Hall down High St, with the National Hotel prominent in the centre. Pellews store is the main feature of what is now the north side of the High St Mall.]
Lot 332 Thos. Kelly
333 Wm Withnell
334 Charlotte Duffield
335 Geo. Williams
336 S. Neil Talbot
337/338 Richd. Lewis
339 P. Parker Smith
340 Jos. Cooper
341 Richd. C. Fussell
342/343 H. Willet & Co
344 Wm. Harwood
345 Alf. Hawes Stone
346 Henry Woods
347 Thos. Thurkle
348 Wm. C. Bowles
349 Geo. W. Barker
350 John Penil
351 Juliet E. Thurkle
352 Benjamin Cook
353 Wm. Downes
355 Richd. Morrell
358 Henrietta Gresswell
372 John Ferres
375 Benjamin Thorp
376 Richd. Morrell
377 Jas. Stokes
378 Cora M. Lamb
379 Eliza Clark
380 W. Nairn Clark
381 Anthony Curtis
382 Nich. W. Langley
383/384 Geo. Lloyd
385 Anthony Curtis
386 Jos. Morris
387 Georgiana M. Kingsford
388 Elizabeth Kingsford
389 Sam Kingsford
391 Mary Ann Leake
392 H. M. Ommanney
393 Susan. S. Kingham
394 Geo. Walpole Leake
395 A. Elizab. Leake
396 Eliz. E. Andrews
397 Alexandrina J. M. Andrews
398 W. B. T. Andrew
399 H. Jas. Andrews
400 John Weavell
401 Lydia C. Duffield
402 Robt. Habgood
403 Jacob Toby
404/406 Lewis, Houghton & Yule
407 Richd. Maxworthy
408/409 Wm. Dixon
410 Louisa Bond
411 Maria Gregson
412 Joseph Moore
413 Jas. P. Watts
414 Jacob Toby
415 Robt. Habgood
416 Chas. H. Duffield
417 Marshall McDermott
418 Mary Ann Bateman
420/421 Jas. A. Moulton
424 John Hancock
423 Sarah M. Helms
428 F. Jas. Andrews
429 Amy Keats [529 a typo in the book]
430 Peter Chidlow
431 Louisa Pinkrim
435 Thos. Smedley
436 Hannah Smedley
439 Peter Nicks
440 Ann Smithers
441 Frances Smithers
446 Eliza Ann Smith
449/451 Collie & Sholl
452 Thos. W. Mews
453 Wm Knight
454 Henrietta M. Andrews
455 John Cousins
456 Mary E. Cousins
461 Matilda Roe
462 J. Septimus Roe
463 John Lewis
471 Louisa Drake
483 Caroline Brown
484 Peter U. Brown
525 Anna Eliz. Pingilly
527/528 Munday & Davey
532 Joseph Dicks
533 Jas. Woodward
534 Robt. Payne
536 Wm. T. Graham
538 Edw. Wm. Lamb
539 R. McB. Brown
540/541 Jas. Morris
549 Jas. Richd. Pingilly
550 Geo. Wagstaff
551 Thos. Glover
557 Chas. Christmas
558 John Duffield
570 John Thomas
571 Wm. Christmas
572 John Ropper
573 John Gringer
Sub. Lot I. Jas. McDermott
Sub. Lot E. P. H. Dod
Sub. Lot L. Jas. Solomon
Sub. Lot K. Richd. W. Morgan
Sub. Lot N. John Weavell
Sub. Lot M. John Duffield
Sub. Lot P. John Weavell
Sub. Lot O. Lionel Samson
KINGSTON (ROTTNEST) LOTS.
Lots 1, 7, 17/19 John Sweetman
3 Wm. N. Clark
5 Chas. L. Thomson
8/9 Edw. Hen. Hall
11 Chas. Farmer
20 C. R. B. Norcott
26 Dan. Scott
Lots 2 and 14 Robt. Thomson
4 J. P. Armstrong
6 John Gresswell
10 Chas. Spyers
15 R. M. Lyon
21 Alf. H. Stone
The industries of the century that have contributed to the prosperity of the town and port have been of such varied characters at different periods that it would be a big task to even sketch their origin, progress or decline; but because Fremantle is the principal port of the State, a passing reference is demanded.
In that connection the assistance has been sought of those intimately associated with the industry, or men whose memories of past days hold more than a faint recollection of the principal trade of the town.
Commencing with whaling in the early period, Fremantle enjoyed the privilege of being the trade centre of many industries. The discovery of gold and the changes created by increased population brought varying industries to the town and opened up large wheat areas from which Fremantle benefited by the increased activity of the port. The extension of the pastoral areas and the increase of sheep and wool resulted in the provision in Fremantle of the great wool warehouses that are such a big feature of the town. Following the growth of vineyards and orchards, the export of fruit added another source of revenue, and the increasing export of flour resulted in the erection of flour mills close to the harbour. The largest biscuit manufacturer in the State has premises in Fremantle, and North Fremantle has of recent years become an industrial hive of superphosphate works, soap factories, oil storage depots, large tanning and boot factory, flour mills, the State Implement Works, and Ford Motor Works, and lesser but important business undertakings.
Both directly and indirectly, they have contributed to the progress of the town, but before they were established there were many successful industries and, unfortunately, enterprises that failed.
One of the earliest industries whose centre was Fremantle was that of boat-building. Shortly after the establishment of the colony, whaling created a demand for boats. Later the export of horses to Mauritius and other places, and of sandalwood to China and Singapore, created a demand for sailing ships, with the result that a number of shipyards were worked on the terrace facing the South Beach. For a number of years those yards employed a large number of men who were kept busy building whaleboats, luggers for the pearling fleet, lighters for the discharging of vessels lying in Gage Roads, and larger craft for use in the coastal and overseas trade.
The first shipwrights were men who had learned their trade in the Old Land in the early part of 1800. Among them were included such men as W. Jackson, William Owston and T. W. Mews. In the middle part of the century there followed such well-known craftsmen as Jim Storey, Bob Wrightston, Robert Howson, F. Jones, Alex Chamberlain, Charles Petterson and others.
The Mews family has been identified with the shipbuilding industry at Fremantle from 1830 to the present day. The first steamer to ply on the Swan River - the Speculator - was built by T. W. Mews, senior. She was partially destroyed by fire, but was repaired and converted into a sailing lighter. T. W. Mews, junior, built some fine vessels, including the schooners Scud, Ione, Star and Comet. He also built the lighters Hampton, Moonlight, Myrtle, and several pearling luggers. T. W. Mews, senior, and his younger sons, Jim and Bob, confined their activities mainly to the building of yachts, fishing boats, and small craft for the Sharks' Bay pearling trade.
Another name associated prominently with shipbuilding was that of W. A. Chamberlain, who was born in Fremantle in 1851. His father was saved from a wreck in the Indian Ocean by Captain J. Thomas, of Fremantle, in the sailing vessel Empress. After serving an apprenticeship with W. Jackson, an old Fremantle shipwright, he commenced business on his own account at the age of 19 as a boatbuilder in a yard between Arundel Street and Russell Street.
The Sharks' Bay pearl fishing gave him his first large order, and he constructed several boats of from six to seven tons for that work. Later a demand for small dinghies for the use of natives diving for pearl shell at Broome kept him busy, and with the expansion of the pearling industry there came orders for luggers of about twelve tons, on
[Page 116 shows snaps of the Marmion Memorial (with an elaborate 'entrance' which has now gone) and Proclamation Tree, and the Maitland Brown memorial on the Esplanade.]
which were carried the air pump and quarters for the crew. Chamberlain built 110 of that type of vessel at an average cost of from £350 to £400. It was a remarkable fact that not one of his boats was lost while being taken from Fremantle to the pearling grounds.
At a later date lighters for explosives being landed from ships were built by him, and the success of his business necessitated his employing a large staff of shipwrights for many years, He was an enthusiastic rifle volunteer and one of the best shots in Fremantle. His marksmanship gained for him, in competition with over 100 riflemen, the possession of a cup which had to be won three times before it could be permanently retained. He is still a hale and hearty citizen of the town.
Another successful shipwright was Robert Howson, who arrived in the colony in 1875. He was a master shipwright from Sunderland and came to Fremantle in the barque Spinaway, which he had built for the export trade of the colony. He left the vessel at Fremantle and took over a shipyard between Suffolk Street and Arundel Street.
Among the large vessels he built were the schooners Iris (100 tons), Planet, Ivy, Ruby, Olive, the ketches Roebourne, Ashburton, Electra, Eva, the steamer Clyo and about fifty pearling luggers for Broome. He executed a number of large repairing jobs, among them being the refloating of the Thistle (1,200 tons), which had been driven ashore at Bunbury.
He also refloated and restored the barque Cingalese and the schooners Bessie and Mary Smith, which were deemed to be total wrecks on the Lacepede Islands.
Alfred E. Brown, another shipwright, came to Fremantle in 1886 in the schooner Myrtle from Auckland (New Zealand), making the voyage via Wyndham and Hall's Creek. He opened a new shipyard on Fitzgerald Terrace between Suffolk Street and Essex Street. He was an expert designer and builder of yachts, many of his craft still being among the fastest sailing vessels on the Swan River.
He made a speciality of pearling luggers of about twelve tons and launched more of that class of boat than any other yard at Fremantle. The number was said to have been over 200. He employed a large staff and many of the best-known pearlers are now using the boats he built.
Charlie Petterson was among the latter-day shipwrights. He was mate on the steamer Perth when it was wrecked on Point Cloates in 1887 and received a certificate and silver medal for saving life on that occasion.
For some years he was attached to the shipyard of Robert Howson, and after Howson's retirement Petterson commenced building on his own account, and made the reconditioning of ships his special work. During the war he refitted four transports, making alterations to freighters to provide accommodation for officers and men. Among the large jobs he successfully accomplished was the fitting of a new mast ninety feet long and weighing about 11 tons, to the barque Kilmeny; a new rudder of jarrah, forty-two feet long and weighing about four and three-quarter tons, to the ship Norword, and the dismantling of the vessels Ivy, Alexander Macneil and others.
Although wheat and wool, since the decadence of the gold industry, have become the most potent factors in enhancing the progress and prosperity of the State, there was a time when sandalwood held the premier position in the colony's export trade.
From very early in the last century, shipments of this product were made to Singapore and China, the principal source of supply being the hinterland of York and Toodyay, and the Williams River district. It was the salvation of the small farmers in the old days. Many of them could not have carried on if the produce of their holdings had been their only means of subsistence.
Before the advent of railway transport, sandalwood was brought to Perth and Fremantle by horse and bullock teams, and there disposed of mostly on the barter system, the buyers rarely paying more than a very small percentage of the value in cash. The prices ranged from £5 to £7 per ton, according to quality. The principal buyers in those days were Padbury, Loton & Co.; J. H. Monger, and George Shenton, in Perth; J. & W. Bateman in Fremantle, and Barker & Gull in Guildford. The first and last-named firms usually took delivery in Guildford, whence the wood was conveyed by river to Fremantle for shipment.
A crisis in the trade occurred in the middle eighties, when the prices obtainable in China went down to zero. With the exception of J. & W. Bateman, all the West Australian dealers ceased buying, being of the opinion that the Chinese had reached a stage of enlightenment as to realise the futility of offering incense on the shrines of their idols. John Bateman, however, took a more sanguine view of the situation, believing that an age-long practice would not die out so suddenly. He therefore went on buying at very low prices, having no
competition, with the result that when the market in China revived he was able to make very large shipments in his own sailing vessels and was rewarded in a single year by realising a profit on his accumulated stock reported to be no less than five figures. That his optimism was well founded, and that the sandalwood trade was not a dying industry is borne out by the fact that in recent years larger quantities have been exported than ever before.
Of the old-time buyers, all the firms mentioned, with the exception of J. & W. Bateman, are no longer in existence. The latter practically dropped out of the business when steamers displaced their sailing vessels. Afterwards, the firm of Paterson & Co. (founded in 1905) and John Hecktor & Co. took a leading part in the sandalwood export trade, and were quickly followed by others who make a speciality of this particular commodity.
The first export of wool was in 1834, the quantity being 7,585 lbs., but since that time the pastoral and woollen industry has slowly but surely expanded. Wool has become the chief item of export, and has helped the port of Fremantle to grow to its present proud position, which can be indicated by figures from the town valuer. During the last ten years, the sum of £320,450 has been expended upon the building of several magnificent wool stores, and a large amount of capital has been outlayed in the machinery and equipment.
The following figures demonstrate the advancement that has been made in the concentration of wool from all districts in Western Australia to Fremantle, for Western Australian wool sales by public auction.
Prior to 1917 the clip, with the exception of a small percentage, was shipped to London for sale. This meant that the only benefit to Fremantle was the small expenditure incurred in dumping and loading on board, all the other business of realisation being effected outside Australia. To-day, not only are the nett returns available to the grower by a speedier method of public auction, but the gross proceeds are available for distribution in Western Australia as rapidly as the wool is handled. This has resulted in increased employment in Fremantle, not only in wool store labour, clerical work, and printers' establishments, but in the general carrying and handling of the increased quantity of wool received at the port of Fremantle.
Commencing the season 1916-17, the Commonwealth disposed of the entire wool production to the British Imperial Government during
[Page 120 shows a photo of the DEDICATION OF THE WAR MEMORIAL, 1928.]
the period of the war and one year after. This was under the control of the Central Wool Committee, and was really the foundation of wool sales in Western Australia, as prior to that date transactions had been practically covered by private dealing.
The advent of appraisements created the demand for accommodation, and 1917-18 saw the foundation of the present commodious wool warehouse in Elder Place and afterwards in Beach Street, and through these stores pass thousands of bales annually.
In 1916-17 portion of the wool clip had been shipped, principally from outports, before the wool was commandeered. Taking this into consideration, the following are records for Fremantle:-
Season Bales Appraised
At the end of the appraisement scheme in 1920 all the Eastern States resumed their pre-war position with the re-establishment of wool auction sales, but as there had been no sales of importance in Western Australia, or established markets, the disposal of the wool became a difficult problem, and it was the foresight of the wool brokers in establishing a wool-selling centre in Western Australia, overcoming initial difficulties, that has brought the business up-to-date in the disposal of the wool clip, sheep skins, and all produce connected therewith.
Since the appraisements, the records for the Western Australian wool sales by public auction (for which the wool is exposed and handled in the wool selling brokers' warehouses at Fremantle) are as follows:-
Season Bales Sold by Auction Total Value Total Bales Produced in W.A.
1920-21 48,487 732,111 131,443
1921-22 57,579 869,392 121,741
1922-23 81,664 2,023,443 124,293
1923-24 102,611 3,224,713 131,244
1924-25 97,706 2,979,727 121,422
1925-26 113,541 2,447,685 137,326
1926-27 136,048 2,762,476 162,525
1927-28 153,042 3,928,502 192,624
1928-29 *156,488 *3,209,576 Not yet available
*To end of February.
Those from the appraisements 1916-17 up to the present season, 1928-29, will convey the importance to Fremantle of the wool auctions in Western Australia.
During the nineties the fruit industry in Western Australia was in the days of comparative infancy, and not enough was produced to provide for the population which had increased rapidly in numbers owing to the attraction of the goldfields; but with the decline of the gold yield, fruitgrowing, as well as other primary industries, received attention, and during the twenty-five years ending in 1929 the initiation and steady expansion of the export trade in fruit took place.
A very modest consignment of thirty-two cases, mainly experimental, was shipped in 1904; ten years later - in 1914 - 126,806 cases were sent overseas. Another decade passed, and 1924 saw the number increased to 318, 887. Then five years later this, the centenary year, has arrived with a record apple crop and record export. At time of writing (May) the export season is not ended, but from January 1, 1929, to April 30, 1929, over 650,000 cases have been exported to destinations outside of Australia, and this number will be increased to 700,000 before the end of the year.
Another pleasing feature is the fact that Western Australia in her centenary year is supplying from her abundance the needs of the Eastern States, and thousands of cases are being shipped to Melbourne and Sydney: a wonderful change, truly, from the position obtaining twenty-five years ago.
Coincident with the foundation of Western Australia, there was manifested a profound belief in the agricultural possibilities of the new, and then unknown country. We find the following in the memorandum issued by the syndicate applying for land in connection with the Swan River Settlement:-
”It is well known that the soil of the Swan River, from its moist state, is better adapted to the cultivation of tobacco and cotton than any other part of Australia. Both of these articles are intended to be cultivated on a large scale, as are also sugar and flax and various important articles of drugs to the growth of which the climate is peculiarly adapted."
During the past hundred years this belief in the resources of our State has persisted and been amplified until it has become one of the proud characteristics of the West Australian.
It was well indeed for the State that this belief in the resources of the country was well and early developed, for the story of the first sixty years is one of slow - very slow - and uninspiring progress, accompanied by many difficulties and some disappointments, but marked by the dogged determination of a mere handful of people to develop a huge territory.
Following upon the uneventful years of sruggle came the dazzling period of gold development, accompanied by wonderful activity and great increase in population. In 1891, after sixty-two years of settlement, the population was under 50,000, but owing to the gold discoveries it nearly quadrupled itself during the next decade and increased to 184,124 in 1901. In 1903 the gold produced amounted to 2,064,000 ozs., valued at the magnificent sum of £8,790,719. Unfortunately this was the peak year of gold production, for since then there has been a gradual reduction until, in 1928, the production had receded to 393,408 ozs., valued at £1,671,093. Such a decline in the value and importance of its principal industry could not but be a staggering blow to the progress of any country, and might easily have resulted in disaster to Western Australia. That it has not done so is shown by the general prosperity which obtains, and which furnishes abundant proof that the State has progressed and not retrogressed. The extent of our progress may be gauged by the increase in our population, and a comparison of such proportionate increase with that of other States in the Commonwealth during the first quarter of the present century.
In 1901, as previously pointed out, the number of persons in the State amounted to 184,124; by 1926 this number had been more than doubled and was 374,994. This rate of increase, namely 2.03, is the greatest rate of increase made by any State in the Commonwealth, the next highest being Queensland with a rate of 1.75. The average rate of increase for all States in the Commonwealth is 1.60.
The possible setback to the State's progress, due to the regrettable decline in our gold production, was averted by the almost spectacular rise in our wheat industry. In 1901 there were 94,700 acres under wheat for grain; last year (1927-28) there were 3,549,480 acres under wheat of which 3,163,409 were harvested for grain, or thirty-three times as much as that planted for grain in 1901. This provided a surplus of about 30,000,000 bushels available for export in the form of wheat or flour.
Though wheat had been grown in Western Australia from the first year of settlement, it was not until 1907 that sufficient was grown in the State to meet its own requirements. As far back as 1860 wheat to the value of £3,850 was exported to England, but this was offset
[Page 124 has photos of W.A. Chamberlain, and of J.K. Hitchcock, the author of this history.]
by the importation of flour to the value of £12,300 in the same year. Similarly in 1905 wheat valued at £7,973 was exported, whilst flour valued at £50,000 was imported. In 1907 the export of real surpluses began, and in that year 119,052 bags were exported from Fremantle. Ten years later the amount had increased to 2,940,324 bags, and last year (1927-28) to 6,417,887 bags.
As is consistent with its importance as the principal port of Western Australia, Fremantle is well equipped for handling our principal crop. The manual labour required for handling bags is reduced to a minimum by the installation of the splendid system of portable and fixed bag conveyors and elevators. By their aid, bags of wheat can be loaded direct from the truck, passed over the storage sheds and direct into the ship's hold, or the wheat can be carried so as to be stacked in the storage sheds. The bag handling machinery is the finest that can be obtained, and is capable of handling 80,000 bags in a working day of eight hours.
Indirectly it was the”magic of gold”which gave the impetus to the wheat industry which has resulted in its present happy position as the leading industry of the State. The discoveries, first of Coolgardie, then later of the Golden Mile in the nineties, following upon the earlier discoveries of the eighties, were responsible for bringing to Western Australia a band of adventurous, courageous, energetic and enterprising men and women who reacted as a stimulus for progress, and, many of whom eventually turned from gold to agriculture and became wheat growers. This was not surprising, for coming, as numbers of them did, from the farming lands of the Eastern States, our vacant, virgin forest lands found en route to the Goldfields would make a strong appeal. The coming of the gold seekers, and those who followed them, ushered into Western Australia the ”golden age” of agriculture, and added to our land of gold a land of golden grain.
It is'not surprising that wheat growers are attracted to Western Australia, as it is a land of hope and scope. Our land is cheap, probably cheaper than elsewhere in the Commonwealth; our land laws are liberal and payments for this cheap land are spread over long periods; our Agricultural Bank is probably the most liberal financial institution to be found in any country, and in consequence every facility is afforded to the man with little or no money to obtain a farm of his own, provided he has the ability and willingness to work. The object of our developmental policy has been to bring the landless man, even without capital, to the land and then give him every assistance and encouragement to succeed.
In sympathy with the expansion of our wheat industry, there has been a corresponding interest in sheep husbandry, until now there are as many, if not more, sheep in our agricultural as in our pastoral areas. In 1901 there were 2,625,853 sheep in the State; by the end of 1927 the number had increased to 8,447,480, which produced 62,702,013 lbs. of wool. Incidentally, at the same time there were also 165,021 horses, 846,735 cattle and 59,810 pigs.
The butter production of the State, though not yet equal to our requirements, shows enormous comparative expansion, as instanced by the following statistics relating to it. In 1914 the production amounted to 451,112 lbs.; 1917 to 1,361,484 lbs.; 1927 to 4,265,258 lbs., and this year it is estimated to exceed 5 1/4 million pounds weight, or more than ten times the quantity produced fourteen years earlier. Gratifying, however, as this increase is, the greatest triumph is considered to be the improvement in quality which has taken place. Not many years ago it was very generally considered that the climatic and other conditions in Western Australia rendered it impossible for first-class butter to be produced in this State. This, however, has been disproved by the fact that 87 per cent. of the butter output in 1928 was graded as equal to”Kangaroo”standard export quality; that is, the quality was so good that when graded it was awarded ninety-two points or over out of a possible 100. The discovery during recent years that subterranean clover grows naturally and luxuriantly in our south-western agricultural areas will materially assist the expansion of the dairying industry.
This year our apple crop is a record, and, with this crop, as with wheat, we can now speak in millions, for it is estimated that over a million bushel cases will be produced. Abroad, our apples are in good repute, and because they are packed in cases made from our redcoloured jarrah they have acquired a reputation because of the ”red box” in which they are packed.
Western Australia has been fortunate in possessing political leaders with statesmanlike vision to support their engineers and other officers of ability, who were able to conceive or carry out schemes of importance and magnitude like the Fremantle harbour works, the Coolgardie water scheme, and the rapid building of railways to assist in opening up and developing the country. In this latter connection it may be stated that our first railway - from Geraldton to Northampton - was built in 1874, the railway from Northam to Southern Cross in 1894, and the building of our agricultural railways was commenced in 1906. The total mileage now amounts to 3,977 miles, and this provides a greater
length of railway per head of population than any other country in the world. In this connection the following comparisons are interesting:
Western Australia 1 mile to every 91 persons
South Australia 161
New South Wales 402
South Africa 566
United States of America 478
To protect the agricultural areas against the invasion of rabbits, three State barrier fences were erected at a cost of £352,000. The total length exceeds 2,000 miles. The difficulties associated with the building of these fences through unexplored country were enormous, and at times the work of those engaged on it was little short of heroic, though accepted simply as part of the day's work.
Though the confidence of the promoters of the Swan River Settlement in connection with the suitability of, this country for the production of cotton and sugar has not been realised, nor have tobacco and flax become staple crops, yet the belief of the residents in the eventual greatness of their State has never faltered. This belief has, however, been more than justified by the development, progress and prosperity which are now in evidence in this centenary year. Gold, coal and other mineral products to the value of many millions have been won from the ground, and timber of great value obtained from our forests. Wheat, fruit, potatoes, sheep, cattle and dairy produce (including eggs) have also been produced in great quantities, so that the rise of agriculture during the last quarter of the present century enables Western Australia to rank as a first-class agricultural State, and places her amongst the principal wheat-exporting States of the Commonwealth.
[Page 128 has the familiar photo of C.Y. O'Connor, with this caption: 'C.Y. CONNOR, C.M.G., ENGINEER-IN-CHIEF. The Genius who made the Harbour.']
No history of Fremantle could possibly be complete without a reference to the determination of our people to provide an adequate and safe port to serve the metropolitan district and its hinterland, and the story of how this has been done, with its culmination in the fine port which now exists, savours largely of romance.
Already Fremantle Harbour, for its size, has earned the reputation of being the finest designed and best equipped and administered port in Australia, and it is veritably the western gateway to the continent of Australia, dealing as it does day in and day out, and at night as well, with the largest ships seen in the Southern Hemisphere, giving them complete sanctuary from warring elements, and handling their cargo in and out with that promptitude which is necessary in these days of high values and high standards. Shipmasters who visit many ports in the course of their voyagings have the highest praise for the harbour of Fremantle and its conveniences.
I will endeavour to deal with my subject from a conversational aspect, rather than to reel off long and wearying masses of figures and statistics, as I think this method will be more informative, as well as more interesting. What I have to say has been prepared with the sanction of the Board of Fremantle Harbour Trust Commissioners.
Before dealing with the specific subject of the Fremantle harbour, it is desirable to consider for a moment what is comprised in the modern sense by the term ”harbour,” and what is the value to the community of a modern harbour.
It is conceded that the British Empire, embracing as it does lands whose coastlines are washed by the seven seas, could not exist without sea transport, and - in these days of enlightenment - a sea transport of
the most modern description. The ships which form the medium of sea transportation are becoming more and more wonderful, almost every month seeing some new design or advancement towards an ideal which always appears to have been reached till someone goes one better. The last few years have seen extraordinary changes in ships as regards size, speed, and adaptability to the work to be done, till one wonders what the future may have in store. Ships must have safe harbours where they may rest in security while beiig relieved of or taking in their loads, whether of cargo or passenger freight, and as the seagoing ships of to-day are exceedingly valuable items of working plant, they demand from an economic standpoint that the harbours which mark their stopping places shall be so well equipped as to give them, besides security, the utmost despatch, so that they may be quickly away again to the high seas en route to their next stop.
Economical ship service is necessary to all in these days of high and costly standards. It is necessary to the shipowner, to enable him to maintain the exceedingly costly vessels he has constructed and placed on the seas, and it is necessary to all those who use these ships for the conveyance of goods in order that freight costs may be kept within reasonable limits and the general world parity of prices may be maintained. In the latter aspect of the problem the whole community is vitally interested, whether it be the primary producer of wheat, wool, meat or what-not, the manufacturer with his products, or the consumer everywhere. The time which a modern ship spends in port is strictly idle and unprofitable. A ship is a costly transportation machine, and is only earning her keep when she is ploughing her way through the seas. As a warehouse or store lying idly in port, she is much too costly. Let it be realised that many modern vessels cost several hundreds of thousands of pounds to construct, and in the case of some of the palatial liners which one sees or reads about the cost exceeds a million-often considerably - so that a day or even an hour's waste in port involves for every one of these vessels heavy interest and other overhead charges, as well as the cost of maintenance and wages of the small army of persons who are necessary to run her.
It is little wonder, therefore, that harbours must be well designed and that close attention should be given to every possible means of speeding-up cargo handling appliances, which should be paramount in every modern port, if results to our traders are to be satisfactory. Open roadsteads or poorly-equipped harbours served well enough even in the memory of those who may read these few words, when ocean transport was handled by comparatively cheap sailing vessels, or small, slow, cheap steamers; but these conditions are absolutely of no use whatever to the modern freight or passenger vessel.
The problem of meeting the demand which now is made to provide modern conditions, places upon governments and those who are charged
with the provision and administration of ports an onus which cannot to shirked. It involves a great problem for the port authority, for just as it is necessary for the shipowner to keep his costly modern vessel constantly moving and earning, so is it necessary for the port authority to so design and equip his port that ships shall have the haven they require, and that all work to be done in it shall be done rapidly and cheaply, so that the port may be maintained at a cost to the community which shall not be unduly heavy, while keeping the business of the port not only solvent, but capable of building up sufficient reserves to assist in improvements and enlargements.
The advent of the big modern ship has made the problem of the (ports an interesting as well as a difficult one. These large, heavy vessels demand more room, deeper water, stronger wharves and larger transit sheds and other spaces, so that their larger cargoes may be handled expeditiously, and the only way in which this problem can be met satisfactorily is by carefully watching every point even before it arises, and, given a good design as an imperative basis, to provide equipment which will take cargo from, or place cargo into, these big vessels in the quickest and cheapest manner that can be devised.
The port authority and the shipowner, therefore, work hand in hand, each for mutual benefit, and just to the extent that this is successful so does the whole community benefit or otherwise. Thus the value to the community of a safe and well-equipped modern harbour becomes at once apparent.
In its relation to the community to be served the location of a harbour is of the greatest importance, and in this regard a very large - at present probably the largest - proportion of the community of Western Australia is fortunate in the location of the chief port of the State, and are served by that port, and I will endeavour to show later that they are also fortunate in the design and equipment of the chief port.
It happens naturally, I think, that there are many people who, looking at a finished construction, in their praise or their criticism are apt to lose sight of or fail entirely to realise that what they are criticising is the outcome often of years of planning and hard toil and hard thinking. It is so particularly with Fremantle Harbour. Fremantle Harbour, as we know it to-day, is accepted by many people just for what it is - a place where ships move in and out and where cargo is handled; but how many give a thought to what was the condition less than thirty years ago? Perhaps this is one of the faults of our busy times.
It must not, however, be imagined that the administrators of the port of Fremantle, or the Governments, are insensible to the fact that the community of the State could not be served even more quickly
and cheaply by other ports placed in advantageous positions on our long coastline. It is for that reason, therefore, that we all welcome the development of ports such as Esperance, Hopetoun and Albany on the south coast; Bunbury and Geraldton on the west coast, and the ports of the north-west coast as necessity arises and production increases in the hinterlands of these outlets. There never has been a desire on the part of those responsible for the maintenance and development of the port of Fremantle that there should go through that port any trade that for various commercial reasons should use any of the other ports.of the State. All the ports of Western Australia are national ports, assets of the community, and the endeavour should always be to as far as possible direct through them all trade which rightly belongs to the areas they serve. There has at times been displayed by those at the other ports a deal of feeling that Fremantle is being assisted at their expense, but such is really not the case; Fremantle is only being kept up to the pitch of being able to deal with the increasingly heavy demand being made upon it.
The urgent necessity for providing a safe and commodious harbour for shipping at Fremantle had exercised the minds of our responsible men for many years before anything definite was done, and many and curious were the designs put forward from time to time for the achieving of this important result. It may be interesting to know that engineers and others dreamed many years ago of a harbour within the estuary of the Swan River, but no design had the requisite boldness and foresight that characterised the plans of that eminent engineer and statesman, the late Mr. C. Y. O'Connor, M.Inst.C.E., C.M.G., whose genius has given to the community of this State one of the most compact and easily worked ports, certainly in Australia, and probably in the world.
As many of course know, the whole of the shipping business of Fremantle was, up to the opening of the present inner harbour, carried out at the old sea jetty, now removed, in conjunction with lighterage from and to ships at anchor in Gage Roads, and many are the storiesof delay and trouble in carrying out the work, where often for several days at a stretch lighters were unable to work alongside ships, or those at the jetty had to be removed to an anchorage owing to heavy weather; but all that, with its attendant high cost, is happily a thing of the past, and it is indeed fortunate that this is so, as if similar conditions still existed, Fremantle would see none of the modern vessels which now daily use the port.
The first authentic design for a harbour at Fremantle where ships would have protection from rough weather, was produced in 1839 by Mr. J. S. Roe, then Surveyor-General to the colony. This design contemplated a harbour being constructed under the shelter of a breakwater off Arthur Head, ships to lie at moorings and their cargoes to be handled with lighters, and the first suggestion for opening the mouth of the Swan River came from Mr. Wm. Phelps, assistant-surveyor,
in 1856. This contemplated a narrow channel leading from Gage Roads to the deeper reaches of the river, it being the evident object of the earlier attempts to open the river to give passage to vessel & to Perth. The visions of those days, however, were far short of the developments in shipping that were to take place within a few short years, as we find one designer in 1870 looking happily forward to the day when vessels of 300 tons burden would load and unload their cargoes in the Swan River, whereas we now handle in the ordinary course of our work palatial vessels of 20,000 tons and over.
Such an eminent harbour authority as the late Sir John Coode reported on the problem as to how Fremantle should get its harbour, and in two reports submitted in 1877 and 1887, respectively, outer harbours were recommended by him off the mouth of the estuary of the Swan, protected by island breakwaters; but these were of limited: area and depth, and in light of the immense strides in ship construction that have been made in recent years, it would seem that a wise providence was looking after the place and just biding its time till the necessary genius should appear.
This genius did appear in 1891, when the late Mr. Charles Yelverton O'Connor, M.Inst.C.E., C.M.G., then Marine Engineer of New Zealand, was offered, and accepted, the position of Engineer-in-Chief and General Manager of Railways of Western Australia. He arrived at Perth in June of that year.
On his getting to work at the urgent problems of the colony, which had left the chrysalis stage of Crown Colony by the granting of responsible government in 1890 (many of these problems were remote from harbour works and his handiwork is to be seen in the basis of several of the important national works existing to-day), one of these problems was the providing of a safe and commodious harbour at Fremantle. He was confronted by a mass of earlier suggestions and designs, but, being what he was - a man of strong personality as well as a wonderfully able and far-seeing engineer - he struck out on a broad principle of providing a harbour which, while being entirely adequate for the day in which he was working, could, by steady improvements, be made to meet all contingencies of the sea transport trade for many years, and could be extended with ease as the demand arose.
The question of character and location ultimately narrowed itself down to two proposals, one put forward by the then government of a harbour in Owen Anchorage to be reached by a channel to be cut through the Success Bank between Gage Roads and Owen Anchorage, and the other his own proposal to open the mouth or estuary of the Swan River, and create an inner harbour which could be extended in later years by going steadily up river as might be necessary to meet the growing trade as it came.
Many were the opinions expressed on the two alternative schemes, until ultimately the then Premier, Sir John Forrest (the late Lord Forrest) moved in the Legislative Assembly on January 6, 1892, the following motion:-
”That this House approves of the scheme of harbour improvements for the port of Fremantle as proposed by the Government, which includes opening a passage through the Success Bank into Owen Anchorage, the construction of a wharf at or near Catherine Point, and a connection by railway from such wharf to the Customs House and goods shed at Fremantle, in accordance with the plans and sections on the table of the House.”
In the course of a long speech, Sir John pointed out that while he was personally in favour of Sir John Coode's suggestion (an outer harbour off the mouth of the river), it was doubtful whether even when built it would afford a sufficient depth of water to admit in all weathers the large ocean steamers. He was not certain that means might not have been devised for deepening Sir John Coode's proposed harbour, but it was unmistakeable in the previous session to the Government that the scheme was considered by the Legislature as altogether too expensive to warrant its being undertaken. The Government placed on the Loan Bill a sum of £150,000 for the purpose of providing harbour accommodation at Fremantle, and in introducing that measure the Government said that it proposed to carry out Sir John Coode's smaller scheme (also an outer harbour off the mouth of the river). which was estimated to cost over half a million of money. In considering the question since, the Government felt that to bring forward that scheme would only end in defeat, and it also felt that if it did carry it in the Lower House, it would not be able to pass it through the Upper House, and besides this he had lost a good deal of faith in it, inasmuch as the depth of water it would provide would not be sufficient to admit ocean steamers in all weathers. The Government had therefore carefully considered the position and it now felt sure that no scheme would meet with the requirements of the colony unless it provided facilities for the ocean steamers to make it one of their ports of call. The Government considered that the time had arrived when the port which served the metropolis should no longer remain in an isolated position, but should be on the main road of the routes from England via the Cape and Suez and not round the corner. The Government did not wish the port to go away to Owen Anchorage, although it was only one and a half miles distant from Fremantle: it wished the works to be constructed as near Fremantle as possible. The Government had carefully considered Sir John Coode's scheme and had decided to abandon it, first on account of the cost, and secondly because it did not give the depth of water required.
The Government had also thought over the river scheme (Mr. O'Connor's harbour) and had had plans and reports made so that the
[Page 136 has a photo of LOADING WHEAT BY BELT CONVEYOR FROM TRUCK TO SHIP, NORTH WHARF.]
House should be treated fairly. It would have been very easy for the Government not to have placed these very inviting plans and Mr. O'Connor's report on the table, and it might have done many other things to have kept back information, but it had not done so.
Many, said Sir John, were not without hope that they might be able to make a harbour in the mouth of the river, which would mean eventually we should be able to bring ships to Perth. This is an idea the consummation of which everyone would desire; everyone was desirous of seeing the Swan River a navigable river and the ocean steamers plying upon it. Of course, if it could be done what more could be desired as a secure place for shipping than this beautiful river; but there were difficulties. They were met first with the cost, and also the definite opinion of Sir John Coode that the conditions were so adverse that it was quite impracticable to treat the existing entrance to the Swan River with a view to the formation and maintenance of a deep water approach from the sea with any degree of success; that any operations of this character, except to a limited extent, would be attended with failure and disappointment. In another report Sir John Coode had said that when dealing with any project to open the estuary of the Swan River, as he had previously intimated, there was not the slightest prospect of such an entrance being kept open or the depth maintained therein. In view, therefore, of the insufficiency of tidal and fresh water scour and the certainty of sand accumulation, his very decided opinion was that were the entrance to be opened to the extent described and the channel formed, it would be, irrspossible to maintain the depth therein. He could not bring to mind any successful treatment of a river entrance of this character unless accompanied by an adequate scour of fresh and tidal water, more particularly of the latter. In fact, it would be quite impracticable at any reasonable cost to provide hereafter in such a project for the reception of ocean-going steamers.
Sir John Forrest, continuing, said that as the House was aware, the present Engineer-in-Chief, Mr. O'Connor, who had had considerable experience in harbour works in connection with rivers, had given the Government a plan and estimate for opening up the river. His report, which was on the table, was very full and complete and deserved every consideration. The objection to Mr. O'Connor's scheme was that it was beyond their means. They found themselves in the position of having £150,000 only to spend, a sum with which they could not attempt to touch the river mouth. It was proposed to dredge a passage through Success Bank so as to accommodate the larger boats such as those of the P. & O. and Orient Companies, and all this could be done for the £150,000 which was on the loan schedule. The Engineer-in-Chief warned the Government that the proposed channel through Success Bank would probably fill up, and, after all, if they found that the channel was silting up after spending, say, £10,000, they would be able to judge whether the project was going to be successful or not, so that if after having spent £10,000 in dredging it was found to be useless, the work could be discontinued and some other scheme considered.
The matter was debated in Parliament throughout several sittings, great opposition being shown to the Government's scheme of building a harbour at Owen Anchorage, and eventually, on the motion of Mr. Charles Harper, a Select Committee was appointed on January 19, 1892, to consider the various schemes and bring down a report. Mr. O'Connor's original report upon the proposition of forming a harbour at the mouth of the Swan River was dated December 21, 1891.
The joint Select Committee consisted of well -known men, namely, Hon. H. W. Venn, Hon. W. E. Marmion, Mr. Charles Harper, Mr. A. R. Richardson, and Mr. W. S. Pearse for the Legislative Assembly, and for the Council, Hon. W. D. Moore, Hon. E. T. Hooley, Hon. T. Burgess, Hon. G. W. Leake and Hon. M. Grant. The resolution of the Legislative Assembly was that a joint committee of both Houses be appointed to inquire into the question of harbour works at Fremantle, and having regard to the amount at present available or likely to be available, to report what plan would be the best to give secure accommodation to the largest class of ocean-going steamers.
The Committee sat on seven days, and after taking voluminous evidence from Mr. C. Y. O'Connor, Engineer-in-Chief; Hon. John Arthur Wright, M.Inst.C.E.; Mr. Francis William Martin, well versed in harbour works in New Zealand; Captain Russell, Chief Harbour Master; Mr. John Bateman, Fremantle; Captain Ferguson and Captain Owston, the following resolution, moved by Mr. Harper and seconded by Mr. Pearse, was carried, viz.:-
”That the evidence given and the opinions expressed to this committee by the engineers and nautical authorities consulted point strongly to the superior advantages of opening the mouth of the Swan River over any other project, and this committee is therefore of opinion that the scheme as recommended by the Engineer-in-Chief and shown on drawing P.W.D. 1468 should be adopted.”
Another resolution, moved by Mr. Richardson and seconded by Hon. E. T. Hooley, was passed as follows:-
”That this committee is of the opinion that inasmuch as there is a sum of about £134,000 available for harbour works at Fremantle, and that the Engineer-in-Chief advises that by the expenditure of about £250,000 the scheme he recommends for the opening up of the river can be so far completed as to be available for vessels drawing eighteen feet of water, and that further expenditure will make this harbour available for the largest class of ocean steamers, it is desirable that this work should be undertaken without further delay."
These resolutions were duly reported to Parliament, and on March
9, 1892, Sir John Forrest moved the following resolution in the Legislative Assembly namely:-
”That so much out of the sum available for harbour works at Fremantle, including extension of jetty and improvements to approaches on the Loan Act 1891, as may be necessary for the complete construction of the north breakwater from Rous Head as shown on Plan P.W.D. 1468, estimated to cost £88,000, be expended, and the balance be expended on excavations in the river mouth with a view to eventually completing the scheme shown on such plan,”
which motion was carried.
In speaking to this motion, Sir John Forrest said that he was very pleased indeed at the turn events had taken. He was very glad indeed that the Government's Owen Anchorage proposal did not meet with the concurrence of honourable members and also did not meet with the concurrence of the people. He admitted freely that he was under an erroneous impression as to the cost of the work necessary to construct a breakwater at Fremantle. He was under the impression, after reading and studying the reports of Sir John Coode, that any attempt to construct a breakwater at Fremantle for the protection of shipping here which would provide accommodation for vessels drawing something under 23 feet of water would have required over a million of money. The Government had felt that it was no use bringing forward a scheme that might only end in defeat, so as what appeared to the Government to be a last resource they had decided to go to Owen Anchorage; but members did not agree with the proposals and, as events had turned out, he was very pleased indeed that they had not, because it was contrary to the wish of every member of the Cabinet and certainly contrary to his wish to go away from Fremantle for a harbour if they could get what they wanted on the spot at a cost which would be within their means.
Sir John Forrest warmly congratulated the country upon having such an authority as their Engineer-in-Chief, and he said that if the-Engineer-in-Chief could carry out the works he had reported upon and which he had suggested, for the amounts which he had given in his estimate, quite a new era was open to us in the construction of harbour works not only at Fremantle, but also in other parts of the country, and had he thought that in spite of the very definite opinions expressed by Sir John Coode, the river could be opened as Mr. O'Connor recommended, he would never have thought of going to Owen Anchorage. There was no doubt about that. He had now no reason to doubt that the river could be opened, because they could depend upon it that the Engineer-in-Chief was quite alive to the responsibilities he had taken upon himself. Continuing, he said he thought it also afforded great hope to those who believed in opening up the river and who desire to see it utilised as an inner harbour. He hoped their desire might be realised some day and that they might yet have large ocean steamers, if perhaps not of the very largest class, going right up to Perth. That day was not with them yet, but it would come.
[Page 140 has a photo only captioned with the names of the men in it.]
And so the present harbour was started. The design was limited by the existing bridges across the Swan River, but Mr. O'Connor rightly calculated that there would be sufficient room below these bridges to serve all purposes for several years ahead before up-river extensions had to be undertaken, and in this he has probed to have been correct.
These facts will tend to show the value of a bold, far-seeing outlook as a commencement of such a national work as a harbour in order that, as developments occur, - as they must - there shall be no costly tearing down and rebuilding, but rather a steady progression and enlargement to cope with the gradual expansion of trade.
The hills at Rocky Bay were specially opened as a quarry to provide stone for the moles to spring on the north from Rous Head and on the south from Arthur Head to protect the entrance channel to be cut into the new inner harbour basin, and by November, 1892, all was ready to make a start on the ground, and on the 7th of that month the first truck of Rocky Bay stone was tipped into the sea as the commencement of the North Mole by Lady Robinson, the wife of Sir Arthur Robinson, the then Governor of the colony.
This, then, was the early history of the harbour of Fremantle as. we know it to-day, but when thinking over the early struggles one cannot but feel the abiding pity that the great devising genius did not live to see and enjoy the splendid results of his forethought and handiwork.
In his designing work Mr. O'Connor was by no means dogmatic. He welcomed any man who could give a helpful opinion, and gave full credence to all who could assist him by their experience, always with the full knowledge that great strides would come with the years and that his work must be sufficient to meet these. So it was that he consulted and discussed with all the prominent nautical men available on various points, and so was able in his finished designs to present a work which would be a lasting one, and one which could be worked by the big ships to come.
When the harbour construction work was well under way there came the question as to the mail steamers using the new port as against the port of Albany, which was then their Western Australian port of call, and it was on the suggestion of Captain Angus, the special envoy from London of the P. & O. and Orient-Pacific mail line companies, that the present width of 1,400 feet between quays was agreed to, Captain Angus thereupon reporting to his principals that the new harbour would be suitable for their ships. It must be remembered also that the mail steamers of those days were by no means the palatial liners we now constantly see at Fremantle, yet the original finished design has proved to be adequate to meet all demands made by these big vessels.
The harbour gradually took upon itself the semblance of a deepwater basin. The rocky bar at the mouth of the river, which rose in some places some four feet above the water surface, gradually disap-
peared before the united efforts of blasting gelignite and the dredges, while inside the basin-to-be gradually appeared the South or Victoria Quay.
Many of the lovers of old Fremantle will remember the promontory of Willis' Point which stretched across to where the North Quay now stands, and on which stood the original railway workshops which had to be removed, they being taken to Midland Junction. Many also will remember that Cliff Street ended on the north in an old wooden lighter jetty now swallowed up in dry reclaimed land, and where the Harbour Trust office and the railway goods sheds and much of the present goods yards are now located, was in those early days water of varying depths up to three or four feet.
The work of construction went steadily on until, on May 4, 1897, the rocky bar was sufficiently cleared away and sufficient room attained inside to enable the old steamer Sultan, of Singapore-Fremantle fame (but now long since disappeared), to steam through a narrow cut into the growing basin. The vessel was steered through the narrow rocky cut by Lady Forrest, the wife of Sir John, who saw with pride the fulfilment of his ardent dream that ocean-going ships should come inside for safety.
The entrance of the Sultan comprised the real official opening of the new harbour. She was followed, on October 8, 1897, by s.s. Cornwall, the first English freight steamer to enter the new basin. The first mail steamer to come to Fremantle and berth inside in the new basin was the German N.D.L. s.s. Gera, on August 10, 1898, and she was followed by the Prinz Regent Luitpold on October 4, 1898, and Frederich der Grosse on October 31, 1898.
The first British mail steamer to visit the new port was R.M.S. Ormuz, of the Orient-Pacific Line, on August 13, 1900, followed by R.M.S. India, of the P. & O. Line, on August 20, 1900, these two vessels marking the change for these lines from Albany to Fremantle. The French mail steamers soon followed.
Up to January 1, 1903, the harbour administration was in the hands of the Railway Department, but this was changed by the creation of the present Trust, which took over the reins on that date and still administers the port.
The port of Fremantle, as controlled by the board of Fremantle Harbour Trust Commissioners to-day, consists of the whole of the sheltered area of water lying between the mainland and Rottnest, Carnac and Garden Islands, and the reefs connecting these islands, and includes also the inner harbour basin within the estuary of the Swan River, at present extending up the river as far as the existing railway bridge.
Outside the inner harbour basin is the Gage Roadstead, giving good anchorage in all ordinarily fine weather, and Owen Anchorage, lying some three miles south of Gage Roads, where the disembarkation of live cattle and shipments of explosives are dealt with. South of this again lies Cockburn Sound, a magnificent sheet of deep water, measuring eight miles long by four miles wide, all entirely protected from ocean influence; but, unfortunately, nature has so securely shut in this fine sheet of water by sand banks that immense engineering difficulties bar the way to its being opened for commercial purposes. Many people, including engineers, have looked with Ionging eyes on this sheet of water, and wished that access could be easily gained to it, but the difficulties and cost of achieving this result have always stood in the way, and the result has been that all efforts to obtain a harbour have been centred about the entrance to the Swan River.
It is true that in recent years the Federal Government set out to build in Cockburn Sound a great naval base to serve the western coast of the continent, but the developments made since the war towards (it is hoped) an ultimate world peace have caused, work there to cease. There are many shrewd engineers who consider that the developments which have resulted in the ceasing of work on the Henderson Naval Base have happened fortuitously, for they believe that nature would ultimately have prevented the area from being used, except probably at an enormous annual cost in maintaining dredged entrance channels across the heavy sand banks which bar its only practical entrance.
The inner harbour basin, as now operated, is a dredged area of 5,000 feet in length by an even width between quays of 1,400 feet. Access to this basin is gained from Gage Roads by a dredged entrance channel between protecting moles, the channel being approximately 5,000 feet in length with a full depth bottom width of 450 feet.
When originally designed and constructed, the channel and basin were dredged to an even depth of 30 feet at lowest known low water, but it has been found in recent years that the increasing size of ships has demanded a greater depth, so the Harbour Trust Commissioners took the matter in hand in good time, and the work of deepening the entrance channel and harbour basin was commenced some years ago, and the work has just been completed, the depth throughout being now thirty-six feet at lowest known low water. This is a very fine depth, and although in all new wharf construction work piles are being driven sufficiently deep to allow of a further deepening to, say, 40 feet, if such is found in the future to be advisable, it is not considered at present by those shipowners who have in their hands the ocean trades of the world, that a greater depth than thirty-six feet will ever be required in Australian ports. Be that as it may, however, we are.prepared, if the unexpected should occur in the future, to go still deeper if such is found to be necessary to accommodate still larger ships than we know of to-day. As the inner harbour and entrance channel stand to-day, accommodation can be given day or night, in any weather, to the largest vessels now engaged in, or believed likely to be seen in, the Australian trade for many years.
[Page 144 has a photo of the C.Y. O'Connor monument.]
[Between pages 144 and 145 there are two photos of Fremantle Harbour.]
Even our best friends are at times sceptical, and doubts existed as to whether the Fremantle inner harbour could, notwithstanding its fine depth of water, take in safely really large vessels; but these doubts were successfully dissipated by the berthing in the inner harbour, on February 27, 1924, of the ships of the Special Service Squadron of the British Navy. On that memorable day thousands of people witnessed the manoeuvring and berthing of the battleship Hood and the battlecruiser Repulse, and satisfied themselves of the correctness of the statements made from time to time by those in authority, that the harbour was capable of taking really large ships with ease and safety. The Hood is a vessel of 861 feet in length and was drawing thirty-three feet of water, and the Repulse is 790 feet in length and was drawing thirty feet three inches. No trouble whatever was experienced with these ships, and the Admiral in command was able to publicly congratulate the people of Western Australia on the possession of a safe and commodious harbour. As illustrating the ease in handling these ships, the time occupied from the time the Hood threw off her last mooring line at Victoria Quay till she dropped the pilot outside in Gage Roads was just twenty minutes. Since we saw those fine ships the battlecruiser Renown berthed with perfect ease at Victoria Quay.
The wharfage accommodation of the inner harbour consists of two quays: the Victoria Quay on the south side and the North Quay on the north side, giving between them over 10,000 lineal feet of berthage space.
The Victoria Quay deals with practically all the general cargo business of the port, the North Quay looking after the handling of bulk and rough cargoes. On the Victoria Quay there are eight large cargo sheds now being rebuilt and enlarged; when completed they will give over 340,000 square feet of floor area, while on the North Quay are two grain sheds containing over 90,000 square feet of floor space, and capable of accommodating 400,000 bags of wheat.
The Trust carries out in its entirety the functions of a wharfinger. It receives and handles all goods between the ships and the owners of the goods, both inwards and outwards, giving and taking receipts for same, and in certain circumstances accepting responsibility for correct delivery and safe-keeping while the goods remain within its custody. A complete system for the receipt and delivery and checking of goods is in operation.
The Fremantle Harbour Trust is the only wharf or port authority in Australia which performs the full function of a wharfinger, the general practice in other Australasian ports being to construct wharves,
etc., and let them on hire to various vested interests which carry out the working of them.
At Fremantle there are no vested interests so far as a port authority is concerned, and this fact has enabled the Trust to put in valuable cargo-handling plant and to maintain a continuity of design of wharves and sheds which would not be possible under any system which had to consider various vested interests. It has also enabled the Trust to focus the work into a small compass, and, by utilising every berth to the fullest extent possible, prevented the country from having to face heavy expenditure on extensions which would long ago have been necessary if berths were locked up in vested interests. The aim of the Trust is to continually increase the working power of every foot of wharf space to the utmost before asking for new and costly extensions. This endeavour has also its important bearing on the shipowner's problem, as we hold that he gets quicker despatch for his vessels, enabling them to be off to sea again on their true earning stages sooner than if the working power of the port were less than it is, or can be made under a single control of wharf activities, and it thus lessens his port costs.
The design of the wharves is such that cargo, both inwards and outwards, can be handled in every way it is conceivable to be required. On the south side of the harbour, or Victoria Quay, every wharf berth is equipped with railway, road and shed accommodation, so that cargo can be worked by medium of road vehicles, railway vehicles, or stored or sorted in sheds before delivering to vehicles or back to ships, while the north side is devoted to the handling of bulk or bulky and rough cargoes as well as inflammable oil or spirits in bulk and the shipment of wheat cargoes.
At Fremantle a ship can engage in her cargo work day or night and carry on her bunkering and ship supply operations at the same berth and simultaneously with her cargo work without shifting, as is necessary at many other ports, which is a very important consideration, thus saving much time and money.
At Victoria Quay (roughly a mile in length) every berth is, in addition, fitted with oil fuelling facilities.
All general cargo received from a ship is sorted and stacked to individual consignee shipping marks in the wharf sheds on Victoria Quay and is delivered from the stacks to merchants or their clients, which is of the utmost importance to traders as it involves much less handling and cartage costs than any other system. At Fremantle an indentor can clear a long line of goods and give sub-orders on the Trust for delivery of those goods direct to his purchasers, who thus obtain delivery direct from shed or berth, so saving an immense amount of costly intermediate handling and carting. Fremantle is the only port in Australia where this can be done as a general practice.
Special provision is made for handling export wheat and flour by means of electrically -driven conveyors and shipping gantries. All plant is electrically driven and is entirely portable and usable at every berth in the port. Electric capstans and winches are installed for truck shunting and electric light is used everywhere. About eleven miles of railway lines have been provided and have to be maintained within the Trust's boundaries as well as some three miles of roadway.
Dealing with the subject of wharf and shed cargo-handling plant, the crane equipment of the port consists of twenty electric and two steam cranes, ranging in capacity to handle from two to six-ton lifts. Of these cranes fourteen are fully portal gantry ship cranes spanning two lines of railway; five are electric and steam runabout rail cranes, and three are two-ton petrol-electric mobile cranes capable of working in shed or on the open wharf, roadways, or anywhere where it is possible for a machine to operate. In addition there are six five-ton capacity ”Demag" electric shed hoists installed in Sheds ”A” and ”B.”
The latest additions to the crane power of the port are four Babcock & Wilcox fully portal three-ton electric level luffing cranes, and three two-ton petrol-electric mobile cranes. The former cranes are magnificent machines capable of taking cargo out of or placing it in the highest built up and widest steamer that comes to Australia. The height of the crane hook when at its highest hoist is ninety feet above rail-level, and it can be lowered into a ship's hatch to a depth of forty feet below wharf level. The radius is sixty-five feet and the outreach from the face of the quay forty-one feet; so that the hook can reach the centre of an eighty-feet beam ship. These cranes were built (under licence from the patentees) by the State Implement and Engineering Works at Rocky Bay, North Fremantle, which have made an entirely satisfactory job of the work and deserve the utmost congratulations upon their skill. Their price, too, was no less than over thirty per cent. less than the makers themselves erected a somewhat similar, but much less efficient, crane in another port in Australia.
The same works have now in course of construction for the Trust a 20-ton capacity crane of the same level luffing design, and this crane will be installed at the west end of Victoria Quay and will be fully portal and capable of travelling over a sufficient length of quay to work heavy lifts out of a ship moored there. These cranes are, in their general measurements and capacity, practically a replica of those installed in London's latest dock (King George V.), but are an inprovement in some important respects upon those cranes.
The two-ton petrol-electric cranes, manufactured by Messrs. Ransomes & Rapier, Ipswich, England, are probably the most generally useful pieces of working plant ever introduced into Fremantle. They are entirely modern. The first crane, obtained in 1926, was about the seventh of its class manufactured. This type of crane was first built for the
[Page 148 shows a photo of OLD LIGHTHOUSE AND SHIPYARD, ABOUT 1865. The lighthouse in the photo is actually the second one.]
late Wembley Exhibition, London. These cranes have just filled what was a long-felt want on the wharves in quickly and easily handling in any situation small awkward packages that previously taxed the ingenuity of the men very seriously to handle. They are entirely mobile; that is, they can run about sheds, wharves, roads, or any other place, giving a secure enough foothold to carry them. They generate their own electric power as they go and are thus entirely independent of wires or any outside source of power. These cranes have largely dictated the design and enlargement of the wharf sheds that is now going on.
On Victoria Quay also are electric capstans or winches which are very useful for moving railway trucks about. The electric and steam runabout cranes are very useful in the delivery of cargo and are sometimes used in discharge work where they can be operated.
On the North Quay, besides electric gantry wharf cranes similar to those on Victoria Quay, there is installed a very complete bag handling, stacking and shipping plant, consisting of five fixed elevators and conveyors in No. 1 grain shed, twenty-two portable band conveyors of lengths varying from twenty feet to forty feet each, four portable stackers and twelve shipping gantry conveyors for ship loading. In addition there are seven truck weighbridges, electric capstans set at convenient points, and portable electric winches for moving trucks about.
Every machine, with the exception of the two steam cranes mentioned (and they are only used in emergencies), is operated by electricity, and to give some idea of what that means it should be mentioned that there are over 150 electric motors running in the system. The aggregate horse-power is 1,783. This power is drawn from the Perth power-house and the voltage is broken down from 6,600 volts to 440 volts for power and 250 volts for lighting, through the Trust's own transformers. About nine hundred electric lights are burned regularly, and, in addition, light is supplied as required to ships for cargo work or other lighting. Ten years ago the consumption of current reached only 15,000 units per month; it has now reached 40,000 units per month-showing the increase in the last decade. These figures are quoted to show how the business is increasing.
For the second time since the inauguration of the Trust, the wharves are being now reconstructed - this time in reinforced concrete. In recent years the depredations of teredo have become so bad that even our famous jarrah timber ceased to be proof against the inroads of these water borers, so piles of jarrah timber are being replaced by reinforced concrete piles which are driven, as I stated earlier, to allow of an ultimate depth of forty feet below lowest low water to be
obtained by simply dredging if such an advance over the present thirtysix feet is found to be desirable.
These piles are being made on Harbour Trust premises and are stated by competent judges to be the best in the world. The superstructure of the wharves is of jarrah timber covered with reinforced concrete with a wearing blanket of bituminous concrete on top. So far Victoria Quay only has been tackled, but the North Quay is to follow almost at once.
The sheds on Victoria Quay are being largely reconstructed and will be greatly different from what many knew them before. By cutting sheds in halves and tacking them together, sheds of five hundred feet in length are being built, while all are being widened from seventy feet in width to one hundred feet, and the timber floors are giving place to reinforced concrete with a bitumen wearing surface. The increased lengths are necessary to accommodate the increased size of ship. In 1900, before the Trust came into being, three sheds were built on the eastern end of Victoria Quay, each two hundred and forty feet in length; they were long enough for the then type of ship. In 1904 the Trust constructed four more sheds each three hundred and thirty feet long, for the larger types of ships; but now ships have reached over six hundred feet in length, so the sheds are being reconstructed to four hundred and sixty, four hundred and eighty, and five hundred feet in length.
In 1903 the sheds gave us 260,000 square feet of floor space. When reconstructed the total will be about 340,000 square feet, though the actual number of sheds on the quay will be reduced from ten to eight. By means of the various machinery at work, better use of the sheds can now be made than before, so the increased area can easily be multiplied according to the classes of cargo being dealt with. By taking in a strip of land from the railway yard throughout nearly the length of the quay, a very fine bituminous roadway is being gradually constructed at the rear of the sheds as the work progresses.
This work, which on the Victoria Quay side alone will cost close on a million, is largely being paid for out of accumulated surplus paid to the Government, the value only of new work being charged to capital.
The two grain sheds on the North Quay can accommodate approximately 400,000 bags of stacked grain, and it is at this quay that are handled, as well as wheat or flour shipments, all phosphatic rock, sulphur, timber and coal cargoes, while the extreme westerly berth at the quay is fitted as an oil berth where bulk tankers pump their cargoes of inflammable oil by means of pipe mains into their large storage tanks at North FFremantle. At present there are two companies operating, and there are indications that a third company will establish a depot and tanks at North Fremantle and lay a pipe main to the berth before long.
It may not be realised that the policy of the various Governments has been that no outwards wharfage charge or toll should be levied against the products of the soil of W.A., with the result that, for instance, the whole of the wheat shipped each season is only asked to bear a handling charge, which is cut so fine that with all its machinery and endeavour, the Trust is unable to recoup the actual cost of handling and shipping.
Taking wheat alone there was shipped last season over 61 million bags - equal to over 535,000 tons, or 19,000,000 bushels. In New South Wales this wheat pays 9d. per ton and in South Australia about 1/- per ton outwards wharfage, so if the New South Wales rate operated here it would return a revenue on the figures for the season 1927-28 of over £20, 000, or on the South Australian basis, about £26,000. This money has, of course, been saved to the farming community. Victoria also gives the same concession to her farmers. In Western Australia the same concession of free outwards wharfage is also given to articles which are manufactured locally.
For fruit shipped the Trust has made special arrangements in its Victoria Quay, complete ventilation being provided.
Fremantle has in seven years from oil first being made available, jumped into the position of being the foremost oil fuelling port in Australia. The quantity actually passed into steamers' bunkers at Victoria Quay during the year ending June 30, 1928, was 102,583 tons, or 25,645,000 gallons. This business has cut hard into the quantity of Collie coal taken as bunker fuel, the quantity shipped for the same year being only 17,500 tons. The oil fuelling business at Fremantle has become so great that it has become necessary to lay duplicate pipe mains.
Another phase of the oil business has become very important in quite recent years, two oil companies (and this practice is soon to be followed by a third) now bringing petrol and kerosene to the port in bulk, pumping it from tank steamers into their own shore tanks. The first petrol tanker was s.s. Radix on April 8, 1927. The quantity landed into tanks during the year 1927-28 was 52,518 tons, or 13,129,500 gallons.
To show the growth of the trade of the port, it need only be stated that the number of ships using the harbour in 1927-28 was 751, of a gross registered tonnage of 5,661,410 tons, the average gross register
being 7,538 tons. The cargo handled was 1,679, 600 tons and the gross revenue received £535,503. The capital value of the port at 30th June, 1928, was £2,444,235.
The Fremantle Harbour Trust, in its other activities, controls its pilots and the pilot and signal servites of the port, and generally fully handles the port, which duties in many other ports are handled by separate bodies. Throughout its existence the Fremantle Harbour has maintained itself and all its works, paid full interest, sinking and reserve funds, besides paying to the Government considerable surpluses to be used as wanted in rebuilding of wharves and other structures.
There can be no doubt that the excellent foundation laid by the late Mr. O'Connor has been well built upon. Just now is coming the question of extensions to the present harbour, and as to these Mr. O'Connor and those of his day had no idea but of going up the Swan River as necessary. The various boards of Fremantle Harbour Trust Commissioners have strenuously urged the same line of steady progression, but the suggestion of building extensions in the shape of a new harbour in Gage Roads is again showing its head, and is for the moment a matter of discussion.
Fremantle has already earned for itself the proud title of ”The Western Gateway to Australia,” and the greatest care should be exercised not to endanger that title and all it means. Already the port has been talked of as becoming the terminal port in Australia for the mail lines running through the Suez Canal, and it is thought by many that this will become an accomplished fact as soon as the production of the country can sustain continuous loading of ships for the old land. In the meantime this young port, which has done so much in such a few short years can be well left to look after itself.
Garry Gillard | New: 17 January, 2015 | Now: 2 April, 2020