Fremantle Stuff > people > William Heares Smithers
William Heares Smithers was another excellent example of perambulating publicans. Apparently the hotel trade was his prime reason for coming to the colony. He arrived on the Gilmore with other settlers brought out by Thomas Peel; he was not an indentured servant, but apparently had some agreement with Peel. When he landed on the beach at Clarence with his wife and six children, he soon found that his patron was no help to him at all.
On 6th June 1830, Smithers complained to the Colonial Secretary that two people were selling liquor without a licence and that he himself was unable to set up his liquor business as previously arranged with Peel, because Peel had supplied him with only 5 dozen bottles of claret, 3 gallons of brandy and 18 gallons of beer; furthermore, he was unable to cash one of Peel's £20 notes.
Then emulating Dick Whittington, even to the cat, as will be mentioned later, he 'humped his bluey' to the big town. It seems he must have had some assets, because before long he had acquired a town grant in Fremantle, lot no. 117, on which he built a house and opened it as the Albion Hotel [or Albion Inn - not to be confused with Mrs Bullen's Albion Hotel in Cottesloe]. He also acquired a parcel of land at the Upper Swan, which he called Albion Town. Perhaps he had visions of himself as mayor when it became a town in reality—which it never did! Today, strangely enough, under the same name, it is still a farm—or more strictly speaking, a vineyard.
In between times, he was seeking land here and there, with little success. Then in March 1833 the paper announced that Alfred Waylen's house at Point Walter, recently occupied by Smithers, was burnt to the ground, presumably by natives. In 1834 his Albion Hotel [Albion Inn] was offered for sale or let, and a month or so later Smithers announced that he had taken over Steel's billiard room and the Royal Hotel. To this he made alterations and additions, or at least the owner did.
In December 1835 he offered for sale the furnishings etc. of the Royal Hotel, as he was leaving Fremantle. He had already leased his Albion Hotel [Albion Inn] to his son-in-law, William Blackmore Oakley, who established a bakery business there. Then Smithers became the licensee of the Half-way house on the York road, but left it in 1839 to return to Albion Town because of his wife's ill-health.
His wife, Susannah, died soon afterwards and was buried in the grounds of Albion Town; a marble stone still marks the grave Smithers returned to Fremantle, and in August 1839 placed a notice in the Perth Gazette:
Whereas a native named Wag-up stole a knife and three silver spoons from the house of W. H. Smithers at Fremantle and next day took two spears and would have speared the aforesaid W. H. Smithers had not another native named Min-da held him. Whoever apprehends the said Wag-up will receive the sum of 12 on his conviction. W. H. Smithers.
Nine months later Smithers announced that he was taking over the Cleikum Inn at Guildford. In January 1843 he left for London on the Houghton-le-Skerne.
It could not be said that Smithers led a humdrum, stay-at-home life in the colony. When he first arrived, he sued George Leake, a prominent merchant of Fremantle, for the return of a house cat which he (Smithers) had brought to the colony. He complained to the Governor of the failure of the Revd. J. B. Wittenoom, J.P., to give an order for the cat's return and also of his conferring in private with the defendant or his lawyer, and this he considered most unconstitutional, to say the least. However, he got his cat back. Tuckfield: 80-81.
Tuckfield, Trevor 1971, 'Early colonial inns and taverns', Early Days: Journal and proceedings of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society, Part 1, 7, 3: 65-82; Part 2,7, 7: 98-106.
Garry Gillard | New: 6 February, 2019 | Now: 6 February, 2019