History of West Australia/Alfred Mackenzie


Alfred Mackenzie HOFWA.jpg
Photo by
Hemus & Hall.

A DEPTH of meaning lies embedded in that great Shakesperian phrase, "There is a Divinity that shapes our ends, rough hew them as we may." One cursory mental glance at it leaves untouched and imperfect the many side and corner issues that fuller enquiry satisfies. Its application must be by the laws of nature, universal. Go into the highways and byeways of life with this heaven-inspired text floating on your mental stream, and apply it to the lives of their denizens. You will find ample verification even in the life of a questioning sceptic.

When a man sails forth on the ocean of life, stemming the rising tide, and then drifting merrily with the turn, he does not always steer on an unalterable course. He keeps the needle of his mental compass fixed on some certain definite beacon at the start, but confidence and experience, born of something higher than the mere mechanism of body and mind, cause him to change and rechange at its beck and call. When we look back on the life of Mr. Mackenzie, and wonder at the different courses of rosy morn and sunny noon, we see the Great Teacher's phrase at work. Occasions and opportunities arise which snap the connecting threads of one vocation and spin a web for a second. Mr. Mackenzie was born at Woodend, Victoria, in 1861. Soon after leaving school he joined a firm of contractors in Melbourne, and on gaining practical insight into the conduct of operations transferred his services and capabilities to a little contracting scheme of his own. All the difficulties and troubles attaching to youthful enterprise unaided were successfully combated by his skill. Contracts for large public buildings in Melbourne were accepted and executed by him so substantially that his reputation ran in double harness with his extensive business. He completed several portions of the Melbourne Tramway system in the city and suburbs, and attached himself to his calling with an energy and determination that removed every obstacle.

Finally, he relinquished his business and proceeded to Coolgardie, then in the rudimentary stages of a few tents. This was exactly four months after Bayley made his discovery. Mr. Mackenzie was aware of the rich possibilities that were in store for energy and enterprise, and made his actions subservient to that reflection. For seeing that shortly an influx of miners and prospectors into Coolgardie would ensue, he bought a number of camels with the object of hiring them to prospecting parties. To support this industry, which might prove a little dilatory at first, he started as a mining agent. He traversed wide areas of the fields and convinced himself and his many friends in the other colonies of their undoubted richness. His belief in the future wealth of Coolgardie was such that he induced kith and kin, friends and acquaintances, to emigrate thither without delay.

When the Progress Committee of Coolgardie was formed he was returned as a successful candidate at the head of the poll and was elected its first Chairman. The members constituting that Committee were David Lindsey, A. W. Macdonald Cheeseborough, A. Smith, Lawrence Goodrich and Joseph Pike. In 1893 this Committee performed many functions that are now under the control of various bodies and boards. The streets and the hygienic condition of the town were departments that received particular and careful attention. The committee gradually increased its powers and the range of matters under its observation, till its functions were resolved into the more solidified body of the municipal council. Mr. Mackenzie stood as a candidate, and was returned to the new body at the first municipal election.

His camel business proved lucrative, and, with the mining business, was, finally, floated into a limited liability company in August, 1896, for £20,000. Mr. Mackenzie is probably, as a private individual, the largest mine leaseholder in Coolgardie. As a camel proprietor he is second only to the Mahomet Bros. His dromedaries came from Kuraschi and South Australia.

Mr. Mackenzie is one of the founders of the Coolgardie Stock Exchange, and is a member. Towards charitable institutions his generosity is unbounded, not only by the liberal disbursement of money but by his able and ready support in the administration of hospitals. He acts as honorary treasurer of the St. John's Hospital and Children's Hospital. His energy and enthusiasm towards the advancement of these institutions have been gratuitously rewarded by popular appreciation and gratitude. He holds the important one of Chairman of the Public Works Committee of the Council. In this capacity he has given not only satisfaction—which is at best a cold and meagre term—but cause for public approval of his efficiency as an administrator. His practical judgment, based on long experience, has been often proved. On the Health Committee his active services are rendered with an alacrity and fervour that alone are indications of his utilitarian principles. Untiring in his efforts to ameliorate and improve imperfect surroundings, he has by dint of energy succeeded in impressing on the Coolgardie public the great need that exists for that better regime in sanitation which alone can effect that tone of salubrious health which all desire. He is a member of the Executive Committee of the Chamber of Mines and Chairman of the Building Committee. In 1896, Mr. Mackenzie was instrumental in obtaining a grant of £5,000 from the Government for the erection of an Institute at Coolgardie. Previous to coming to the colony from Victoria he associated himself to some extent with public affairs, and held important positions. His character and conduct constitute him a general friend. All who have felt the warmth of his sincere friendship speak of him in expressive and endearing terms.