History of West Australia/Charles John Moran


Charles John Moran HOFWA.jpg
Photo by
Greenham & Evans.

TRULY, the sure road to success is by hard work. The wisdom of taking this path is exemplified in the arts and sciences and in the prosaic walks of life. Colonial circles are full of persevering and determined men who forced their way through rank and file into high positions. Those who read the biography of Mr. Charles John Moran, M.L A, will trace the determination, industry, and big heart which have characterised his career. All the professions were open to him, but with a foresight beyond his years he realised that in the overcrowded ranks of professional men, at least in the eastern colonies, the rewards were too small in comparison with the magnitude of the work. His life up to the present has been one of work, hard work, and his success is due, not to the favours of fickle fortune, but to his indomitable energy. So interesting and instructive, however, is the history of his career that it is best told in chronological order.

Mr. Moran was born in the famous Darling Downs district, Queensland, in 1868; his father, Mr. John Moran, being one of the earliest settlers in that fertile country. The son passed his early years on the breezy Downs, receiving his elementary education at the State schools. He, at this time, intended to enter the scholastic ranks, and with that object studied under the auspices of the Educational Department as a pupil teacher, and, taking up a mathematical course, passed all his examinations with honours. At the expiration of four years he went to St. Killen's College as a private student, under the tutorship of the Rev. J. B. Breen, of Brisbane. He was there associated with the late Mr. Justice Real, of Brisbane, of whose student days he has many interesting reminiscences. Mr. Moran made the most of the excellent opportunities afforded him, and soon completing his classical course, graduated for the University. The hard study told on his youthful frame, and when the excitement of the examination was over a reaction set in, and he returned home to build up his shattered constitution. The healthy surroundings and active life of the station revived him, and twelve months later he became a house student in Toowoomba, under Mr. Parker, M.A., from whose care he passed the required examination for admission to the Sydney University. The selection of a profession to which he could apply his hard-earned learning proved a most difficult task, for on all sides the ranks of the professions were full. He saw on the horizon to the westward the land of the Black Swan, whose people were about to obtain Responsible Government. He came hither, and landed in Western Australia on the very day that the responsibility of the colony was declared. A very superficial examination of the country convinced him that there was a future before the youngest of Australia's self-governing provinces, and with her he determined to throw in his lot. His choice of a profession lighted on architecture, and a vacancy occurring in the office of Mr. Stombuco, architect and building engineer, of Perth, he was articled to that gentleman. In the course of time the young Queenslander accepted the position of manager to Mr. J. Mart, who had the contract for the north wing of the Post Office, and superintended that work.

The gold discoveries in the interior had before this attracted hundreds of men to the auriferous country, and the sufferings and privations of the men convinced the Government that steps should be taken to conserve water on the barren routes to the gold fields. Tenders were called for the work, and a party, of which Mr. Moran became a member, obtained the contract. When the band reached Coolgardie, the Government cancelled the contract, and decided to have the work done by day labour. Mr. Moran thereupon determined to try his luck on the goldfields, and with a team and provisions set forth towards the great Siberia rush. From this date his intimate association with the diggers commenced. On the dreary plains, appropriately named Siberia, great privations and distress prevailed. There was, in truth, a famine in the land which forced the diggers to retreat as before a mighty host. How many fell on that heat-swept plain none can say, for the retreat before thirst was so rapid that time could not be spared to give the dead more than decent burial, much less search for their identity. At this inauspicious time, Mr. Moran's great-heartedness in assisting the diggers first won their esteem, which his many services have enabled him to maintain to the present day.

With amazing rapidity Coolgardie grew, and was declared a separate constituency, entitled to representation in the councils of the country. Who should represent them was the burning question among the prospectors, and eventually their choice fell upon Mr. Moran. He had always been popular, and his nomination was enthusiastically supported. In agreeing to contest the seat against the late Mr. De Hamel, Mr. Moran determined to make himself thoroughly conversant with the conditions of life and the requirements of his constituents. The electorate, which embraced the whole goldfields, starting fifty miles west of Southern Cross, extended to the South Australian border, and thence to the Murchison, and comprised in all from one hundred and fifty to two hundred thousand square miles. It was the largest Assembly electorate in Australia. Over this vast extent of country Mr. Moran made no fewer than five distinct journeys, travelling from one point to another addressing his electors. The difficulties and expense of travelling necessitated his making many of his journeys on foot, carrying his "swag" and billy. In his wanderings he gained a thorough insight into the conditions of the men and the requirements of the fields. On one of these electioneering tours Mr. Moran started away across the plains in the hot, boiling sun for a thirty-mile walk to the Thirteen-mile Tank, near Southern Cross, and addressed the miners immediately on his arrival. His last speech was delivered ten days prior to the election, from a mullock heap at the Six-mile. The men were brought together by a tin dish "roll up," which typical call attracted hundreds to the meeting place. According to the Electoral Act the candidates were only allowed to speak until twelve o'clock that noon, leaving ten clear days before polling day. So interesting did the miners find his speech, that he was kept answering questions, and so on, until the hour provided by the Act. By a coincidence, during his discourse, Mr. Moran's watch was the only one that pointed to twelve o'clock, for the kindly electors had placed theirs behind the proper time, and assured him it was far from that hour. As the miners were all unanimous in agreeing that their watches were right, Mr. Moran accepted their dictum, and, to the delight bf the assemblage, continued his address.

A man who took so much trouble to explain his views, naturally won the admiration of the miners, who rolled up on polling day and returned him by an overwhelming majority. One of Mr. Moran's first acts on entering the House was to introduce an amendment in the electoral law to abolish the absurd clause restricting the candidates from speaking right up to the day of the election. During his career in the House he has done all in his power to foster the development of the goldfields by advocating the erection of condensers on the roads to the fields. He also suggested the building of dams round various rock catchments, which have been invaluable to the progress of the fields. Mr. Moran is a great believer in boring for water, which, he maintains, can be obtained above artesian levels, and brought to the surface by pumping. The difference between alluvial and quartz miners is recognised by Mr. Moran, and to define the two classes of mining, he suggested and had carried amendments which have given satisfaction to both interests. He is now (1896) endeavouring to introduce a bill which will have the effect of providing residential areas for miners, so that they may be able to make their homes near their work. Mr. Moran is a pronounced liberal in his views, and is a staunch supporter of the Government proposals for the extension of the railways. The cheapening of the necessaries of life is recognised by Mr. Moran as contingent to the progress of the colony, and he took a leading part in the endeavour made last session to have the impost of 30s. per head removed from live stock. Thanks, largely, to this energetic legislator, Coolgardie will have far better representation in the House in the future than in the past, as arrangements have already been made to increase the number of members from one to six. Mr. Moran is now engaged trying to form a goldfields party in the House, which will have for its first platform the advancement of the mining industry. Mr. Moran, whose offices are in St. George's Terrace, Perth, has great faith in the future of the colony, and particularly of the mines, which he thinks will rival those of Bendigo and Ballarat. He is a director of the Tameline Queensland Mining Company, and several others. The development of Block 45 at Kalgoorlie was due greatly to his efforts. Several large and influential syndicates have entrusted their affairs in his hands.

Mr. Moran was married in August, 1895, to Miss Elizabeth Healey, the second daughter of Mr. J. Healey, of Fremantle. He resides at Kalgoorlie Villa, Hay Street, Perth. An English reader learns from such true stories as this the adventure which creeps into colonial careers. It is not a field of life scented with sweet blossoms, and relieved by luxurious and romantic hermitages, where the traveller may rest. It is rather like the walk over a ploughed field. The necessity for toil surrounds the colonist on every hand, and this very desideratum brings out, as in Mr. Moran's case, the very best that is in him.