History of West Australia/Edward Timothy Hooley


CLOSELY akin to exploration work is the task which falls to the lot of the pioneer pastoralist. The explorer flits, so to speak, like a bird of passage, bides not in any place, but moves on until he reaches his desired goal. No-one will gainsay the hardships which an explorer goes through on his travels, much less will he deny the extremities and privations and solid, hard uphill work which the early pastoralist undergoes. The explorer maps out a country, and after him comes the sturdy pioneer to develop it and prove its possibilities and make it yield forth the bounties of nature.

Edward Timothy Hooley HOFWA.jpg
Photo by
Greenham & Evans.

The opening up of a new country is necessarily arduous. Progress is tardy on account of the absence of material wherewith to carry out development work. Many weeks of toilsome travel must be endured before the pioneer comes in hail of the "busy haunts of men." Picture him away in the heart of a country, known perhaps only in name, pushing on his work as best he can in the plodding industry of the typical Britisher. He is a recluse to all intents and purposes, for save the company he meets at the head station and the dusky sons of the soil he is shut in from the world at large. There is a romance in these lives; not the common gilt-edge romance of the city—brick and mortar type—but that in which stern solitude often wields a melancholy sway. Western Australia, with her wide domain of acres, has been extensively explored and pastoralised, and standing in the ranks of the practical pioneers is the name of Edward Timothy Hooley, whose first years in this colony were full of discouragements and difficulties. His resolute faith in the country, combined with his capacity for hard work, finally enabled him after a life of adventure to win a leading place in the land of his adoption.

E. T. Hooley was born at sea on October 3, 1842, on board the ship Boliver, bound for Tasmania, whither Hooley père was proceeding to become overseer of a sheep and cattle station. After three years in Tasmania Mr. Hooley, sen., and family removed to Victoria and entered into pastoral pursuits in the same capacity as in the island colony. For six years he was connected with the pastoral industry in the famous Western district of Victoria, and there launched into farming and grazing on his own account. Growing up on his father's farm Edward acquired a practical knowledge of agriculture, dairying, and general bush work. The lad was educated at Portland, Victoria, and on leaving school "struck out"—to put the matter expressively—by becoming a sheep and cattle dealer. He acted as his own drover, and being an excellent bushman, brought his hard-earned knowledge into play, and gained financially by it. Many and varied were the adventures which fell to his lot rounding up wild cattle in heavy country, hunting the kangaroo on the dismal heaths, and little dreaming of what lay before him in a far-off land. In 1864 he joined the Camden Harbour Pastoral Association, which was formed in Melbourne for the purpose of acquiring land in the north-west of Western Australia. Very favourable reports had reached Victoria concerning the north-west of this colony, and weighing all these carefully in the balance, the Victorian company decided to settle country in the vicinity of Camden Harbour. Accordingly, ships were chartered, and on November 16, 1864, the first of three vessels sailed from Melbourne, and was followed at intervals of ten days by the others. Young Hooley was on board the Stag—the first vessel. One of the party was lost overboard in rough weather while crossing the Great Australian Bight. The Stag made a good run. On arrival with a portion of the sheep, cattle, and horses, the immediate country was found to be destitute of grass and water. The prospect was most dismal, for the view disclosed huge stretches of burnt grass and parched ground. Mr. Hooley and a detachment of his party, consisting of Messrs. A. J. McRae, J. Hindbaugh, and Ellwood, on disembarking decided to try and find water near the Glenelg River, about seventeen miles from the harbour, and with this end in view walked by day and night through the sullen bush. They could not make much headway, for the thermometer, even near sunset registered 125 degrees in the shade. In the morning they struck the Glenelg River, but were disappointed to find the water quite salt, the river being subject to tidal influences. After spending another half-day vainly looking for fresh water they retraced their footsteps. On the return journey one of the party—Mr. Ellwood—was so overcome by fatigue that, throwing away his ammunition and gun, he laid down under a tree, telling his companions to push on and leave him there to die. This was indeed a bad beginning to their pioneer work, and gave them an idea of the privations which might be theirs. They were not the men to leave their comrade to perish without some efforts being made to save his life. So they camped beside him, soothed him as best they could, and at sunset when the fierce heat had departed made an effort to get him along. It was twilight. A strange sight, it must have been, to witness the exhausted traveller being nurtured in his dire distress by the friends. Journeying at a painfully slow rate, although Mr. Ellwood had recovered sufficiently to walk a little, the band, after travelling for a quarter of a mile and becoming faint and fatigued, were rewarded by finding' water. The bushcraft of Mr. Hooley was practically demonstrated. Observing in the deepening gloaming a bronze-winged pigeon fly up on his right, he immediately assumed that water must be close at hand. Hurrying in the direction from whence the bird rose he found a beautiful pool of fresh water, in whose welcome depths the party drank refreshing and deep draughts. They took every care to so locate the pool that they could find it at any future time without difficulty, and repaired to Camden Harbour. Their provisions having ran out, they were eager to reach the Stag, and were delighted when daybreak disclosed their boat. While satisfying their hunger they learned that a second party, guided by Mr. T. C. Murray, had discovered a splendid spring within half a mile of the shore.

When the other vessels had arrived, the task of landing the stock was negotiated. This included 4,700 merino ewes, bred on the stations of the Messrs. Chirnside, of Victoria. The sheep were all driven to the spring Mr. Murray found, and around it they depastured for a day or two with disastrous results, for the discomfiture of the young settlers can be imagined when they observed their fleecy flocks dying at the rate of 120 sheep a night. This was attributed to some poisonous weed, which was, however, not discovered. Mr. Hooley and his companions decided to go further inland. They came to a spot where there was plenty of old grass and sufficient good water, and there they let the sheep run. An early fall of heavy tropical rain brought up a luxurious growth of grass. Still the sheep continued to die off, until at the end of three months there were only 1400 left. Every effort was made to find the poisonous weed, but unavailingly. Their discouragement was accentuated when in a few months there was not a single sheep left. Mr. Hooley had several months previous to this started off in charge of his old party on an exploring expedition up the Glenelg and to the Prince Regent River, where the scenery was grand, but the land rough and unsuitable. After examining the country the party came to the conclusion that it was not suitable for sheep. Mr. Hooley was only twenty-two years of age, but was asked to lead a party to Perth, then known as the Swan River Settlement. While this trip was in contemplation, however, a ship—the Teintsin—arrived from Fremantle, on board which was the late Mr. P. 8holl, of Perth, and a party of surveyors, police, &c., for the purpose of settling the Camden Harbour district. Mr. Sholl became the first Government Resident, and he arrived not very long after the news had reached the Western Australian Government that a Victorian party had settled in the north-west. This, of course, was the party of which Mr. Hooley was a member. A number of Victorian settlers took the opportunity of leaving the settlement by this vessel. Although he had realised that the land was unsuitable for settlement Mr. Hooley was not altogether discouraged, and determined to explore other places in the north-west. He heard that settlers had located themselves at Nickol Bay, and accompanied by his friend, Mr. Murray, decided to examine that part of the country. They arranged with Captain Jarman, of the Teintsin, to allow them space on his deck for 54 people and convey them to either Teintsin Harbour or Fremantle. For this slight accommodation the skipper charged £350. The passengers only got deck room and water, and had both to provide and cook their food. After a fortnight's voyage they reached Teintsin Bay, now known as Cossack, off which place they dropped anchor on April 1, 1865. The day after their arrival the barque Maria Ross from Portland, Victoria, under charter to Messrs. A. R. and J. E. Richardson, Mackenzie Grant, Anderson, and John Edgar, arrived. These gentlemen have risen to prominence in this colony. One party assisted the other in landing stock from the respective vessels. When landed they received much assistance from that grand pioneer, Mr. John Withnell, who helped Mr. Hooley and his friends to convey their goods and chattels to his camp, which was about the spot where the present town of Roebourne stands. Mr. Hooley made a short exploration trip towards the head of the Harding and Sherlock Rivers, accompanied by Messrs. Lambton, Mount, Murray, and A. E. Anderson. They returned very pleased with the appearance of the country, even though they saw it under somewhat unfavourable circumstances. They were not long idle, for, organizing another expedition, they made arrangements to explore the Ashburton, which had been previously reported on by Mr. F. T. Gregory, the Government explorer, who had proceeded in the barque Dolphin to Nickol Bay some few years previously, and discovered and named the river. Mr. Hooley's party determined to strike this river 100 miles to the westward of Gregory's track. The expedition started at the end of May, and taking a southerly course encountered very rough country. After passing the Upper Harding they crossed the Fortescue River near the famous Mill Pool, where there was a beautiful supply of artesian water. They then proceeded in a southerly direction, and literally forced a passage through the Hamersley Ranges past the point which Gregory's party failed to penetrate. Progress was exceedingly difficult, for the ranges were covered with dense spinifex. The obstacles in the rough and broken country were so numerous that it took them seven days to journey 50 miles. The Ashburton was eventually reached. The natives, who had never before seen white men, were startled beyond compare when they saw them dismounting from their horses. In their simple ignorance they considered man and horse as one being, and so amazed were they that they ran shrieking away, as if a miracle only done by gods had been accomplished that day. Who knows but what a grey old classic chief told them of the ghoulish fearsome Centaurs. After examining from afar off this strange new apparition they determined on the bold procedure of attacking the explorers. With all the cunning so natural to them sixty sable warriors approached the little band with their deadly spears held ready for action. But yet another amazing thing awaited them. The loud sharp report of a gun so horrified them that they turned and incontinently fled to safer quarters.

After reaching Mount Murray and Mount Alexander, named after members of the party, they took a south-westerly course for what was then considered a desert, but now known as Yanarie Creek. They proceeded some seventy or eighty miles, but finding no country suitable for grazing purposes they again struck the Ashburton and followed its course right to the point where Messrs. McRae and Harper's homestead is now located. Provisions running short, they made their way to the homestead of Mr. Withnell, and discovered splendid water in the Hamersley Ranges. On reaching the present site of Roeburne they parted. The only settlers in the district were Messrs. Padbury and Co., at the De Grey Station, 160 miles east of Nickol Bay; Mr. Withnell, the late Mr. J. Wellard, Messrs. Taylor and Lockyer, Messrs. Mount, Oakney, and Smith, and the Messrs. Richardson (2), Grant, Edgar, and Anderson. Mr. Murray and Mr. Hooley were greatly pleased with the country around Nickol Bay, the Fortescue, and the Ashburton, and Mr. Murray went to Victoria for the purpose of procuring sheep and cattle for stocking any land they might take up. A heavy expenditure was at that time entailed in conveying stock by ship, and even from Fremantle to northern ports it often cost as much as 13s. per sheep. Mr. Hooley was not willing to spend so much money on carriage, and he determined to travel his sheep from the Swan overland. This was a feat not before accomplished, and it needed a knowledge of navigation to strike out so long and dangerous a route. He discussed the matter with Mr. S. Hall and others, and forthwith resumed the study of navigation which he started on previous occasions. Finally he sailed in a small cutter owned by Mr. Padbury, and with his companions reached Fremantle after a twenty-three days' run, and this notwithstanding some very rough weather, with which the captain, the well-known Peter Hedland, well knew how to cope. On arrival at Fremantle Mr. Hooley had an interview with the Surveyor-General, Captain Roe, R.N., and furnished him with a report of his exploring expeditions in the north-west country. In recognition of the excellent and arduous work of Mr. Hooley and his companions in exploration, the Government allowed the party a grant of 100,000 acres each, rent free for four years, provided the holding was stocked within twelve months. The offer was accepted by Mr. Hooley, who meanwhile had been making enquiries with regard to the overland route. He thus acquired a good deal of information as to the lay of the country—what was known of it—from old residents of Champion Bay, and decided to travel his stock from Champion Bay to Teintsin Harbour, a distance of 800 miles. Instead of going to Victoria he made arrangements to procure stock locally, and then went out exploring the route it would be necessary for him to take. Governor Hampton gave him the assistance of two native prisoners from Rottnest Island, besides a number of horses. The late Mr. J. H. Monger and Messrs. Brown and Glengarry also took great interest in the expedition and rendered him all the assistance they could. The season was a very dry one. Mr. Hooley was unable to travel far inland, and therefore skirted the coast line as far as Shark's Bay. His intention was to make the Gascoyne and follow up the river to the longitude of Mount Alexander. After traversing the country for some distance he found the land dry and impoverished, and therefore decided to return to Perth.

Everything in the way of preliminary arrangements was got ready, but he decided to await until the following March, when perchance the country would be in a fitter condition for his trip. At this time the Geraldine lead mine, about 80 miles from Geraldton, was the furthest settled point on the Murchison, and on the 27th May, 1866, Mr. Hooley started thence with 1,920 sheep, two teams of three horses each, five white men, and two natives. The leading people in the colony waited with much interest to learn the result of his journey. The party proceeded along the Murchison some 280 miles to where Mr. James Aitken's Milly Milly Station is now established. The last 200 miles contained very fair grazing land, with plenty of grass and salt-bush, but Mr. Hooley judged that it would be very short of fresh water in dry seasons. His plan for the successful carrying out of the trip was to proceed before the sheep and teams, and map out the route to be followed, even sometimes deciding on it a day beforehand. In this way he had to show good generalship and use excellent judgment. It required bushcraft; moreover, it was a matter of colonial importance. He was fortunate in finding plenty of pasturage and water on the way to the Fortescue, where he arrived exactly three months after leaving Geraldine, after losing only eight sheep. The camp here was fixed on the site where Mr. David Stewart's station, Balmoral, now is. Mr. Hooley thereupon rode to Mr. Withnell's place, a distance of eighty-four miles, and brought shearers back with him. The sheep were shorn, and the wool sent by sea to Fremantle. Though Mr. Hooley had successfully accomplished this great overland trip, he did not "rest and rust." Shortly afterwards he, with his faithful black boy, Tommy, and a white man returned overland to Champion Bay on nearly the same route just opened up. The object of this trip was to take another flock of sheep up to the grant in the following winter. When he reached the settled districts he was everywhere received with hospitality, and on arrival at Perth was presented with a handsome chronometer and chain by appreciative settlers and friends. Mr Hooley still retains this graceful and appropriate souvenir, which is suitably inscribed. He then made another successful trip to his station with sheep.

In 1868 business called him to Victoria, and he rode from the Fortescue to Albany, a distance of 1,300 miles, to catch the mail steamer which then called there every month. This was quite a famous journey, but in those days Mr. Hooley was fit to undertake the most arduous labours, and his knowledge of Western Australian country was soon equal to that of the most travelled in our midst. He went to Victoria, transacted his business, and returned again to the colony with his young wife, who had been residing with her father. He now took up a large section of land on the Ashburton. Mr. and Mrs. Hooley lived 200 miles away from any white woman, and their nearest neighbour was 120 miles distant. After remaining there for a year Hooley relinquished the station, finding the blacks uncomfortably troublesome. These native tribes were exceedingly fierce and warlike, and in encounters with them Mr. Hooley lost three of his men. This so unnerved the remainder that Mr. Hooley was compelled to leave. Such are the difficulties which pioneers of the north-west country had to face. He now went to the Fortescue, where he remained twelve months. Price of wool at this time was very low, the hardship of the pioneers terrible, and Mr. Hooley retired from active pastoral pursuits to undertake the management of Messrs. Barker and Gull's extensive stock and station business at Guildford, and the supervision of their general merchant's enterprise. In addition he managed their station on the Williams River. His connection with the firm lasted nine years, during which he joined Mr. Mortimer New as proprietor of a sheep station on the Williams, situated 100 miles south-east of Perth. This venture proved fairly successful, but as the scope was limited Mr. Hooley again tried the north-west. With Mr. Mortimer New he started overland in 1881 for the Ashburton, taking 6,500 sheep, besides horses, waggons, and other requisites. Unfortunately they experienced a very bad season, and lost over 3,000 sheep on the journey. With the remainder they settled at Mount Hubert, at the junction of the Ashburton River and Duck Creek. Higher up the river they procured promising looking country, and eventually established the head station at Mount Mortimer. Their area here was 400,000 acres. In 1884 Mr. Hooley opened a cattle station on the Henry River, and then making his way to Guildford and Perth, he decided to reside in the latter place. Subsequently he managed the business of the late Mr. J. H. Monger, who for many years was known as one of the chief merchants in Western Australia. This old established house was in 1888 sold to Messrs. Dalgety and Co., and Mr. Hooley became manager of the local branch of that international house. He still retains that position, and he has to negotiate very important functions in the West Australian business world. Dalgety and Co. are large employers of labour, and hold immense interests in this colony, particularly in pastoral pursuits in the north-west. Thus the physical exertion and the mental anxiety of pioneer work are now put aside by Mr. Hooley, and he has taken his place as a leader of our commercial circles.

With his wide general knowledge of the resources of Western Australia, it was very natural that he should eventually enter public life. His first step in this direction was made in 1878 when he entered the Guildford Municipal Council. For some months he was acting-chairman, but resigned from the body owing to the call business made on his time. Then in 1881 local residents desired that he should have a seat in the Legislative Council and nominated him for the Swan district. He was duly elected to Parliament, defeating Mr. E. R. Brockman. But when he returned to the north-west, as already described, he resigned his seat. Then for some time he continued in private life. In 1891 Sir John Forrest appointed him a nominee member of the new Legislative Council. He remained in that House until 1894, when the population basis required by the Constitution Act demanded a wholly elective Upper House. He stood for one of the three seats in the Central Province, but was defeated by Messrs. Wittenoom, Henty, and McKernon. Shortly afterwards, however, Mr. E. F. Darlot retired from the Assembly, and Mr. Hooley was elected to fiI1 the vacancy thus caused for the Murchison district. In 1897 he was elected unopposed to the De Grey district.

As can be well supposed, Mr. Hooley is able to render the colony considerable assistance in the House, and his opinion meets with the respect of all colonists. He evinces an intelligent knowledge on all matters that come up for discussion. To some extent he has devoted a portion of his spare time to literature. He has contributed several useful articles to the local newspapers under the nom de plume of "Bucolic." He has also ventured into the realms of fiction, and published a novel, Tarragul, on bush life, which has met with generous criticism from Colonial and British newspapers.

In 1890 Mr Hooley was gazetted a Justice of the Peace. Naturally enough he is warmly interested in the affairs of agricultural societies, and when the Swan and the Western Australian Societies were amalgamated he became president, a position he again held when the body was allowed to use the dignified prefix "Royal." As a sportsman he has for some years been president of the West Australian Turf Club. Among other positions he holds in the commercial world, he is a director of the local branch of the Equitable Life Insurance Co., director of J. H. Monger and Co., Limited; and the Swan Brewery Co., Limited. He was a member of the Menzies Syndicate, and is now a director of the Lady Shenton Gold Mining Co. Mr. Hooley was married in 1861 to a daughter of the late Mr. John Hill Mayes, of county Down, Ireland. This sketch will give readers some idea of the important colonial career of Mr. Hooley. Primarily comes his excellent work in encouraging settlement in the north-west country. His different expeditions resulted in more knowledge being obtained of the resources of those lands, which, with his route from settled districts to those localities, undoubtedly caused their settlement to take place years earlier than in the ordinary course of events. Maps of that north-west land contain many names significant of his expeditions given by him and members of his parties. His life is now, although not engaged in the exciting and arduous sphere of the pioneer, as busy as ever. His business connections are immense, and the political side of it demands much of his time. He is looked to with respect and appreciation by Western Australians scattered over the colony, not only for his innumerable services, but also for his modest and unassuming manner.