History of West Australia/Ernest Chawner Shenton


Ernest Chawner Shenton HOFWA.jpg
Photo by
Greenham & Evans.

IS man the fashioner of his own destiny, or is he a mere creature in the hands of that unknown quantity, Fate? Determinists would be bound to uphold the latter clause of the interrogation, though undoubtedly they would reduce it to a modified form of fatalism. To adhere dogmatically to the former, while denying that Fate can be a link in the chain of events, may entrap one in a network of fallacies. In the region of the objective world, where periods of fluctuation are only too prevalent, the metaphysical mind, driven to enquire for a deeper meaning, is prone to bring on the scene an unknown actor.

From the verge to the base, let the eye run along the grade of ascent, with its multiple variations, and one will be amazed at its roughness. But in explaining away these variations and fluctuations, some little incident connected with each, explicitly or implicitly, bespeaks personal responsibility. When this is so, the mede of honour and praise is worthily due to him, born, like others, with no mental furniture, except an indefinite number of potentialities stamped on the mind, who develops these innate data in a superior measure, and makes them subserve a noble end. With these criteria, Ernest Chawner Shenton has fared well.

This gentleman can well afford to rejoice, when, looking back on the course of his past life, he beholds the number of barriers and impediments surmounted and removed. Such pure egotism is beneath the dignity of one whose mind is not centred in a narrow self. Mr. Shenton is the youngest son of the late George Shenton, who was for many years one of the leading merchants of Western Australia, and ranks among her most worthy pioneers; and is the brother of Sir George Shenton, President of the Legislative Council. Ernest was born in Perth in 1862, and received his early education in the Ley's School, Cambridge. His career there was marked with diligence, and success, not only in his studies, but in the college sports, the young Australian being a member of the first eleven, and also its captain for some time. He returned from the old country in 1881, having been about nine years in England at that time. Those valuable commercial instincts which his father possessed in a rare degree seemed to have been imbued in the son, Ernest. He, therefore, naturally preferred the sphere of commercial enterprise, and entered the firm of George Shenton, carried on by his brother, then Mr. George Shenton. For three years he laboured away in this business till he had acquired a thorough knowledge of every petty detail, and thereupon entered into partnership with Sir George, and the name of the firm became G. and E. C. Shenton. They were large general merchants then as always, and kept in stock everything in requirement for the colony. They were highly successful in business, and the firm grew at a rapid pace. In 1894 Sir George retired from active business owing to the onerous duties of the legislative chamber and public life. The firm changed its name again to E. C. Shenton and Co., which it retains up to the present time. They have handsome premises in Hay Street, where a large business is transacted by them as universal providers. A big trade is done in wool and sandalwood, the chief markets for the latter being Singapore and Hong Kong. They hold a great number of agencies, including the P. and O.S.S. Company, and the Norwich Union Fire Insurance Company. Outside the firm, Mr. E. C. Shenton's commercial connections are extensive. He is a member of the committee of the Chamber of Commerce, a director of several mining companies, a member of the South Perth Roads Board, and a member of the Perth Proprietary Syndicate. He has also large interests in several mining properties. These associations have great importance in the colony. The daily routine of his life is a worthy one. Mr. Shenton holds, to some extent, that heartkey of disinterestedness, which, molens volens, touches the tender chord of national life, and finds response in the individual breast. He is admired and respected by business men and private friends alike. Of a kindly and cordial bearing, he extends a welcome hand to those who will help to develop the colony, and has sincere good wishes for its welfare. Of a sympathetic and constructive mental build, we augur for him the prospective of continual deserved prosperity. He lacks not that spirit of theory which is often unduly banished from the empirical and experimental mind. Only a man of shrewdness and methodical skill can accomplish the manifold offices he fills.

In 1855 Mr. Shenton married Miss Ada Waddington, daughter of Mr. John Waddington, C.E., of London. They have five of a family—four sons and one daughter. Mr. Shenton's importance and uses in the colony cannot be lightly estimated. By his vigour and energy he has sustained the reputation of the Shenton family, who, in commerce, have, from the inception of the colony, led in the van of progress. Mr. Ernest Shenton is essentially a business man, and as such the whole of his time is engrossed in directing the extensive operations of this honoured commercial house.