History of West Australia/Frederick William Moorhead


Frederick William Moorhead HOFWA.jpg
Photo by
Greenham & Evans.

HAPPY is it for the Australian colonies that they have men in their midst of high old world training in professions. These men possess the best educations which famous universities can give—educations embracing the aggregation of the knowledge of the past, imparting the necessary, allowing the unworthy to sink into deserved oblivion. Socrates, in his Athenian garden, taught the eager young, who drank deep of the inspiring, intellectual draughts of consummate wisdom, which flowed like heavenly nectar from between his lips. His work is perpetuated in the universities of to-day. At the feet of great professors sit the young men learning lessons which are the outcome of centuries of research. Enter the university, the anxious students; exit, men prepared with the means of fighting with their fellows in life's battle.

They leave these great halls of learning and insinuate themselves into the professions, and have their studies materialised by practice. Some of them attained status in the old countries, and then, either through ill-health, or the desire to leave old encrusted institutions in which was little apparent hope, they came to the sunshiny broad fields of Australia. Freed from the trammels of an ancient civilisation, they now breathe easily, and live with the conviction that their labours may not be in vain, and know that hope and regeneration are the basis of all toil. Their work here may influence the destinies of a growing civilisation.

Such was probably the case with Mr. F. W. Moorhead, B.A., LL.B Educated at an ancient university, he gained an honourable position at the Irish Bar. Ultimately he left the old world, and took up his residence in Western Australia.

Frederick William Moorhead was born in King's County, Ireland, in 1863. The first educational establishment he attended was the Jesuit College of St. Stanislaus, whence he went to the Dublin University. He entered at Trinity College, and there had a brilliant university career. After earnest attention to his studies for some years, in 1885 he attained the B.A. and LL.B. degrees. In the same year he carried off the gold medal for oratory in the Philosophical Society, and the gold medal in the Historical Society. He was moderator in Logic and Philosophy, and medallist with his degree. This is a worthy record, and it proved that Mr. Moorhead was at least able to hold his own in the universities. The more practical outcome of his studies was yet to be evidenced. He now determined to qualify for the Irish Bar, and studied with that end in view. On the 8th June, 1887, he was called.

Then followed two years' anxious practice, and Mr. Moorhead made his way in the legal profession. He chose the Western Circuit, or what is known as the Connaught Bar, as the most promising for his energies, and was there connected with some notable cases. Chief among them were the important historical cases arising out of the notorious Mitchellstown shooting affray. Several Nationalists were holding a political meeting at Mitchellstown in 1888, when a posse of police, in order to disperse the gathering, fired upon them and killed several men. Much political capital was made out of the affair. An inquest was held, and Mr. Moorhead was retained as counsel for several of the Nationalists. During his career at the Irish Bar, it was seen that he possessed certain gifts of oratory. He was an earnest pleader, and presented his briefs as only his countrymen can present them.

In June, 1889, Mr. Moorhead left his native land to begin practice in Western Australia. He believed that here was greater opening for his energies, and he did not take long in attaining some notability. After fulfilling the necessary six months' qualification, he was admitted to the Western Australian Bar on 9th February, 1890. His success in the first few cases established his name, and the firm of Moorhead and Northoe, of which he is a member, has now an extensive connection. In civil, criminal, or common law, Mr. Moorhead has been retained in numbers of important cases heard before the chief courts of the colony. His legal knowledge is extensive, and his forensic talents are great. Some of his addresses to the courts have been impassioned and marked with oratorical powers. In 1893, he was appointed City Solicitor to Perth, and he is also solicitor to the Citizens' Life Association, besides several large mining companies.

Although he has been resident in the colony but a few years, Mr. Moorhead has already taken some part in public matters. At the general elections for the first House Assembly, in 1890, he was requisitioned and constantly pressed to stand for the Geraldton constituency. He eventually acquiesced with the wishes of his friends, but on polling-day was defeated eleven votes. For such a new arrival in the colony this was a remarkable testimony to his ability. He subsequently contested a seat in the Legislative Council against an old tried popular politician, and was again unfortunately defeated, on this occasion by seven votes. It is greatly to be hoped that local Parliaments will not be long without the services of one who is bound to be of much value to the colony. At present Mr. Moorhead is a member of the Perth Colonial Hospital Board, of the Central Board of Health, and also of that Imperial institution, the Aborigines Protection Board. He married Amy, third daughter of the late Hon. J. H. Monger, a leading West Australian politician.

In conclusion, Mr. Moorhead has the eye of a keen lawyer; he is a clever cross-examiner, has a studious air, and is both amiable and courteous. His analytical mind and wide knowledge enable him to grasp the essentials in Australian aspirations, and the applied energies of a man of his qualities should strongly influence the progress of local institutions.