History of West Australia/George Bland Humble


THE schoolmaster helps to mould the characters of his pupils; as the twig is bent the tree grows. The town clerk fills an office not very dissimilar in a new and growing municipality.

George Bland Humble HOFWA.jpg
Photo by
Nixon & Merrilees.

In Mr. George Bland Humble the citizens of Fremantle have a Town Clerk who has discharged the duties of a local pedagogue and of chief executive officer to the Council in a manner at which none can cavil. Mr. Humble is a Yorkshireman, and dates his connection with the colony to the days when Mr. Arthur Kennedy was Governor, from whom he received his first appointment as master of a school on the Greenough Flats.

Born at Laybarne House, Richmond, Yorkshire in 1839, Mr. Humble proceeded at an early age to the Wesleyan School at Richmond, Yorkshire, where he graduated as a pupil teacher. After five years apprenticeship as pupil teacher, he passed the Queen's Scholarship examination, which entitled him to admission to the Wesley Normal Training Institution, at Horseberry Road. During his sojourn there he attracted the attention of the president, the Rev. J. Scott, D.D., and the headmaster, Mr. Sugden, by his studious and exemplary behaviour, and at the age of twenty-one years, having gained the necessary diplomas, he received, at the instigation of those gentlemen, an appointment as headmaster of the Wesleyan School at Marylebone. He remained there for twelve months, when he was chosen by the Western Australian authorities to act as a teacher in this colony. Like most young Englishmen, Mr. Humble was not averse to travel, and in the year 1861 he gladly started for his new home. The ship in which he embarked, the Robert Morrison, had Captain Roe among her passengers. That gentleman with his wife and family had been on a visit to England, and being thoroughly conversant with the conditions of life in Western Australia gave the young fellow useful advice and information. The voyage was eventful, and it was not until the following year that the colony was reached. This delay was caused by the loss of the ship's masts in a squall off the island of Tristan d' Acunha. The vessel made for Cape Town under "jury" masts, where, after considerable detention, repairs were effected, and the voyage was resumed. She arrived at Fremantle in January, 1862. On reporting himself to Governor Kennedy, Mr. Humble was ordered to Greenough Flats, near Geraldton. The school was held in a very modest looking building erected by the settlers, all of whom subscribed towards the cost; the Government paid the teacher. The district was so sparsely settled that, although the schoolhouse was erected in the most central position, the distances were so great from many of the houses that the parents of the children subscribed money and purchased a horse and cart, which went round every morning to the various houses to collect the children, proceeding with them to the school, and returning with them again in the evening.

Travelling in those days was anything but comfortable, the roads being bad and the country unsettled. In 1863 a flood cut the schoolhouse off from all communication with the outer world for three weeks. When the news reached Mr. Humble that the country was in flood he was returning home from a visit, and in anxiety to reach the building he nearly lost his life in the flood waters. In that year he was ordered to Fremantle, but the vessel on which he embarked at Geraldton, the African, struck on the Pelsart Rooks, and was so severely damaged that she had to return to Geraldton, where she was beached, and during bad weather became a total wreck. From the hull, which was timber, a schooner was built, but was fated to worse misfortune than the parent ship. The little vessel, named the Lass of Geraldton, left Fremantle for Bunbury, but fell in with storms and capsized, drowning, among others, the father of Sir George Shenton. Mr. Humble joined, in 1864, the Boys' School, Fremantle, as headmaster.

He married in the same year a daughter of Mr. Stephen Allpike (Government official), and niece of Mr. J. Dyer, J.P., of Perth. Mr. Humble took a keen interest in military matters, and in 1865 joined the Volunteer Rifle Corps as Lieutenant, and subsequently filled the positions of secretary and treasurer. On his retirement in 1869 the corps presented him with a silver bugle. In 1872 a new corps was formed, in which Mr. Humble served as 1st Lieutenant under Commander R. M. Sutherland, and on that gentleman's retirement he assumed command, and held that position for five years, retiring with the rank of Major. During his connection with the Volunteers he was recognised as one of the most enthusiastic officers, and was so popular with both officers and men that on severing his connection with them he was presented with a gold locket and a Major's presentation sword.

Fresh duties had compelled him to relinquish his military services, for in 1872, on the passing of the first Municipal Act, he was pressed to accept the position of Town Clerk of Fremantle, the duties of which position he performed in conjunction with those of schoolmaster until 1892. The occasion of his retirement from the headmastership of the school was made quite a public event, the teachers and pupils presenting him with a beautifully illuminated address, and the old boys with a silver tea service.

In addition to these many important duties, Mr. Humble has taken an active interest in every movement which had for its object the advancement of Fremantle and its citizens. To him is due much of the credit of founding the Fremantle Benefit Building and Investment Society, of which he is at present the secretary. He is also a prominent Mason, and filled the office of Worshipful Master of the Lodge when the foundation-stone of the Masonic Hall was laid, and when the building was opened. He is still a trustee of the building, and has held the position of Grand Junior Warden of the Grand Lodge of Western Australia. As a Justice of the Peace Mr. Humble has done good service since 1895, when he was gazetted. In religious matters he has helped to build up the Congregational Church in Fremantle. He acted as deacon to the late Rev. Mr. Johnston, and was instrumental in having the Johnston Memorial Church erected in Fremantle to his memory. In the Sunday School he has been a prominent figure, and at the expiration of twenty-five years' connection with it was presented with an address by the scholars.

The many useful offices Mr. Humble has filled in Western Australia merit him to receive the most pleasing praise of—"Well done thou good and faithful servant."