History of West Australia/George Glyde


THE span of human life is wide enough to bridge the history of settlement in Western Australia. It seems strange that there still survive among us men who left Great Britain in 1829 to join the bands of pioneers in this colony. Moreover, it speaks well of the geniality of our southern climes that, notwithstanding vicissitudes and hardships, these men move among us to-day, hale and hearty, evincing a healthy and paternal interest in a colony whose birth and adolescence they witnessed. They now see it taking a prominent place among the Oceanic children of the motherland, and should they live a few years more—as all hope they shall—they shall probably see it the most prosperous of any British dependency. Linked inseparably with the whole history of the colony, who is better able to judge its potentialities and requirements than these veterans?

George Glyde HOFWA.jpg
Photo by
Greenham & Evans.

Mr. George Glyde, J.P., reached Western Australia in 1830, and for about sixty years he has been identified with the commerce of the colony, As one who took part in local government he inaugurated useful institutions, and associated himself with progress and order and stability. Now in honoured old age, after having spent some of the best years of his life in making Western Australia what she is to-day, he has the approving sense of having turned his time and talents to the best account.

George Clyde is a native of Yoevil, Somersetshire, England, and was born in 1821. In November, 1829, Mr. Wm Glyde, his father, and three sisters, left England on the ship Rockingham, and sailed for Western Australia, of which scarcely anything was known. To the bulk of English people Australia was a terra incognita—a great shadowland of barbarism, mighty forests, strange beasts, brilliant blooms, and giant ferns—a land of which they had heard, but which few of them were adventurous enough to set forth to see. To depart from England for the southern land meant leaving all they held most dear, and separating themselves by a distance greater than they could then conceive. The Rockingham took five and a half months to reach a West Australian port, where it arrived in the first week of May. They anchored five miles from Clarence, and their port was christened Rockingham. The first introduction of this band of pioneers to Western Australia was not a happy one. The Rockingham anchored off the shore, surrounded by four other boats—the Marquis of Anglesea, Emily Taylor, Thames, and the brig James. Night prevented the people leaving the Rockingham, and it was intended to send them ashore next morning. Before morning a terrific storm smote the little fleet; the five vessels slipped their anchors and were cast upon the beach. Boats were put off from the Rockingham, and the unhappy emigrants were landed in the surf. George Glyde was seized in the water by one who afterwards became a worthy pioneer of the colony—Captain John Thomas. Dawn saw the beach strewn with wreckage of the five stranded vessels, whose hulls loomed high amid the surf in the magnifying first gleams of morning. The Glyde family remained at Rockingham for a few months, and erected a little hut in which they lived. The prospect before them then was very gloomy. While the son executed small duties round Rockingham, Mr. Wm. Glyde went to Mandurah, on the Murray River, and unavailingly endeavoured to procure some opening for his enterprise, and the family removed to Fremantle, where some friends were settled. They lived with these companions of their previous life for some little time until they raised a cottage of their own, father and son working together at this and other tasks. Men of means soon began to take up land in eligible spots on the banks of the Swan, and to improve them as far as the difficulties under which they laboured would allow. In 1835 the Glyde family went to Perth to reside, and worked hard for some years. The necessaries of life were scarce and dear; but the family managed to do fairly well, and in their quiet provincial life looked forward hopefully to the future. At the time their experiences were not pleasant, but Mr. Glyde can look back to them with satisfaction, for they laid the foundation of his fortune.

In 1840, Mr. George Glyde went back to the old country, and visited the scenes of his childhood. He was able to tell his former companions many tales which astonished them; and, appearing in their eyes as a second Robinson Crusoe and a much travelled man, he afforded them constant amusement and food for reflection. March, 1841, found him again in Western Australia. He now entered the house of Messrs. Lionel and William Sampson, general merchants. Remaining with them from March, 1841, till 1843, he gained a useful experience in colonial business affairs. In the latter year he married the eldest daughter of Mr. Robert Draper, a farmer at Beverley. A strange coincidence creeps in here, for Mrs. Glyde was a passenger in the brig James, which was stranded with the Rockingham at Rockingham port. The auspicious event, which was celebrated in a house opposite to where he now resides in Adelaide Terrace, heralded a new and prosperous era for Mr. Glyde. He immediately went into business on his own account, and never since that day has he been a servant. As an importer of merchandise and an indentor of goods he succeeded in making a good living, and his trade increased with the years. He confined his attention to this business until 1870. During that period many changes took place in the colony, and though the progress was not great it was slow and sure. The convicts had come, and with them a more prosperous condition of affairs. Meanwhile Mr. Glyde's sons were growing into manhood, and to provide for them he took over the grocery, drapery, and general store of Mr. Henry Dew, and conducted it under the name of G. Glyde and Sons. At first his son, Samuel Hallett Glyde, alone assisted him, but subsequently Messrs. W. H. D. Glyde and F. H. Glyde joined him. This business was situated in Hay Street, and paid its proprietors good profits. In 1880, Mr. Glyde made a second visit to Old England, and on his return handed over the active management of the business to his sons. He now contented himself with casually supervising his interests, and led a comparatively retired life. But trouble came upon him in the death of his sons. The eldest, Mr. Samuel H. Glyde, died in 1877, and Mr. F. H. Clyde succumbed in 1887, and the sole surviving partner in the business, Mr. W. H. D. Glyde, followed his brothers to the grave in 1892. Broken by such sad losses, Mr. Glyde, in 1892, finally relinquished his business. Happily, through all his bereavements his wife, the companion of some fifty-three years, is still spared to him, while his two surviving sons hold positions of trust in the Civil Service. Thus, Mr. G. F. Glyde is the Collector of Inland Revenue, and Mr. A. H. Yoevil Glyde is Assistant Registrar of Titles.

Mr. Glyde has had an extended and honourable connection with public affairs in Western Australia. He has not been by any means idle, and has done what he could in assisting the development of the colony, of which he is so necessary a part. He helped in the formation, in October, 1862, of the Perth Benefit Permanent Building and Loan Society, an institution which has proved of peculiar benefit to many colonists. He is, and has been for twenty years, president of the body, and is the only remaining member of the original directors. In 1867 he entered the old Perth Town Council, and shortly after his entrance became its treasurer; and in 1869 was chosen chairman, and filled that position for four and a half years. In 1867 Governor Hampton laid the foundation-stone of the present Perth Town Hall, and in 1870, as senior councillor and chairman of the municipality, the building was formally handed over to Mr. Glyde, in the interests of citizens, by Governor Weld. In 1873 he was gazetted a Justice of the Peace, and retiring from the Council in the same year, Governor Weld immediately created him a nominee member of the Legislative Council. He took up his Parliamentary duties and quietly assisted the Government of the colony for many years. In 1874 he was elected Chairman of the Perth Board of Education, and held that position until 1877. During the reigns of Governors Weld, Robinson, Ord, and Broome, Mr. Glyde continued to sit in the Legislative Council, but in 1887 he resigned. He had performed useful services for the colony in Parliament, but owing to the death of his son he desired to be relieved of his duties. Then came the inauguration of Responsible Government. It was not right that one who had so long been associated with the growth and aspirations of the colony should now be absent from Parliament, and probably recognising this, in 1892, Sir John Forrest nominated Mr. Glyde to a seat in the new Legislative Council. For two years the old pioneer sat, but when the Upper Chamber became wholly elective he preferred not to bear the trials of an election, and permanently withdrew from the halls of Parliament.

Few such excellent examples of a worthy pioneer can be found in Western Australia as Mr. Glyde. A man of method and full of courtesy, honourable and conscientious, he bears his years well, and retains his faculties almost in their pristine vigour. One might say that he knows Western Australia "by heart." A father of the colony, he earnestly sympathises with her in her struggles, and her prosperity makes him glad.