History of West Australia/Harry Williams


Harry Williams HOFWA.jpg
Photo by
Greenham & Evans.

TO have sprung from colonising stock is to possess the imprimatur of an ancestry of strong physical fibre and high courage. The "tender-foot," to use an expressive American phrase, is too prone to hug the armchair and the cozy chimney corner to be tempted to venture out into the cold blasts of a new land to build his own house and grow his own corn. It was not the effeminate popinjay, or those who were infirm of purpose, who manned the Mayflower when she sailed from England to establish a British state in America. When the time came for Western Australia to begin the march of civilisation under the Union Jack, many of those who enlisted beneath the folds of the grand old flag were as stalwart of frame as they were fearless in spirit. The enterprise was a most adventurous one, and it was made the more uninviting to timorous minds because it was a plunge into an almost unknown region, only the fringe of which had been touched by explorers. The land of promise bore Dead Sea fruit for those of the colonists who faltered by the way and returned to England, but for the children of those who staunchly held to their faith in the bright future of the country, that faith has been more than realised. Harry Williams is descended from a family who are among the oldest colonists of Western Australia; his father arrived in Perth in 1830, having emigrated from Dorsetshire, where for generations his ancestors had been among the leading yeomen of the county. The sturdy pioneer, undeterred by the difficulties attendant on the cultivation of the soil in a country that had not yet been redeemed from the possession of savages, soon set himself to work upon a holding not far from Perth, and thus laid the foundation of the fortune of his family. The subject of our biography, Harry Williams, was born in 1814, and was educated at the best school which then devoted itself in Perth to the development of the intellectual energies and gifts of the young hopefuls of the new settlement. On leaving that academy of learning, with more than the usual stock of scholarship acquired by its pupils, he entered into dairy farming, as his father had done before him in Dorsetshire, and found it to be a tolerably lucrative pursuit, as cattle capable of producing milk and cream were not then plentiful in the Perth district, and the knowledge and care requisite to make high-class butter were still more rare. He made his start in this industry at a place called Herdsman's Lake, and remained there for about twenty years, when he removed to Perth, and soon afterwards had to mourn the death of his father, who was laid in the Perth Cemetery in 1885, greatly regretted by a large circle of friends, who had seen much to admire in the sterling character and genial disposition of the stout-hearted old colonist.

In his years of maturity, Mr. Harry Williams has had a career of almost uniform success, his clear judgment enabling him to display that enviable power, which many men pass from the cradle to the grave without acquiring, of discerning—the best form of investment for the fruits of steady industry. He bought, at a price that to-day would be regarded as the traditional song, the property known as Goondalup Farm, Wanneroo, fourteen miles from Perth, and he carried on dairying there for five years, after which he returned to Perth and laid down an orchard in an area of rich land fronting on Fitzgerald Street, which no local resident need be told has become the famous Pear Park Garden of Eden. Here, on this fertile ground, Western Australia vindicated to the full her claim to be able to produce some of the finest, if not the finest, fruit ever raised in the Southern Hemisphere. Certainly, Mr. Williams, who is no half-hearted worker at anything he puts his hand or his heart to, did not spare the labour of the husbandman. So thoroughly did he prepare the ground for the reception of his fruit trees, the choicest varieties of which he imported from Victoria, that he might have been one of the sons of the old vigneron who, on his deathbed, confided to his heirs that gold lay concealed beneath the roots ef the vines, and would be revealed by deep trenching. This trenching being done, the old man's words were found to be true, but the golden treasure was not unearthed from the vineyards, but came from the pockets of the vintners who purchased the trebled grape harvest which much digging had produced. Mr. Williams plied his trenching spade so vigorously, and cared for his orchard so well, in the glow of his pride for its abundant yields, that it furnished him with the means of buying other properties in and around the city, in preparation for the discoveries on the goldfields, which were to give him an independence for life. The Pear Park Orchard is most favourably known beyond the bounds of Western Australia; four years ago Mr. Williams sent some of his fruit to the Melbourne Exhibition, Victoria, and its excellence was so undeniable, even after the velvety bloom of the peaches had been rubbed off by the long voyage, and the lovely tints of the apples and pears had been blurred in the packing, that an award of "Special Mention for a General Collection" was achieved in competition against freshly picked exhibits. Mr. Williams has been an active public man and has given much attention to civic affairs. He first entered the sphere of municipal life eighteen years ago, when he was elected by the ratepayers of Perth, whom he represented for nine months, when he retired in order to enjoy a change of scene, and, on returning to Perth, he was re-elected as a member of the City Council, and held office for a further three years. After six months' rest he was again elected, and was a member until 1896. He was one of the first members of the Roads Board of the Perth district, and he is now chairman of that body, of which he has been a representative for twenty-six years. His practical character and vigorous temperament have been equally displayed both in his private and public life, and these qualities have been recognised in different spheres by his election as member of the Public Works Committee of the City Council while he was connected with that municipal institution, and also by his being chosen to sit upon the Board of Control of the Bureau of Agriculture.

Mr. Williams is a brother of the Emulation Lodge of Freemasons, and has given no fewer than eleven hostages to fortune, his wife being the daughter of the late Mr. Richard Gillon, who arrived in the colony in 1829. Of this large family seven are sons, and those who know this young family assure us that they are a most interesting proof of the truth of the Psalmist's words, "That blessed is the parent who has his quiver full." Mr. Williams is a man of great strength of both mind and body; a colonist of the best type; and a man who has done a great deal of good work, both for himself and fellow-men.