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HORATIO WILLIAM SHOLL, M.L.A.

FOR many years the pearl and mother-of-pearl shell fisheries constituted a primary industry in Western Australia. The annual value of these highly useful articles which has been produced has often reached to upwards of £100,000. Considerable capital has been invested in the industry, and divers have eagerly prosecuted their search beneath the waters of the great Indian Ocean. These men were either brought from the Northern Islands, or were Australian aborigines trained to the arduous work. As a source of wealth and advertisement for the colony pearls have rendered material service. Enterprising men have promoted the industry and endeavoured to safeguard its prosecution as much as possible. A certain amount of danger inevitably creeps into the diving operations, especially as the shallow waters are being worked out and the deeper have to be exploited for their riches. The supply in the latter is practically inexhaustible, and ranges from three to four to twenty miles off the coast. The sight of the pearling craft lazily rising and falling on the bosom of the blue waters is an exceedingly pretty one, and to watch the men at their work provides a means of passing many interesting hours.

Horatio William Sholl HOFWA.jpg
Photo by
Greenham & Evans.
HORATIO WILLIAM SHOLL, M.L.A.

One of the chief experts in pearls in Western Australia is Mr. H. W. Sholl, M.L.A., brother of the Postmaster-General. For many years this gentleman was actively engaged and interested in the industry, and thus obtained a wide knowledge of the potentialities of the trade in the north-west coastal waters of the colony. Besides, he became such a judge of pearls that he has few equals in our midst. The presence of a gentleman with this experience in Parliament is sure to prove useful to the colony, and Mr. Sholl may observe the industry with a watchful eye and see that it does not suffer by unwise legislation.

Horatio William Sholl is a son of Mr. Robert John Sholl, first Government Resident in the Roebourne and North-west District. He was born in Perth on 8th April, 1852. Leaving school in Perth when about fourteen years old, on 5th June, 1866, he sailed in the schooner Emma to join his parents at Roebourne. The Emma was an ill-fated boat for the family. Before the port near Roebourne was reached the vessel went ashore on an Abrolhos island, which the passengers had to live upon for many days. Finally the schooner was got off again, and on 5th July landed its passengers at their port, after passing through a good deal of hardship. A brother, Mr. Treverton Charles Sholl, boarded the Emma forthwith to return to Perth. Then she sailed quietly out of port, and that was the last ever seen of her or her passengers. She went down, no one knows where, nor has any information ever been gained by anxious relatives of how the passengers met their death, and until that day when the sea gives up its dead their fate will be lost in mystery. Mr. Treverton C. Sholl had previously acted as secretary to his father, and Mr. H. W. Sholl now took his place. Years passed while thus engaged until he entered the pearl fishery industry. Originally he confined his modest enterprise to shelling pearls on the beach, but about the year 1873 he and his brother, Mr. K. F. Sholl, purchased a 28-ton craft in order to more largely participate in the trade. Mr. H. W. Sholl took the boat to Batavia, where he engaged twenty-five Malays on long periods for diving purposes. At Sharks Bay his brother spent many seasons in exciting fishing work, while he worked further north. There was a wide sweep of territory waiting for the pearl fishers, and the brothers did exceedingly well out of their ventures. Handsome profits accrued, and before relinquishing the trade they bought a station on the Yule River, Roebourne district. This station comprised 260,000 acres, which were stocked with cattle. Mr. Sholl still holds 40,000 acres of the station, on which sheep are depastured. While the late Mr. Arthur Sholl managed this property the other brothers continued to prosecute their thriving trade in pearls. But difficulties were appearing. As the shallow waters were worked out and the pearlers were compelled to explore lower depths the Government began to place restrictions on their work, which were designed to protect the divers. The latter were now required to wear diving costumes, for often they had to descend five or more fathoms. At present these men have to go a much greater depth. Mr. Sholl eventually decided to sell his craft, not desiring to risk his own and others' lives in the occupation. His many years' experience gave him a very intimate knowledge of pearling and pearls, so that he is considered one of the best judges of the articles in Western Australia. He exported large quantities to London, and has sold single pearls for £725 and £250, while he still has a beautiful specimen in his possession more valuable than either. Of the territories where pearl fishing can be successfully carried on and of all the conditions surrounding the work Mr. Sholl has a thorough acquaintance, and he is now often called upon for advice. Mr. Sholl still has in his service a Western Australian native who came to him as a boy twenty-five years ago, when he was engaged in pearling operations.

A few years were spent by Mr. Sholl in supervising his squatting interests in Roeburne, but in December, 1890, he took up his residence in Perth. He was created a Justice of the Peace ten years ago. In the days prior to autonomy he was a member of the Legislative Council, being elected for the Ashburton Province. He paid full attention to his political duties, but eventually resigned so that the House might benefit by the services of the Hon. Mr. Burt, in whose interests he took the step. Mr. Sholl now remained in private life for some little time. When the first elections for the House of Assembly were held in December, 1890, he was candidate for the Roebourne constituency. He was elected, and was returned a second time at the general elections of 1894.

In recent years Mr. Sholl has participated in mining development. He has been associated with mines in the north-west and over the Coolgardie Goldfields. He was a member of the Menzies Syndicate—whose prospector founded the rich district bearing his name—and has officiated on the directory boards of several companies. Of the well-known Star of the East mine in the Murchison he was a director when it was sold to an English company. At present he is interested in a number of mining syndicates. In 1883 Mr. Sholl married Jessie, daughter of Mr. Henry Cave, London.

Taken altogether, Mr. H. W. Sholl, M.L.A., has had a wide experience of Western Australia and the peculiarities of life in this colony. In the early days of the Roebourne district he, with his father's family, was called upon to undergo many vicissitudes. At times, owing to the non-arrival of vessels, the food supplies gave out, and it was necessary to resort to strange means to satisfy the demands of hunger. Occasionally barley had to be ground in an old coffee mill, and often had Mr. Sholl to travel long distances under most disagreeable circumstances for necessaries of life. The years spent in pearl fishing brought him in contact with arduous toil, and on his station he passed through the trials always experienced in sparsely-settled districts. His Parliamentary career has been a quiet one, but he sedulously watches the course of debates, and is often in a position to give information to members.