History of West Australia/Robert Donald McKenzie
ROBERT DONALD McKENZIE.
Johnston, O'Shannessy & Co.
IF a man's mind is charged with commercial instinct, there is every chance that he will build up a fortune. The labyrinths of finance, with all its brain-worrying complexities to ordinary minds, are part of his corporeal frame at birth. He can see a way where others grope and fall back in the darkness. Speculation to some is such an easy concern that we wonder whether the gift is not intuitive.
Mr. McKenzie was born at Maldon, Victoria, in 1865, his father being Hugh McKenzie, J.P., a citizen of prominence. He was educated at St. Paul's Grammar School, Melbourne, and on completing his education he entered the large ironmongery house of Briscoe and Co., Melbourne, a firm which afforded splendid experience for beginners. He remained at his post several years, gradually picking up multiform information in every department of the firm. When he severed connection with Messrs. Briscoe and Co., he set out for Mooroopna, Goulburn Valley, Victoria, with the intention of starting business on his own account. For his first venture he was tolerably fortunate, and he proved himself a capable exponent of all the commercial arts that go to form a successful business conductor. After securing a well-established reputation, he sold his business for a handsome sum. He forthwith departed for Western Australia.
On his arrival in Perth, in March, 1892, he became a commercial traveller for a hardware house in the capital, and it was in this capacity that he visited the goldfields, which were then springing into existence. When he first reached Hannan's it was a mere canvas town on a rich alluvial field. Happily for him, he believed in its potentialities, and, severing his connection with his firm, he quickly set his convictions into practice. After a hard struggle, occasioned by delays and numerous other obstacles, he erected a store. As the circumstances or the situation demanded, he made it a depot for all kinds of requisites. Diggers and prospectors came rushing in, and the enterprising storekeeper found that his venture was a very opportune one. Influx of population meant increase of sale, and, consequently, of remuneration. As time went on, and the scattered settlements crystallised into the more solid form of a township, with numerous shops of various compositions, he then, in keeping with the progress of events, forsook general merchandise for some more special department trade. Hardware and timber comprised now his sole stock-in-trade. It was a business suited to the requirements of a goldfield, and his experience was exactly the thing in season. He kept in stock a large and varied display of every class of articles that could by any human invention be constructed into practical use by miners and engineers. Success here again followed his efforts, and at present his business is an enviable possession.
Deputations urged on him the necessity of his presence in the Municipal Council, and on receiving his assent his supporters did good service in canvassing for him. When the results of the election were declared, Mr. McKenzie's name headed the poll. In the first Municipal Council he performed valuable work. So zealous was he in promoting the welfare of Hannan's that he spared neither time nor pains in his active attention to official work. The public recognised his merits, and felt pleased that so able an administrator bad come forward to assist the development of the town. As is always the case with a first council, which has in hand the moulding of everything for their successors, the work is arduous and complex. Much diligence and patience were displayed, however, by that council in which Mr. McKenzie was the senior councillor, and the result of earnest co-operation can now be very gratifyingly witnessed in Kalgoorlie.
His personal interests in the mines around Hannan's are extensive. No one in Kalgoorlie begrudges fortune or success to so old and general a favourite. His kindness and cordiality have won him respect; his keen interest in every municipal affair has brought him the esteem of all who profess sympathy with the true advance of Hannan's. (Since this sketch was written, Mr. McKenzie has been chosen mayor of Kalgoorlie.)