History of West Australia/Walter John Lockyer Sinclair


THE province of law is wide, and admits of great scope for the exercise of superior intellect. Perhaps, here, more than in any other profession, are acuteness and subtlety of thought, accurate and exact discriminative judgment, called into play. Legal knowledge is a veritable encyclopædia.

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In a growing town like Coolgardie, a solicitor's skilful services are indispensable to the common weal; and her people can rest assured that they have able lawyers among them, of whom Mr. Walter J. L. Sinclair is not the least. His experience, intellectual grasp, and keen logical exposition, have rendered him a tower of strength. Mr. Sinclair was born at St. Leonard's, Adelaide, in 1854. Like his partner, Mr. Mann, he received his early education at St. Peter's College, where he finished off with "flying colours." He forthwith expressed a preference for law, and elected to indenture himself to Mr. Justice Bundey, his half brother, then a leading solicitor of Adelaide. After qualifying as a lawyer, Mr. Sinclair went into partnership with the late Hon. Charles Mann, Q.C. (father of his present partner), who was practising at this time with Messrs. Bundey and Dashwood (Government Resident of the Northern Territory).

He remained for some time as partner in this office, and, after realising valuable insight and extensive experience, he thought favourably of individual enterprise as the best method of stimulating energy and intellect. And, no doubt, a display of one's own unaided abilities and judgment, even if it be ephemeral, arouses latent mental talent. A little responsibility quickens and enlivens the mind into a state of vigilant alacrity, and brings in its train cautious and deliberate judgment. His success more than reached the level of his anticipations, and he soon gathered around his door a number of influential clients. About the time of his departure for Western Australia, in 1894, he was amply satisfied with the progress effected. On his arrival in Perth in that year, he joined Mr. Mann, and his six months' residential qualification was wisely spent in Mr. Mann's office, acting pro tempore as his managing clerk. When the six months expired, Mr. Sinclair entered into partnership with Mr. Mann. For many years Mr. Sinclair had made a special study of mining litigation, with its "cruxes" and web-like intricacies. While practising in Adelaide his professional skill was summoned to Bendigo, Maryborough, and St. Arnaud (Victoria). A special knowledge such as this was supremely useful on the new goldfields, and since his advent Mr. Sinclair has been identified, in company with his partner, with many important mining law suits. Apart from his ordinary business duties Mr. Sinclair acts as Crown Prosecutor.

When Councillor Leevers resigned from the Coolgardie Municipal Council, Mr. Sinclair was elected unopposed. He did good work during his term of public office, and put forth every effort to promote the interests of the municipality. His knowledge of municipal legislation was effective, but pressure of private business precluded him from seeking re-election. He knew he could not devote the time that his wishes dictated to disinterested services, and he resisted all approaches. He was asked to stand for the Mayoralty, but he refused to accede to the expressed wishes of an honourable and influential deputation.

He holds many offices of an honorary character. He is a member (1896) of the committee of the Chamber of Mines, and of the Coolgardie Railway League. He acts as vice-president of the Coolgardie Racing Club. In more immediate connection with the province of legal practice, he holds a number of important responsible posts. He is chairman of directors of the General Gordon, and General Gordon South Gold Mining companies, and, with his partner, is largely interested in mining ventures. The firm holds power of attorney for the City Mining Syndicate, Gold Exploration of Western Australia Limited, the Menzies Pioneers Limited, the Macpherson's Reward, and the Golden Gate of Western Australia. The large business connection has necessitated the opening of branches in various parts of the fields—Kalgoorlie, Menzies, &c. The Kalgoorlie partner is Mr. H. G. Parsons.

Mr. Sinclair's mind is peculiarly receptive and retentive; his ideas are broad and sound. In the sphere of legal capacity his skill is not exceeded on the goldfields, where the mention of his name is always couched in terms of the deepest respect. Though he still directly holds aloof from public life, he indirectly, in many ways, strives to further the interests of the town and goldfields. His influence and weight must remain potent weapons of success for the wealthy interests centered in the capital of the goldfields.