Page:History of West Australia.djvu/419
A little over twelve months before the Rev. and Mrs. Richardson left Great Britain, Alexander Robert Richardson was born (in 1848), at Islington. There were five children in the family—three daughters. The eldest, a son, is the Hon. John Elliott Richardson member of the Legislative Council of Western Australia. The boyhood of the Hon. A. R. Richardson was spent in Victoria, and there he received an excellent education at different schools, and a splendid grounding of character from his mother and father. In the sixties his father and his uncle, Mr. Thomas Anderson, were in correspondence with Mr. Walter Padbury, a well-known West Australian pioneer. From this correspondence was gleaned news of the explorations of the late Mr. T. F. Gregory in the Roebourne district of this colony, and of the rich pastoral lands lying idle there. Such a strong effect had the information contained in the letters on the minister's sons and three of their friends that they enterprisingly yearned to face the difficulties of early settlement, and the romantic life among the aborigines. After much careful deliberation their parents were not averse to gratifying their adventurous wishes, and preparations were soon energetically made for their leaving for Western Australia. Mr. A. R. Richardson was then but seventeen years old, and just the age when the adventurous instincts are strongest in youth. His stamina was soon put to the test. In 1865 the five young men—the brothers Richardson, Edwin Anderson, Mackenzie Grant, and John Edgar—left Victoria. They had chartered the ship Maria Ross, and taking with them 1,600 ewes and necessary provisions they sailed for the scene of operations. On the 2nd April, 1865, they landed at Tientsin Harbour, now called Cossack Bay, the port of the Roebourne district, where they secured a lease of over 200,000 acres, and gave to it the name of Pyramid Station, and spread their sheep over the good pasture land. Then followed many years of secluded life, with no companionship but that of a few brother pioneer settlers and the natives. Prominent among the neighbouring settlers were several young men now well known in Western Australia:—Mr. Chas. Harper, M.L.A., Mr. H. Venn, M.L.A. (late Commissioner of Railways), Mr. Robert F. Sholl, M.L.A., Mr. H. W. Sholl, M.L.A., Mr. E. T. Hooley, M.L.A., and Mr. D. N. McLeod, M.L.A. (for Portland, in the Victorian Assembly). All these gentlemen became old and tried friends amid the hardships and vicissitudes of pioneer life in North-Western Australia. The party worked laboriously to improve their property, and the flocks fattened and multiplied. Each season proved that their enterprise was well-founded. They had their daily round of duties; they had their difficulties with the natives; they had their shepherding and fencing and other work incidental to early pastoral pursuits to attend to. And then the shearing time—the squatter's harvest. This provided the greatest excitement of the year, and it was not always an easy matter to obtain sufficient labour to remove the golden fleeces when after a few years the flocks had largely increased.
After four years of varied success the partnership was dissolved by Messrs. Grant and Anderson separating from their companions. These two gentlemen took their shares of the stock and started to travel them to Perth. It proved an exceptionally dry season and their efforts resulted disastrously. They were not to be daunted, for, returning to the north again, they settled on land which is now widely known in the colony as the De Grey Station. When the partnership was dissolved, Mr. A. R. Richardson took the management of the Pyramid Station. At that time he was but twenty-one years old, which shows that he must have had a wise head on his young shoulders. But his four years' training proved all sufficient, and his interests became more and more extensive. It would be impossible to mention in this pen sketch all the difficulties passed through. Some of them were sufficient to daunt many men. The climate, in the first place, was excessively trying at certain periods of the summer, but Mr. Richardson being naturally of a strong and robust constitution suffered little on that score. Many times the provisions on the station (so far away from any town) were so limited that the party were reduced to most unpleasant straits. For instance, once they were compelled to live on a quarter of a pound of barley, ground in a coffee mill, a day; and on many occasions on a quarter of a pound and half a pound of flour. Then they were often without tea and sugar—much loved luxuries on the back stations. These difficulties were caused by reason of ships trading from Fremantle and other ports being overdue. The following is an instance of what early settlers had at times to contend with, when, for business or health, voyages were undertaken to the settled and more civilised south. Mr. Richardson, in order to proceed to Fremantle, on one occasion stepped on board a fore-and-aft schooner of 80 tons burden. The little craft, baffled with adverse winds and gales, was blown some 1,100 miles offshore, and after 47 days reached Champion Bay, 700 miles from their port of departure—Cossack. The rations were nearly absorbed, and latterly were allotted in the smallest quantities. At last those on board had neither food nor water, but happily eighteen hours after this happened they made Champion Bay. I was a cheerful sight to them—that of the port and the few buildings near the beach.
While Mr. Richardson was managing the Pyramid Station he was married, in 1874, to Ellen, daughter of Mr. John Wellard, an enterprising and widely respected colonist. Some months before the advent of Mr. Richardson and party, Mr. Wellard chartered, fitted out, and despatched a ship—the Tientsin—with a cargo of sheep, cattle, and horses for the Roebourne district. He personally accompanied the expedition, superintended the landing of the stock, placed Mr. Shakespeare Hall, also a worthy pioneer, in charge of his party of men, and returned to Fremantle. Mr. Wellard was therefore one of the earliest pastoralists in the Roebourne district. Mr. Richardson continued to reside in the Nickol Bay (now Roebourne) district until 1876. By this time he naturally desired to get nearer civilised parts, more especially for the sake of his young wife. His brother and Mr. Edgar were still in partnership with him, and with their consent a manager was appointed to the station. Finally, the Hon. J. E. Richardson took the management of the partnership concerns. Mr. Richardson now purchased the Serpentine Farm, at Serpentine, from his father-in-law, and there took up his residence. He set himself the task of improving and developing the estate. By much industry, practical knowledge, and the judicious outlay of a good deal of capital, he has cleared thick forest lands and subdivided them with wild dog-proof fencing. Thus he converted an area of land, which formerly carried, indifferently, about 300 head of cattle, and on which he was informed that sheep could never thrive, into its present capacity of 250 cattle, 3,000 sheep, and 80 horses. What is of more consequence, he furnished to the colony an object-lesson as to the wise utilisation of much of its waste lands.
In 1880 Mr. Richardson was impressed, after a careful perusal of the reports of Mr. Alexander Forrest, M.L.A., on his explorations in the Kimberley and surrounding districts, that