Page:History of West Australia.djvu/549
JOHN MICHAEL FINNERTY, R.M.
WARDEN OF COOLGARDIE.
ON foreign shores, in distant climes, the dreaming stranger allows his unbridled fancy to brood fondly over the scenes that emit the fascinating kaleidoscopic rays of gold. Focus his imagination as he may, he cannot in his sublime and blissful ignorance of its nature draw a striking likeness on his mental canvas. Beauteous, nay gorgeous, visions of burnished gold, lying glittering beneath a torrid sun; nuggets strewn everywhere, kicked sacrilegiously about by supercilious wayfarers; dreams of wealth, more wealth, self-aggrandisement and avarice—these are the fluttering visions of the sanguine; and these are many.
Photo by Greenham & Evans.
JOHN M. FINNERTY, R.M.
How easy for the initiated, the experienced, to cast a Zolaic gleam over their bright and sunny picture. Without one touch of pessimism or melancholic depression—the result of fitful failure—they can paint a work of realism that, hung side by side with their never-to-be-realised ideal, would make the latter the subject of scoff and mocking derision. Think quietly, yet not phlegmatically, of the progression of bodily suffering, cruel thirst, famine, fevers, and fatigue—then weigh them carefully against a few glorious grains of gold.
Yet these time-honoured calamities are now the reminiscences of the few. Intrepid and steel-couraged pioneers bravely underwent these horrors—as ghastly as the miseries in Dante's Inferno—and made for others the way easy and the burden light. What should be the reward of their heroism? Millions benefit by their consequences, and millions deny one word of praise, one tangible sign of gratitude. Such is the attitude of the world to its benefactors.
This preliminary sketch of the reality and ideality of the goldfields is exceedingly apropos of Warden Finnerty. A name such as his is inseparably associated with the fields. He is the landlord of the golden acreage, with the powers and authority of a monosyllabic dictator. Yet, as he sits now in power of office, he can retrospect on the many hardships that were his only friends, and which have been drawn, and not overdrawn, in the introduction. By reason of his office, by reason of the dignity and ability with which he fills that oflce, his name is green in the history of Western Australia. The many and extended ramifications of his magistracy, the influence which he wields over wide areas, the complex web of the duties of officialdom, the stream of energetic control which percolates through every conduit-pipe of the province, stamp his impress on the areas of "individual option," and consequently on the colony.
Such is the attitude of the world
Mr. Finnerty was born in Limerick, Ireland, in 1853. His father, Colonel Charles Finnerty, originally attached to the 47th Regiment, was in charge of the staff officers of pensioners in Western Australia. The Warden was sent as a pupil to that princeps scholarum, Rugby. This ancient and well-endowed institution is notable for the effectual way in which it combines pleasure with work. A curriculum of study is provided which equals that of many universities, and is superior to some. Well may the Rugby student look back with enviable delight on his youthful days within her walls.
After receiving an education befitting a scholar and a gentleman, he left for Western Australia, arriving in the colony on the 28th September, 1874. For some time after his arrival he engaged in pearling in the north-west. For a certain portion of the year this industry cannot be successfully followed up, and in the interim he traded to the Malay Islands. For four years he combined these two commercial enterprises, and found himself singularly fortunate in his adventures. Pearling has attractions of an unique character. Its rewards, though fluctuating, are generally profitable, and the Warden by industrious attention and energy converted a bare profit into a handsome remuneration.
Feeling desirous of a change of life and a different outlet to his speculative resources, he established, in conjunction with the late Mr. J. H. Monger, an immense station on the Gascoyne in the north-west district, to which Mr. Finnerty proceeded as managing partner. He resided on the station superintending the joint interests and managing successfully their large stock. For two years they were more than satisfied with the returns, but the third year was one of "black death" to his stock. Over the extensive stretch of a million and a half acres of their estate a drought, unparalleled in the annals of the colony, swept with terrific severity, spreading havoc and death among his valuable herds and flocks. Pitiable and lamentable was the destruction, irrecoverable the loss; the accumulations and laborious winnings of their brief pastoral career disappeared before their eyes like a sinking wreck. With a fortitude born of a nil desperandum resolve they left their carcase-strewn station determined to face their fortune once more.