The Coming Colony/Chapter 18

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The Coming Colony by Philip Mennell
Chapter 18

XVIII.


A Land Boom in Perth—An Aristocratic Viticulturist—Typical "Younger Sons."


There was something in the way of a land "boom" in town allotments when I left Perth, especially in the main residential and professional street, St. George's Terrace, as well as in Hay Street, the main thoroughfare for retail business. In the former the late Earl of Carnarvon, with a prescient eye to the future, invested some £20,000 a few years ago, and his repre­sentatives still hold the property, which was purchased by the present Premier of Western Australia on Lord Carnarvon's behalf. Probably no very great advance could be got on the original purchase-money just now, but it may be regarded as what auctioneers call "an improving investment." Talking of English "big-wigs," it is curious how one runs across their traces in the most out-of-the-way locations. The "Upper Ten" are not likely to become wholly effete whilst one sees so many evidences of their enterprise in the "waste places of the earth"—a term which I use of Western Australia in an entirely Pickwickian sense. The President of the Legislative Council, Sir Thomas Cockburn Campbell, for example, represents a baronetcy won in the Napoleonic wars; whilst the Speaker of the Lower House is a scion of one of the oldest and most respected of Surrey families. A promising settler whom I met in Perth is a younger son of the late Right. Hon. W. P. Adam, who is still remembered in the House of Commons and elsewhere as the Government Whip of the later Palmerstonian and early Gladstonian period. His father died Governor of Madras, and the son is now feeling his way to fortune as a runholder in the Western Australian jungle, if I may so style the thickly timbered Black wood district. He comes of a stock of statesmen, though he is now fulfilling the family destiny more in the Cumberland sense of the word than in its usual acceptation.

One of my pleasantest reminiscences is of a visit I paid to the Hon. Josceline Amherst (to give him both his Im­perial and local title), a younger brother of the earl of that name, who, after being attached to the Governor's staff in Fiji, has taken up his permanent abode in the absurdly depreciated "Cinderella" of the Australian group. The splendid climate makes it the natural refuge of the weak­-chested, but Mr. Amherst, to his credit be it said, regards it as much in the light of a workshop as of a sanatorium. He has gone in for viticulture on a large scale in conjunction with Dr. Waylen, one of the most esteemed of old colonists and pioneers of the wine-producing industry, in which he embarked at Guildford as far back as 1859. The "Dar­lington" vineyard, as the partners call it, is situated close to the Eastern Railway, a few miles beyond Guildford, as one travels from Perth to Albany. Mr. Amherst lives in a stone villa, "mounted high" on a valley side above the railway line, and the whole estate shows evidences of the personal care expended on it. It is altogether a very pleasant retreat, divorced from the busy world to a certain extent, but still in easy proximity to it whenever a trip to the capital appears desirable. The house inside is made pleasant with hunting trophies, nicknacks, and family portraits, the latter of person­ ages of English as well as Kentish renown, whilst outside gardens and avenues, only too rare in Western Australia, are being laid out on Mr. Amherst' s designs. Moderately endowed younger sons of the English nobility might do worse than follow Mr. Amherst's example, and seek this kind of busy seclusion, where, in what is really a model English shooting­ box, Mr. Amherst realises all the solid comforts without the superficial accompaniments and worries of a society which presents very little novelty after a few seasons' experience for those "born in the purple." On the principle that it is better to be acclaimed in a village than to be "one of the crowd" in a city, Mr. Amherst has chosen well, and he has at least got an elder son's privilege in Western Australia, where he is a member of the local House of Lords, and follows out the ancestral bent in his happy combination of country pursuits and pastimes with such political and social activities as opportunity may admit of and he may choose to enter on. Generally popular, and the beau idéal of that often decried but never surpassed type, the English gentlemen, Mr. Amherst has perhaps better fulfilled his life mission as an unconscious apostle of light and sweetness in Western Australia than he would have done had he adhered to English fleshpots, and lived the purposeless butterfly existence of the typical "younger son."

Mr. Amherst's single black domestic cooked and served an excellent and withal refined "collation," and after a lunch with the resident partner and Dr. Waylen I left with a considerable degree of Ahab-like envy of these modern Naboths. Probably none of the Amherst tenantry in grand old Kent live a more simple, laborious life than this cadet of the old landlord stock, but no one could be more loyal to noblesse oblige notions than this English country gentleman, who by some strange freak of chance has been converted into a Colonial M.L.C.

To give an idea of the rate of wages ruling in rural West Australia, I may state that Mr. Amherst pays his labourers 5s. a day and finds them house accommodation, or £1 per week with food and everything found.