History of West Australia/Charles Augustus Saw

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Charles Augustus Saw HOFWA.jpg
Photo by
Greenham & Evans.

COULD the pen do more than adorn and embroider the facts and realities of life, the reader could more forcibly appreciate the eventualities and contingencies that walk hand in hand with every mortal. Writing may rouse the emotions, sympathy, and attentive interest, but biographical dénouement seems but the shadow of sunshine and the similitude of truth. The ambitious and eager strife that moves to actions, rough, momentous, and daring, are depicted in symbols which convey but a measure of the stern and living reality.

Colonies seem peculiar instruments for discovering and trying man's heart and fibre. The survival of the fittest is here an axiom, whose truth is ever tested and confirmed. Pluck, heart, courage—summed up in the narrow word "fortitude" are virtues which Western Australia has ably put to the test. We have had many dauntless adventurers since the first days of Anstey, and each one's history constitutes a narrative at once teeming with romance and shimmering in the gilded edges of success. Mr. Saw comes well within the circle of intrepid prospectors who have by dint of energetic courage developed and opened up our auriferous areas. He has played many parts in his varied career, but all seem to have imperceptibly merged into the pursuit of one, and it the most important—the development of the gold mining industry.

Mr. Saw was born in Perth on the 15th September, 1865, and is the son of the late Mr. Henry Saw, one of the earliest merchants of Perth. After receiving a good education at the High School in the capital, he entered the National Bank, as a preliminary training for a commercial career. His love for the unconventional open life of mining, girt in all its tasselled fringes of splendour, gradually outgrew his devotion for the ledger, and he withdrew from the close and drowsy atmosphere of its environments after a period of three years' service. The exciting rush to Kimberley was begun, and he set out for those tropical lands in 1886. For a year he faithfully continued his comprehensive survey; nothing sensational was reported or discovered. It was almost impossible to arouse sufficient interest or enthusiasm in capitalists to import their money for development. But the future of Kimberley has never been doubted as to its auriferous potentialities, and some day the world may hear of her long-concealed wealth.

On Mr. Saw's return to Perth he did not again betake himself to the banking stool he had voluntarily quitted. The Yilgarn fields were now attracting attention, and many people from all parts were going to Southern Cross. Colreavy had made the fortunate discovery of the Golden Valley, near Southern Cross. Communication in those days was not effected in the palatial comforts of a Pullman or a jaunting car. Over beaten, rugged tracks, with horses and drays swinging and creaking in the desert sand, the passage seemed distressingly endless. Such were the chief circumstances of the journey Mr. Saw now made to Southern Cross. His visit was not fruitless, for he was credited with the ownership of a few promising claims; but he returned to Perth during 1889, and once more reconciled himself to banking. He was eventually appointed manager of a branch of the Commercial Bank at Southern Cross, being the first official to attain that responsible distinction on the eastern gold fields. This was in the early months of 1890, before the dawn of the great Coolgardie auriferous prosperity. In his new surroundings at Southern Cross there was scope for commercial enterprise, and Mr. Saw unhesitatingly took advantage of the favourable opportunities presented. He launched out with a few others in establishing the well-known coach connection between Southern Cross and every point of the eastern goldfields. The enterprise was a huge financial success, and the name of Cobb and Co. gained great prestige and reputation for its excellent organisation and thorough management. In this company Mr. Saw was the largest shareholder, and its adviser and director. Mr. Saw, too, made several visits to Coolgardie to acquaint himself better with its actualities and possibilities, and so pleased was he with its appearance that he acquired large interests near the eastern capital. In January, 1896, he sold out his interests in Southern Gross and returned to Perth.

In the capital he did not remain long in commercial inactivity. He embarked in stock and sharebroking and mining agencies. His interests on the fields are so extensive that they necessitate arduous labours to keep abreast of the fastly accumulating work. His connection with every form of mining industry is extensive, and he has a numerous and wealthy clièntele.

Yielding to external pressure and requisitions, he offered himself as a candidate for the South Ward in the City Council and was elected in May, 1897. Since his election he has persisted in his attempts to promote the best interests of the city as a whole. His vitality and energy have awakened many from their lethargy, and incited them to active progress and amelioration. He is an able representative, and his district may deem itself fortunate that they have secured the public services of so energetic a gentleman as Mr. Saw.

Of an amiable and affable disposition, social and generous in his instincts, Mr. Saw has long been regarded as a great favourite among the unlimited circle of his acquaintances. In his business capacity he is shrewd and just, attentive to all, and partial to none. With his many-sided character goes a well-informed mind, which, no doubt, some day will be gladly availed of in shaping, with other legislators, the higher destinies of the colony.