History of West Australia/Charles Robert Cumbrae-Stewart

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IT is gratifying to behold the enthusiastic and zealous interest which the burghers of Coolgardie take in the conduct of municipal affairs. Especially is this so when we remember that the idea of self-aggrandisement attracts the majority to a goldfield. They come flocking to the golden realm with ideas of an interminable visita of wealth that is within their power to possess, and they solder this glorious imagery with a coating of strong iron determination. Thence it would not be surprising if they did, by "fixed ideas" and habit, make self the pivot round which all else must revolve.

Charles Robert Cumbrae-Stewart HOFWA.jpg
Photo by
Greenham & Evans.

But in this train of self-concern there are those (and of this Coolgardie might feel justly proud) who feel that there is a link which united them to the community, and which makes claims on their sympathy and regard. Mr. Cumbrae-Stewart was born in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1816. His father, Mr. F. E. Stewart, is managing director of Younghusband and Co., Melbourne. Mr. Cumbrae-Stewart was sent to the Brighton Grammar School, in Victoria. As a boy he was possessed in a marked degree of that vitality and action which seems to be the colonial birthright. He spent several sessions at this school, and then went to Queensland. For a few years he practised as a mining agent and sharebroker, but his success in no way equalled his youthful hopes,

In June, 1893, he arrived in Western Australia, and started on that courage-warping journey to Coolgardie. His troubles and trials were the common possession of many others. After reaching the inland centre he represented Reuter's Telegram Company Limited, and was instrumental in organising a large connection. Gradually he came to acquire, through his own activity and mining knowledge, extensive and lucrative interests in mines. Ever on the alert, never idly dreaming, his investments and speculations returned multiplied profits. Cautious, cool, and deliberate, he surveyed and measured before he leapt. Hand-in-hand with commercial prosperity went perhaps the more desirable element of popularity and respect. Syndicates soon studded the fields like star-clusters in the firmament, and sought Mr. Cumbrae-Stewart's experience. He was appointed attorney for the Kalgoorlie, North Kalgoorlie, North Mount Charlotte, the Cardiff Castle, and Rome Consolidated companies.

In his efforts to advance general interests he must be admired. At a time when little encouragement and less attention was given to men desirous of promoting public welfare he stepped forth on the stage with a few other loyal actors, and gave an impetus to progress. The first "call" of the Coolgardie Stock Exchange was held in his office in August, 1894. He was one of its original members, and second to none in his continual attempts to raise it to a position worthy alike of Coolgardie and of the goldfields. To him, too, in conjunction with Mr. W. Thomson, is to be ascribed the honour of the early formation of the Chamber of Mines and Commerce. His name is found among the members of the first elected committee of this body.

In July, 1895, three extra seats were created in the Coolgardie Municipal Council, and Mr. Cumbrae-Stewart was returned victorious for one of these. In all matters which conduce to the moral and physical health of the town he has taken no ordinary amount of interest. The end which he hoped for from the beginning of his Coolgardie career is slowly becoming realised. In his jealous desire to make Coolgardie worthy of the magnificence of the goldfields there is much to appraise. All who know him appreciate the warmth of his geniality. His present and past do creditable justice to his talents, and his name is stamped in the annals of Coolgardie.