History of West Australia/Edward McLarty

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WHILE Australia professes to be too democratic to reproduce all the ranks and distinctions which have been preserved from time immemorial between the different classes of society in the mother country, yet even a superficial observer becomes conscious that the law of native superiority asserts itself as strongly in the new Southern World as it does in England. To find a squire in name, for example, we should have to go to an English county, but to find that territorial magnate and magistrate in person it would not be necessary to travel far from Perth along the South-Western line. The only difference is that "at home" the squire has inherited his estates, his manor, and his governing office, whereas in Western Australia he has acquired them by his own indomitable application and the quality of his mental parts; like the champion of the tourney he has had to win his spurs before he could wear them, so that no one can regard him enviously as having been fortune's favourite. The same prizes were within the reach of other men, but they lacked the ability to pluck them, and the victor is therefore entitled to peculiar public regard, especially if, as in the case of Mr. Edward McLarty, J.P., M.L.C., he is willing to lend a cordial helping hand to those whom he has left behind in the race.

Edward McLarty is scion of an old Pinjarra family, his father having been one of the earliest settlers in that fertile and picturesque district on the banks of the Murray River. In 1848 Edward, the son of John McLarty, was born in what has since become one of the prettiest townships in the colony, and which possessed (even in those days) for so nascent a settlement, an excellent schoolmaster, under whose care the future squire of the district was enabled to store his mind with the learning which, if it is not, as the familiar counsel affirms, better than riches, is at least the advantageous accompaniment of wealth that, as in the case of Mr. McLarty, the student may afterwards achieve. After getting through his school-days, the heir of John McLarty, consulting his tastes, and true to hereditary aptitudes, for his father was the manager of the splendid agricultural estate of Mr. Singleton, resolved to turn his attention to the cultivation of the land and the raising of stock. Mr. John McLarty a little later purchased the valuable property known as "Blythewood," situated on the Murray, to which the rich cultivation paddocks have an extensive frontage, and which is to-day famous not less for its beauty than for the magnificent crops which it produces. The estate is admirably managed by Mr. Duncan McLarty, brother of Mr. Edward McLarty, M.L.C., on behalf of his mother, to whom this superb domain was bequeathed on the death of Mr. John McLarty. It was here that Mr. Edward McLarty underwent a thorough course of training as a yeoman, and gained valuable experience in regard to stock, which bore good fruit and accelerated his progress in maturer life.

When he was a young man the value of the Kimberley district as a depasturing ground was only just beginning to attract attention, and having been brought up as a grazier he seized upon the opportunity that thus presented itself of greatly enlarging his interests and his sphere of operations. In 1882 he became one of the leading promoters of the first company that was formed to carry on pastoral pursuits in the magnificent fattening territory around Derby. A million acres were leased from the Crown, and cattle were sent up to stock the run which, under the management of Mr. Wiliiam McLarty, brother of Mr. Edward McLarty, is one of the largest stock raising ranches of the West. The property is still in the possession of the company, and the neat kine which are sent to the city every year are most favourably known to the butchering trade, which prefers, as a rule, the home grown beeves to those which have come from the eastern colonies. As was elicited at the Select Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament, which sat in August, 1896, and of which Mr. Edward McLarty was a member, the pastoral industry was then in a more flourishing condition than it had enjoyed for several years, as there had been a generous rainfall, and the price of stock had greatly risen all over Australia, so that the Kimberley squatters have everything in their favour. In good years—that is to say when there is no drought—the rich herbage grows on their immense leaseholds with marvellous rapidity owing to the heat of the climate and the strength of the soil, and Parliament has always encouraged local enterprise by imposing a stock tax on imported stock or carcase meat. The Committee, in view of the large influx of population and the enormously increasing demand for food supplies, showed every disposition to subsidise steamers and to build jetties at northern ports to facilitate the sending of the herds to the metropolitan market, so that it will be seen that Mr. McLarty has a very valuable asset in the venture which his farsightedness induced him to make fifteen years ago. While the mammoth Kimberley station was prospering under the energetic superintendence of Mr. William McLarty, the squire of Pinjarra, and future representative of the district in the Legislative Council, was busy with his properties nearer home, and he added broad acres to broad acres in and around Pinjarra whenever less capable graziers were prepared to sell them, until to-day he is the owner of an expanse of country that it would be a long day's ride to travel over. Mr. McLarty is also a model yeoman in the sense of being a cultivator on a large scale. He is one of the landed proprietors whom the ex-Commissioner of Crown Lands (Hon. A. R. Richardson) aptly described in the Legislative Assembly last session as those who put money into their fields in order to take much more money out of them; while there were others, the Minister added, who starved their ground and then wondered why their ground nearly starved them. It is a pleasure for a tourist to be invited by Mr. McLarty to ride over his estates. The trees have been cleared or ringbarked, and the land has been cultivated with a liberal hand. In the matter of fertilisers Mr. McLarty, both by precept and example, is making Pinjarra conspicuous for the extent to which it is adopting these important aids to scientific farming. Last year, in an unostentatious way, he did a valuable service to his neighbours and to the district by advocating, as president of the Murray Farmers' Association, the adoption of the co-operative principle in sending to one of the largest importers of bonedust an order for a large shipment of this plant food and distributing it at his own cost, until those who are not so largely blessed with this world's goods could gather and sell their crops and repay the loan. A generous act of this kind in this selfish age reminds one of the good old days of Rome when, as the poet relates—" None were for party, but all were for the state; when the rich man helped the poor man, and the poor man loved the great." And it serves to explain the esteem in which Mr. McLarty is held.

The principal architectural features of Pinjarra are greatly indebted to him, for he has built not only the charming manor house of "Beaumalup" in which he resides, but also the Premier Hotel which deserves its name as being one of the most palatial houses of public entertainment which is to be found in any agricultural centre in the colony. For twenty years he has been a member of the local Roads Board, and was chairman for four years in succession, retiring from that post in 1891, when he was elected to the Legislative Council as one of the three members of the South-Western Province. In 1874 Mr. McLarty married Miss Campbell, daughter of the late Inspector Campbell, of Perth, and is the father of six sons and a daughter.

Mr. McLarty is essentially a man who does good in his day and generation. In his own district no one is better known or more respected, and all over the colony he enjoys the reputation of being a man whose lead it is safe to follow. On the public platform or from his place in the Legislative Council his style of address is typical of a mind that prefers methods to theories; in other words an ounce of practice is to him worth a pound of precept. He is a strong advocate for the development of the producing resources of the colony, and at the time of writing was using all his influence in the Council and out of it to get a branch line made from Pinjarra station to the Williams River, in order to place the harvests of the fertile corn lands of the Marradong Valley within easy reach of the market.