History of West Australia/Ernest Charles Bavage Locke

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IN the early days of this colony, while as yet the clouds of impoverishment hung dark and gloomy, pioneers fought hard against starvation and melancholic depression. Sons were born, who had to accustom themselves from the cradle to a rough and primitive mode of life. The training, severe and unwelcome though it may have been, has borne good fruit, for that same progeny has shown itself imbued with many virtues. Thrift and the old aristocratic and chivalrous sentiments of England are exhibited in their conduct.

Ernest Charles Bavage Locke HOFWA.jpg
Photo by
Greenham & Evans.

For years Mr. Locke toiled at the homestead in the Vasse, with little recompense for energy expended, and with little encouragement offered. Yet he, with his relations, stuck bravely to his work, and with willing hands and intrepidity of courage overcame all difficulties in a commendable way. Mr. Locke was born at the Vasse in 1856. His mother was a native of the colony, and his grandfather, G. Layman, arrived with the first veteran bands in 1829. Since his boyhood Mr. Locke has engaged in agricultural pursuits round the Vasse district. His repute as a skilful practical farmer is widely acknowledged, and has been the means of bringing him into great prominence in his native parish. Sporting instincts were keen in Mr. Locke at a very early age. His father from the earliest days had a strong leaning to the turf, and in the sixties owned a larger stud than the son has at the present time. The Queen's Plate was won by Mr. Locke, sen., with Ben Bolt in 1865, and many minor races fell to his lot. On many occasions young Ernest, with a strong passion for riding, took the saddle in the meetings at the Vasse, and was favourably regarded as a coming jockey. It is surprising to hear, when we turn over the dismal financial pages of these days, that the races were as fully represented and called forth as much enthusiasm as they do now. Twenty-one horses started in a race at the Vasse in the sixties, and Ernest rode his father's favourite colt.

Since his introduction to the turf the present member of the Vasse has been singularly fortunate as a sportsman. Hundreds of prizes have been won by him both in this and other colonies, but he has never succeeded in gaining the coveted plum of Westralian race meetings—the Perth Cup. His Primrose brought him enviable fame, and has proved a valuable horse by running victorious in the Railway Stakes and the Coolgardie double. His Miss Boolka has been variously judged, but when it is stated that she won thirty-two races out of thirty-nine starts her performance must be considered exceedingly creditable. Mr. Locke's reputation as a sportsman is meritoriously deserved. His straightforwardness has made him the central attraction of a host of enthusiasts. His love for sport is not begot of some slanting desire for financial aggrandisement; it is an unblended affection. Mr. Locke's latest triumphal achievement was his splendid victory at the elections to the House of Assembly for the Sussex constituency in 1897. It was fair that one who had been the champion of progressive movements in that district for a score of years should receive the support of the electors. His services in the past were fresh in the memory of those who had amply profited from his labours, and now they sought to requite their obligations. He has acted in many public capacities in the Vasse. He was chairman of the Roads Board for a lengthened period, and has fostered the parish football, cricket, and other sporting games. He was a leading spirit in the Agricultural Society for that wide and fertile agricultural district. In deputations Mr. Locke's ability has been frequently applied with success.

After a splendidly-fought battle on the hustings, Mr. Locke was declared elected over his two opponents, Mr. Cookworthy and Mr. Backhouse, by a majority of thirty-nine. The result was hailed with acclamation, and ovations to the new member were as sincere as they were expressive of joy. From the first he was confident, but the opposing candidates possessed strong claims, and pushed their electioneering in a vigorous fashion. That Mr. Locke emerged victorious from the contest is all the more praiseworthy, inasmuch as his opponents were redoubtable political knights. Since his return Mr. Locke has been indefatigable in his endeavours to carry out the best interests of his electors. As an exponent on agricultural principles he is well able to formulate theories of reform for the better development and expansion of this great industry. His opinions are sound, and the Sussex electorate may safely trust its growing interests in the hands of such a representative.

Mr. Locke is a foundation member of Tattersall's Club, and has retained his name prominently on the list since its inception. As a Freemason he was helpful in forming a lodge at Bunbury while he was junior deacon.

Mr. Locke is a man of actions rather than words. Ready to benefit others, and prepared to go to much trouble on their behalf, he has ingratiated himself into the hearts of the community.