History of West Australia/Frank Craig

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Frank Craig HOFWA.jpg
Photo by
Greenham & Evans.

AS we review and classify the differentiating characteristics of Australasians, we cannot but observe certain features in Westralians which mark them sharply off from their more sanguine and choleric brethren in the Eastern colonies. The former are on the whole more stable and reserved, less effusive aid less abandoned in superlatives to clench their own predominance, and are of a synthetic rather than an analytic cast of mind. With Western Australians acting is made subservient to thinking to a degree more universal than obtains in the more evolved colonies of the East.

Such distinguishing connotations appeal to most minds as rich and enviable possessions. They are essentially men of a keen, practical mental mould, yet their practice is the conceived child of much liberative and mature thought.

In Mr. Craig's personality these characteristics are strongly marked. His views are thoroughly practical, yet show a wealthy vein of individual coincident judgment, which can only have gained superior position in thought by repeated observations accurately and logically synthesised. His voice, his manner and matter of speech, seem "concave reflexes" of his interior, which at once convinces the listener of a deep bed of sound, practical thought which constructs, rather than its inferior opposite.

Mr. Craig is a native West Australian, and true typical species of this industrious and energetic race. He was born in York, in 1852, the place where his father had settled in 1849, about that time when so many notable and enterprising gentlemen purchased grants around the fertile agricultural district of York and Northam. The schools in this centre were not so efficient then as now, and so the youthful son was sent down to Perth to get his educational training in that well-known old institution, Bishop's School. Almost all the leading Westralians have been at one period their lives pupils of this advanced college.

On leaving school, Mr. Craig threw himself into various commercial spheres. He went to the North-West for two years, and invested some capital in hotels, some in pearling and innumerable other ventures. He was exceedingly catholic in his pursuits, and embarked on any enterprise that would likely eventuate profitably or remuneratively.

From the romantic scenes of the early North-West he returned to the bucolic regions of York, and settled down in business. He launched forth in several directions, and soon his enterprise won him an enthusiastic acknowledgment of his capabilities. He had known most of the inhabitants of York since the days of boyhood, and had always zealously striven to advance the interests of his native place. His experience and superior education befitted him for public duties. When as yet York merely boasted of a chairman of municipalities, Mr. Craig was appointed one of these hard-working councillors, and the ability with which he met intricate matters of municipal control was instrumental in annexing for him the sincere admiration of his co-councillors. Much was yet to be done if the old régime was to be perfected and brought more into harmony with advanced ideas. When in the course of events York was to be municipally honoured with the civic position of mayoralty, Mr. Craig, at the eleventh hour, stood as a candidate, and in a minimum of time harangued the electors, gained their confidence and, ultimately, their votes. He was vigorously opposed by one who had behind him the widest influence in York. Mr. Craig's supreme triumph attests the unbounded confidence reposed in him by the town and district, and confirm the general opinion of his shrewd, practical ability in matters of municipal administration. From 1887 to 1890 he held the mayoral robes, and the progress effected in that triennial span redounds to the everlasting parochial glory of Mr. Craig. It was he that initiated the new régime in local administration in his native town, who swept away with vigorous hand ancient customs and institutions that were as often contaminated as impracticable or useless, and set up in their crumbling stead new forms of order and legislation that at once gave the stimulus to advance and the key to healthy prosperity. The progressive era of York's municipal history dates from the early days of his mayoralty, when his ability, administrative and financial power, integrity and tact, bequeathed to the residents of York the solid groundwork of their present legislature.

Mr. Craig has always kept closely in touch with his native place, and has all along been one of its most energetic citizens. Nothing retarded the onward course of his prosperous hamlet till the railway for Coolgardie started from Northam. It seems to have temporarily prostrated the growing interests of York, but brief space will rectify all, level, and equally distribute the good things that be.

In mining matters the first Mayor of York took an unusually keen interest. He proceeded to Southern Cross with the first rush, and round Golden Valley and Parker's Range. When Coolgardie's auriferous discoveries became known, Mr. Craig journeyed across the eastern desert and established business premises in Coolgardie.

His interests in mining are numerous and extensive, and he, like every true Westralian, believes that we are still at the waking dawn of this colony's auriferous prosperity. He has personally inspected the colony's resources, and is a man on whom reliance can be placed as to conclusions from his observations.

Mr. Craig has been a member of the Agricultural Bureau for several years, and has contributed in a praiseworthy degree to its present success and influential position. His knowledge of agriculture, associated as he has been with it all his life, warrants him speaking with authority on points that affect that great industry's weal or woe. He sits as chairman of the committee of Tattersall's Club, where the leading sporting confrères of the colony meet in harmonious union. Mr. Craig has always been a true lover of sport. In his early days he was secretary of the Jockey's Club at York, and since then he has remained an ardent devotee of the turf. An important Government position was conferred on Mr. Craig, namely, valuator under the Agricultural Lands Purchase Bill. The appointment, although more of an honorary nature, entails a considerable quantum of work, in addition to Mr. Craig's many other important official and private duties. For his useful services to his district and colony, Mr. Craig was created a Justice of the Peace in 1894.

A man of pleasant temperament, with a ruddy glow of youthful spirits still lingering on his cheeks, with a look that betokens easy personal access and assures comfortability in his presence, Mr. Craig is one whom even the greatest misanthropist could not fail to be affected kindly by his tones and his presence. Generous and warm-hearted to an unexpected degree; equitable, fair, and just in his dealings and relationships with mankind; stern, impartial, and scrupulously conscientious in his capacity as magistrate on the bench—these are his ennobling virtues, which none can wrench from him, and which, too, have signalled him on for special commendation and unmeasured praise.