History of West Australia/Frank Wilson

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Frank Wilson HOFWA.jpg
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IN his 1895 Budget speech Sir John Forrest felicitated Western Australia upon the infusion of new blood. He rejoiced with the breadth of view of a statesman that the country's veins were being filled with the vitalising sap of other nations and by the influence of thousands of enterprising, self-reliant, and capable young men from all parts of the world—men who required no spoon-feeding, in other words a state-aided immigration system, to induce them to come to this colony to throw in their lot with the native population, and to help in developing the colony. In the opinion of the Premier the best class of colonists was coming, namely, those who came because they thought that Western Australia was a good place in which to push their fortunes, and who would push the colony along with them. As there is nothing new under the sun, it is evident that Sir John in uttering these congratulations was giving a local adaptation to the familiar political axiom, that the keystone of national wealth and the stability of a country depend upon the number and character of its population.

America shows that a country is what its people make it; if that is not so, what is the difference between the America of to-day and the America of the red man's undisputed sway? Washington's great country has been placed abreast of the leading and oldest empires by the mighty colonising power of the fusion of races. Spain has fallen from the pride and splendour of her power because the race of Spaniards has become degenerated and debilitated through being kept too exclusive in caste and pure in blood. What the phosphate is to an impoverished soil is the admixture of blood and the attrition of the individual activities of the new and the old dwellers in a country to the body politic, stimulating new growths of progress in every direction. The cross-bred is never a dwarf, and knows little of the ills that patrician flesh is heir to. Recuperation, the springtime, the blossoming and budding of the orchard trees for a new fruitage, the new vegetation of the meadow, is nature's first law, and it is but the reflex of what takes place in the enlistment of fresh workers among the industrial phalanxes of the world to arrest decline, if not decay. "From day to day we ripe, and then from day to day we rot and rot," and new men must take our places "to keep up with the procession." "Unarm, Eros, the long day's task is done, and we must sleep," is the plaintive appeal of the veterans as, year by year, they falter or fall from the ranks; and it is well that they should find stronger successors than Oliver Cromwell did in his son Richard.

Councillor Frank Wilson is one of the recruiting forces of whom the Premier spoke in the Legislative Assembly in August last, albeit he is not a very recent arrival. Mr. Wilson, who is a native of Sunderland, is thirty-seven years of age, having been born in 1859. His father is one of the firm of Messrs. J. and W. Wilson and Sons, timber merchants, Sunderland, a leading house of forty five years' standing. There would seem to run in the Wilson family a predilection towards municipal government, for his uncle is an alderman of Sunderland, and has filled the mayoral chair. Councillor Wilson was educated in Germany during a part of his youth. He also spent a very improving time at Wesley College, Sheffield after which he was apprenticed to Peacock Brothers and Sons, timber merchants, shipbrokers, and commission agents, Sunderland, and in 1878 he joined his elder brother, John Withan Wilson, in establishing large engineering works at Sunderland. For eight years the business prospered, and then in 1886 the three years' strike of the Amalgamated Engineers began. This led Mr. Wilson to abandon the old world and its labour troubles. He went to Queensland, and became manager for Messrs. A. Overend and Co., machinists, railway contractors, and merchants, Brisbane, and five years later he accepted the appointment of managing director of the Canning Jarrah Timber Company Limited, which acquired the rights of Mr. Edward Keane, who had obtained from the Government a forest area of 100,000 acres. The company is one of the two largest in the colony, employing regularly about 240 hands in the working of the extensive mills in the Upper Darling lange and in the metropolitan yards, Lord Street, Perth, and at Fremantle. The export trade of the company, chiefly to England, is very large. Mr. Wilson did not take a very active part in public affairs until 1894, when he was nominated for the representation of the East Ward in the Perth City Council, Mr. C. Reeve also being in the field. The contest was one of the closest and most interesting ever known in the city, and the outcome was exceedingly creditable to the new man. When the poll was declared it appeared that the candidates had run each other to a short head, Mr. Wilson being defeated by only two votes. It is not surprising that this favourable reception by the ratepayers of his aspirations to place his services at their disposal encouraged him to try again, with the result that, on opposing Mr. McKernan in 1895, he was returned by a very large majority. Soon after he took his seat, Councillor Wilson was appointed, with Councillor George, to enquire into the organisation and working of the municipal staff, upon which subject, at the conclusion of their investigation, they presented to the council a detailed report which their colleagues considered to be very valuable.

In political matters Mr. Wilson has been making his influence felt, and he is generally regarded as a prospective member of the Legislative Assembly. The guiding head of large operations, and possessing conspicuous organising power, he was one of the first to protest against the "block" which took place in the Government carrying departments last year, to the serious detriment of the colony. A leading part was taken by him at the mass meeting that was held in the Town Hall to demand that order should be restored out of chaos. That meeting proved to be the germ of the National Reform League, of which Mr. Wilson was appointed president. The objects of the league will afford an insight into the political creed of Mr. Wilson. The platform of that body sets out that it has been framed to support constitutional government, to obtain equitable representation of the people in Parliament, fair taxation, to promote a patriotic spirit, to ban class interests, to rally voters to register their names and to attend the polls; also, to foster the mining and other industries of the colony.

The Canning Jarrah Timber Company does not nearly exhaust Mr. Wilson's commercial energies, onerous as his duties are. He is a staunch supporter of athletics, as might be expected of such a typical Englishman. As a wheelman he attends many of the meetings of the West Australian Cycling Club, of which he is vice-president, and is a skilful, long-distance rider. The success which he has achieved in the control of his own business has caused his services to be sought in many directions, with the result that his name is to be found on the directorships of the Fremantle Gas Company, Eureka Mining Company, and Perth Brick Company; he is also a partner in the firm of Alfred Morris and Co., Hay Street, Perth.

In all that he has undertaken Mr. Wilson has shown himself to be a progressive man. If he had the dictatorship of Perth the city would be a far better appointed city than it is, electric lighting being one of the much-needed improvements upon which he has set his mind, but so far his advocacy of permitting private enterprise to undertake the installation has not availed to overcome opposition to his project. He was chairman of a committee of the council which submitted strong reasons against the spending of the money of the ratepayers upon electric lighting while so much remained to be done to the roads, but the council threw out the proposal that the syndicates which were seeking permission to illuminate should be given a favourable hearing. The result is that Perth will be left to the fitful glimmer of a few lamps for an indefinite time.

Mr. Wilson was married on 25th May, 1880, to Annie, daughter of Mr. Robert Hall Phillips, of Sunderland, and he is the father of five daughters and two sons, and he is still young enough to have all his public career before him. With his English and colonial experience, his commercial and executive skill, and his capacity to control large undertakings, it is well that he has a patriotic spirit and a willingness to work for the welfare of the people.