History of West Australia/George Thomas Simpson

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George Thomas Simpson HOFWA.jpg
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Greenham & Evans.

BARNUM, who climbed high enough to be entitled to speak with authority upon his text, says that success in life largely depends upon the choice of a suitable location. He points out that without a proper environment the aspirant who seeks to get on in the world may hide his light under a bushel, and die obscurely with little more than burial expenses in his purse. This advice is a modern rendering of Shakespeare's dictum that "There's a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their lives is bound in shallows and in miseries." Opportunity comes at least once, if not oftener, to everyone; but, if she finds that you are not ready to receive her, she flies coyly out of the window. The opening up of the rich goldfields of the colony has been "the tide in the affairs" of many people in Western Australia. It has given them a stage to display powers which under less fortuitous auspices no one would have given them credit for possessing. Once on vantage-ground, they have had room according to their strength, and have gone on from conquest to conquest. Sir Henry Parkes, while Premier of New South Wales, retorted upon an opponent who jibed him with having once kept a chandler's shop that "the hon. member would have been keeping it still." It is only the determined forceful man of brains who, getting in the thin end of the wedge, can drive it home; the mole-eyed have not perception to see an opening, nor the tact and resoluteness to press irresistibly towards the goal. A helping hand is one thing; to be carried the entire journey is quite another. Some men, on the other hand are like greyhounds straining in the leash; they only need to be slipped at the game in sight to run it down, and for well-endowed indomitable workers of this type who will not accept defeat, the coming to Western Australia—a land that is full of adventitious potentialities—has been fraught with the happiest results. Trained in larger communities, which are fervid with intense competition and equipped at all points with the resources of the highest civilisation, the new-comers have seen many gaps in the West which it has been advantageous to them to fill, out of the full measure of their intellectual parts and wide knowledge of the world. There has been plenty of room in the "upper stories" in this awakening community, shaking off the dull sloth of provincialism and laying the foundations of a nation. While such rapid expansion is taking place it is evident that in the domain that brain power occupies the vineyard is large and the labourers are few. Many of the new brigade, with all the vitality and enthusiasm of youth and the maturity of the most virile years of life, have stamped deeply their individuality and their usefulness upon Western Australian history.

George Thomas Simpson, member for Geraldton in the Legislative Assembly, is a bright example of the men who have found their "vocation" in this country. He is a native of Sydney, and is the son of Mr. James Simpson, J.P. (of "Beaumanoir"), whose death has just been recorded. Mr. G. T. Simpson, who was born in 1856, was educated at the Sydney Grammar School, and at the High School, Dunedin. He was intended for the law, but family arrangements prevented his being called to the bar, where his gifts would have found a most congenial and successful sphere. Indeed Mr. Simpson, in his accidental exclusion from the law, can hardly fail to regard himself as a "mute, inglorious Milton." What a brilliant examiner he would have made with his gimlet-like power of probing and his caustic tongue! At the age of seventeen he began a commercial life; but, tiring of its humdrum routine, he five years later endeavoured to "strike oil" at Gisbourne, New Zealand, but the illuminant cost more to produce than it would sell for against the American article. Then for some years he was travelling superintendent of the new Zealand Grain Agency and Mercantile Company. he left that service in 1883, and, going to Broken Hill, acquired experience as a stock and share broker, passing through the ups and downs of fortune that most operators in silver stock experienced in those stirring epochs of the marvellous mines. The Golden valley at Southern Cross had just been discovered when he came to Western Australia in 1888. The hour found the man who started the Stock Exchange of Perth. This important institution, of which Mr. Simpson was the first secretary, made a very humble beginning, as might be expected in a country where mining was at that time almost unknown. The members' roll on the opening day numbered twenty names, whose subscriptions amounted to £12 10s. per man. that was the day of small things, but Mr. Simpson had done the right thing with a prescient eye as to the possibilities of the future. To pay £12 10s. for the privilege of being connected with the Exchange would have been one of the best means of investing this small sum even in this colony of Great Boulders and Wealth of Nations, for to-day (1896) each seat of those original twenty members is worth £300. The aspiring secretary soon desired to play a larger part than that of merely recording the transactions of the Exchange, of which Mr. Alexander Forrest was the first president. He wanted to take a hand in the great game of company promoting, which has since assumed such large and lucrative proportions. He resigned his post and purchased the Fraser's mine at Southern Cross, floated it, and was appointed chairman of directors. This mine has the enviable record of having been the first one in Western Australia to pay a dividend, which it did sixteen months after it was put on the market. Three months after Mr. Simpson had launched himself as what is known as a mining man he acquired the property of Fraser's South, which the public fully subscribed for as soon as it was submitted to them in South Australia. In both these mines Mr. Simpson retains a solid interest. In him Messrs. Macpherson and Peterkin, the discoverers of the Murchison Goldfields, found an active agent who was alert to push their interests, and he has very profitable shares in conjunction with them at Murchison and Coolgardie. As nothing succeeds like success, Mr. Simpson has for several years been standing "on velvet" doing a large business, finding the profit upon his investments growing like the mushroom, holding various offices, and being placed on the boards of numerous companies, among which may be named the following:—From being the secretary of the Perth Stock Exchange he has become its chairman. He is also chairman of the Nannine Gold Mining Company and of the board of the Mining Journal, and a director of the New Chum South Company (Murchison). In common with many other professional men who while they are doing well are fond of rural sights and sounds, Mr. Simpson has done some farming in the south-west and is identified with the wine industry. A shareholder in the Cooringa Vineyard Company Limited, he was elected chairman, and it is pleasing to be able to write that the venture is prospering under his management. In 1890 he chose to be his helpmate for life Miss Alice Sagar, daughter of Mr. John F. Sagar, of Adelaide.

Mr. Simpson, sitting in opposition, is "the Rupert of debate." A born public speaker, his caustic tongue is more than a thorn, it is a barbed arrow, in the side of Government. he is the parliamentary "double" of Lord Westbury, whose photograph has been so admiringly drawn by an English writer, that Mr. Simpson can best be described by reproducing some of his strokes of the picture:—"He was a man of great capacity and energy, into whose nature the scorn of forms and of lesser intellects entered far too freely. He had a tongue of marvellous bitterness. His style of cruel irony was made all the more effective by the popular sauvity of the time in which he gave out his sarcasms and his epithets. With a face that only suggested soft, bland benevolence, with eyes half closed as those of a mediæval saint, and in accents of subdued mellifluous benignity, the Lord Chancellor was wont to pour out a stream of irony that corroded like some deadly acid." When it is known that the member for Geraldton is "up," the body of the House and the strangers' gallery fill rapidly. It is characteristic of Mr. Simpson that the more fiery his words the more frigid his tone and demeanour. There is no other parliamentarian in Western Australia who even distantly resembles him in scathing oratorical power. No one can so easily throw the premier off his guard.