History of West Australia/Harold B. McCormack

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REMOVE ambition from the motor springs of life, and the result is a limpid, disorganised entity. The consequence of the hypothesis is patent to all; for a little reflection shows that all our aims and ends, so indefinitely and profusely conceived, are but the external covering or shell to that dynamical yoke which is so vaguely represented by the word ambition.

Harold B McCormack HOFWA.jpg
Photo by
Greenham & Evans.

By this strange organic force men are goaded on to the realisation of their ideals, and thrice happy are those whose wills are equal to the task of carrying to the goal the burden of ambition. How often has it been expressed by poet and philosopher alike, that ambition is one of the Creator's greatest blessings. When the wondering world beholds an undaunted struggler, in the heyday of youth, battling against the vicissitudes of life—gradually, yet successfully—it applauds his efforts, and admires the spirit that gives them birth and strength. Yet often do men feel its potent sway, and never act on its stimuli. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Many men go forth on the sea of life, with determination and courage, illumined by this emotional projector, but their bodies seem to clog their ideas, and physical incapacity drags to perdition the best earthborn hopes and ends.

Those who know Mr. Harold B. McCormack will assuredly say that there is a residium of truth in the applicability of these remarks. He was born in Ballarat in 1864. His father, Mr. William Henry McCormack, is one of the oldest solicitors in the wide and prosperous colony of Victoria. His forty years professional reputation projects venerable halo round his name. His knowledge of law was an epitome, accumulated by long and steadfast experience and industry. Master Harold was educated in Geelong till he attained the age of fifteen years—a stage in a boy's life when his aspirations are all aglow, and his energies bubble over with surfeit abundance. The youthful scholar did not entertain any strong desire to wander into the fields of scholastic study; he preferred a free and open life, with its stimulating conceptions of adventure. His roving and romantic notions impelled him to a far-distant station in his fifteenth year. His boyish pride swelled in his breast when he felt himself, for the first time, master of his actions, and beyond the whack and strap of his old Dominie. He lived on the John Tara Station for four years, gaining creditable experience, and acquitting himself as an industrious and capable overseer. He was next found in the pastoral areas of Queensland, on a station leagues removed from the hum and hub of city life, there following his self-chosen career of pastoralist. One triennial period in this colony closed the first chapter of his callings. With the growth of years and ideas his ideals changed, and what was formerly an immovable desire became, in the course of evolution, an aspersion. He felt that professional life had greater potentialities in store, and that mental labours stood in a higher rank than mere mechanical physical effort. Such a change in the world of aims was natural, and marked the first milestone on the road to higher achievements. He forthwith repaired to Melbourne, and was successful in obtaining a position in the Bank of Australasia. For a year he adapted himself to the arithmetical surroundings of his new sphere, but then the atmosphere of his ledger imprisonment became somewhat noxious, and he forsook the money chambers for the pure oxygen of his old haunts. For some time subsequent to his banking experience, and a period of recruit on the hills, he was sub-editor of the Mildura Cultivator. His journalistic proclivities might have won for him a laudable reputation, but the passion of the moment was reviewed as nothing short of a capricious choice. His leaning towards this new phase was ephemeral.

The trend of his life, amid all its heterogeneity, seems to impress the spectator with its irresistible aversion to anything stereotyped or restricting. Let Mr. McCormack have a palatable office, with a multiplicity of diversions into which his enthusiasm for physical exercise drives him, and we find him revelling in his avocations. From the pen, and everlasting copy of the journalist's desk, he escaped to wield the hammer of the auctioneer. There is not much affiliation or affinity between these two spheres, but the adventurer did not pause, for energy conserved with him must have an outlet, and a judicious blending of occupations seemed to his mind an aromatic seasoning, and an antidote against an ever-recurring monotonous sameness. Twelve months later, in 1893 he left for Western Australia. He resolved to catch the tide at its flow, and with all haste set out for this land of promise, leaving others to wait and watch before "they came behind," to quote the words of Lawson. His journey to Coolgardie was characterised by the same unpleasant experiences as those which befell similar travellers in those early days. By train as far as Doodlakine was sufferable, and possibly pleasant, in view of future discomforts, but from that distant terminus, to the auriferous beds of Coolgardie, is a series of unkind hardships that are more graphically felt than narrated.

After several days steady march he reached the locality of the far-booming rush, and he was not a little happy when he disengaged himself from the rather cumbrous swag, whose weight seemed to increase with the march of time. No rest or respite was calmly indulged in on his arrival; with full mining armoury, and sanguine expectations, he assumed the new role of the dry blower on the flat. His first experience could not be termed the unskilful efforts of "new chum," for his success compared favourably with the most fortunate. The flats and their specious contents were hurriedly disembowelled, and the young prospector abandoned operations on this now heap and hole area. Bayley's Reward was already possessed of its first instalment of machinery, and Mr. McCormack engaged to work on the battery when the first five-head were set merrily agoing.

Gradually Coolgardie emerged from dust and lowpitched tents to streets and pretentious edifices. The scene was rapid, the transformation a pleasant spectacle, and the daring prospector gazed amazingly on the kaleidoscopic change of germ, bud, and bloom. Enterprising individuals started business and profession; the bustle and activity of town life prevailed, and everything augured well.

Mr. McCormack's first step was a stride. He became managing clerk in the large legal firm of Horgan, Moorhead, and Harvey. His power of adaptation was decidedly phenomenal. He now amassed valuable insight into the intricate legal machinery of mining, and learnt lessons which were attended with advantageous results.

At such a period of excitement few men of pluck and energy remain long in subservience to the commands and wishes of others. They strike out on ventures of their own. Mr. McCormack set up as a mining agent, and enthusiastic and vigorous capabilities soon attracted an enviable clientele. The very atmosphere at this time was thick with flotations, as infectious as it was necessary. Mr. McCormack co-operated with others in bringing these formations into the realm of existence. His name is closely connected with the flotation of the Mackenzie, Kaniva, Armidale, Dorothy, and Golden Rose mines. Early in 1896 he was appointed to the responsible position of secretary of the Chamber of Mines. The duties of the office demand concentrated attention and intelligence. As secretary of this important institution he has won the respect of its members and of interested adherents without.

At the mining conference, held in Perth in January, 1897, Mr. McCormack was secretary. He was, in fact, the prime mover and instigator of this important assemblage, the results of whose deliberations created a strong impression on mining authorities, both in the colony and abroad. It was categorised by the West Australian as the most successful mining conference ever held in Western Australia. His labours in connection with it were immense, but the awards and praises they necessarily elicited were co-extensive with their arduousness.

Mr. MeCormack's readiness to assist in any public movement has been extensively utilised in Coolgardie. He was appointed hon. secretary of the Railway Opening Committee at Coolgardie in 1896. In athletics, he was captain of the champion junior team of Victoria, and had the enviable honour of being one of the intercolonial rowers.

Caricaturing with Mr. McCormack is a happy pastime. His sketches have often appeared in the Bulletin, and he is a regular contributor in this respect to the Coolgardie Pioneer. He is the fortunate possessor of much real estate in Coolgardie. He married Miss Gertrude Langfield, an English lady, a few years ago in Geelong. Mr. McCormack is a highly popular personage in Coolgardie. He is frank and open-hearted. His numerous manifestations of kindness and public spiritedness have won for him a crowd of sympathetic admirers, whose sincerity is marked by their willingness to requite their many obligations. He is a true colonial, who spurns affectation and cant.