History of West Australia/Harry Page Woodward

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HARRY PAGE WOODWARD, J.P., F.G.S., F.R.G.S, F.I. Inst., &c.

EVEN in a hyper-democratic age like ours we are not warranted in stating a proposition in precise mathematical form, thus:—Degree is to pedigree what substance is to straw. For this is a cruel reduction of the second half of the ratio to a blank inane. Suppose we say that degree is an indicator of the strength of mental solutions, and that pedigree serves as a mercurial thermometer for testing the quality of blood solution, then we shall have told the bare truth without compromising ourselves. But when we remember the deep, sententious saying of the great philosopher, Sir William Hamilton, which he so loved that he caused it to be inscribed on the walls of his classroom in the Edinburgh University, "0n earth there is nothing great but man; in man there is nothing great but mind," we are forced to put degree on a pedestal, and pedigree in a waxwork.

Harry Page Woodward HOFWA.jpg
Photo by
Greenham & Evans.

A scholastic or scientific degree should grant the holder a life-tong lease of knowledge. It implies a high educational standard, and what is usually styled "talent." Few know, other than the fortunate possessors, of the vast extent of knowledge, and the concomitant labour, involved in its acquisition.

Mr. H. P. Woodward was born in Norwich in 1858. His father, Dr. Henry Woodward, is, and has been for many years, keeper of the Geological Department of the British Museum. In this capacity the eminent doctor successfully conducts works of geological research. His name has been quoted as an authority in geological treatises that aspire to the rank of standard texts. Harry's early career was spent within the scholastic walls of the University College, Bow Street, London, which, as a scientific institution, compared favourably with any sister college in Britain. Many eminent men of letters and science figure as alumni and graduates of this University. Her success in rearing distinguished sons is to be ascribed to the efficiency of her professors, the high standard of instruction imparted to her students, and the rigour and severity of her examinations.

The close of the "magistrand" year is a memorable event in the student's life. He bids good-bye, sad and sore at heart, to these hallowed walls. Toga and trencher—the emblems and heralding of studentdom—are now consigned to an everlasting rest on the press shelf. Their duty now is to serve as relics and reminiscences of the past. Mr. Woodward had not, however, said adieu to books and study. As an undergraduate he had specialised in some specific subjects of science. These he now proceeded to study more minutely in the Royal School of Mines in London. He embraced them with an enthusiasm and fervour that made devotion a pleasure and gain.

But somewhat damping to his scientific ardour was the paternal request to enter an office. Its satellites of stools, pens, and sickly clerks bad never any attractions for him. Obedience and not love made him adapt himself to these tiresome surroundings. In a short time dislike drove him away. He could brook it no longer, and left to undertake some artistic work in lithography and engraving. But even this was not destined to be his line of life. He felt more keenly than ever an attachment to science. He again went to the School of Mines fully determined to pursue and master. The subjects of exclusive study comprised chemistry, metallurgy, geology and advanced mining. Success attended perseverance; innate abilities facilitated study. The teacher recognised his capabilities, and offered him the appointment of Assistant Government Geologist of South Australia. Mr. Woodward accepted, and sailed to the new sphere of operations in 1883. He assisted the senior geologist of the colony, Mr. H. Y. L. Brown, for three and a half years. In 1886 he sailed to England to subserve the interests of the colony at the Indian and Colonial Exhibition.

After severing himself from his colonial connection Mr. Woodward engaged in further study in London, with a view to compete in the Indian geological survey examination. For the third time he wrote his name in the School of Mines album, and proceeded to the old haunts at the laboratory. Nothing perhaps is so fascinating as the often prolonged attempts to reach certain results in research. Scientists are quite prepared to spend nights and days in the pursuit of a certain result. While still intent on entering for the competitive examination, he received an offer from the Western Australian Government of the position of Government Geologist, rendered vacant by the death of Mr. Hardman. His appointment dated from December, 1887.

When he landed in Western Australia the Anstey rush near Northam was setting in. Proceeding to the spot soon after his arrival he reported on the fields for the Government. The gold period of the colony's history was commenced, and his duties increased correspondingly with the increase of finds. In quick succession the Von Bibra and Golden Valley rushes took place, necessitating his presence and exhaustive reports. From small beginnings and stray finds discoveries of mines waxed in wealth and numbers. This quick flow of fortune entailed enormous and an altogether disproportionate amount of labour, From mine to mine, from territory to territory, Mr. Woodward hastened. Every goldfield of the colony was personally visited by him. From Esperance to Wyndham his duties required his presence. His geological knowledge of the colony is as extensive as it is interesting. Many parts, he admits, are geologically uninteresting, but the Kimberley and north-west district teem with attractions.

Many considerations finally induced Mr. Woodward to resign his appointment in 1895. Shortly afterwards he joined the firm of Bewick, Morling, and Co., wealthy capitalists, financiers, investors, mining and consulting engineers. He manages for the firm, in conjunction with Mr. Hooper. Their business connection is vast and their capital considerable. Mines are bought and managed for English companies, and theirs is the largest firm of the kind in Western Australia.

Mr. Woodward was created a Justice of the Peace in 1893. He has contributed to the literature of the colony by the publication of his "Handbook of Western Australia." This handbook, euphemistically so christened, is an exhaustive and valuable volume. Its multifarious information on all the scientific aspects of the colony, on the extent and nature of local mineral wealth, and its valuable contributions to geological knowledge render it a highly erudite treatise. Many a reminiscence can Mr. Woodward relate of strange adventures and incidents during his travels. His official capacities were often geological in name only. Telegraph communication and the ever-recurring question of the blacks had to be reported on from time to time. A mixture such as this of elements possessing no affinity to each other was not always pleasing. It is like a pantomimic act, where the same actor appears in successive roles as the hero, the missionary, and the mechanic.

The attainments and scientific skill of Mr. Woodward have won for him admission into various institutes and halls of science. He is a Fellow of the Imperial Institute, Associate Member of the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers, and (1896) president of the Western Australian branch of the same. He is besides a mining member of the Institute of Mines and Metallurgy, London. Theory blended with practice, intuition brought to bear on empiricism, are secrets of success. His services to the colony have been commensurate with his skill. The geological facts and treasures of the colony have been carefully expounded and lucidly narrated by him, and his advent heralded a new regime in the scientific conduct of geological and chemical affairs.