History of West Australia/John Hurst

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COUNCILLOR JOHN HURST (PERTH).

John Hurst HOFWA.jpg
Photo by
Greenham & Evans.
CR. JOHN HURST.

PARLIAMENTARY and municipal ranks in Australia gain much benefit by the accession of experienced men from Great Britain. Some of these gentlemen have had a wide experience in business and public capacities in the old country; they came to the antipodes and applied their knowledge under the new conditions existing here. This more particularly applies to municipal politics. In Great Britain they have lived for many years helping to guide, or carefully watching the guidance of, local bodies. They have digested the experience of many years, and the best means for the satisfactory local government of large centres of population. The public works and the sanitary branches have received especial attention, and, reaching Australia with a close and keen knowledge of these, they are able to render immense assistance to Australian local bodies.

Perth has received no small benefit in this way. Not a few of her councillors, past and present, have had experience in these matters in one way or other in the Northern Hemisphere. Their accession to the council should be warmly welcomed, and their opinions and advice should be listened to with respect. Although the conditions here are quite different, yet, broadly speaking, the lessons learnt elsewhere can be safely applied. In Councillor Hurst the Perth City Council has found an invaluable member, and one who out of his experience is able to guide councillors out of many difficulties. More particularly in the public works and sanitary branches Mr. Hurst has much to say with good effect.

John Hurst was born in Guildford, Surrey, in 1844, but when six or seven years old he left there with his parents to reside in the vicinity of London. He was educated in the great metropolis, and also gained his commercial grounding amid the world's markets. When he was twenty-three years of age he established a business of his own as a contractor, auctioneer, and valuator, in the East End, London. He there gained a fairly large connection, and after some years removed to Teddington-on-Thames. In this suburb his work increased to large dimensions, and in contracting he was probably at that time the largest in the district. In fact, he built nearly half Teddington as it then was, and, besides, he evinced no small interest in its early municipal life. He was elected to the local board in 1872, and was responsible for many improvements in sanitary and health matters, in the satisfactory laying of drains, &c. Subsequently he left the board or council to carry out large and important drainage works for the body. Upon their completion he went to Eastbourne, where he assisted in the incorporation of the town as a borough, and would have been elected a councillor had he not owned the building in which the council held its meetings. He was thus disqualified. Many years of great activity were passed, years in which he was storing away all the concentrated experience to be gained under such congenial conditions, and 1887 arrived. In that year Mr. Hurst determined upon leaving the Old World, and he came to Western Australia. He took up his residence in Perth, and entered into business as a contractor, valuator, and hotelbroker. Although his business relations were not at first extensive, they eventually grew in importance, and the day came when Mr. Hurst handed over the contracting branch to his son, Mr. Howard Edward Hurst, and devoted himself entirely to real estate matters, hotel broking, and valuating. The ramifications of his enterprise have been constantly increasing, and bring him in large profits. He has invested in city properties and, also, largely in mining. He is now director of several mining companies, and has done fairly well out of these ventures.

It will be supposed that Mr. Hurst soon turned his attention to local municipal matters. Some six years ago he was elected for the East Ward in the Perth Council, and he has retained his seat from then till now, with the exception of one year, when he was defeated by two votes. His personality was manifested, and his experience put to account in the council. He was appointed chairman of the works committee, and because of his large and varied connection with the duties and objects of such a body, he has been enabled to render considerable service to Perth. His expert knowledge has often proved valuable, and the council and ratepayers have consequently benefited. Then he was elected a member of the sanitary committee, in which his work has been little less marked than in the other respect. His important contract undertakings in drainage arrangements in London suburbs have made him an expert in all sanitary affairs, and though he has not done so much as he would wish, yet he has been a valuable presence when all drainage affairs are before the council. So substantial have been Councillor Hurst's works in these capacities that he has been requested to stand for a seat in Parliament, but as yet has refused. After much persuasion, in 1895, he consented to stand for the mayor's chair in the Perth Council. When Mr. Saunders' candidature was announced, he wished to retire from the contest, but, owing to strong influence, could not. He was defeated.

In 1863 Mr. Hurst married a daughter of Mr. William Reader, of Poplar, East London. Mr. Hurst is widely known as a benevolent man. Let one in poverty appeal to him and win his respect, and he is liberal to a degree. We can believe that few have asked him for bread and been given a stone. He is a prominent Freemason, and is a Past Master of five different Lodges, founder of three Royal Arch Chapters, and was Steward of the London Charities. With the Dean of Perth and the Hon. Mr. Hackett, Mr. Hurst has for some time been making arrangements for the establishment of a Masonic Benevolent Institute in Perth. In business circles he is a director of the Fresh Food and Fish Preserving Company Limited, whose works are situated at Mandurah. He is also a director of the Menzies and Niagara Brewing Company, and in mining is a director of several mines at North Dandalup.

In appearance Mr. Hurst is a massive and imposing man. Grey, of medium height, and stalwart, he bears his years well, and has one of the finest presences in Western Australia. He is considered an expert in all sanitary and works matters in the council, as is shown by the positions he holds on the committees. He has undoubtedly been a great acquisition to the colony.