History of West Australia/John Reid

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JOHN REID, C.E.

John Reid HOFWA.jpg
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JOHN REID, C.E.

IT is good that the resources of a rising colony should attract the flower of manhood. Pioneers and scientists wear the Western Australian crowns of olives. The former by their daring, the latter by their skill, have made Western Australia what she is. Science rescues the hard-won prizes of the prospector. But he who, like Mr. John Reid, effectually combined both, must be the recipient of higher awards from the judges and judgment of the colony.

Mr. Reid was born in Yorkshire, in 1854. On completing his education he was indentured to a civil engineering firm in Leeds. This office afforded him experience both wide and varied, which, taken advantage of, proved highly serviceable. No sooner had he qualified as civil engineer than he entered into some engineering contracts on his own behalf. His practice, modest and unassuming at first, grew gradually and unobtrusively into an extensive business. With the confidence of an expert he entered into contracts on a large scale. Perhaps the most noticeable result of his skill is the bridge constructed over the Mersey, for the London and North-Western Railway Company. The excellence of this engineering construction shall, though all else fail, serve to keep his memory green. It was no dissatisfaction with himself or his success that caused him to think of foreign shores. It was the love of change, the problematic chances which unrestricted scope offered, and lastly the soul-possessing ideas of betterment and hopeful contingencies. In 1879, he embarked for South Australia.

Almost simultaneous with the date of his arrival he received the appointment of Constructing Engineer for the Government railways of the colony. In a few years he supervised the construction of 530 miles of railway, and his works generally commended themselves to the Government. He considered it advisable, however, to eventually sever connection with the service, and in 1892 he returned once more to England. But the fascination of the colonies, strong and inexplicable, restricted his stay at home to one year, and before the end of 1893 he was back again enjoying the freedom of colonial life. In Melbourne his engineering reputation was instrumental in making him arbitrator in important civil suits. His advice was sought in the great Robb litigation case—perhaps the greatest litigation case ever entered into in the colonies. Mr. John Robb, a railway contractor, sued the Queensland Government for the enormous sum of £1,000,000, Mr. Reid was engaged as one of the skilled arbitrators, and in his evidence stated the pros and cons of the proceedings. The arbitrators awarded £30,000—divisional reduction as it was—to Mr. Robb.

Whisperings of occasional slight gold discoveries in Western Australia tingled his ears, and with the gradual rise of tone he believed more readily. He eventually came to this colony in connection with Mr. S R. Wilson, the great mine-owner. Mr. Reid toured the Murchison, whence he went to Coolgardie, arriving there six months after Bayley's find. He visited from Coolgardie most of the nascent fields, and his travels were not without due reward. He was appointed a representative for the Octagon Syndicate. To advance the interests of the firm, prospecting parties were equipped and despatched to different centres. The most important finds with which the prospecting parties are credited are Kurnalpi and Menzies discoveries. These were subsequently floated into companies. The original Octagon Syndicate revised its name and nature in 1896, and rechristened itself the Octagon Explorers Company Limited.

One commendable point about this company's procedure is, that it develops its properties before it sells or floats. This effects a readier flotation, a more honourable reputation, and a greater quantum of investing confidence. The most important flotations effected were the Fingall's Reefs at Edjudina, Menzies Gold Reefs Proprietary, Menzies Crusoe Gold Claims, and Menzies Consolidated. These mines have proved their alleged richness, and reflect great credit on the equitable and honest policy of the men who advised their flotations and reported their competency and sterling value. The Octagon Explorers Company have purchased and floated Block Forty Five lease at Kalgoorlie.

Mr. Reid acts as local director for all these companies. For the Octagon Syndicate he acquired 190 acres of alluvial ground at Kurnalpi. To ensure the development of this lease, the Kurnalpi Gold Exploration and Development Company, with a capital of £230,000 was floated. In the Mount Malcolm district the Octagon Company secured 200 acres at Mount Leonora, which lease after due trial and inspection proves to be highly auriferous.

In both his commercial and private life Mr. Reid exhibits that welcome vein of candour which looks down on cant. His administrative abilities cannot but be appraised by the Company, which he has so faithfully striven to aggrandise. Gifted with excellent judgment and a pleasing personality his local career is bound to redound to his satisfaction.