History of West Australia/Richard Adolphus Sholl

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Richard Adolphus Sholl HOFWA.jpg
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Greenham & Evans.

THE duties of the Postmaster-General of Western Australia are not easy, and this Mr. R. A. Sholl finds to his cost. When he entered the Department the number of its employés in Perth could be reckoned on one's fingers. For a yawning period the staff was not materially increased until in recent years, especially during the present decade, clerks and assistants have multiplied with amazing rapidity. To-day he has many hundreds of men directly and indirectly under his control, and he is repeatedly being approached to still further increase his staff in Money Order Offices and Post and Telegraph Departments, and to open branches here and there in widely-separated parts of the immense colony. His task has been one which might well daunt a man of iron, but Mr. Sholl strives zealously to manage the Telegraph and Postal Departments so as to have the minimum of complaint from the constantly increasing public of Western Australia.

Richard Adolphus Sholl is a native of Western Australia, and was born at Bunbury on 18th December, 1846. He was educated at the Bishop's School, Perth, and when about seventeen years of age entered the Western Australian Civil Service as probation clerk in the General Post Office. The Post Office in Perth—in fact, all the State departments—were then concentrated in the present Legislative Council Buildings, the Post Office being confined to a portion of the basement. At that time, also, the Perth Post Office staff consisted of the Postmaster-General, three clerks, and two letter-carriers, Mr. Sholl and another junior increasing the number of clerks to five; there were then only thirty-five attached to the postal staff in the whole colony. By careful attention to his duties, Mr. Sholl gradually rose in position, and in 1873, when ten years in the service, he was appointed chief clerk of his department, which office he held until 1889, when he became Postmaster-General of the whole colony. During all these years he was wont to see new faces constantly appearing in his department, and old ones disappear; the pioneer buildings superseded by large and pretentious structures; and old methods give way to newer and more convenient ones. The five men comprising the Perth staff in 1863 are now increased to over 200, and the staff of the Department in the colony to over 1,000. As time went on the basement of the Legislative Council was found inadequate to cope with all the work, and buildings were occupied in various places until the present handsome edifice in St. George's Terrace was erected. Even this is not now large enough, and additions will have to be made at an early date.

To successfully control the postal and telegraph service has proved a keen problem to Mr. Sholl. Soon after his accession to the high office the new Constitution was granted, and after that the colony showed a steady expansion. To meet the requirements of the increasing population, new Civil servants had to be engaged and post and telegraph offices in various centres opened. Then when the goldfields attracted thousands of people from all over the world, the demand increased beyond all expectation. Telegraph lines had to be erected to the different populated centres, and staffs of operators and clerks despatched to supervise them. Branches of the Postal Department had also to be established, and staffs of men were required to manage them. Hence, Mr. Sholl has had to employ numbers of inexperienced men, and that the affairs of the department have been so successfully conducted is almost a wonder. Blunders have certainly been made, but in justice they cannot be laid at the door of Mr. Sholl. He has been enterprising in the control of his departments, but it has been necessary for him to exercise much judgment and discrimination in considering the excited demands of the rapidly congregating populations. At first, it was absolutely impossible for him, or anybody else, to keep pace with the expansion, but he set resolutely to work, and soon all signs o[ congestion disappeared, and now the departments are working on happy and smooth lines. The clamour of months ago has disappeared, for the public has recognised that Mr. Sholl has strained every nerve to facilitate conveyance, both in the Postal and Telegraph Departments. He has a huge public concern under his control. When he was appointed Postmaster-General the postal and telegraph services presented him with a souvenir as a token of their appreciation. The gathering took place in 1889, and was enthusiastic and complimentary. He has represented the colony at the various Postal Conferences held in different parts of Australia.

In his early manhood Mr. Sholl joined the Metropolitan Rifles. Beginning as a private he rose in the ranks, until now he has retired with the rank of Major, and has been awarded the Long Service Medal lately issued by the Queen. He was a Lieutenant in 1875, Captain Commitreiant in and Major in 1894. He has taken many prizes for rifle shooting, including the Governor's Cup of 1877, which was presented to him by Sir William Robinson, for the best rifle shot of all under arms in Western Australia. By identifying himself with such a useful institution as this, Mr. Sholl has shown an excellent example to all young Western Australians. In 1891 he was gazetted a Justice of the Peace.

During his career Mr. Shall has encouraged sporting in every way. He takes especial interest in horse racing, and was for many years honorary secretary of the West Australian Turf Club. Pressure of public duties eventually compelled him to relinquish the position. With Mr. E. T. Hooley, M.L.A, and a few others, he worked most actively in the interests of the club, and the debt which had accumulated was completely liquidated before he left office. In other respects Mr. Sholl has interested himself in everything which aims at the social advancement of Western Australians.

He married, in 1872, Elime, daughter of Assistant Commissary-General Ashton, an Imperial officer stationed in the colony. This much-respected lady dying, Mr. Sholl was again married, in 1887, to the eldest daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel Sanders, late of the 30th Regiment. Mr. Sholl has a soldierly appearance. He has given Western Australia his best energies in his department, and labours night and day to facilitate the work of the post and telegraph offices. He is a man of method, and deserves high encomiums for his contributions to the public weal.