History of West Australia/Robert Lees Hair

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Robert Lees Hair HOFWA.jpg
Photo by
Greenham & Evans.

"GIVE me knowledge of a man's character and circumstances, "John Stuart Mill exclaimed, "and I will predict his future, and the correctness of my prediction will be in proportion to my knowledge of these components." Such an assertion, denying the existence of free will, would, if practicable and reliable, entirely abolish the narration of past events, and substitute for it a narrative of future and future perfect events. The history of nations and individuals would merely become a corroborative and reference manuscript. But such disaster is not likely to overtake us on this side of the millennium. No doubt there are men—and this is no mere hypothesis—possessing rare determination, and teeming with vigour and energy, for whom we can safely predict, or at least augur, a bright future. If a man has the essential qualifications, he can outdistance others in the race for position. Mr. Robert Lees Hair, when he came to the colony, agreed with multiple writers that "hard work" is the summum bonum of philosophy and success. He had a hard task before him, but to counterbalance its depressing influence, he possessed a will capable of overcoming every obstacle. He was born in Gippsland, Victoria, in 1860. His father was for many years a farmer in the Alberton district, where the young Robert received careful training under a private tutor. At the age of nineteen years he prepared to enter business life. Going to Melbourne, he connected himself with the well-known firm of Robertson and Moffat in that city. For three years he performed the unwelcome role of commercial traveller for the firm, and, after considerable business experience reaped during that valuable period, he embarked on a little enterprise of his own. It is, perhaps, one of the proudest moments of a man's life when, after serving another, he feels himself the untrammelled, supreme captain of his own affairs. When a land boom forces itself in any city, a natural infection leads every business man to set up an agency. The very atmosphere smells of land, and the competition and mad excitement of buying and selling makes the purse of the land agent swell out to bursting point. This was the state of affairs in Melbourne when Mr. Hair set up a business as land and estate agent. His success made him feel proud of his first endeavour, and he averted any calamity which a severe re-action might cause in land prices. In June of 1893 he sailed for Western Australia in the S.S. Bullarra. On his arrival he set out on what was then the tedious journey of getting to Coolgardie. Many a story and witty anecdote has been told of travellers who sought to enliven dreary moments by humorous mirth. Mr. Hair found on his way to Coolgardie a few others bent on attaining the same spot, and he availed himself of their comradeship. On the 21st July, 1893, he reached his destination. He remained in Coolgardie for a breathing space, and made for Kalgoorlie, arriving there on the 22nd July. That thriving centre was known as Hannan's, and had not received the baptismal name of Kalgoorlie. He found it a place in name only, for as yet there were only three working leases—Cassidy's Hill, Maritana, and Hannan's Reward. Few prospectors awoke the deathlike universal silence by the click and clatter of their trusty picks and shovels, and though the quartz for miles around was thickly studded with burnished gold, there were few hunters to seize the prizes. With difficulty Mr. Hair succeeded in organising a prospecting party, which equally divided its labours—a party of two, comprising Mr. Hair, going in search of reefs, and the remaining two going in search of alluvial gold. The profits and surplus earnings and gleanings of the latter were but sufficient to compensate for the losses and ill-starred luck of the former. The difference was great enough, however, to enable them to buy a further store of provisions. Again they set to work, and in a month's time they pegged out the Black Crow Claim, which was re-named the Star of the East, and sold to an English company. A great water famine overtook them, and Mr. Hair's chicken-hearted comrades, for weal or woe, abandoned him just at a time when their company was most necessary. Undaunted by their defection, he, with all the vigour that his body could furnish, wrought his leases. He never relinquished his hopes, nor let his courage die, and his joy after suffering was great when an abundant supply of water came to cool what had become a feverish and thirsty tongue.

With renewed energy, after trying experiences, he joined Mr. Harry Buchanan, and went out again to seek and find. The result of their combined prospecting efforts was the opening up of the Six-Mile, and a number of rich alluvial fields. These latter were as rich as anything in Hannan's, and more than once was it their happy lot to stoop down and pick up from the surface large teeth-watering nuggets of twenty-five ounces weight. Mr. Hair successfully worked the alluvial claims, and took out a lease for the Morning Star Mine, which for the present, however, did not engage his active attentions. This undeveloped mine the two gentlemen disposed of in three months time to an English company for £3,000. Mr. Hair's career on the goldfields had been one continual series of hard, enterprising endeavours. He now considered that the adoption of a different department of commercial life would be a judicious departure, and a welcome respite. Acting on such reflections, he started business in Hannan's as an auctioneer, and conducted several important Government sales of land blocks, which realised £36,000. When speculation became more general, he went in for stock and sharebroking, and in partnership with Mr. George Macleod Matheson, he initiated a large stockbroking business in Kalgoorlie. These gentlemen were the promoters of the Kalgoorlie Stock Exchange and Mr. Matheson was elected its first chairman. On his demise the vacant chairmanship fell to the lot of Mr. Hair. He has since successfully filled that post, and carried out the many responsible duties attached to it.

He acted as chairman of the Kalgoorlie Railway Opening Committee. In this capacity he was warmly thanked for his sound methodical advice and practical assistance. His love for sports rises to enthusiasm. He is vice-president of the Kalgoorlie Racing Club and the Kalgoorlie Athletic Club, and is associated with many others. Mr. Hair is a member of the Hannan's Club, and was one of its promoters. This club is social in character, and is of indispensable use to its many members.

Bound closely to the interests of Kalgoorlie, Mr. Hair is applying his energies and shrewdness to the good of the centre. Genial and businesslike, he is at once one of the best known and best liked men on the fields. He is a leader in mining affairs.