History of West Australia/William Alexander

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William Alexander HOFWA.jpg
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THE roving life has been one of the great motors of civilisation; it discovered new worlds and founded nations. It is well for Great Britain that the strain of blood of the old Norsemen still runs strong within the veins of many of her children. The Norsemen were adventurous and enterprising, willing to brave many dangers and undergo great hardships, so that they might see new scenes and enrich themselves. They settled in numbers in different parts of Great Britain, and their children and children's children for all the many ensuing generations have married and intermarried with the original possessors of the soil and immigrants from other countries. Thus the instincts of the then time strong race have been handed down, and still form a peculiar characteristic of the inhabitants of the mother lands. It has been manifested in many ways during the last few hundred years, adding power and opulence to Great Britain.

If it were possible to place before the world all that the man of a roving disposition has seen in his eventful history—the charming, varied, thrilling scenes which he has passed through in the different theatres of his experiences—there would be exhibited a kaleidoscopic set picture of surpassing interest, an object-lesson in geography and commerce, from which much that is didactic and useful could be obtained. Consciously or unconsciously, each passing scene, each peculiar condition, each strange country, has probably bad some influence in the moulding of his character and the consummation of his career. He gleans lessons from every form of existence, which, put together and analysed, should make him a philosopher among philosophers, a learned man above all others. He may cite a precedent, an example of indisputable value, for almost every subject. Finally, age or circumstance impels him to settle in some one place, and he insinuates himself into the local economy with the facility of a citizen of the world. His wide range of observation bas qualified him to hold his own in all commercial concerns and in the government of people; his experience is not to be denied. Perhaps a better training sphere for politics could not be obtained. The rover has done much for his country; it was a happy day for Great Britain when the first hordes of Norsemen were attracted to her shores. Without them, perhaps, the Greater Britain would never have been reared in the plenitude of its power.

In Nature's "open book" Mr. William Alexander, M.L.C., learnt his useful lessons. He has been an extensive traveller, especially in the younger countries of the Southern Hemisphere. The conclusion of his wanderings found him engaged in mercantile pursuits in Western Australia, and on a subsequent date debating in her Parliament. William Alexander was born at a small town near Forfar, Scotland. He was educated at a private school in Forfar, and in the year 1866 left his native country for Queensland. He reached that Australian colony, and it seemed that he had determined to settle there. Connecting himself with commercial pursuits, he lived quietly for some time. But the discovery of great quartz fields apparently infused in him a love of adventure and wandering enterprise. He was on the famous Gympie (Q.) fields when the first quartz reefs were opened up and took some part in mining. Years passed, going from place to place in Queensland, and then his adventurous disposition knew no bounds. He sailed for New Zealand, and after visiting different parts of the beautiful islands of the brave Maori he voyaged from South Sea island to South Sea island. He worked 'mid some of these "gardens of the world," 'neath palm and cocoanut and fern. He visited the Sandwich Islands, landed in Mexico, and passing through that go]den country journeyed to Brazil. A lapse of time discovered him in the River Plate employed in a bank at Buenos Ayres. Not yet contented, he crossed the Pampas to Valparaizo, where he found the dread yellow fever decimating the inhabitants. Making a circuit of the city, wisely determining not to risk his life there while the epidemic raged, he continued on until once more he arrived at his starting point, Buenos Ayres. With other young men he eventually went to Monte Video (Uruguay), where a revolution was in progress. He enlisted as a soldier, saw some active fighting, and passed through exciting experiences enough to fill a book of romance. Tiring of bloodshed, he set his face towards Rio de Janeiro, intending to immediately return to Scotland. But at Rio he contracted the yellow fever; for many days he lay between life and death, and in his convalescent period was able to while away dull hours in musing upon the rapid, exciting changes of the previous few years. He had seen the fertile plateaus of the eastern slopes of South America, that fructive land denuded from the western mountains by storms of wind and rain and in casting down reclaimed space from and impinged on the dominion of the oceans; he passed up and down and across the great waterways, and admired the abnormal, bright, and supremely beautiful tropical vegetation; he saw insect life in all its myriad forms of brilliancy and banefulness; strange, mysterious peoples, wandering aimlessly over the continent; innumerable of his own countrymen garnering all the latent wealth of the golden west; the garden islands of the Pacific, and the great Australian continent. He recovered from his sickness, sailed to Scotland, and took a well-earned rest amid his native bracken.

Once more Mr. Alexander left Scotland for Queensland, where he was associated with commercial affairs. In 1887 he made a tour to the west of our continent and visited Western Australia. His experience told him that there was a prosperous future before this colony, but the time was not yet. He again took up his duties in Queensland. The agitation for responsible government in Western Australia and the likelihood of a successful issue to them soon attracted capital from the eastern colonies, and in 1890 Mr. Alexander paid a second visit to the colony. On this occasion he resolved to take up his residence here, and, selling out his interests in Queensland, in 1891 he permanently settled in Western Australia. He invested his money in a business, and also in real estate. He reckoned that the prosperity so long expected would soon arrive, and be purchased properties in Perth. In Hay Street he erected large two-storey buildings, which at the time astonished local people and made them believe that Mr. Alexander was throwing away his money on such expensive structures. But he knew better than they; in the next three or four years numerous large buildings began to rear their heads in the capital. To-day Mr. Alexander's properties return him lucrative rentals, and those who told him five years ago that he was twenty years before the times now envy his enterprise. His investments have nearly all resulted to his advantage, and now his income is a large one. The mining industry came in for a share of his attention, and he invested fairly heavily in ventures on the different goldfields. He fitted out prospecting parties, and now holds interests in the districts extending from Cue and Lawlors to the various Coolgardie fields and Menzies. No one will deny but that Mr. Alexander considered with reason in 1891 that the time of Western Australian prosperity had arrived. Mr. Alexander watched the course of local politics with interest. His mind, which is apt to dwell on political problems to disintegrate them, led him into the busy arena. In 1895 he was elected to the Legislative Council to fill a vacancy, caused by the death of Mr. Henty, in the Central Province. During the two subsequent sessions he has been an active member of the Chamber and has spoken with effect on many matters of great importance to the colony. His further career in Parliament should be a successful one. He has given great satisfaction to his constituents, and represents their interests to their profit. About twenty years ago Mr. Alexander married at Toowoomba, Queensland. Although his life has brought him numerous hardships, they appear to have had no ill effects. He is a well preserved man, astute, enterprising and industrious.