History of West Australia/William Ernest Moxon

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William Ernest Moxon HOFWA.jpg
Photo by
Greenham & Evans.

AUSTRALIANS gaze with complacency at the expansion in commerce which has closely followed the auriferous discoveries of Western Australia. The development in mercantile and maritime affairs came at an opportune moment, and called forth all the administrative talents of the managers of these immense interests. The agitation concerning the block at Fremantle in 1896 was very great, but those who were loudest in their querulous complaints thought least of the tremendous activity displayed by the responsible heads of Government and private traffic.

The name of the Adelaide Steamship Company Limited has been closely associated with the history of development in Western Australia. This company has come to be quite an institution in the colony, and with it the names of James Lilly and Co. and Mr. H. F. Keep. It shared the dull times in trade with the early colonists, and now reaps with the present people the rewards of the wonderful expansion in traffic. Its career along the roughly chartered Western coast has been accomplished without loss of life, while it has suffered from but one marine mishap—that of the old Penola, when a stray tide rip set her on the shore near Point Cloates. The general manager of this large company is Mr. E. Northcote, whose name is known throughout Australia. Locally, the company has been exceedingly fortunate in possessing managers capable of satisfactorily organising the inharmonious and incongruous methods of operation which quickly ensued on the overwhelming expansion. In this connection Mr. W. E. Moxon has been especially successful.

Mr. Moxon was born in Ramsgate in 1863, and was sent to Chigwell Grammar School, Essex, to receive an efficient scholastic training. On leaving school in 1880, he entered the offices of J. and R. Grant, shipowners, in London, with whom he remained for seven years. When he came to Australia he joined the A.U.S.N. Company in Brisbane, and was in that service for four years. Then, with others, he chartered a few ships, and traded them along the Australian coast.

In 1894 Mr. Moxon joined the Adelaide Steamship Company as Queensland Inspector, and had the supervision of all the branch offices throughout the colony of Queensland. But he did not remain there long, and the Adelaide Steamship Company sent Mr. Moxon to Western Australia to act as manager at their Western Australia head office, Fremantle. From April, 1896 the date of his arrival, he has remained local manager of their extensive shipping interests, which have now grown to magnificent and wealthy proportions. When one remembers that the Adelaide Steamship Company started their shipping trade in 1875 with a diminutive fleet of two small steamers and a monthly service, we can judge more clearly of the enormous expansion that has eventuated. To-day the same company runs twenty large, modern, and rapid cargo and passenger steamers engaged in the intercolonial trade. They have long enjoyed a merited reputation in maritime circles, and the safety and commodiousness with which their fleet is endowed have established them the favourites of all travellers. The Western Australian Government has granted them the sole contract of carrying mails all through from Wyndham to Eucla via ports, and they carry an auxiliary mail service to Eastern colonies.

Most of the Westralian coasting trade falls to the share of this company, and their fleet, therefore, plies along the extended shores of this huge colony. They are largely engaged in stock carrying from the northern territories, and a regular line of cargo steamers, besides the coastal mail steamers, bear general merchandise to all coastal ports. But a very large bulk of their trade lies in the inter-colonial passenger and cargo boats, which arrive and depart with full complements of passengers and cargo to and from the East.

The rapid increase has brought with it a great responsibility, which rests on the shoulders of the directors and management. Adaptation to any occasion or emergency has assisted in keeping the company abreast of all requirements.

The Adelaide Steamship Company has a large office staff of twenty men in Fremantle, an aggregate which is no more than adequate to the growing dimensions of the firm. The company gives employment to many labourers in the port, as can be readily perceived when it is stated that for the year ending June, 1897, £15,000 was paid for wharf labour alone. No limit can be set to the growth of the Adelaide Steamship Company. Its footing already is firm, its reputation as a flourishing and well-managed company has been securely established, and its patronage from the public is duly waxing stronger and wider. Their enterprise has been keenly appreciated, for now they navigate 6,000 miles of the Australian coast. Mr. Moxon is chairman of the Steamship Owners of Australasia, Fremantle Branch and is a prominent committeeman of the Chamber of Commerce. In this useful institution Mr. Moxon's abilities have promoted the commercial welfare of the colony.