History of West Australia/William Johnston Holmes

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William Johnston Holmes HOFWA.jpg
Photo by
Greenham & Evans.

THE paths trodden by Mr. W. J. Holmes and his brother, Mr. J. J. Holmes, were widely divergent in their earlier days. It seems a happy ending to the hard work which they accomplished in the country that they should have come to bustling centres of civilisation to there make their mark as business men and private citizens. Happy, too, that the relations existing between them are of the cordial character which betokens a sacred regard for the home which watched them in their childhood's days.

William Johnston Holmes was born at the Vasse, Western Australia, in 1860, and is the twin brother of Mr. R. H. Holmes. His education over, he entered the Civil Service, joining the Electric Telegraph Department. Salaries in those days were not munificent, and after about twelve months of telegraphic work he left the department and retired to the rural surroundings of his father's farm on the Murray River. For several years he was engaged in active farming operations, and then he longed for something of a freer and more romantic kind. He joined the mounted police, and was sent to the Williams district, on the Great Southern line. A fine horseman, with the typically Australian knack of being able to stick to the saddle, Mr. Holmes found his riding qualities put to a very severe test when following a law-breaking native, or scouring the rugged country in search of an offender fleeing from the wrath that was to come in the courts of law. He displayed marked ability whilst in the Williams district, and this was rewarded by his being transferred to the Irwin district as 0fficer in charge. Mr. Holmes was stationed at Dongara, and had an area of 700 miles to control. He was indeed a man of many parts, for in addition to his duties as head of the police, combined with the role of Crown Prosecutor, he was clerk to the magistrates, clerk to the local court, electoral registrar, and customs officer. Whilst filling these many positions his experiences were varied and interesting. At one time and another serious troubles arose among the blacks, who were only too eager to rob the settler of his flocks. Bringing these offenders to justice meant much work for Mr. Holmes, whose district embraced 700 miles of territory. Having had three years of this life he returned to Perth and Fremantle, where he threw in his lot with the then starting firm of Holmes Brothers, and aided one by another the brothers have pulled splendidly together in the business world. Mr. William Johnston Holmes, earlier in the history of the firm, managed the Perth establishment, but in 1897 he took over the control of the goldfields branches at Coolgardie, Kalgoorlie, Menzies, and Kanowna. Mr. R. Holmes does the whole of the extensive buying for the firm, and on Mr. G. D. Holmes devolves the task of the management of the Fremantle branches.

Mr. W. J. Holmes, who was made a J.P. in May, 1897, has been for three years a lieutenant in the local volunteer forces. He has ever shown his faith in the country of his birth by the consistent manner in which he has invested capital.

No one begrudges the success of the four brothers. While they may each be different in disposition, they give to us severally and individually the brighter and happier phases of human kind.