History of West Australia/William Paterson

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TO be thoroughly conversant with the resources and environments of one's native country should be the aim of every man. Knowledge is power, and power is what every patriotic Australian should seek not only in his own interests but in the interests of his native land. Learning forms a foundation for knowledge, which can only be obtained by actual experience, and by applying that knowledge in the right direction a man benefits the whole community. Unfortunately, there are too few men disinterested enough to sacrifice their personal interests to those of country, and when one man does show by his actions that he is prepared to do so, his name richly deserves credit in proportion to his merit. Australia has produced a fair proportion of men of this class, and the native-born of the great Western Colony are well forward in the ranks.

William Paterson HOFWA.jpg
Photo by
Greenham & Evans.

Mr. William Paterson resigned his place in the political world to devote his energies to the difficult task of steering the Agricultural Bank through its first intricate passages to prosperity, which suggests that he has the interests of the country at heart. There are few men in Western Australia so competent to carry on this work as Mr. Paterson, for he has not only a good commercial education, but a thorough knowledge of the country.

Mr. Paterson is the son of the late Mr. Nicol Robertson Paterson, an erstwhile merchant of Fremantle, and subsequently a farmer of some 1,000 acres of rich agricultural land at Pinjarra. After receiving a good elementary education in the colony he went to Birmingham, where he had the advantage of studying under Mr. V. Howell, M.R.C.P. Mr. Paterson remained in the great manufacturing centre for two years and a half, when he returned to the colony with his ideas broadened by travel.

After the father's death, which occurred in 1873, Mr. V. Paterson and his brother (Mr. G. R. Paterson) carried on the farm until 1881, when the latter took up land on the Fitzroy River on behalf of the Murray Squatting Company. The following year Mr. W. Paterson left the quiet of Pinjarra for the wilds of the north with sheep, cattle, and horses to stock the land. His company landed at Roebuck Bay and crossed Forrest's track of 1880, and proceeded hence to the Fitzroy River, where land was taken up, which the company eventually sold to Mr. A. Forrest, who was purchasing on behalf of a Mr. Game, an English gentleman.

The company, which consisted of Messrs. A. R. Richardson (Minister of Lands), S. R. Elliott, H. Cornish, and the Paterson brothers, then purchased a large station of 130,000 acres on the Fortescue River. This property, by the good management of the company, improved wonderfully, and is one of the best in the district. It was stocked with 18,000 sheep, cattle, and a number of high-class horses. Mr. Paterson, who still retains an interest in the property, only resided upon it a few months, when he returned to Pinjarra, and in 1886 removed to Perth to assume the management of a large iron foundry. The attractions of country life, however, were too deeply implanted to allow him to remain in the city, and six months later he threw up his appointment and went to reside on his beautiful property at Witby Falls, 29 miles from Perth, and near Jarrahdale. This estate is divided into orchard, vineyard, and farm, and consists of about 130 acres, of which about 85 acres are under vines and fruit trees and the rest under crops. The land, which was the twenty-third selection taken up in Western Australia, is beautifully situated, and is in truth one of the gems of Western Australia.

Mr. Paterson, who is married to Miss S. Chidlow, daughter of Mr. W. Chidlow, of Springfield, Northam, had up to his retirement from politics taken a keen interest in the public affairs of the colony, and was a sound legislator. He first entered the arena in 1880, when he contested the seat for the Murray and Williams constituency in the old Legislative Council against Captain Fawcett, whom he defeated by a large majority. Mr. Paterson retained this seat until Constitutional Government came into force, when he was elected without opposition for the Murray constituency in the Lower House. In the elections of 1894 Mr. W. J. George entered the lists against him, but was defeated. The Agricultural Bank, which has for its object the advancement and furthering of agricultural interests, at this time required organising, but who was capable of doing it successfully was a moot question. One of the principal purposes of the institution is to assist by advances men desirous of settling on the land, and as the securities are not always the best the greatest care is essential in the conduct of the business. Among all the men in the colony who were suggested for the position Mr. Paterson was unanimously agreed to be the most suitable and was pressed to the office of manager. His colleagues in the House pointed out that with his knowledge of the country and its resources he would be invaluable to the State, and after mature consideration he consented. He accordingly resigned his seat in the Legislative Assembly and entered on his new duties. Under Mr. Paterson's able administration the affairs of the bank are proceeding smoothly, much to the satisfaction of the farming community.

Few men with Mr. Paterson's penchant for politics would have sacrificed their inclinations to the call of duty as he has done. In the semi-public position he now occupies he is rendering the colony invaluable services and placing it under obligation.