Fremantle Stuff > Early Days: Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society

Early Days, Volume 5, 1955-1961

Builders of Albany: Alexander Moir, Merchant and Pastoralist

Robert Stephens

Stephens, Robert 1958, 'Builders of Albany: Alexander Moir, Merchant and Pastoralist', Early Days, Volume 5, Part 4: 38-51.

THE MANTLE

The purpose of this monograph is to record the life of Alexander Moir, against the background of his times, and the part he played in the development of Albany and the Plantagenet and Kent districts. The third son of John and Elizabeth Moir, he was born at Markinch, Fifeshire, Scotland on 10th April, 1826. His eldest brother was John, the next Andrew and a younger brother, George. Andrew, during 1842, had arrived to work on Uncle George Cheyne’s establishment at Cape Riche. In a letter to his parents dated June, 1848, (now in the author’s possession) Andrew acknowledged a letter from home a year earlier. His long letter tells of many things, one extract is especially relevant. “We ought to be thankful to God as Alexander is so anxious to come out to me. I have spoken to Mr. Cheyne about it and he is very anxious to have him and George along with him, which I think will be for the advantage of them both in the end. Prophetic words!

Andrews letter to his father was forwarded to Scotland enclosed with a covering letter from Uncle George Cheyne, written from King George’s Sound on 10th June, 1848. In it, after mentioning Andrew’s wish that his brothers should join him at Cape Riche, and his willingness to assist, he set out clearly the conditions upon which he was prepared to co-operate in providing for the passage of both brothers to Western Australia. It then continued:

“I believe independent of his having so many relations on my farm, he will find himself more comfortable than he would on any other station in the Colony."

Then referring to the youngest son George, the letter went on:

“I should like very well to have your son George also and if you are disposed to part with him I should take him to be bound to me for five years, and if he is to come it would be better to let him accompany his brother."

Both letters were answered when the ship "Dido" reached Fremantle on 6th December, 1850, and Alexander and George stepped ashore accompanied by their parents John and Elizabeth and their two sisters. In the January following they all reached Albany. Alexander and George went to the Cape Riche station while their parents and sisters made their home on Albany Town Lot 15 at the corner of Stirling Terrace and Spencer Street in George Cheyne’s original Albany house.

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FOUNDATIONS

It will appear as the life’s story of the subject of this monograph unfolds that the ever alert Cheyne (without heir) had, within a year, selected from all his nephews Alexander Moir as the Elisha upon whom in due course, his colonizing mantle sould fall. Alter a year spent at Cape Riche he returned to Albany during January, 1852 at the age of 26.

A picture of the town, which was to be the home of the young Scot for the following forty years, is preserved in the following pen picture by William Westgarth, who passed through the port aboard the P. & O. steamer “Simla” during February, 1857. It applied equally on Alexander’s return from Cape Riche in 1852.

“The little town of Albany, situated on the northern side of the inner harbour, lies on a southern slope between two hills. The houses, dotted here and there amongst the green landscape, give a pleasing effect from the water. It was impossible not to admire the magnificent shrubs through which we picked our way between the high-water mark and a sort of natural terrace above us, on which the scattered little town was built. The fragrance of these plants was delicious. A boy on the beach told us that the town had several stores and one street, which we would reach on ascending the terrace. We all accordingly got into the latter, and several ladies adjourned to the former to replenish their stocks of boots and calicoes.”

The census of 1849 revealed the population of the Plantagenet district, including Albany, as 428. To continue from Westgarth’s record in 1857:

“Albany contains about 350 inhabitants, and the whole district, called Plantagnet, about 800. It includes a considerable proportion of ticket-of-leave and conditional-pardon men.”

He could have mentioned also that the streets contained neither made roads nor footpaths.

Alexander’s arrival coincided with a turn for the better in the tide of Albany’s prospects consequent upon its selection by the British Admiralty as a coaling depot for a regular steam mail service to be established between England and the Eastern States (then Colonies).

The promising prospects for the port’s future prosperity resulted in at least one matrimonial venture. On 24th February, 1854, at the District Registrar’s office in the two-storied Court House on the golden strand of Princess Royal Harbour at the foot of Spencer Street, Alexander Moir was married by the Registrar, John W. Sillifant, to Catherine Hymus, who with her parents, had arrived in the Colony as settlers for the ill-fated* Australind Settlement. The civil marriage was,

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doubtless, occasioned by the absence from Albany of Archdeacon Wollaston on his annual official visitation of all the C. of E. churches in the Colony which took place each year during the four months January to April.

THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY

The bright hopes of Albany's citizens were soon dimmed by dark clouds, the war clouds of the Crimean War in 1854. This resulted in the withdrawal of all mail steamers for use as troop transports. Clouds also obscured any records, either official or private, which could have told the nature of Alexander Moir's employment during the war years 1854-56. Being the man he subsequently proved to be and the fact his Uncle George Cheyne was still actively associated with his Albany and Cape Riche business interests, the writer makes bold to mention some of Cheyne’s Albany projects upon which his chosen nephew could have been gainfully employed, not only daring the war years, but also from the time of his return to Albany in 1852. This the more likely by reason of his knowledge of both the trades of mason and carpenter. Such projects could have been the erection of a two-storied granite residence on Albany Lot 814 in Stirling Terrace for Cheyne's own use (the Norman House of to-day), a wind flour mill on Albany Lot S16 in Spencer Street, a substantial granite retaining wall on the Frederick Street frontage of both the Lots mentioned to stay the sand drift from the northern slopes of Mount Clarence, a wall still serving its original purpose to-day, a century and more later. Further west also in Stirling Terrace, on Albany Lot S20, he could have erected a two-storied residence with a store in front, buildings which became his home and the cradle of his large family as well as his business headquarters for over 20 years. The residence was named “Aberdeen House*’. The store could have been one of those mentioned by the visitor West-garth in 1857 at which the ladies replenished their stocks of boots and calicoes. The three town lots mentioned were originally purchased by George Cheyne.

HARBOUR LIGHTS

A gleam of light appeared during 1857. The Crimean War had ended in 1856 and the Admiralty, anticipating the resumption of the steam mail service to Eastern Australia, provided for the erection of two lighthouses at King George’s Sound, one on Breaksea Island and the other on the mainland on Point King at the northern entrance to Princess Royal Harbour. Official letters preserved in the W.A. State Arcives (referred to subsequently as Archives) tell that during June, 1857 the ship "Prince of Wales'* arrived at Albany with essential material for both lighthouses. They tell also that Captain H. Wray, R.E., had gone there to arrange for their erection. The only relevant matter in the letters to this monograph refer to the important part

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played by Alexander Molr in the erection of both. This can best be told by extracts from Captain Wray’s reports to the Colonial Secretary in Perth. The tower of the Breaksea light consisted of prefabricated cast iron plates aboard the “Prince of Wales.’’ Of them Wray wrote, on 30th June, 1857:

"I foauid it necesary to allow Mr. Alexander Moir to withdraw his contract for conveying the stores and materials to the Island and to substitute another at a higher rate (i.e., dangerous nature of the anchorage not allowed for). His (Mr. Moir’s) is the only boat in Albany capable of carrying the heavy plates at all.” Parenthetically it is suggested that the staunch boat had been built In anticipation of the possibility of literage from the mail steamers. Prior to making his home at Albany George Cheyne had long experience in the Baltic tilnber trade.

The new tender provided for a fee of £80 for landing the stores, and heavy plates on Breaksea Island. In the same letter Captain Wray, referring to the Point King light, advised that he had called tenders for the necessary mason’s and the carpenter’s work and then continued:

“I recieved only one tender for the mason’s work and three for the carpenter’s work. I accepted the tender of Mr. Alexander Molr for both his contract being to put up, roof and floor the building for £152, all materials being found by him. The price is high, but I could not get it done for less.

To-day, after the lapse of a century (during half of which it has stood vacant and neglected) the mason’s work still stands.

AN ALBANY MERCHANT

It appears from the known facts, supported by some of the reasonable possibilities already mentioned, that Cheyne’s chosen successor was being well trained for his role. Nothing has obtruded which might suggest that he was treated more favourably than any of his many cousins (Moir or Muir) who had also served an apprenticeship to him. There is evidence that on making his decision to return to England some of his nephews first leased and later purchased the properties at Cape Riche and on the Pallinup (Salt) River (hereinafter referred to as Pallinup River) water shed. Payment was made from the proceeds of the wool produced, shipped to England. It is reasonable to assume that Alexander Moir paid for the Albany Town Lots from cne or all of the following, (1) proceeds of contracts, (2) his services, or (3) wool proceeds, as will appear later. As already mentioned, it was possible that a store on Albany Town Lot S20 was open for trading as early as 1857. A document in Cheyne’s handwriting (in the author's possession) lends colour to the idea that in February 1859 his departure from Albany was iminent. Dated the 22nd of that month it records:

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“I hereby consitute Mr. Alexander Moir my representative (to take charge of an Albany cottage and collect its rental) to be remitted to Captain Lane, 170 Lower George Street, Sydney." That the store was open in 1861 is proved by the fact that a gallon licence was granted for the premises to Alexander Moir in that year and renewed in each successive year until 1879 (Archives) when the father transferred1 his merchant’s business to his eldest son John.

At least one independent source confirms the fact that in 1864, 12 years after his return to Albany from Cape Riche, Alexander Moir was firmly established as a merchant in his own right. An original letter, written by George Cheyne at the age 74, on the 28th May, 1864, from his residence, Bunk House, Lochmaben, Scotland, to the nephew he had chosen to receive his Western Australian Mantle, commenced: “Dear Aleck" and is phrased in terms of one equal to another. Apparently convalescing from a recent illness it began:

“I have been strongly advised by my medical attendants not to bother my brain for a while by writing letters or making up accounts"

and then goes on to state that he had made arrangements so that: “Your business will not suffer as I have a kind and veryj capable friend to take my place.”

The letter makes it crystal clear that the Albany merchant had funds in Scotland in the National Bank and that these came from proceeds of wool he had shipped to Scotland. The letter continued:

“All the wool is insured at a low rate in consequence of its coming home direct - prices are keeping good and I hope will be better if the Bank of England will only lower the high rate of interest (which) is tending to keep the price of wool lower than it would be.”

It concluded on a personal note:

“Mrs. Cheyne is well and unites with me in kind regards.”

It does not contain the slightest evidence that its recipient was under any obligation, finacial or otherwise, to his Uncle George.

A decade later Alexander outgrew the merchant’s business and it passed to his eldest son John as mentioned. Like another of that ilk in history called “The Great”, he ever sought fresh fields to conquer.

Following the completion and occupation during December 1869 of the new triune purpose Public Office, on portion of Spencer Street resumed for the purpose, Moir’s store and home at Aberdeen House on Lot S20 Stilling Terrace found itself within the hub of the town’s official business, and social centre which contiued until the opening of the present Town Hall in York Street on 13th June 1888.

These offices (archives) before the addition of the present clock tower and extension westward, comprised three floors, viz:- ground,

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entrance from Lower Stirling Terrace opposite the (then) only jetty: second, entrance west, into Stirling Terrace Post and Customs Offices: third, entrance from Stirling Terrace (opposite Spencer Street). Resident Magistrate and Clerk’s offices, Court Room, with jury and prisoner annexes. The Court Room also served as the Town Hall and public meeting place as it did also as the meeting place of the Albany Town Trust and later of the Municipality and Plantagenet Roads Board on their creation in 1871.

HALF WAY

Before passing to consider some of the activities of Alexander Moir during the latter 20 years of his life it can be recorded that the Census of 1870 revealed that the population of the Plantagenet district (including Albany) had almost doubled during the previous 10 years and totalled 1585 (998 males and 587 females).

It may be informative also to compare the Albany of the middle 1870s with the picture preserved by William Westgarth nearly 20 years earlier. This is made possible by the published account of the visits made by two sisters, Rosamond and Florence Hill, who, like Westgarth, passed through the port (in their case twice) as mail boat passengers.

En route to Adelaide during April, 1873, they recorded:

"The little township of Albany, with its English looking church and one or two pretty country houses on a slight eminence, has a neat and well-to-do air.”

Homeward bound, they were again in Albany aboard the ship “Pera” on the 4th and 5th of April, 1874, and to quote again from the record: "The little town is surrounded by scrub, or is rather actually built upon it, unreclaimed land intermingled with the houses and gardens.

A closer inspection modified our previous conclusion as to its neatness, revealing indeed among its poorer houses a general untidiness invisible from the deck of the steamer”.

During the decade of the 1860s, George Cheyne’s mantle bearer spumed delights and lived laborious days. In addition to conducting his mercantile business, Government Residents’ records in the Archives and other sources show him engaged on the development of his pastoral kingdom on the Pallinup River. As if these were not enough, some sources tell that he was a contractor also, employed with a two-horse team carting Government stores up the steep, unmacadamised York Street Hill (1861), organising a public meeting at his home, Aberdeen House, to protest against continuance of transportation (1861); completing the erection of the Spencer Street jetty left unfinished by the contractor (1864).

He appeared to possess a penchant for being an ever present and willing helper in case of need and on occasions the only one. Like his Uncle George Cheyne, he took an active interest in every movement or public project which had for its object the advancement of

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his adopted town and district, and this not with words only but with his talents, his time, and his purse.

During November, 1862, an Albany citizen, John Uglow, donated Albany Town Lot 53, Duke Street to the Wesleyan Methodists for the erection of a church. Among the names of the trustees listed in the Conveyance was Alexander Moir, the other eleven comprised public men and Government officials representative of both Perth and Albany.

In 1868 a Prospectus was published in the short lived (four issues only) of the ‘‘King George’s Sound Observer” of a proposed ‘‘Albany Steam Flour Mill”. Provisional committee of this venture comprised A. G. Hassell, Chairman, and Messrs. John McKail, Alexander Moir and William Strickland. The proposal proved abortive, which was quite unusual for any venture with which Alexander Moir was associated. Some years later he had a similar experience when he participated in the formation and management of ‘‘The Standard Goldmining Company”. This was the second G. M. Coy registered, and the first to commence operations in Western Australia. It was floated by Albany citizens to work a quartz reef on the Hassell-Kendenup property, and registered on 15th December, 1874 with a capital of £3,000. With a holding of 100 shares, Alexander Moir became a director. (The foregoing, and what follows from the books of the company in the possession of Mr. Harold Hassell, Warriup, via Albany). The directors met at the Albany Court House. The minutes of their meetings show that Director Moir attended each meeting, from the first on 1st December, 1874 until the general meeting on 17th May 1876 when the company went into liquidation. Two months earlier the Board called tenders for a loan of £500 to meet its liabilities. The sole tender was from Alexander Moir. This was accepted and the loan duly made on the security of the mining plant at Kendenup, with interest at the rate of 7i%. It is possible to end this half way interlude on a more personal and social note which, unfortunately, has so rarely appeared in such business or official source material available. It is based on the published “Albany Memories” (Albany Advertiser August 1955) of his tenth child, a daughter, Mrs. Grace Melville Wardell Johnson (since deceased). It occurred at a banquet held at the Freemasons Hotel on the evening of New Year’s Day 1875 following the unveiling by Governor Weld of the stone obelisk in front of the Albany Court House (now Post Office) to celebrate the planting of the first post for the overland telegraph to Eucla. The local schoolmaster, T. M. Palmer, penned some lines to mark the occasion which he read at, what he called “A Glorious Feast". They included:

“This Alexander Moir and William Knight sat at the table end -
they cut and carved the sirloins of beef and slices round did send".

Councillor Moir should have proved an efficient carver, none more

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so, from his daily experience at Aberdeen House, where he carved at table for the household, Including some thirteen of his children which had accumulated since his marriage in 1854.

PASTORAL KING AND FINANCIER

Alexander Moir was bigger than his Albany trading business, much bigger. As already mentioned, in 1879 he transferred the control of his mercantile Interests to his eldest son John. About the same time he erected a new brick building, comprising office and store-rooms, on the Frederick Street frontage of Albany Town Lot S20 at the rear of his home, Aberdeen House and store on its Stirling Street front. From the new premises he controlled his pastoral and associated interests until the end. The paucity of records concerning his first decade in Albany has already been mentioned and applies equally to his pastoral interests. No definite records emerged until the early 1860s, one of the first such being a reference to proceeds of his wool shipped to England made in George Cheyne's letter quoted earlier. To the possibilities of his employment in the first ten years already referred to might be added the creation of a small sheep flock on the headwaters of the Pallinup River.

The diary of William Henry Graham of Eticup, his cousin, for the years 1860, 1861, (in possession of Mr. Harold Hassell, Warriup, via Albany) contains entries recording visits made on horseback to Eticup homestead during 1861. At the time the scattered sheep stations between Kojonup and Eticup and thence to Cape Riche via the headwaters of the Pallinup (Salt) River were linked together by bridle paths.

Be this as it may, a record in the Archives tells that on the 16th September, 1864, Alexander Moir purchased a 40 acre freehold (Plantagenet Location 136) on the headwaters of the Pallinup River at a place known as Camballup. Following the custom of the period, this meant that the purchaser of the freehold already held a pastoral or grazing lease, and made the purchase to reserve for himself nermaoenf corner water

The source of what follows, unless otherwise stated, is the account books (and a relevant tracing of the location of a grazing lease of 40,000 acres) of Alexander Moir or the executors of his estate to which the author had access. They are referred to hereafter as the account books.

These show that, either before or after he purchased the Camballup freehold, he held the grazing lease mentioned which comprised Kojonup Locations 257 and 270. These embraced the watersheds of the headwaters of the Pallinup River, with two of its tributary creeks Gnowangerup and Jacketup. Astride their beds were a number of 100 acre freeholds, their main concentration being on a pool named

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“Moordinup". Beth the leases and the freeholds were In the Pallinup Agricultural area. It was at Moordinup that the homestead and farm outbuildings were erected, known then, and now, as Glengarry. In addition to Glengarry there were freeholds at Cambellup and Jacket-up. To-day the old buildings at Glengarry are still in use by a returned soldier of World War II, the numerous locations of the beginning being merged in two Plantagenet Location 5177 and Kojonup Location 8837. In a recent letter the wife of its present owner wrote:

“That as far as we can gather most of the buildings on the property are the original ones, or rather are part of the original ones. The shearing shed still bears on the posts the old bales used by shearers who used hand blades. The blacksmith shop is still standing as is the old kitchen with the brick oven —now bricked In**

The account books record another freehold on the Gordon (now Frankland) River, comprising 536 acres (Hay Locations). This appears to have been either selected for, or made available to Alexander Moir’s eldest brother John and financed by him. John arrived, accompanied by a family of ten, aboard the ship “Hamilla Mitchell" during 1859 (this on the authority of the State Archivist). In the early stages the account was headed "John Moir & Son” and recorded advances made by Alexander Moir, who also held, and paid the rents for two pastoral leases. Nos. 6040 and 9038: of 15,000 acres each which surrounded it. The station, under the name of Forrestvale, was advertised for sale by tender in the "Albany Mail” 7/4/1885, but did not find a buyer. The particulars given in the advertisement showed that the original 40 acre freehold was fenced and sub-divided and carried a four-roomed brick house and farm outbuildings. During 1892 the balance outstanding was transferred to an account headed "Wingeballup Station" and on Alexander Moir’s death was included in his estate. The present owner of Wingeballup, Frankland wrote at the end of 1955:

"The present homestead was built by Alexander Moir from bricks burnt on the place and pit-sawn timber."

It would seem that during the 1870-1880S the subject of this monograph held large areas under pastoral leases — a letter addressed to him by his solicitor, dated February, 1888, advised the receipts of Titles for 12 pastoral leases then recently purchased from the National Bank of Australasia comprising some 55,000 acres.

The account books tell also that in addition to the management of his own stations he handled business at Albany for his relatives at both Cape Riche and Mongup. During 1889 the two stations sold 127 bales of wool for £1,841. Two years later, in 1891, his own station, Glengarry, turned in 37 bales to realise £425. They show also that he functioned along the lines of present day Stock and Station Agents, viz:— financing clients on the security of wool, sheep and other livestock.

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The management of such a far flung business, before the days of good roads, motor transport and many other facilities for fast transport, and communication, must have presented many difficulties, during the middle 1880s a weekly mail by horseback (Albany Mall 8/12/1886) operated between Albany and Kojunup via the following stations:— Wood-burn, Jackallarup.Warrangup, Mongup, Madgidup, Glengarry, Martinup Etlcup, and Kojonup. It may be remembered that during the early 1860s the owner of Glengarry travelled on horseback. Later apparently, he used a waggonette. The Albany Mail (13/6/1883) recorded that delivery of a new waggonette, built by the Albany coachbuilder, J.C. Mews Alexander Moir always patronised Albany business houses if possible. The old records of the Government Residents’ office preserved in the Archives, show that when, during 1860, the Government purchased the licensed premises of James Danlells in Stirling Terrace (on Albany Town Lot S28 the site of the present Freemasons Hotel) for Government offices, Alexander Moir sought a publican’s General Licence for Aberdeen House, but was unsuccessful, apparently because of opposition from the proprietors of the other licensed houses. When, early in the 1880s he moved to a new residence he had erected for himself (on Albany Town Lot No. 183) in Vancouver Street he applied again with a simil-iar result. Nothing has obtruded which would suggest that the failure to obtain the licence had any connection with a visit to Albany by the then famous Temperance Advocate, Matthew Burnett, who arrived from Perth (Albany Mail December 1883). He remained a week to conduct a number of public meetings in the Albany Court during which 400 citizens of both sexes signed the pledge.

On taking up residence in Vancouver Street, the merchant’s business, then conducted by his eldest son John Moir, moved into new premises which had been erected next door, named Glasgow House. At the beginning of 1886 Aberdeen House was leased by Frederick Watts and conducted as a Temperance Hotel until the end of the year when he secured a Publican’s General Licence and changed the name to Railway Hotel. This was changed by subsequent lessee’s to Royal George Hotel, the name under which it is still run. The freehold of the property was retained by Alexander Moir until his death, when its subsequent history, as in the case of all his freeholds became another story.

It has already, and will later again appear, that the central figure of this monograph was never backward in using either his time or his money, or both, in the furtherance of any project concerned with Albany’s advancement. The prospectus of the Albany Permanent Building and Investment Society called for applications for its £25 shares (Albany Mall 26/6/1883). In the same journal (4/9/1883) the King George’s Sound Coaling Company advertised a registered capital of £5,000 in 2,500 shares of £2 available for public subscription. In both cases the

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name of Alexander Moir appeared as a Provisional Director. Both ventures were successfully promoted and operated to serve Albany usefully for a lengthy period. Alexander Moir remained a director of both until his death in 1893.

LONG LOCAL GOVERNMENT SERVICE

In an obituary in (The Albany Advertiser 9/1/1893) it was stated that Alexander Moir was elected a member of the Albany Town Trust in 1856, and continued the association for the next 28 years. It may be remembered that year was in the period of shadowy records. Be the claim as it may, the records of the Government Residents preserved in the Archives reveal that the Albany Town Trust failed to function in 1859 and the Governor instructed the then Government Resident to impose an assessment himself failing the election of the prescribed Town Trust. The rate payers apparently preferred King Log to King stork as the threat bore fruit. The necessary rate payers’ meeting was convened and the requisite members elected, amongst them Alexander Moir. The town’s first macadamised road was laid down during this year with materials supplied by the Trust and convict labour provided by the Government. This road was in Stirling Terrace between York and Spencer Street, and comprised a ribbon road down its centre. The Archival records show that the Governor’s threat proved so effective that dining the next decade he had no occasion to either repeat it or carry it out. In each of those years, save 1870, Alexander Moir continued as an elected member and was chairman in 1862, 1866 and 1867. This record is not the place, even if the space was available, to review the work of the Albany Town Trust. It must suffice to record that the first macadamised section of 1860, had by 1868 been substantially extended (and by the same method) as the following summary preserved in the Archives shows. The figures in brackets indicates the number of dwellings or shops in each of the streets:—

Stirling Terrace (16) from Spencer to Parade Streets,

York Street (12) from Stirling Terrace to Serpentine Road Spencer Street (-). from Stirling Terrace to Frederick Street Frederick Street (2) from Spencer to York Street Duke Street (4) from York to Parade Street

Stirling Street (now Collie) (3) from Duke to Gordon (now Grey) Street Aberdeen Street (4) from Frederick to Norfolk Street (now Serpentine Road)

Princess Royal Harbour Water Front (12) road unmade Earl Street (3) road unmade Unamed Street (1) now Cuthbert Street.

With under sixty residences and stores scattered around the northern strand of the Princess Royal Harbour and along the alignments of the macadamised streets it is easy to picture the town as it appeared to the Hall sisters and to William Westgarth, before them, as mentioned

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earlier. The latter, it may be remembered, described its colourful flowering broom, like shrubs with a more artistic eye as did Governor Stirling and his Surveyor General Roe when they christened its enveloping country Plantagenet.

Early in 1871 Albany became a municipality under the provisions of the Municipal Institutions Act. At the first elections under its provisions Alexander Moir was elected a Councillor as he continued to be at each subsequent election until he resigned on 10th May, 1884. During the three years prior to the resignation he was Chairman of the Municipality (the term Mayor was introduced later) and Albany’s Chief Citizen. Under the provisions of the new act Road Boards came into being, one such being the Pantagenet Road Board and Alexander Moir was elected a foundation member and re-elected successively as such until he ceased to nominate after 1887, with the exception of the year 1878 (this on the authority of the Board’s Secretary). The Board’s territory then extended to envelop all the agricultural freeholds, pastoral and grazing leases mentioned elsewhere in this monograph.

A perusal of the then newly bom “Albany Mail” for the years 1883 and 1884 has revealed the large amount of the Municipal Chairman’s time occupied with his social duties as Chief Citizen. There were banquets for the presentation of illuminated addresses to departing Governors; meeting and entertaining on arrival by boat of their successors; presiding at many of the towns public meetings, these in addition to the ordinary business meetings of both the Albany Municipality and Plantagenet Road Board. These alone, without the obligations of his own far flung business interests, must have obliged the Chief Citizen to spurn delights and live laborious days, aye, and nights also, for the town, as he had in his younger days for himself.

THE SPORT OF KINGS

Even a superficial study of the evolution of early pastoral development in the south-western corner of Western Australia shows the very important part played by the horse, its pioneers operating their immense pastoral areas, often as large or even larger than the English county, found the price of survival depended upon the possession of thoroughbred horses. Only the best was good enough. At the depots, after annual shearing, old diaries tell of racing trials between the mounts of various owners. Of necessity almost, it became to them the King of Sports and their only sport. When later it became organised in the larger centres, the records of the Albany Club record the name of Alexander Moir as a devotee. The books of the Albany Turf Club (made available to the author) show that he, in common with many of his fellow pastoralists, was a foundation member on its formation in 1865, a membership which continued for the rest of his life. Although he does not appear to have raced any horses, there is ample evidence that he held various offices. In 1867 he was Treasurer, but generally

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held the office of Steward, an office also held by his cousin William Henry Graham of Eticup. The Club lapsed after Its annual race meeting held during March 1874. It was re-born during 1883 (this and what follows on the authority of the "Albany Mail") at a meeting held In the Freemasons Hotel presided over by Alexander Moir. A race meeting was arranged for the 1st June and duly held at which he acted as Judge and at all subsequent race meetings during the next decade generally served as a steward but also occasionally as a judge.

THE SHROUD

When Alexander Moir resigned from the chairmanship of the Albany Municipal Council during 1884 at the age of sixty because of failing health, he had no need to feel ashamed of his useful contribution over thirty years to the town and district of his adoption. He died on the 7th January, 1893. When he arrived in it the total population of the Plantagenet district, including Albany], was about 500. At the time of his death the population of Albany alone was about 3,000. What follows is from his obituary (Albany Advertiser 9/1/1893): “After a long illness, he was chairman of the Albany Municipality in 1882, 1883 and 1884. Following his resignation on account of ill health, he lived in retirement prior to which he was one of the most active of Albany's townsmen. He was spared to see his eldest son John become both a Councillor and later Mayor of the town of which he was one of the foundation builders.

He was laid to rest in the family plot, Church of England Cemetery, Middleton Road. His plain, substantial headstone bears one simple line—a line typical of his outlook during his useful life and taken with him on his last long journey into a Far Country, whither, some ten years later, he was followed by his wife.

Following the latter’s death, a daughter provided a beautiful coloured glass Memorial Window to the memory of her parents, set in the northern wall of Albany’s century old Church of St. John the Evangelist.

Another tribute to their memory was paid by their eldest and youngest sons, John and Edward, when as trustees of their father’s estate (with it, would be nice to think the heartfelt approval of all their brothers and sisters) they had occasion to sub-divide into building lots a nine acre area having its main frontage to Lockyer Avenue. This necessitated the provision of three new streets, named by them Alexander, Moir and Hymus, respectively, the names by which they are still known in this year of Grace 1957.

Finally to record one more filial tribute, this by a daughter, some sixty years after his death. It appears in the “Albany Memories’’ of a daughter, the late Grace M. Warden Johnson, published in the “Albany Advertiser" several years since. Without fear of trespass it was:

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“Of my lather’s association of forty years with Albany I record that in the town of his adoption he did what he found to do for its progress and advancement, did it honestly and well, between times founding a very prosperous business and rearing a numerous family:"

To this latter tribute the writer, from his researches, the fruits of which have appeared herein, adds - AMEN!

(The author of this monograph desires to tender his most grateful thanks to all those (including some who have passed on since it was commenced) who have so helpfully supplied its basic data, and especially to the Archivist of the Western Australian State Archives).


Garry Gillard | New: 8 April, 2021 | Now: 10 July, 2022