Local Identities

William Edward Ash Honoured, 1936.


Some 29 residents of Harvey, original members of the Harvey Alliance and Farmers’ Club assembled at the Harvey Hotel on Tuesday evening, when a complimentary dinner was tendered to Mr. W. E. [William Edward] Ash, to celebrate his 80th birthday, which had taken place some days previously. The chair was occupied by Mr. W. J. Sutton. The chairman submitted the toast of “Our Guest,” and in the course of his remarks referred to his association with Mr. Ash during the past 40 years. Mr. Ash had always done everything possible for the advancement of the district. Harvey 40 years ago was a very different place to what it was today, and many in those far-off days had reason to be thankful for the hospitality that they had received from Mr. and Mrs. Ash. Some people were afraid that they might do too much for their town, but Mr. Ash had been imbued with a spirit that all should place whatever ability was theirs at the service of the district.

In Harvey they had been singularly fortunate in the public life of the district. The older men had played their part, and it was gratifying to note that the younger men were now filling their places. It was a happy thought on the part of Mr. W. Clifton to hold a dinner in order that they might tell Mr. Ash what they thought of him whilst he was still with them and not wait until he had passed on to the Great Beyond before they lauded his many virtues. Mr. Ash was still a most valued citizen and they hoped that he would be spared for many years to assist them in their efforts to advance the town and district.

Mr. A. H. Smith said that he always had the greatest admiration for who could look at Harvey today and feel proud of the part he had played in its establishment. On many occasions he had gone to Mr. Ash for advice, which was freely given, and he had always profited by it. No one in Harvey today had been more closely associated with the early development and the shaping of the destinies of the town than Mr. Ash. They had not agreed with his viewpoint on all occasions, but they appreciated that he was ever urged by a desire to assist the district and those residing in it. He desired to congratulate him on attaining his 80th year. In both mind and body he was still a young man and they hoped that he would still continue to take an active interest in affairs of a public nature.

The toast was supported by Mr. W. Clifton, Mr. H. G. Palmer and Mr. R. O. Hayward. In the course of an interesting reply, Mr. Ash dealt at length with the early days of Harvey and in particular with its early organisations. Owing to pressure on space a full report of these proceedings has been held over till the next issue. (Harvey Murray Times, 9 April 1936)


Many interesting reminiscences of the early days in Harvey were recounted at a complimentary dinner tendered to Mr. W. E. Ash, on Tuesday evening of last week to celebrate his 80th birthday. Those in attendance were members of the Harvey and Alliance and Farmers Club. The chair was occupied by Mr. W. J. Sutton. The toast of the guest of the evening was submitted by the chairman whose remarks were supported by Mr. A. H. Smith, both of whom eulogised the efforts of Mr. Ash in the early years of Harvey and his subsequent practical interest in its development.

Mr. W. R. Clifton recalled that it was 42 years since he had met Mr. Ash for the first time. His advice to settlers in the early days had proved of great benefit to all and had assisted materially in laying the foundations of the town. Major H. G. Palmer referred to the hospitality extended to him by Mr. and Mrs. Ash when he first arrived in the district. Mr. Ash had figured prominently in many arguments during the early days of the settlement. Some were with him and others opposed to him, but all agreed that he was inspired with a desire to assist his district. The toast was supported by Messrs. Crampton and R. O. Hayward.

After feelingly returning thanks for the compliment passed him by the gathering, Mr. Ash recalled that he had spent a most happy time in Harvey. When he arrived there were no houses on the township. It was all bush. He arrived in the district in October, 1893. There were battalions of blackboys and he recalled that on the train he travelled to Harvey was Governor Stirling [sic, Sir Frederick Bedford]. As he left the train he heard the Governor remark to a young couple as they left the train “I wonder at a young man bringing his wife amongst so many blackboys.”

His first impression on arrival was that the settlers were scared and he noted the necessity for some association whereby they could meet and assist one another. It had always been his contention that in assisting one another they assisted themselves. He learnt of the differences in the past and had explained that if they were to progress it would be necessary for some to make sacrifices on occasion so that others might benefit. Care had to be exercised in attempting to form any association as many of the older men came from different parts of the district and held very different points of view on various matters. This was rather a characteristic of farmers, who were rather self-centred and who at times were rather intolerant with their neighbours and with others who differed from them. He aimed that if the farmers linked up with an association they would learn and appreciate one another’s point of view and thus combine for their own good and that of their district. He had therefore conceived the idea of the Harvey Alliance for which they had framed rules and regulations.

When he had left Canada the conditions of the farmers was perhaps even worse than it had been in the depression and something had to be done. They formed societies which were similar to lodges, to which none but farmers were admitted. They were worked on a co-operative basis and purchased the farmers requirements. In some lines they thus saved the producer up to 200 per cent. He had attempted to introduce a similar scheme in Harvey, but unfortunately many preferred to work outside the alliance than within it. No doubt their actions were due to the perversity of human nature. The alliance had really had its birth in Albany. His idea had been to start various branches throughout the country and that each branch should be represented on a central council, and that was the reason why he had introduced the alliance to Harvey, in July 1894. For a while everything proceeded smoothly.

Their first move was to attempt to improve the system for the disposal of their stock and they had attempted to establish a centre at Picton Junction. When he arrived it was the practice for farmers to travel their stock through the country for several weeks. The Government had offered them some 500 acres for the purpose and it was proposed that a sale should be conducted once in three or six months and to hold them more regularly as time went on. Their ideas were opposed by the older settlers, who reposed their trust in the old system and old firms and hence the scheme had not come to fruition. Another proposition of which nothing had come was that the settlers should burn their own lime, of which the soil required large quantities. If they had only pulled together more in those days they would have made greater progress.

He had great hopes that the younger generation would realise the value of co-operation. They were perhaps doing better along these lines, but still their progress was slow. The alliance had been successful in bringing various experts to Harvey to assist them with their troubles. The first of the new settlers to come to Harvey was Mr. Sanderson, who arrived in August, 1894. Previously Mr. Laurie had visited the district and had formed a most favourable impression regarding the fertility of their soils. In this respect their soils were somewhat deceptive in that they appeared to be more fertile than they really were. Continuing, Mr Ash related experiments made with the growing of maize and other fodder plants.

He recalled the arrival of many of those present in the room. In April of 1896 the foundations had been laid of the first hotel, whilst in the same year Dr. Harvey had opposed Mr. William Spencer in a political election. The alliance had prospered till they decided to change their chairman and then things did not go as he considered they should have. Many severed their association with the alliance and on February 25, 1899 the first meeting of the Farmers Club was held. James Butler was elected their first president and Mr. Gervase Clifton, now of Northampton, was their first secretary. Regular socials were held and proved immensely popular. During the year there was a great slump in prices and potatoes sold as low as £2 per ton. The club sent a member to Kalgoorlie to investigate the possibilities of the goldfields markets. They succeeded in making sales at satisfactory prices, but the man with whom they dealt proved to be of no substance, and they had lost something in the vicinity of £30 on the deal. They next formed a committee to hold a produce and stock show. The agricultural society was a different organisation to the farmers club. The Farmers’ Club sent delegates to the Farmer’s Conferences in Perth. He had attended the first conference in 1905. They seemed to achieve little with their conference. Motions were carried, but no notice was taken of them by the Government of the day or by others to whom they were addressed.

In 1899 an agitation had been commenced in Harvey for the establishment of a State school in Harvey, continued Mr. Ash. Amongst members of the committee were Messrs. I. Lowe, T. H. Brown, Charman and himself. After a great deal of trouble they got the movement under way. They had to provide water and supply a sanitary service for the purpose. Before they could obtain the use of the Agricultural Hall for the purpose they had to get a petition signed by 24 residents. This brought things to a head and on April 10, 1899, the first school was opened with Miss Mitchell as the teacher. She was followed by Mr. Selkirk, who applied for a change because of the poor accommodation. They next applied for a school to be built on the site where the school was today. Dr. Harvey had offered them an acre of land for the purpose, but the department wanted two acres and they were told that they would have to pay for the second acre. After much argument, the department purchased the second acre. Much hardship had been endured in the establishment of the settlement and tribute had to be paid to those who had pioneered the district. His advice to all was to co-operate to the fullest extent and in this manner they could expect to make progress both individually and from a district viewpoint.

The toast of the Farmers’ Club was proposed by Mr. Ken Gibsone, who said that the Farmers’ Club had come into being as a result of the fact that certain members of the alliance could not see eye to eye. He had received a wire from Mr. Gervase Clifton, of Northampton, offering his apologies for his inability to attend. He was their first secretary and had engaged in a wordy war in the Press about the merits of the respective societies. The Farmers’ Club had achieved much, and if they did not do more they made the members of alliance take a keener interest in their affairs. Mr. C. Rees in his reply said he had been struck by the fact when he first arrived in Harvey that they had two societies. He understood that 75 per cent. of people resident in the district were members of the club, whereas today they would be fortunate if they had a quarter of the people interested in their agricultural society. Mr. E. Sharpe in proposing the toast of the Harvey Alliance, said that he had not been associated with the organisation in its earliest days. After the Government had assisted them with the erection of their hall, the alliance developed into a hall committee. The alliance, however, continued its activities. It later became the Citrus Society. It might therefore be regarded as the parent of the present day agricultural society. It had served its time and purpose and then passed on. The alliance was formed to assist the farmers in times of depression and to assist fight the forces opposed to the producers. The same forces were in existence today and hence the same co-operation was needed amongst farmers.

The First Closer Settlement. Mr. H. Barnes in the course of an interesting reply said that he was one of the original members of the Harvey Alliance. There were few who could recall Harvey as he first remembered it. He would like to correct Mr. Ash when he said that Mr. Sanderson was the first of the new settlers. This distinction belonged to Mr. J. Knowles (senr.). He resided where Mr. Palmer lived to-day. Mr. Ash had played a prominent part in the early development of this portion of the State. With his formation of the Harvey Alliance he had planted a seed, from which had grown a huge tree. Its branches now stretched throughout the South-West. He referred to the organisation of people of the rural areas. Any society for the mutual benefit of the producer was envisaged by Mr. Ash and whether the organisation were composed of primary producers, country women, parents and citizens, they all came under his great ideal. Mr. Ash had travelled miles and miles in those early days to assist his neighbours and those who were battling with him in the opening up of this portion of the State. Every proposal they put forward in regard to the district met with the reply: “Yours of the — Inst, to hand. The matter is receiving consideration and you will again be communicated with in due course. Yours faithfully—.”

They had to fight this thing for years. They took themselves very seriously in those days. They drew up rules and a constitution and one and all were required to abide by them. They were particularly jealous of their moral standards and were required to sit in judgment on anyone, who did not conform with them. He could recall one instance of a man, who had been brought under their notice. It was some 35 years ago. Sir James Mitchell was given the credit for introducing the closer settlement scheme into this State, but the distinction might well belong to Harvey. This man it was ascertained lived under the same roof with his cows, dogs, fowls and pigs and if this was not closer settlement he would like to know what was. They took great pride in their alliance, which had justified its establishment.

The toast of the Harvey Dramatic Club was submitted by Mr. Ken Gibsone. He recalled the staging of one of their earliest pieces. At the time they had Mr. Cuthbertson with them and he afterwards figured largely in amateur dramatics in Perth. The formation of the society assisted to materially increase the life of the community. It was surprising to him that the younger people of today did not interest themselves more in such clubs. It served to give them confidence in public speaking, as well as providing good times in the social sense. Their stage manager was Mr. O’Meara, a school master at Uduc. Others in the cast were W. Clifton, Miss Durhams, Miss Lambert, Mrs. Lindsay, Miss Clifton and Mr. R. O. Hayward. In reply Messrs. W. R. Clifton and R. O. Hayward recounted instances associated with the Dramatic Club.

Mr. A. Crampton recalled old days on the sporting fields with his toast, the Harvey Cricket Club. He spoke of when Messrs. H. G. Palmer, K. Gibsone, E. Sharpe and O. C. Rath donned flannels. In the earliest days they improvised a pitch in the closest paddock and enjoyed their days. Later they laid a wooden pitch in the recreation ground, which did service for many years. Mr. W. Clifton in reply said that Harvey in the early days had many noted cricketers. Mr. Crampton himself came from a noted family of sportsmen. He remembered one notable occasion when a team was brought to Harvey by Mr. Randell. The Harvey team were on their metal was accounted for by the late Mr. Grieves with his first ball, whilst the speaker accounted for another notable member of the team in Parker in his first over. The visitors were dismissed for the meagre total of 33. It was a proud day for followers of the sport in Harvey. They had never fielded a prettier batsman than Jim Sommerville. The club had always received the most whole-hearted support from the late Mr. Alex Smith, whilst they travelled miles and miles to enjoy a game.

The toast of the Harvey Agricultural Society was proposed by Mr. R. O. Hayward who referred to the difficulties which had at times confronted the society. The society had ever endeavoured to carry out the ideals of the originators of the Harvey Alliance. With the abolition of government subsidies for agricultural societies they experienced hard times, but last year the society had perhaps staged the most successful show in its career. The show had served to prove that people appreciated the value of the society and he trusted that with the passing of the years the society would continue to flourish. The president of the society (Mr. L. R. Grieves) briefly replied.

The toast of the Harvey Road Board was proposed by Mr. H. G. Palmer and replied to by the chairman of the board (Mr. J. Lowe). Mr. Lowe said that the board was fully appreciative of the work of their pioneers and had attempted to show something of their appreciation on the occasion of the opening of the new board room. During the past twelve or eighteen months the board had been collecting photographs and other records of the early days of Harvey. Much interesting data had been collected and filed for future reference. He had recently been reading the minutes of the old Wellington Road Board, when the late Mr. Thos. Hayward was chairman. It later became the Brunswick Road Board, which appointed a secretary at the princely salary of £10 a year. The secretary asked to be allowed expenses of £2/10/ for coming to Harvey and the board decided that it would increase his salary by £1/18/-. The meetings in those days were long drawn out affairs. The board met early in the morning and continued into the nights, with adjournments for luncheon and dinner. The old balance sheets were of interest. They contained very few figures and the revenue was made up mainly of Government grants.

Many old identities were recalled when the toast “Absent Friends” was honoured. Amongst those whose names were mentioned were Messrs. John Handley, Jack Newell, Bob Christensen, A. T. Smith, F. J. Becher, J. Grieves, Geo. Charman, Isaac Lowe, Cuthbertson, Seymour Palmer and others. Other toasts proposed were: “South African Veterans” proposed by Mr. A. H. Smith and responded to by Major H. G. Palmer; “The Press” and “The Chairman.” A vote of thanks was carried to Mrs. Durack for the sumptuous dinner provided for the party.

(Harvey Murray Times, 17 April 1936)