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ALEXANDER FORREST

1849 - 1901

 

 

 

 

ALEXANDER FORREST

 

He was born to Scottish parents (William and Margaret) who immigrated to Western Australia in 1842 aboard the ship Trusty.

The family migrated to Australia on the understanding that they would be working for Dr. John Ferguson but Ferguson did not make a success of his farming business and returned to medical work in Perth (Ferguson was later to establish the Houghton vineyard in the Swan Valley).

The Forrests established first a wind driven and then a water driven mill on the Picton River.

William and Margaret s first born (a daughter) had died before they left for Australia and their second child (William Jr.) was born aboard ship.

Next came James (1845),
John (1847), Alexander (1849), David, Robert, Mathew, George and finally Augustus.

 

Educated at Bishop Hale's school, Alexander helped his father run the mill at Picton until the building was struck by lightning in 1867 and burned down.  Alexander then became a surveyor and was chosen as second in command of John's expedition to Adelaide.

 

In 1871, Alexander led his own expedition east of the current site of Kalgoorlie, then turned south to the coast at Esperance before turning back towards Perth.

 

In 1874 he once again joined his brother John on an expedition from Geraldton to the telegraph line in central Australia. He worked closely with Tommy Windich, scouting ahead to find a route for those following. In 1875 he did some important survey work in the north west.

 

In January 1879 accompanied by his brother Mathew, Alexander sailed north, leading an expedition to Cossack where  the party went overland to Roebuck Bay. From here they went north to Beagle Bay where some of their horses died. They pressed on and in May discovered and named the Fitzroy River. They reached the King Leopold Range where their way forward was blocked so they turned inland. The men were now falling ill and supplies running low, they were forced to kill and eat some of their horses.

 

Things got worse and they began to forage for food eating snake and owl. Finally they reached the telegraph line and found a tank containing precious water. Soon afterwards they met a group of linesmen and were resupplied. They reached Katherine with only 7 of the 26 horses they had started out with. From Darwin they returned to Perth the long way (via Sydney, Melbourne  and Adelaide).

 

Tommy Pierre (an Aboriginal tracker who had fallen ill on the trek) did not make it back and died before reaching Albany. He was buried near Mt. Clarence.

 

The reports made by Alexander were to lead Patrick Durack to take up land in the Kimberleys and to make the historic trek across from Queensland with his sheep. Alexander became a land agent for the area and leased out over 50 million acres despite the fact that Government surveyors were not supposed to benefit from their work. In 1887 Alexander became the first member for the Kimberley and with two other investors took up land in Perth that would later become the suburb of Peppermint Grove.

 

Alexander married Amy Barrett Lennard in 1880 and like his older brother moved into politics and later went on to be Lord Mayor of Perth in 1892.

 

In 1890 with the arrival of responsible government, Alexander moved from the Legislative Council to the Legislative Assembly but still represented the Kimberley. Although he never held a cabinet office he was still very influential (as during much of his time in politics his brother John was Premier). In some circles he was known as the 6th Minister.

 

He invested and speculated widely at times losing money and at others making windfall gains. Alexander supported tariffs and opposed federalisation. He was strongly criticised for his dual roles as both an entrepreneur and as an elected official. There a number of issues that created a conflict of interest and led to accusations of favouritism, corruption, bribery and nepotism.

 

In May 1901, Alexander was awarded a CMG for his services as Mayor of Perth. The good news was soon replaced by bad when his son Anthony was killed in action in the Boer War. Alexander died on June 20th from kidney failure.

 

A statue of Alexander Forrest was erected near his home but then moved to the intersection of St. Georges Tce. and Barrack Street.

 


 

 

 

I'm lost please take me home...