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3 corrections, most recently by michaelgregg - Show corrections

THE EARLY DAYS.

A Pioneer's Memories.

Mr. John Watson of Claremont for merly the superintendent of the boys' re formatory school at Rottnest, will cele brate his 86th birthday to-day. He was

born in Perth, and his knowledge of the early days of the town, have proved of historical value. Mr. Watson was married 62 years ago. His wife, formerly Miss Annie Linthore. was also born in Perth, and she will cele brate her 84th birthday on June 27. The couple have three sons and one daugh ter. One of the sons, Mr. C. Watson, is secretary of the Child Welfare Depart ment: another son retired from the posi tion of supervisor in the telegraph branch

MR. JOHN WATSON.

   

of the Postal Department, Perth, 12 months ago; and the third son is an offi cer in the Postal Department. Thirty years ago Mr. Watson retired from the position of superintendent of the boys' reformatory at Rottnest, after serv ing 24 years in that capacity. He opened the school at the direction of Sir William Robinson, who was then the Governor, and he closed the institution in 1902. Over 50 years ago he was given the contract to build the reformatory at Rottnest, and, when the work was completed he was ap pointed superintendent on the recommen dation of Anthony O'Grady Lefroy, a for mer Colonial Treasurer, and father of the late Sir Henry Lefroy. Interviewed at his home at Claremont yesterday, Mr. Watson spoke of life in the early days of Perth. He was born in a little house - since demolished — at the corner of Spring-street and Mount-street. The spring from which Spring-street de rives its name is now in the grounds of the house occupied by the Anglican Arch bishop of Perth. In the early days the spring provided the water for Stanley's Brewery, which was controlled by Mr. James Stokes. Mr. Watson was a witness before the Royal Commission appointed to investi- gate the wreck of the sailing ship City of York which went on the reefs at Rottnest many years ago. Of the wreck of this ves- sel Mr. Watson retains vivid recollections.

The City of York was bound from New York to Fremantle. A bush flare lighted near the lighthouse at the west of the island was mistaken for the light of the pilot boat. The City of York sailed straight ahead on to the reef. The City of Benares left New York at the same time as the City of York, both vessels being bound for Fremautlc. The captain of the City of Benares was the father of the mate of the City of York and they left New York, wondering who would reach the destina- tion first. The City of Benares which made the voyage via Torres Strait, arrived at Fremantle two days after the wreck. The captain was just in time to attend the funeral of his son. Mr. Watson helped to bring some of the bodies of the seamen of the City of York ashore. Before he entered the Government ser- vice Mr. Watson was a partner with Mr. G. H. Roe. a son of Captain Roe, the Sur veyor-General of the Colony, in a venture with a pearling lugger, the 'Gift.' The vessel was originally built for missionary work in the South Sea Islands., but prov- ing unsuitable for this purpose, she was sold to Mr. Manning, a merchant of Fre- mantle, who employed her in the coastal trade between Fremantle and Champion   Bay. The 'Gift' was then bought by Mr. Roe in partnership with a Mr. Passie and was fitted out for a pearling cruise. Malay divers were secured at Macassar, and also from the island of Alor. The captain of the vessel was murdered by the Malays in his sleep, and the other white men had a narrow escape. They left the vessel in a dinghy, and the Malays sailed away. Later, Mr. Watson bought a half share in the schooner and left Australia with Mr. Roe to try and locate her. The Malays abandoned the vessel at the island of Sala yer, about 150 miles from Macassar. They went ashore, began drinking and fighting, and boasted of running away with the schooner. They were arrested and sent to Macassar where the ringleaders were sub- sequently identified by Mr. Roe. The boat was recovered, and, after a season spent in pearl fishing off the North-West coast, Mr. Watson sold his share in the vessel to Mr. Roe. Mr. Watson treasures a letter from Mr. James Longmore, former Inspector of In dustrial and Reformatory Schools, received on his retirement from the position of superintendent of the Boys' Reformatory at Rottnest. Mr. Longmore now resides in England. Another letter of which Mr. Watson is proud, is from Sir Gerald Smith, a former Governor, giving him per mission to shoot wallaby in the grounds of Government House, Rottnest, when the Governor was not in residence there. The letter was written in 1897. The knowledge which Mr. Watson pos sesses has been of assistance to those in terested in the history of the early settle ment of Perth. He was able to point out the exact sites of Kingsford's mill (half way along Mill-street), and Reveley's Mill, which was located at the rear of the pre sent Technical College. Mr. Watson is one of the few people who remember the old mill at South Perth, during the days when it was operated. He played in the vicinity in 1838.

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