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Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Gerard Smith 1895-1900

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Sir Gerard was born in London and at 18 joined the Scotch Fusiliers as an ensign. He saw active service in Canada but the rest of his military career was somewhat uneventful. He retired from the army in 1874 to join his father's banking business.

It was through the business that he paved the way for an entrance to a political life. He also became keen on commercial life.

He contested and won a seat in the British Parliament in 1883 but later came into conflict with his Liberal colleagues and left to become a Unionist.

Sir Gerard, who had been Groom-in-Waiting to Queen Victoria, was knighted in 1895, and appointed Governor of WA, assuming his position in December of the same year. Sir Gerard was the first non-professional Governor appointed to WA. Apparently this was referred to by some Members of Parliament as a change that would mean the position was less arduous than previously.

In March 1986, Sir Gerard was called upon by Premier Sir John Forrest to use his powers to dismiss the Minister for Railways, Mr H. Venn. The affair caused a furore nationally on the rights and wrongs of the issue, but in the end Sir Gerard followed the advice of Sir John.

Despite all the dramas over the dismissal, Sir John asked Sir Gerard to light the flame of the new lighthouse at Rottnest, though it was obvious that there were serious tensions between the two. It was the first public function that Sir Gerard had been asked to perform and he wasn't given any background on the lighthouse which made it a difficult event for him.

The next big function was the opening of the railway at Coolgardie in 1896, which was accompanied by a fanfare of balls, functions and public addresses. While in Coolgardie, the Governor was presented with a riding camel by the Afghans who lived in the region. He accepted their gift and apparently went for a long ride afterwards. Lady Smith also rode a camel that day.

During the trip, Sir Gerard also turned on the first electric light for the Goldfields and donated 30 pounds to the local hospital.

By the time Sir Gerard relinquished the post in 1900, Perth as a city was in the making, a harbour was being built at Fremantle, Kalgoorlie was in its infancy and the project to supply water to Coolgardie had begun.

On his return to England, he became director of several companies and of the San Paulo Railway Company of Brazil. He died in London in 1920.

Reviewed 2012 - 2013

Acknowledgement of Country

The Government of Western Australia acknowledges the traditional custodians throughout Western Australia and their continuing connection to the land, waters and community. We pay our respects to all members of the Aboriginal communities and their cultures; and to Elders both past and present.