WILSON, Frank (1859-1918)


WILSON, Frank (1859-1918)
premier of Western Australia
was born at Sunderland, England, in 1859. He was educated in Germany and at Wesley College, Sheffield, before entering the firm of Peacock Bros. and Sons, merchants, at Sunderland. At the age of 19 he joined a brother in establishing engineering works, and was in this business for eight years. Losses made on account of the engineering strike in 1886 led to Wilson going to Queensland, where he became manager for Overend and Company, railway contractors and merchants. In 1891 he was appointed managing-director of the Canning Jarrah Timber Co. Ltd., in Western Australia. He became a city councillor at Perth in 1896, and a year later was elected a member of the legislative assembly for Canning and sat in opposition to Forrest (q.v.). In 1899 he left the Canning Jarrah Company and became interested in the Collie coalmining industry. At the 1901 general election he was elected for Perth, became minister for mines and railways in the Morgan ministry, but lost his seat when he went before his constituents. In 1904 he entered the assembly again as member for Sussex, and from August 1905 to May 1906 was minister for works in the Rason (q.v.) ministry. He might then have been premier but stood aside in favour of N. J. Moore (q.v.). He was treasurer in this ministry and minister of agriculture from May 1906 until June 1909, held the portfolio of education for practically the same period, and was minister for works from June 1909 to September 1910. He was also acting premier for part of 1910 while Moore was absent in England. He was premier and treasurer from September 1910 to October 1911 when his ministry was defeated at the general election. From October 1911 to July 1916 Wilson was leader of the opposition, and then became premier and treasurer again. In June 1917 he attempted to form a national ministry, but disagreeing as to methods withdrew from the meetings, and when the Lefroy ministry was formed sat as a private member until the general election in October 1917, when he lost his seat by four votes. His health had not been good and after the election he had a complete break-down. He died at Claremont on 7 December 1918 after an illness of some months following surgical operations. He married Annie Phillips of Sunderland, who survived him with three sons and six daughters. He was made a C.M.G. in 1911.
Wilson was a man of great courage and loyalty. When he realized the effect on the Western Australian revenue of the customs duties being taken over by the federal government, he worked hard for the development of industries. He was a good administrator who had given much study to finance, and as treasurer did sound work in restoring the financial position. A man of personality and culture, a good debater who could join tactical astuteness to honesty and determination, he was possibly, after Forrest, the most capable leader of his time in Western Australia.
Who's Who, 1918; The West Australian, 9 and 10 December 1918.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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