Navigating the tumult of Western Australia’s formative colonial years

George Forsyth arrived in Western Australia in the early 1860s, during the era of wood and sail and at the beginning of the iron and steam era. The port of Fremantle – a critical maritime hub for the colony – was desperately unfit to meet the demands of growing maritime activity.

Forsyth battled snobbery, entitlement and antagonism in his efforts to secure better maritime infrastructure and working conditions. He risked his life in many emergencies at sea, was beaten up, had his throat cut and nearly drowned.

For all his efforts he was dismissed from his position of Harbour Master under a cloud of innuendo and controversy. Resilient and defiant, he went on to become a sea captain, plying the treacherous waters along Western Australia’s coast.

Forsyth’s working life unfolded against a backdrop of dramatic change in Western Australia: the opening up of the colony, the end of the convict era, the quest for responsible government and the start of the Gold Rush.

This book provides many fresh insights into the colony’s colourful maritime heritage and its evolving political and social dynamics. It also contains 16 of Forsyth’s artworks, many of which have not been seen before in public.

Read an extract from the book

Harbourmaster’s lugger off Arthurs Head, Fremantle by Captain George Forsyth, dated 02/05/1888