Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Humble, George Bland (1839–1930)

by Wendy Birman

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

George Bland Humble (1839-1930), teacher and town clerk, was born on 22 December 1839 at Leyburn Moor House, near Richmond, Yorkshire, England, son of Thomas Humble, farmer, and his wife Jane, née Bland. He was educated at the Wesleyan School at Richmond and the Wesleyan Normal Institute, London, where he taught until appointed headmaster of the Wesleyan School Marylebone. Invited by the government of Western Australia to teach at Greenough Flats, he sailed in the Robert Morrison on 25 August 1861 and after a stormy voyage arrived at Fremantle on 13 July 1862. He taught for a year in a primitive schoolhouse at Greenough, was nearly drowned in the floods of 1863 and survived another fierce storm as he sailed south to become headmaster of the Fremantle Boys' School. Conscientious in his work, he was respected by his pupils who presented him with an illuminated address and silver tea service when he resigned in 1889.

Humble had been commissioned second lieutenant in the Volunteer Rifle Corps in 1864, and in 1870 sponsored a memorial to the military commandant to change it into the Fremantle Rifle Volunteers. He was promoted first lieutenant and became captain in command. An unpleasant letter in the West Australian, 9 May 1888, caused him to tender his resignation, but he recalled it at the request of his officers and men. His popularity and enthusiasm were duly acknowledged by the gifts of a gold locket and a major's presentation sword when he retired in 1889.

Elected councillor for Fremantle North ward in January 1874, Humble could not take his seat as his simultaneous application for the post of part-time clerk of works was successful. When Fremantle was made a corporation in 1883 he became town clerk. In 1892 his position was amalgamated with that of the secretary of the local board of health so that he could become a full-time officer to the council. With manifold duties he undoubtedly worked very hard and probably devoted much private time to council work, despite his concurrent employment as part-time secretary of the Fremantle Benefit Building and Investment Society. In November 1893 the auditor reported to the Fremantle Town Council that far too much clerical work was expected of Humble and that his responsibilities extended beyond the duties defined in the by-laws. Urged by the auditor to respect the secretarial status of the town clerk, the council accepted the report and unanimously moved that 'the worthy town clerk … should be placed in his proper position as their chief official and responsible adviser'. However, Humble was shocked in March 1904 when the new mayor, F. Cadd, demanded his resignation, declaring that he was not satisfied with the administration of council affairs. Although divided on the issue, the councillors agreed to accept Humble's resignation and granted him twelve months leave on the maximum gratuity provided by the Act. In 1905 Humble was narrowly defeated as a candidate in the mayoral election.

With an abiding interest in the Wesleyan Church, Humble also was deacon at the Congregational Chapel with Rev. Joseph Johnston and later instrumental in building the Johnston Memorial Church at Fremantle. A prominent Freemason, justice of the peace and active sportsman, Humble was a founding member of the Fremantle Cemetery Board and planned his own funeral six weeks before he died on 23 October 1930. He was predeceased in January 1908 by his wife Ellen, daughter of Stephen Allpike, master blacksmith, whom he had married in 1864 at the Congregational Chapel, Fremantle. Of their two sons and five daughters, John Alfred Ernest (1867-1912) founded a business in Fremantle and maintained his father's association with the volunteer movement, which merged with the 11th Infantry Regiment and from which he retired as major and second-in-command in 1909.

Select Bibliography

  • J. K. Ewers, The Western Gateway (Fremantle, 1948)
  • G. F. Wieck, The Volunteer Movement in Western Australia, 1861-1903 (Perth, 1962)
  • West Australian, 9, 21, 24 May 1888, 21 Apr, 10 June 1889, 6 Sept 1890, 27 Oct 1930
  • Western Mail (Perth), 25 Jan 1908
  • Fremantle Town Council minute books (State Library of Western Australia, and Council Chambers, Fremantle).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Wendy Birman, 'Humble, George Bland (1839–1930)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/humble-george-bland-3815/text6017, published in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 23 August 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

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