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EDWARD KEANE, RAILWAYS & HERITAGE BUILDINGS,
MAYOR & POLITICIAN

This One Halfpenny Western Australia Post Card is addressed to a tailor at Perth and the printed stamp is cancelled by a duplex PERTH/ 7/ NO 14/ 1891/ WESTERN AUSTRALIA with a G.P.O obliterator (Figure 1).

The printed message on the reverse is for a Municipal Election, and reads as follows: Ladies and Gentlemen, – I would take the liberty of reminding you, that on MONDAY next, the 16th instant, you will have the privilege by your vote of electing a Mayor for the coming year. If you think me worthy of your confidence and of holding that honorable position, I trust that you will spare from the toils of this busy life the few minutes required to record your vote in my favour. Yours faithfully, Edward Keane (Figure 2).

Edward Vivien Harvey Keane was born on 8 August 1844 at Birkenhead, England, the son of Captain Edward Keane R.N., and was educated privately. He was apprenticed to railways contractors and became a civil engineer. In 1876 he went to Melbourne but soon moved to South Australia where he worked as an engineer. As E. Keane & Co., railway contractors, he built many culverts, an engine shed at Naracoorte, reservoirs at Terowie and Orroroo, the line to Holdfast Bay and part of the line from Terowie to Pichi Richi. On 27 May 1879 he married Lilla Rebecca Wharton, daughter of Abraham White of Kapunda.

n 1882 the Keanes moved to Western Australia, where Edward set up as a builder in Perth and he made many influential friends, including John and Alexander Forrest. He also built several railways and in February 1886 won the contract for the first forty miles (64 km) of the Midland Land Grant Railway Co.'s lines to be completed with rolling stock and other appliances in four years at an estimated cost of £1 million. The company failed to raise finance in London and Keane agreed to work at his own expense and accept part payment in land and company shares. He had lately finished a building at Fremantle for the National Bank and its manager gave Keane an overdraft of £20,000 which soon rose to £85,000.

In 1888 he went to London where the company had called for debentures; despite their small success, Keane borrowed £150,000 on their security. The bank recovered the overdraft which had enabled Keane to complete his contract but he was now burdened by his borrowing which he could not repay. With some government support but much strife and difficulty the railway was finished in eight years, and in 1895 his courage was rewarded with 80,000 acres (32,375 ha) and appointment as general manager of the Midland Railway Co.

Keane represented Geraldton in the Legislative Council from December 1886 to January 1889 and then Perth until December 1890. He was then elected for Perth to the new Legislative Assembly until December 1891 and was returned for Eastern Province to the council in May-June 1904. As a politician he was blunt and forthright, opposing the concentration of railways in the central districts, and supporting free trade and Federation.

The Australian Dictionary of Biography stated he was elected unopposed as mayor of Perth (so did his opponent withdraw from the election in the last week of the campaign?) in 1891 but the railway problems soon led to his resignation in 1892. . Among his diverse interests he was a justice of the peace and a local director of the South British Insurance Co. He also built the Perth Cathedral and the Fremantle Town Hall, the latter being opened on 22 June 1887 to coincide with Queen Victoria’ Golden Jubilee. A picture of the Fremantle Town Hall is seen in Figure 3.

In 1888 he equipped the first party to go to the Yilgarn goldfields and later had a grazing property in the Eastern Districts where he imported stock. Laid low by pneumonia and a heart attack in an election campaign, Keane died on 9 July 1904, survived by his wife and four of his five children. At his funeral flags in Perth were flown at half-mast. His large home, Cappoquon House, Keane's Point, in the expensive Peppermint Grove Shire, and its garden was a district show-piece. It was used as a rehabilitation centre for returned servicemen in World War I and later became the headquarters of the Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club. A painting by John Campbell of Cappoquon House built by Edward Keane is seen in Figure 4.

Most of the text is extracted from the A.D.B’s description of Edward Keane.


 
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