PETER NICHOLAS BROUN, FIRST W. A. COLONIAL SECRETARY
Two Western Australia Colonial Secretary stampless entires were found on auction sites, both with franking interest and sent to the same incumbent, but one was superior to the other in that both the sender and the receiver were of considerable interest. The first was addressed to The Honble The Colonial Secretary, Perth with a red manuscript 'Free' and a black undated 'Crown' over a 28 x 18 mm hexagon-shaped boxed 'GENERAL/ POST OFFICE/ PERTH' frank (Figure 1).
The second O.H.M.S. entire was sent to the Honble Colonial Secretary, Perth on 18th July 1843, signed by Abraham Jones, Post Office, Guildford and it has two markings, a manuscript 'Free' and a rare 'Crown/ POST OFFICE/ GUILDFORD'. This mark was only used on free official mail (Figure 2).
Walter Jones (b. 1777 in Wales), the father of Abraham Jones arrived in the Swan River Colony on the Egyptian on 14 February 1830 as a servant of Charles Boyd. His wife Tabitha Chaplin Daniells (b. 1781 in Wales) followed him four years later with their 9 children, Abraham being the second oldest son, having been born in 1807. When Walter retired in 1838, Abraham took over his business (farming and hotel) in Guildford. In 1839, Abraham was appointed postmaster of the newly established post office at Guildford and in 1841 he opened a school for local children. In 1842 he married Martha Hitchcock and they had one son, Theophilus Walter Jones. In August 1852, he called for tenders for the construction of a chapel and became its second minister. Abraham died in Guildford on August 12, 1877. Members of the Jones family were civic leaders of the town of Guildford, involved in the towns politics during the 19th century.
Peter Nichols (also spelt Nicholas) Broun (later changed to Brown) was born in Guernsey on August 17, 1797, the son of William Broun and Annie Demirgy, a member of an ancient French family. Nothing is known of his early life other than a doubtful claim that he served in the Royal Navy in his youth. He married Caroline Simpson in 1825 in Scotland, their first son McBryde Anderson was born in Scotland and the majority of his 10 other children were born in the Swan River Colony. Broun, his wife and 2 children sailed for the new colony on board the Parmelia, arriving in June 1829. His position as the Colonial Secretary had already been approved by Lieutenant-Governor James Stirling, at a salary of £400 (Figure 3).
Initially he worked out of a group of tents on Garden Island, before transferring to a temporary building on the new site of Perth, constructed by Broun with the intention of being his home. In 1832, the Colonial Secretary's office moved to more permanent quarters on the corner of Hay and Irwin Streets, Perth. Broun had brought livestock, equipment and furniture valued at more than £500, which entitled him to a grant of 9626 acres which he took up in Upper Swan and west of Guildford. The latter estate, which he named Bassendean after the Berwickshire residence of an ancestor, is now the suburb of Bassendean.
In 1830, a Legislative Council was formed to help the Governor to rule the colony, with the first sitting in 1832. As Colonial Secretary, Broun was automatically appointed to the Council. The council met four times a month and during Stirling's absence from August 1832 to August 1834 Broun was particularly busy. He remained a member until his death. In addition to his duties as Colonial Secretary and Clerk of the Legislative Council, he was also Registrar for the colony and second in importance to the Governor.
As Colonial Secretary, Broun was initially responsible for managing much of the government's funds, and after an initial proposal to set-up a government backed colonial bank failed to materialise, when settlers needed to lodge their funds for safekeeping, they naturally turned to him. Broun was entirely untrained in matters of finance and accounting, and the large distances over which the colony was spread meant that cheques were often held for long periods of time. Payments to shipping companies by settlers for imports meant that hard currency became scarce and in January 1834 the government issued a limited number of £1 notes. This had the effect of raising suspicion against Broun's own promissory notes and by 1835, his makeshift bank had effectively collapsed, and government funds had to be used to settle the matter. To repay the government, Broun sold out his entire estate at Bassendean, and assigned one quarter of his income to the government until the debt was repaid.
Not all settlers were prepared to accept that Broun's failure as a banker was entirely innocent, for on January 12, 1836 he was verbally assaulted in the street by a settler named Will Shaw, who had previously been involved in a protracted dispute with Broun over the boundary between their grants. Shaw was fined for the assault, but went on to slander Broun throughout the town. Broun then brought a slander case against Shaw, which he won easily. The court case won Broun much public goodwill, for it showed that he had only agreed to act as banker for the good of the public, and that as soon as he had to suspend payments he had sold his own estate to settle the debts.
Broun first became ill in July 1846, and after a brief recovery, he relapsed in August. He eventually died in Fremantle on November 5, 1846, and was buried in the East Perth cemetery. He was survived by his wife and 5 of his children. His wife sailed for England in the Hindoo which caught fire at sea and was destroyed. She was saved, but Broun's diaries and papers which she had intended to have published in London were destroyed. A grandson, Frank Broun, later became Member for Beverley in the Western Australian Legislative Assembly, and, like his grandfather, Colonial Secretary of Western Australia.