After the Xantho

Harvesting the famous 'Golden Pearl'

When Xantho sank Broadhurst abandoned the North West. He took all his labourers down to Shark Bay to join the infamous Captain Francis Cadell in opening the pearling industry using 'Malay' and Aboriginal labour.

When news of their successes in harvesting the famous Oriental, or 'Golden', Pearl spread, a virtual ‘gold rush’ ensued. Broadhurst also opened a store at Wilyiah Mia (Place of the Pearl), becoming eulogised in the press as 'a man in 10,000'.

He was appointed to Parliament in recognition of his contribution to the North West, but then resigned in disgrace after failing to pay and repatriate his ‘Malay’ labourers. The scandal was such that the Colonial Office in London ordered an inquiry into the abuses. Broadhurst and Cadell were roundly criticised. The costs of this exercise combined with the loss of his ship threw him into total disrepute and near bankruptcy.

His family would have suffered accordingly.

The Guano Industry

After the Shark Bay and Xantho debacles, and after many summonses for non-payment of debt, Charles opened a fish cannery industry in Mandurah and was a great success.

Broadhurst then sold out and went north in search of new enterprises, this time to commence fishing at the Abrolhos Islands off Geraldton. After seeing hundreds of thousands of birds nesting on the islands, he found huge deposits of guano (bird fertiliser). Soon he had begun mining and exporting it, but though granted a monopoly to the deposit in exchange for royalties payable to the government, again he failed to make the industry a success.

In 1888 his 26-year-old son Florance (who had a mercantile education) took control of the company’s export trade. Bringing sound business practices to the industry, he made full use of the first monopoly in the State’s extracting industries, and became hugely successful and very wealthy. Florance was able to return massive royalties to the Government where his father could not.

In effect the Abrolhos Islands guano industry was the forerunner to WA’s export mining industries.

Guano Collection

Guano Collection
Image copyright WA Museum 

Charles and Eliza retire

After being brought out by Florance, and finally secure in their finances, Charles and Eliza retired to Bournemouth in England. Here, they lived comfortably, first in a place called The Bungalow, and then in a two-storey family home they called Karrakatta. Some of the children, including Catherine (Kitty), went with them. Eliza died in 1899, aged 60, and Charles died six years later, aged 79.

Charles Broadhurst: One of WA’s 100 most influential citizens

As a result of the Museum’s research, in 2009 Charles Broadhurst was recognised as one of WA’s 100 most influential citizens.

He is now recognised as the forerunner to the famous early 20th century mining entrepreneur Claude de Bernales, and his modern counterparts Robert Holmes à Court, Laurie Connell, and Alan Bond.