I came across this item while looking for information about John Forrest and the mail shipping services in the 1890s. It appeared in the West Australian on 5 February 1895.

Sir John Forrest was both Premier and Treasurer of Western Australia at the time. He and his colleagues were in Hobart for the Postal Conference, after attending the Federal Council meeting.

No-one who had seen John Forrest in the flesh would doubt that he was a big man. He stood six feet tall. In his twenties he had led three surveying expeditions, crossing Western Australia from west to east, through uncharted territory. His ventures gave him the stature of a hero among the colonists. In those days he had been muscular, sturdy even.

John Forrest and his team leaving Geraldton for Adelaide in 1874
John Forrest and his team leaving Geraldton for Adelaide in 1874

But once he left exploring and entered politics he began to gain weight. By the time he became the first Premier of the West Australian colony in 1891, his size was already a cause for amused comment. In 1897, one newspaper reported that he weighed sixteen stone (102 kg).

John Forrest as portrayed by Julius Mendes Price for Vanity Fair, 1897
John Forrest as portrayed by Julius Mendes Price for Vanity Fair, 1897

To his credit, the climb up Mount Wellington (Kunanyi) wasn’t an easy stroll. The mount rises 1,271 metres above the Hobart port. Forrest and his party tackled it in the middle of summer. The Weekly Times of Melbourne reported that the ‘visit of the Premiers to the top of Mount Wellington at Hobart resolves itself into Sir John Forrest’s ascent alone. All the other Premiers declined the feat, and Westralia’s political leader was for the nonce monarch of ail he surveyed.’ Still, the West Australian was probably correct about him being the heaviest man to ever make the top.

Big Sir John Forrest
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