North, John

William John George North was born in Sydney in 1856, the son of John Britty North and Clarissa Hack who were married in Sydney in 1855. John Britty North was born in Somerset in 1831 and had come to Australia when 20 years old; Clarissa (known as Clara), was London-born and came to Australia in 1849 at the age of 17. She was a niece of David Jones, the founder of the Sydney department store. John B. and Clara had eight children, John George being the elder of two sons. He was educated at Fort Street School before entering stock and share broking as a partner in his father’s firm.

John George North married Mary Bell Shepherd in 1882 at Ashfield. Mary (who had been born at Rooty Hill, Sydney, in 1863) liked moving houses frequently. The couple lived first at Ashfield, then at Ermington, Meadowbank and Ryde before coming to Beecroft about 1910. They leased ‘Oaklands’, the home of C.C. Tucker in Kirkham Street, before purchasing the house at 12 Malton Road from William Nixon in 1911.[1] The Norths named their new home ‘Willowmere’.

The house stood in large grounds, of sufficient area to include a tennis court, a cricket pitch and a paddock for ‘Pansy’, the cow. John and Mary had six sons, David (born 1883), John Alfred (born 1885), Robert (born 1889), Harry (born 1891), Alan (born 1896) and Arthur (born 1897), who all attended Sydney Grammar School. Alan was a champion tennis player and took part in competitions at Wimbledon.

Although he employed a full-time gardener who lived in a very small building at the back of the house, John North was a keen gardener himself and grew vegetables behind the tennis court and had a large rose garden. He was a man of robust physique and suffered practically no illness until about three weeks before his death.[2]

John North took a small part in local affairs in the Literary and Debating Society, in billiards contests and on the committee of the School of Arts. He was concerned about the Beecroft railway station, helping in tree planting there, and was one of the deputation to the Commissioner for Railways concerning the site of the station entrance. In 1914 he was chairman of a meeting to form a Red Cross League Helpers Branch and the following year he also chaired a meeting to erect a memorial to local men going to the war.[3]

Each of the sons had a successful career. John Alfred North, the second son, was a stockbroker, like his father and grandfather. He was also a foundation member of the Pennant Hills Golf Club. The youngest son, Arthur, became a grazier in the Rylstone district, Robert and Alan were Macquarie Street eye specialists, David was a pathologist and Harry held a senior position in the Education Department.

In 1932 John and Mary left Beecroft and went to live in Vaucluse and later in Roseville. John died in 1939 and Mary in 1946. John Alfred and his wife Lorna and family lived in Willoughby until John died in 1959, Lorna having predeceased him by eight years.[4]

[1] Land Titles Office 1548/85.

[2] Obituary in unidentified press cutting, 1939.

[3] Cumberland Argus, 3 August 1912, 1 November 1913, 16 August 1913, 29 July 1916, 26 August 1916, 19 January 1918, 30 June 1917, 15 August 1914, 8 May 1915.

[4] Information from Mary Vernon of Beecroft and Robert North of Dubbo.