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Wetherspoon, John (1844–1928)

by Bruce Mitchell

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

John Wetherspoon (1844-1928), farmer and politician, was born on 13 July 1844 at Newburgh, Fifeshire, Scotland, son of Andrew Wetherspoon, labourer, and his wife Helen, née Marr. The family came to Sydney in 1853. John was soon employed in the New England district as a shepherd; by the age of 19 he was an overseer; at 24 he became manager of Trinkey station on the Liverpool Plains. On 20 December 1871 Wetherspoon married Catherine Crothers (d.1926) with Presbyterian forms at Gowrie, Patricks Plains. Gaining title (probably after selection) to 100 acres (40 ha) south of Glen Innes, he made it the nucleus of his eventual 1600-acre (648 ha) property, Glencoe, which he acquired without 'dummying'. He built a fine, brick residence surrounded by hedges, avenues and many 'home-country' trees.

President of Glen Innes Pastoral and Agricultural Society (1888), Wetherspoon had charge of the northern exhibit at the Sydney Royal Show for many years. He helped to secure the Glen Innes Experiment Farm in 1902. An early member of the Farmers and Settlers' Association, he served on its executive (1901-14) and was vice-president (1904-09 and 1911-14). He was also a member of the Severn Shire temporary council in 1906 and a director of the Glen Innes Pastures Protection Board (1907-28) and the Land Newspaper Ltd (1911-14).

A free trader and Federationist, Wetherspoon was defeated for the Glen Innes seat in the Legislative Assembly in 1895 and 1898 (as an Independent). He was nominated to the Legislative Council in 1908. At first he advocated matters close to his interests: the importance of land to the welfare of the nation, the value of closer settlement and the need to break up large estates. He advocated the planting of trees, and supported railway extension and immigration (when land was available). After 1910 he seldom spoke in the House and attended only about one-tenth of the sittings.

In 1890 Wetherspoon had published Warblings from the Bush. Written between 1862 and the 1880s, his verse revealed a strong patriotism for a united and democratic Australia springing from Anglo-Saxon strains, the blood of Scotland and 'Erin's better sons'. Some of his poems cast the Aborigines as foes. Self-educated, he was proud of his writing and sent a copy of the book to Sir Henry Parkes, adding: 'you were the friend of poor Henry Kendall and … are inclined to woo the muse at times'.

A devout Presbyterian, Wetherspoon supported his Church and praised Rev. Alexander Cameron, the local minister. Wetherspoon became more Scottish as he aged. He was a founder and vice-president of the local Caledonian Society (1892), chief in 1894-96 and actively involved thereafter. A man of grit, determination and faith, he died at Glencoe on 12 June 1928. In the rain and bitter cold, preceded by pipers playing Loch Aber No More and Lord Lovat's Lament, he was buried beside his wife in the local cemetery. Their only daughter survived them.

Select Bibliography

  • Parliamentary Debates (New South Wales), 11 Sept 1928, p 3
  • Scottish Australasian, Dec 1914, p 3250
  • Glen Innes Examiner, 23 Feb 1926, 14 June 1928
  • Land (Sydney), 15 June 1928
  • Henry Parkes correspondence (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Bruce Mitchell, 'Wetherspoon, John (1844–1928)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/wetherspoon-john-9055/text15957, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 25 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

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