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John Creswell (1858–1909)

by John A. Daly

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John Creswell (1858-1909), company secretary, was born on 8 December 1858 at Woodville, South Australia, son of John Thomas Creswell, pioneer merchant and shipping agent, and his wife Mary Ann, née Smith. Educated at the Collegiate School of St Peter, at 16 he joined the office of F. S. C. Driffield, local manager of the National Fire and Marine Insurance Co. of New Zealand.

Creswell played for and was secretary of the South Park Football Club in 1876-79, was a founder and early secretary of the South Australian Football Association, and was a representative in intercolonial matches. He played cricket for Norwood and was secretary of the Kensington and Norwood, Cricketing Association in 1881-83. A 'fine shot', he was a poultry fancier and a bowls player, with his own private green. He was an authority on greyhounds and his dogs won many major coursing events; for ten years from 1895 he managed the company that built and controlled the racing arena at Plympton. On 4 June 1884 he had married Elizabeth Maria Kingsborough at Kent Town.

As a sports administrator Creswell became 'a household name' in South Australia. In 1883-1909 he was secretary of the South Australian Cricketing Association and, 'by foresight, judgement and capacity', greatly raised its status. This ability was recognized in 1892 with his election as secretary to the first, controversial Australasian Cricket Council.

Sometimes referred to as 'the busiest man in Adelaide', in 1889 Creswell had succeeded Driffield as manager of the insurance company and secretary of the Chamber of Commerce. He was the colony's representative on the English Board of Trade, and secretary to the Vinegrowers' Association, the Eastern and African Cool Storage Co. and the Farmers' Distress Fund. Although 'bluff and incisive', this 'prince of showmen' had a great capacity to inspire and enthuse and as secretary from 1900 of the Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society of South Australia he altered its condition 'from one of debt to one of deposits'.

From 1892 until his death Creswell served on his old school's board of governors and in 1900-09 was a vigorous president of its Old Collegians' Association, a position he valued highly. In 1893 he was an unsuccessful independent candidate for the Legislative Council. Shortly after returning from one of his frequent trips to New Zealand, Creswell died of hypertensive cerebro-vascular disease at Unley on 24 March 1909. He was survived by his wife, four daughters and a son and was buried in Payneham cemetery. His estate was sworn for probate at £4645. The Creswell memorial scholarship at his old school recalls his influence and his peers' esteem, as do the Creswell scholarships for studies in commerce at the University of Adelaide. The City Council named Creswell Park after him and the John Creswell Stand (now demolished) at the Adelaide Oval honours his contribution to cricket.

Select Bibliography

  • J. J. Pascoe (ed), History of Adelaide and Vicinity (Adel, 1901)
  • A. G. Price, The Collegiate School of St Peter, 1847-1947 (Adel, 1947)
  • S. Downer, 100 Not Out (Adel, 1972)
  • South Australian Cricket Association, Report, 1909
  • St Peter's College Magazine, 1909
  • Observer (Adelaide), 5 Dec 1896
  • Register (Adelaide), 25 Mar 1909
  • St Peter's College Archives (Adelaide).

Citation details

John A. Daly, 'Creswell, John (1858–1909)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 18 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (Melbourne University Press), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

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