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John Roy (Jack) Fidler (1891–1973)

by Peter Mercer

This article was published:

John Roy (Jack) Fidler (1891-1973), surveyor, businessman and politician, was born on 8 August 1891 at Gladstone, Tasmania, one of eight children of Joseph Fidler, police constable, and his wife Hannah, née Quinn. After his father was transferred to Burnie in 1901, Jack completed his education at the local state school and began training as a surveyor with the Van Diemen's Land Co. in 1906. Enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force on 11 August 1915, he was posted to the 6th Field Company, Engineers, and sailed for Egypt in November. He was sent to France in March 1916; five months later he was commissioned and transferred to the 7th Field Company. For his deeds on 20 September 1917, east of Ypres, Belgium, when he organized the digging of a communications trench while under heavy fire, he was awarded the Military Cross. Fidler was wounded in action on four occasions and, following the Armistice, fell seriously ill with bronchopneumonia. On 19 July 1919 he married Lydia Maud Brown (d.1958) at St John's Anglican Church, Launceston, Tasmania.

Re-employed by the Van Diemen's Land Co. on a retainer until his retirement as its chief surveyor in October 1956, Fidler undertook additional work for Associated Pulp & Paper Mills Ltd, mining companies, the Public Works Department and private subdividers. Surveying roads and boundaries introduced him to some of the best stands of milling-timber in the State, and, from the 1920s until 1962, he developed a business interest in sawmilling, for some years in partnership with his brother Burnie. With (Sir) Gerald Mussen and A. K. McGaw, Jack Fidler set up Forest Supplies Pty Ltd to supply A.P.P.M. with timber for pulping and boiler fuel; he was the new company's first general manager (1937-43). In November 1946, standing as a Liberal, he was elected to the House of Assembly for the seat of Darwin (later Braddon). A member of the standing committee on public works, he was defeated in the elections in October 1956.

Fidler served on the Burnie Municipal Council (1957-66) and the local hospital board; he also belonged to the Burnie Club, the Agricultural and Pastoral Society, the Rotary Club and the Boy Scouts' Association. His other interests ranged from bowls to pigeon-racing: he was past president and a life member of the Burnie Athletic Club, a prominent cyclist, keen axeman, and champion of the Seabrook Golf Club. On 11 July 1959 at the Methodist Church, Burnie, he married a widow Ethel Mary Aiton, née Hugo (d.1972). Fidler had a pleasant and engaging personality, but perseverance was his greatest attribute. In parliament he had argued strongly for building a road to link the west and north-west coasts. To prove a point, in his early seventies he contracted to survey the route, and did it himself, largely on foot, assisted by a man and a boy. In 1966 he was appointed M.B.E. Survived by one of the two sons of his first marriage, he died on 17 March 1973 at New Norfolk and was cremated. He is remembered for the Pinnacle Road to the top of Mount Wellington, and for a section of the Murchison Highway where, at the Waratah end, a memorial plaque was unveiled in June 1974.

Select Bibliography

  • K. Pink, The Carnival (Burnie, Tas, 1986)
  • Advocate (Burnie), 13 Dec 1963, 19 Mar 1973, 14 June 1974, 19 Mar 1986
  • Mercury (Hobart), 19 Mar 1973
  • private information.

Citation details

Peter Mercer, 'Fidler, John Roy (Jack) (1891–1973)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 17 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (Melbourne University Press), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

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