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Osbert Mervyn Winn (1906–1983)

by Josephine May

This article was published:

Osbert Mervyn Winn (1906-1983), businessman, was born on 12 March 1906 at Waratah, New South Wales, youngest of ten children of Isaac Winn (1852-1934), draper, and his second wife Catherine Jane, née Rutledge, both born in New South Wales. Mervyn grew up amid the friendly, well-regulated mayhem of his large teetotal Wesleyan Methodist family. For the early years of his schooling Mervyn attended Mayfield East Public School. In 1920, following in the footsteps of his older brothers and cousins, he was sent as a boarder to Newington College, Sydney, where he gained the Intermediate certificate. He left school in 1924, around the time that his family moved to Toronto on Lake Macquarie. As a young man, he was a keen sailor of the 16-foot class, and with his brother Eric as the skipper, won the New South Wales State championships for Toronto Sailing Club in 1926-27 in Eric’s skiff Wyvern. Mervyn married Kathleen Joyce Cansdell on 15 October 1932 at the Leigh Memorial Methodist Church, Parramatta.

Mervyn’s father and his uncle William Winn (1849-1929) had established a draper’s business in Newcastle in 1878, with a Mrs Aird initially. It developed into a retail emporium. William commenced operations in Sydney in a closely allied, but separate, business in 1911. As did most of his brothers, Mervyn worked in a number of departments in the family businesses, first in Sydney and later in Newcastle.

Winn was commissioned as a pilot officer in the Administrative and Special Duties Branch of the Royal Australian Air Force on 16 December 1940. Following cipher training he served on several bases throughout Australia on cipher and administrative duties. He was promoted to flying officer on 1 November 1941 and to temporary flight lieutenant on 1 October 1942. Handicapped by deafness, he was discharged on medical grounds in July 1944. He served as president of the Air Force Association in Newcastle shortly after the war.

In 1949 W. Winn & Co. Pty Ltd became the public company Winns Newcastle Ltd. Mervyn was a director. A photograph (taken in 1953) hanging in the boardroom at Winns in Newcastle shows him to be a somewhat shy-looking man, with smooth, rounded features and a well-built frame. In 1969 Winns Newcastle merged with the Sydney company, Winns Ltd. In October the following year Mervyn retired.

A regular worshipper in the Methodist Church of Australasia, Winn served his local community through Meals on Wheels. He was an avid lawn bowler at Newcastle Bowling Club. On 9 May 1983 he died at Newcastle as a result of injuries sustained in a car accident. His funeral service was held in St Luke’s Uniting Church, Belmont, and he was cremated. He was survived by his wife and their younger son, their elder son having died (1938) in childhood.

Select Bibliography

  • Souvenir Winn’s Jubilee 1878-1928 (1928)
  • Newcastle and Hunter District Historical Society Bulletin, vol 2, no 3, 1974, p 40
  • Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 1 Nov 1934, p 8, 19 Oct 1951, p 4
  • Newcastle Herald, 10 May 1983, p 10
  • A9300, item WINN O M (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Josephine May, 'Winn, Osbert Mervyn (1906–1983)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 23 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (Melbourne University Press), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


12 March, 1906
Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia


9 May, 1983 (aged 77)
Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

motor vehicle accident

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.