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Hackett, Sir John Winthrop (1848–1916)

West Australia has lost one of its worthiest citizens in Sir John Winthrop Hackett, K.C.M.G., who died yesterday morning at his residence in St. George's-terrace in his 68th year. Although he had been ailing a long time his death was tragically sudden. He went about his business as usual on Friday, and apparently passed a good night. About 10 o'clock yesterday morning, however, before he had left his house, he was stricken down by syncope. Dr. Saw was summoned, but the veteran journalist was beyond mortal aid, and within a few minutes he had passed away. His end, we trust, was painless, and, in a sense, it was merciful. He died in harness and those who knew the man say that that was how he wished to die.

The late Sir John Winthrop Hackett belonged to an old South of Ireland family. His father was the Rev. John W. Hackett a Church of England clergyman. Educated at Trinity College, Dublin (which made him an honorary doctor of letters in 1902), he graduated as M.A. and was called to the Irish Bar, but did not practise long, either in Dublin or Sydney, to which city he emigrated in the seventies. Proceeding to Melbourne, he was from 1876 to 1882 sub-warden of Trinity College, Melbourne University. In 1882 he contested a seat in the Victorian Legislative Assembly without success. Towards the end of the same year he came West, and after a brief and discouraging experience of pastoral life in the North he joined the late Mr. Charles Harper in the ownership of the West Australian, then a tri weekly; and entered upon his life work. In 1885 the West was made a daily, and two years later, on the retirement of the late Sir Thomas Cockburn Campbell, the then editor, Mr. Hackett became editor. He made the paper a power in the land. Though not a great writer, nor perhaps a great editor, he had sound judgment and a keen sense of what the public desired, and he was in the best sense of the word a successful journalist.

Sir Winthrop Hackett's political career began in 1890, when he was returned for the first Legislative Council under Responsible Government. He retained his seat in Parliament till the day of his death, and might have taken office in several Ministries had he desired. He was a member of the Federal Conventions of 1891 and 1897-8, and in 1897, 1899. and 1899 he was a delegate to the Federal Council. Apart from politics and journalism, his activities were numerous—in fact the wonder is that he found time to attend to them all. A noted Churchman and Freemason, he was president of the Zoological Gardens, the Museum, Library and Art Gallery; was prominently identified with King's Park, the Karrakatta Cemetery Board, the Caves Board and Perth High School, and helped to found the University. He married in 1905 Deborah, daughter of Mr. Frederick Slade Drake-Brockman, and leaves a widow and five children—four daughters and a son. We understand that Mr George Wickham and Major Drake-Brockman. D.S.O., are the executors of the estate.

Our opinion of the late Sir Winthrop Hackett was expressed in an article published five years ago, on the occasion of his obtaining the distinction of knighthood. We reprint here a portion of what we said then: "If the privilege of being addressed as Sir Something or other when the great majority of your countrymen are called Mr. Smith, Brown, or Robinson is a fit reward for three decades of public service, no man is better entitled to it than Hackett, K.B. Undoubtedly he has accomplished good work for the West. As journalist, as politician, as churchman, as patron of art and science, as co-worker in many useful public undertakings he has done not a little to make the community what it is. He is not a reformer nor yet a man of prodigious personality. His principal qualities, one would say, are tact and sagacity, blending in a profound knowledge of human nature. The West has plenty of sporting publicans; dozens of absentee landlords and globe-trotting sheep kings; and thousands of persons in various walks of life whose sole ambition is to make a fortune here and spend it somewhere else, but the number of its public-spirited citizens, citizens who love the country for its own sake and strive to leave it better than they found it, is lamentably few. One of the few—and one of the best of them—is John Winthrop Hackett. That is what we wrote when the man was alive and could appreciate it—and it is pleasant to think that he did appreciate it—and we repeat it now that he has passed into "the tongueless silence of the dreamless dust".

During the day expressions of regret at the death of Sir Winthrop and of sympathy with the widow and children came from the Governor, the Premier, Archbishop Riley, and numerous others. The funeral will take place to-morrow afternoon in Karrakatta Cemetery. It will be preceded by a service in St George's Cathedral.

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'Hackett, Sir John Winthrop (1848–1916)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/hackett-sir-john-winthrop-6514/text24531, accessed 20 September 2017.

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