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Hay, Sir John (1840–1909)

As briefly announced in our last issue, the death occurred at his residence, Crow's Nest, North Sydney, on Friday afternoon last, of Sir John Hay. He had been unwell for the preceding fortnight, but nothing serious was anticipated and death occurred rather suddenly from heart failure.

Sir John Hay was born at Coolangatta in 1840, and was, therefore, close upon his 70th year. He was of Scottish parentage, being the son of the late Mr. David Hay, and in 1864 married Miss Jessie Sinclair thus becoming connected with Dr. David Bruce and Judge Gilles, of the New Zealand Judiciary. Mr. David Hay, deceased's father, married a second time and his widow survives him, and is residing at Coolangatta, her son being Mr. Alex. Hay, manager of the Berry estate, and, therefore, half-brother to the deceased.

On the death of Mr. David Berry, in September, 1889, the Berry estate was left to Sir John Hay. This vast property comprised 500 acres, known as the Crow's Nest estate; 80,000 acres north and south of the Shoalhaven River, extending from Gerringong, on the north, to the shores of Jervis Bay, on the south; and an estate originally described as a tract of swamp and jungle, practically till acquired by purchase from the Crown by the brothers Berry, and Alexander Berry's partner, Wollstonecraft—cousin of the Wollstonecraft mentioned in Shelley's poems. The Berry brothers and two sisters, it may be here mentioned, died without issue. They are all buried at Coolangatta, excepting Alexander Berry, who is buried at North Sydney. All the lands of these brothers became the properly of the last surviving member of the family, David. The Crow's Nest property and the area south of the Shoalhaven River, together with the outlying portions of the estate, including the districts of Gerringong, Broughton Village, Jasper's Brush, Meroo, Cambewarra and Bomaderry, were vested in Sir John Hay and the Hon. James Morton as trustees, and were charged with the payments of upwards of a quarter of a million of money in the shape of legacies, including £100,000 for the University of St. Andrew's, Scotland; £100,000 for the establishment at Berry of a hospital for non-infectious diseases; and £30,000 for the Presbyterian Church in New South Wales.

The assumption of the management of the estate by Sir John Hay was signalised by the inauguration of various large schemes for the betterment of the district, and an era of activity and prosperity ensued.

Deceased was a councillor of the Royal Agricultural Society, and took a leading part in the promotion of all matters connected with the furtherance of the agricultural interests of the State. He established several pure-bred dairy herds at Coolangatta, and was at prominent winner, especially with his Ayreshires, at all the great inter-State show meetings. The introduction of the milk-condensing industry is due to his enterprise. By lavish expenditure in the establishment of the Berry Central Butter Factory he gave a much needed stimulus to the dairying industry, the New South Wales produce being hopelessly distanced in foreign markets by the products of Victoria and New Zealand.

Appointed an Honorary Commissioner with Sir Joseph Carruthers for New South Wales at the Franco-British Exhibition, of London, he, while in the old country, received the honor of knighthood it the hands of the King in recognition of his public benefactions, an honor which he has only lived to enjoy some eight months. For many years he was a councillor of St. Andrew's College, within the University of Sydney, and was a member of the financial committee of the Presbyterian Church of New South Wales. Of late years, especially since his health had failed, he resided chiefly at his North Sydney mansion, Crow's Nest.

On the death of Mr. Harry Gordon Morton, the active management of the estate passed into the hands of Sir John's' half-brother, Mr. Alexander Hay, who of late years has been assisted in the administration by Mr. H D. Morton, under whose management Sir John Hay's policy of converting the tenantry into freeholders has been pursued with some success. Sir John Hay was universally beloved, and no local interest but had his sympathy and generous support, he being a liberal patriot of every public institution in Berry. A man without any personal enemies, he had no ambitions beyond helping his fellow man, and his death is deeply mourned by every resident on his estate. He leaves no children. His wife survives him.

The remains were taken to Berry by the 6.50 train on Saturday evening, and interred at Coolangatta on Sunday afternoon.

Original publication

Citation details

'Hay, Sir John (1840–1909)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/hay-sir-john-21886/text31938, accessed 25 April 2019.

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