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McCaffrey, John (?–1939)

The death occurred on Monday last at Haberfield of Mr. John McCaffrey at the advanced age of 90, and his passing removes one of the last of a generation whose lives and works are now part of the history of Illawarra.

Talking to him only a few months ago when he was on one of his periodical visits to Kiama, it was difficult indeed to realise that he was within a decade of the century mark. Physically and mentally he appeared to be at least 20 years younger than his real age. He was on this occasion, greatly interested in tracing the boundaries of various properties near the Church Point, and had a very accurate recollection of the location of old surveyors' pegs. His memories of work carried out on the showground many years ago bore out most of the results obtained more recently by mechanical means. He was a fund of information on local history and in this regard was a worthy brother of the late Frank McCaffrey, the famous historian of Illawarra.

John McCaffrey was born at Kangaroo Valley, then known as the Kangaroo Ground, and was a son of the late Charles McCaffrey and Mary McGuire, who together with their eldest daughter, then only eighteen months old, landed in Wollongong in 1841.

They first settled at Marshall Mount, where Charles McCaffrey was associated with Henry Osborne. In 1841 they went to the Kangaroo Ground, where the only settlers were timber-getters living in rough bark huts, and communication was by pack-horse over bush tracks.

John McCaffrey was only two years old when his parents left the Kangaroo Ground, acting on medical advice, and they bought property, at Jerrara Creek, later also acquiring the Longbrush property.

As recorded by Frank McCaffrey, the children used to walk to the Catholic School at Jamberoo, which was then known as Woodstock, and as their father was one of the first to be interested in the breeding of good pedigree cattle, their interests in later life were naturally largely in that direction.

John McCaffrey was always a very generous supporter of the Kiama Agricultural Society, donating prizes to the Illawarra Dairy Cattle Section, assisting in the catering, and in every other way helping its activities. One of its oldest members has described him as a "great benefactor".

As a young man he left his native district for a time and was the proprietor of a hotel business on the northern tablelands. It was at Kiama, however, that his chief interests were and at one time he conducted two hotels here. One, the Royal, stood on the site of the present petrol station at the Kiama Motor Works in Terralong Street. He also purchased the licence of the Hotel Brighton, at that time an unpretentious building. He later acquired the property itself and then took over the old Steam Packet Hotel adjoining, which had been closed for many years. He extended the Brighton Hotel to the size it was before the present renovations were undertaken.

A most progressive citizen, the late John McCaffrey was for several terms an Alderman of the Kiama Council, and his chief work in the municipal sphere was his strong advocacy of a water supply and the continental baths, both of which schemes he saw brought to fruition, and which owed much to his energy and foresight. He was also the instigator of the building of the sea wall in the park opposite the Post Office, now known as Kendall Park, during the term of the late E.W. Sullivan as Minister for Works. He retired from active business life some twenty years ago, and went to live in Sydney, but was a frequent visitor to Kiama, and rarely missed attending the annual show.

Mr. McCaffrey married Miss Mary Ann Daley, daughter of the late Patrick Daley of Jamberoo, and a member of a well-known and highly respected district family. She predeceased him some eight years ago, and he is survived by one son, Mr J.H. McCaffrey, and one daughter, Mrs. Annie Brynes, of Haberfield, to whom district sympathy is extended in their bereavement.

A most generous, open-hearted man, the late John McCaffrey made a very wide circle of friends, who will be sorry to hear that he has passed on, but are glad that he was spared so long after a busy and useful career.

Original publication

Citation details

'McCaffrey, John (?–1939)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/mccaffrey-john-27516/text34917, accessed 17 July 2019.

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