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McGauran, John Charles (1924–2009)

by Julian McGauran

John McGauran, whose intimate link with Gippsland's pioneers was the source of inspiration and information to succeeding generations, has died at his home in Toorak after a long battle with cancer. He was 85.

Under the tutelage of his father, John assumed responsibility in the late 1940s for the family's Hereford property in the Latrobe Valley and hotels in Traralgon, Morwell, Bunyip and Longwarry.

Later, he successfully expanded the hotel interests into Melbourne.

However, he had no wish to live in Melbourne; he loved farm life to the point where he was working with livestock and farm machinery on the family farm "Nambrok" outside Rosedale in Gippsland until near to his death.

Hard work and total application to a task were constant drivers in his life.

The only child born to Kathleen and her then 53-year-old husband Jack, he became the window through which the history of late 19th and early 20th century settlement of Gippsland flowed through to successive generations.

John attended several schools, from St Michael's in Traralgon to, briefly, Xavier College in Melbourne, as he moved about with his father, who regaled him with firsthand experiences of the trials and tribulations of forging a society out of bushland.

It is an oral history that tells of the courage and resilience of the men and women of early Gippsland battling natural disasters and economic hardship in the then most isolated area of Victoria.

John's grandfather, Michael, arrived in Gippsland in 1873 to farm but succumbed to pneumonia within a decade, leaving his wife Bridget with four young children to raise. She did this with great strength and enterprise, which included operating a business raising turkeys, which instilled in Jack a flair for business that he expanded into substantial pastoral and hotel interests.

John would often say that he was brought up by the people of the 1800s who belonged to an era now known only through history.

Yet he could tell of conversations with veterans of the Boer War and early settlers whose stoicism and beliefs and values influenced him for the rest of his life.

John married Mary (nee Hourigan) in 1952 to start a lifelong partnership, which saw them raise six children and provide and encourage them with education opportunities and support.

He had a strongly developed notion of public service and was a life governor of the Traralgon Hospital, and foundation councillor of the Gippsland Institute of Advanced Education at Churchill, the forerunner of what is now Gippsland Monash.

His sons became members of Federal Parliament — Peter, the long-serving Gippsland MP and former agriculture minister, and Julian, a serving senator. Both often cite their father as the inspiration for their careers in public life.

John was also among the Catholic Church's strongest adherents and a generous benefactor of Catholic causes, especially education.

He is survived by his wife Mary, children Alexa, John, Peter, Julian, Rachel and Daria, and 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Original publication

  • Age (Melbourne), 1 July 2009

Citation details

Julian McGauran, 'McGauran, John Charles (1924–2009)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/mcgauran-john-charles-13393/text24040, accessed 22 September 2019.

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