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Sillar, John Walker (Jack) (1861–1919)

Profound indeed will be the feeling of sorrow which will be felt throughout the town and district at the announcement of the death of John Walker Sillar, manager of the Bank of Australasia, Dubbo branch. The sad event occurred early this (Friday) morning at his residence at the bank premises in Macquarie-street, the whole of the members of his family, with the exception of Lieut. Jack Sillar, being present at the bedside. Dr. Burkitt, his medical attendant all through his illness, was also present. Mr. Sillar had been ill for some ten days, and his condition varied so often from one extreme to the other that his death was not unexpected. His end was calm and reposeful.

The late Mr. Sillar was one of Dubbo's finest citizens in every sense of the word. As a townsman he has been associated with the religious, civic, educational, commercial, and sporting life of the town during the last 30 years. He arrived here in 1888, and opened the first branch of the Bank of Australasia on the site now occupied by Mr. W. Gordon's pastrycook shop, Macquarie-street. Prior to his arrival here he was in the service of the same bank at Grenfell for a period of 3½ years, and he also occupied the office of Treasurer to the local hospital. On leaving for Dubbo in 1888 he was accorded a most enthusiastic and complimentary send-off ball, and was presented with a massive gold ring, set with one large diamond. The local papers farewelled him as a good and useful townsman, a thorough, straight going business man, and one who had identified himself with almost every public movement. The Grenfell "Vedette," writing of Mr. Sillar as treasurer of the local hospital, said: "He displayed uncommon zeal, which is proved from the fact of there being a credit balance to the new hospital fund of £556 19s 1d (not reckoning the subsidy), a large proportion of which was raised by his energetic influence. . . "To mention all that he has done for Grenfell would be impossible."

On his arrival in Dubbo he plunged into hospital and educational work with a zeal born of love of both. For nearly 30 years of the 31 years he has been a resident of Dubbo he has been connected with the Dubbo Hospital Committee in various capacities, including the hon. treasurership of the Goode Estate, which work he took up in 1909. So worthily and honorably did Mr. Sillar acquit himself in the administration of this great pillar and support of the Hospital exchequer that the Government Auditor specially mentioned Mr. Sillar's "able and efficient management." This heavy and responsible task was undertaken by Mr. Sillar without fee or reward. He was mainly instrumental in building up this source of revenue, which has handed to the Hospital treasury a sum of about £2500. He filled the office of Vice-president of the Hospital for many years.

In educational matters he was a sturdy supporter of the presented State education system. He was President of the Parents and Citizens' Association since its inception, and until a few weeks ago never missed a meeting of that body. He worked hard for the establishment of the Dubbo High School, and deserves a large measure of credit for the success of the movement. His efforts in connection with education extended to the encouragement of a love of literature and art, and he supported the acquirement on loan from the Sydney National Art Gallery of certain pictures now hanging in the High School Assembly Hall.

His love of literature was exemplified by the great interest he look in the Dubbo Mechanics' Institute, of which he was a committeeman for about 30 years, a vice-president, for a long period, and President since the death of the late George Henry Taylor.

He was equally active in religious work, and was a tower of strength to St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, in which he held several offices.

He was the honorary Chief of the Dubbo District Caledonian Society, regular in his attendance at its meetings, and no face at the festive board on 'Burns' Night beamed with more fraternal love and good cheer than that of Chief Sillar. He was a loyal Scot, to the central core and fibre of his very soul.

The late Mr. Sillar took a great interest in Masonry, and was an honored and respected member of the local Ma- sonic Lodge. Upon arrival in Dubbo from Grenfell he threw in his lot with the local Masonic Lodge, and for about 20 years held the honorable position of treasurer to the lodge. This position he occupied until the time of his death. He was also Grand Superintendent of the Royal Arch Chapter Scottish Constitution.

He enjoyed sport, and was a playing member of the Dubbo Bowling Club, and a past president and committee-man for many years. He was also a most ardent supporter of the old Dubbo Cricket Club in the days when that Sport flourished in the district.

In all matters affecting the social life of the community he was ever ready to take his part, and more than his part. For the whole period of the recent war he rarely had a night to himself, his time was so fully occupied with various patriotic and kindred ef- forts. He was a good supporter of the local Red Cross and War Chest. In every position in which he was elected his claims were incontestable, and men gave way readily to his claims, because of his sterling honesty, and fair-mindedness.

He took little interest in politics, caring nothing about the struggles of rival political parties. He was first, last and all the time a commercial man, keenly interested in the development of the resources of the district and the State. But he even forgot business when the war broke out, and gladly gave three of his sons to the cause of the Empire and the Allies. His sons, Dr. Roy Allen Sillar, M.B., and Master of Surgery, Lieutenant John Sillar and Sergeant-Major Ralph Sillar enlisted. Dr. Sillar died in Britain whilst serving with the A.I.F., Ralph returned only a few days ago, barely in time to receive his father's last blessing, and Jack is still abroad.

The late Mr. Sillar was married at Grenfell in August, 1892, to Miss Isabel Allen, daughter of Mr. Allen, of Lake Cowal.

The late Mr. Sillar was a model family man, devoted to his wife and family, and personally was one of the kindliest of men. He did not live to realise a cherished wish of which he frequently talked to his friends, namely that he might live to retire from the bank, full of years and honors and spend his declining days surrounded by the family to whom he was devoted. He loved the Dubbo district and it was here he would have spent that leisure to which he looked forward so wistfully, and which was nearly ripe for fulfilment. He died in harness, one of the busiest workers the town of Dubbo ever entertained within its bounds. And this ever soul who knew his familiar figure confessed. They knew him "First in the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear" (Mark iv. 28). Mr. Sillar's death closes a splendid chapter in the development of Dubbo's history. In his death there disappears another of that rapidly thinning band of commercial, industrial, agricultural and pastoral pioneers, who helped to make Dubbo the town it is today. They were fine men without exception, and not least amongst them was John Walker Sillar—a kindly, honest man who never harmed a soul, and who was universally respected by men and women of all classes and every creed. Vale.

The late Mr. Sillar leaves a widow, four sons and two daughters to mourn his loss. The sons are Sergeant-Major Ralph Sillar (just returned from the front), Lieutenant Jack Sillar (on active service in England) and Keith and Donald, at home. The girls are Isa and Jean. Dr. Roy Sillar, a son of deceased, who enlisted some time ago was accidently killed recently in England as the result of a riding accident. These have the sympathy and condolence of the residents of the town and district.

The funeral will take place to-morrow (Saturday), the funeral cortege leaving deceased late residence at 2.30 p.m. for deceased's late residence at 2.30 p.m. for the Presbyterian portion of the local cemetery.

Original publication

Citation details

'Sillar, John Walker (Jack) (1861–1919)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/sillar-john-walker-jack-19744/text31037, accessed 18 September 2019.

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