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John Barker (1847–1925)

from Register

John Barker, n.d.

John Barker, n.d.

from Pastoral Review, 16 June 1925

South Australians generally will regret the passing to the Great Beyond of Mr. John Barker, whose death occurred about noon on Thursday at his residence, Baldina, Alpha road, Prospect. He was a notable citizen and, although his generosity extended to many deserving causes, both public and private, it was marked by an entire absence of ostentation.

The deceased gentleman shunned publicity, and the full extent of his liberality, both to civic causes and numerous charities, as well as to many people in straitened circumstances, will never be known. His death came suddenly and caused a shock in commercial and sporting circles as well as to other sections of the community. On Wednesday he attended his office and left for his home at about 5.30 p.m. At 9 o'clock that night, he became suddenly ill, as the result of heart affection, but rallied again. A second seizure at noon on Thursday resulted in his death. The late Mr. Barker was well known throughout South Australia. He was senior partner in the firm of Barker Brothers, Currie street. In his younger days, he was employed as a clerk in the service of the Bank of Australasia but subsequently joined his brother-in-law, the late Mr. Hugh Chambers, and together they carried on business under the firm name of Barker & Chambers, at the Adelaide Arcade, originally known as Sturt's Bazaar, Grenfell street as auctioneers and stock agents. In 1885 the firm removed to its present office at the John Bud Bazaar, Currie Street. In 1893 Mr. Chambers died, and Mr. Barker was joined by Mr. Frank Cornelius, the firm being then styled Barker & Cornelius, until the death of Mr. Cornelius in 1896. Mr. Barker was next joined by Mr. Alfred J. (known as 'Joker') Barker, and the business was carried on under the name of Barker Brothers. About 20 years ago Mr. Alfred Barker retired and Mr. Barker remained the senior partner in the present firm until his death.

The deceased, who was a son of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Barker, a pioneer South Australian family, was born at Yankalilla 78 years ago and received his education chiefly at Mr. John L. Young's school, Adelaide. He married Miss C. Chambers, a daughter of the late Mr. James Chambers, who, it may be mentioned, was largely instrumental in arranging for the overland expedition by John McDouall Stuart. A son, Mr. A. E. Barker, of Alpha road, Prospect, a daughter, Miss E. K. Barker, of Prospect, and several grandchildren are left to mourn their loss. His wife died about 20 years ago. In the life of the community Mr. Barker played a leading part. In addition to the active participation in the affairs of the firm in which he was senior partner, he was a director of the Adelaide Steamship Company, a director of the Executor, Trustee & Agency Company, and a member of the local board of advice of Dalgety & Company, Limited. During the war and afterwards he was most active in connection with the Red Cross Society and the South Australian Soldiers' Fund, in connection with both of which he was a member of the committee. He played a prominent part in affairs connected with the Anglican Church, and was prominently identified with the parish of St. Cuthbert, Prospect. In sporting circles he was widely known, and in his early days delighted in following the hounds.

Just as he was loved in the commercial world the late Mr. Barker was also keenly popular in sporting circles, in which sphere he played such a big part. He did much to improve the standard of racing in South Australia, and his efforts in that direction won for him the admiration of the sporting public in general. Mr. Barker was elected to the committee of the South Australian Jockey Club in 1894, and he acted on that body until his resignation in July of last year. He was appointed chairman in May, 1909, in succession to the late Sir Richard Baker, and acted continuously in that capacity until the date of his resignation from the committee. Upon his resignation Mr. Barker was made a life member of the club, and keen regret was expressed at the time in all sporting quarters at his decision to relinquish office. In earlier years Mr. Barker was a familiar figure on local racecourses in the capacity of a judge for the various racing clubs, and he always carried out his duties with entire satisfaction, he manifested a deep love for the thoroughbred, and in former years he raced several good horses in conjunction with the late Mr. James Hill, of Clare. In 1909 those two sportsmen were successful in the South Australian Derby with The Greek, while among others Lord Malion also won good races for them. Mr. Barker in later years raced the Eudorus horse Gunadorah, which won races in Victoria, and was recently sold to go to Sydney.

‘It came as a great shock to me,' said Mr. W. B. Carr (Chairman of the S.A.J.C.), 'and to all sections of the community. He will be missed especially in the racing world, in which he was held in the highest esteem and respect. He had a splendid record of service to the turf, a record which it would be hard to beat anywhere. When he decided to retire from the committee of the S.A.J.C. last July it was universally recognised that his withdrawal from that body meant a severe loss, not only to the club, but to the sport generally. He was a member of the S.A.J.C. committee for 31 years, and for 15 years acted as its Chairman. No man could have rendered more valuable, loyal, or faithful service, and it was in recognition of this service that the committee recommended to members at the last annual meeting that he should be elected a life member of the club, a suggestion which was unanimously and heartily agreed to. As I said on that occasion Mr. Barker never allowed any difficulties to daunt him in advancing the best interests of the sport, which had materially benefited by his long and extensive experience. The deceased gentleman had, up to the time of his retirement, represented South Australia at the various conferences of the principal racing clubs of the Commonwealth, and his opinion carried considerable weight with the other delegates. Mr. Barker had acted for some years as honorary judge at the S.A.J.C. and A J.C. meetings, and I never remember a single occasion on which his verdict was questioned. It was not generally known that Mr. Barker had expressed a wish to resign his position on the S.A.J.C committee two or three years before he actually did, and it was only at the earnest request of his fellow committeemen that he remained in office. Though he had retired from taking an active part in the management of the turf since August, he had continued to evince a lively interest in its welfare, and he was always a prominent figure at metropolitan race meetings.

The Chairman of the Adelaide Racing Club (Mr. James Hall) said that while Mr. Barker was associated with the committee of the S.A.J.C. he had always commanded the greatest esteem of the members of the A.J.C., with which body he (Mr. Hall) had been connected for more than 20 years. They had looked upon Mr. Barker as a man whom they could always approach and confer with at any time. He could not but feel that Mr. Barker's death would be a great loss to racing in this State, although he had latterly relinquished his active association with the S.A.J.C. 'I do not know of any man,' concluded Mr. Hall, 'who commanded so much respect from the other racing bodies as did Mr. Barker.'

The acting Chairman of the Port Adelaide Racing Club (Dr. A. F. Lynch) said he always regarded Mr. Barker as a high authority on racing matters, and during his (Dr. Lynch's) previous term of office as acting Chairman of the Port Club, while Dr. A. V. Benson was away at the war, Mr. Barker had always courteously and willingly given him advice on various matters, for which he owed to the deceased a debt of deep gratitude. Moreover, his advice always proved to be correct, and the best that could be given. The Port club, along with the others deplored his death as a great loss to racing. He was always regarded as a pillar of racing in this State. 'Personally' added Dr. Lynch, 'I had a feeling of high esteem for him as a man.'

Mr. S. J. Jacobs, when seen, said—'Only a day or two ago I was complimenting the late Mr. Barker on the remarkable ease with which he carried his years, and the news of his death was a great shock. I was associated with Mr. Barker on the committee of the Jockey Club for 20 years and his championship of that body was an example of fine sporting spirit combined with great business acumen. His never failing courtesy and his splendid hospitality appealed to all associated with him. Whether on the committee of the S.A.J.C. or the council of the Chamber of Commerce, though never given to much talk, he could invariably conclude an argument with sound, well-considered, weight-carrying advice. In business circles, in social relations, in charity organizations, in all that constitutes good citizenship, he will be greatly missed.'

The president of the Chamber of Commerce (Mr. Wallace Bruce) said:- 'At the conclusion of my luncheon of welcome to Sir Edward Lucas I was greatly shocked and gneyed to hear of the death of Mr. John Barker. For years he has been an honoured and respected member of the Adelaide Chamber of Commerce, on the council of which he occupied a seat for several years. Only a few years ago he retired from the position, and members at that time expressed deep regret at his determination to discontinue his work as a member of the council. It was felt that with his long and intimate association with the commercial life of this State he was able to give judgment on the many and varied subjects connected with commerce generally, and that made him a valuable member of the council. I feel that no man has enjoyed the confidence of his fellow-citizens more than Mr. Barker. South Australia today is all the poorer by his death. His generosity in subscribing to various funds raised during the Great War was a distinguishing characteristic. No appeal for funds to be used either for public or philanthropic purposes was unheeded by him.

When the secretary of the Chamber of Manufactures (Mr. H. E. Winterbottom) was informed of the death of Mr. Barker he expressed great regret. He said that the news had been a shock to him, because he had looked on Mr. Barker as a personal friend and adviser. Regarding the Soldiers' Fund, nobody could realize the work Mr. Barker had done in connection with its raising and administration. A proof of his interest was shown in his attendance at a meeting of the executive only last Tuesday. Mr. Winterbottom added that his association with Mr. Barker had been only in connection with that fund, but he realized that it would be practically impossible to replace him.

The Chairman of the South Australian Soldiers' Fund (Mr. A. A. Simpson), stated:— 'For nearly 11 years, I have been closely associated with Mr. John Barker in the South Australian Soldiers' Fund, and for most of that period, he was chairman of the finance committee, which, especially at the beginning of the institution, involved a great deal of work. During the war, Mr. Barker devoted himself indefatigably to the success of the fund. He gave nights and days to its meetings, which at that time were often 4 or 5 a week, to the exclusion of all other business, and our wonderful success was in no small measure due to him. Not only was he a most generous contributor himself, but he had a most compelling power of obtaining contributions from others: The universal respect in which he was held made it almost impossible to refuse him, and his consideration for others was manifested in everything he did. Occasionally appeals for assistance came before the fund, which was not within its constitution to assist; and more than once I have known him, while rigourously insisting on our obligations to the constitution, give those applicants, where they were otherwise deserving, ample help from his own pocket. Only last Tuesday, he attended a meeting of the finance committee and the executive of the fund, going into every detail of the business with his customary accuracy, and care. To those who have been with him so long, regarding him with an affection as great as our respect, his death comes as a great shock.'

'It was with sincere regret that I heard of the death of Mr. John Barker,' stated the Bishop of Adelaide (Right Rev. A. Nutter Thomas). 'When I first came to Australia I was told that he was a man on whose integrity and judgment I could always rely. I have found that was true. His counsel was always upright, his support of a good cause unflinching. He was one of the best and most loyal supporters of the Church of England. He was always ready to take the lead in any movement which secured his approval, and he will be greatly missed, both as a loyal and devout churchman and an upright and public spirited citizen.'

The Rev. W. H. Johnson, rector of St. Cuthbert's Church, Prospect, said:— 'As rector of the church which Mr. Barker attended twice every Sunday I have had the privilege of an intimate knowledge of and friendship with him. He was a man whose life and mind were based on Christian principles, and I do not think I have ever met a man whom I trusted more implicitly or respected more deeply. Like all great men he had a simple, strong faith. He was a loyal and devoted son of the Anglican Church, and he always regarded his life as a trust, to be used for her and not for self. In an age which is largely a victim of a selfish and worldly materialism he lived a magnificent life of service for God and humanity. Few people know how much good he has done and how much his great kindness of heart prompted him to help those in need. He has given liberally to church work, all kinds of charities, and patriotic causes. No name is more respected in Prospect, no name is more beloved by the people of St. Cuthbert's Church than the name of John Barker.; To have known him has been a privilege and an inspiration.'

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Citation details

'Barker, John (1847–1925)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 May 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

John Barker, n.d.

John Barker, n.d.

from Pastoral Review, 16 June 1925

Life Summary [details]


Yankalilla, South Australia, Australia


21 May, 1925 (aged ~ 78)
Prospect, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Military Service
Key Organisations