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Sir John Vicars (1857–1936)

Sir John Vicars, a leader in the textile industry of Australia, collapsed and died in a motor car on the Harbour Bridge while being driven from the city to his home at Mosman yesterday afternoon.

He was 78 years of age. He played a foremost part in the wool and textile industries in New South Wales for more than half a century, and during the war he was chairman of the two State committees which controlled the disposal of the State clips abroad. He had many business interests, being on the directorates of a number of companies.

Sir John Vicars was a native of Scotland, but came to Australia in 1863 with his father, the late Mr. John Vicars. After spending eight years in Queensland he came to Sydney, where his father was in the woollen trade. He was educated at the Sydney Grammar School. Upon the death of his father, he and his brothers, including Sir William Vicars, who was knighted in 1922, took over the control of the mills. After twenty years' association with the mills, he joined Mr. James P. Johnson in the woollen business under the name of Messrs. Johnson and Vicars, Young-street, city. He ceased active operations in this business about 22 years ago.

He performed outstanding work as chairman of the New South Wales State Wool Committee, and it was for this and other notable patriotic work during the war that he was created a Knight Bachelor, his name appearing in the New Year honours list in 1924. The purchase money involved in the sale of the Australian wool clips to the Imperial Government reached more than £200,000,000, the biggest sale of any one Australian product ever made. Sir John Vicars and his colleagues discharged these duties in an honorary capacity. When the wool scheme known as Bawra was inaugurated, and the New South Wales committee formed, Mr. Robert Vicars, a brother of Sir John Vicars, was appointed as chairman, but he was compelled to resign through ill-health. It was then that Sir John Vicars was appointed to the position. He continued in that position up till the end of 1923, when the work of the committee was completed. This was another great work, involving special knowledge and careful counsel, which he carried out with credit. He was appointed a member of the Tariff Board in 1923, during the absence of Mr. Herbert Brooks in Great Britain, but relinquished the position after eight months in order to make an extended tour abroad.

In 1928 he became a director of the Australian Gas Light Company, and later joined the boards of Australian Steamships Pty., Ltd., Caledonian Collieries, Ltd., Howard Smith, Ltd., the Equitable Permanent Benefit, Building, Land, and Savings Institution, and the National Mutual Life Association of Australia, Ltd.

Sir John Vicars was a golfing enthusiast. During his long association with the Australian Golf Club, Kensington, he held the offices of president and captain. As a mark of respect, the competitions arranged by the club for to-day have been abandoned. He was also associated with the New South Wales Club.

He is survived by Lady Vicars, three brothers (Sir William and Messrs. James and Robert Vicars), and two sisters (Mesdames Dircks and Wright).

The funeral, which will be of a private character, will take place this afternoon.

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Citation details

'Vicars, Sir John (1857–1936)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 29 May 2024.

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