BENNETT, Mr John (Jack)

BENNETT Mr John Jack04-01-1921 20-04-2002


Born in Creswick in 1921, Jack lived in Newlyn all his life operating a busy and successful business, (Bennett Contractors) which is still operated by his son Peter. His contribution to the Shire of Creswick was well known and he is remembered as a man who often did jobs free of charge. The family business was based on hard work and commitment to the Creswick district in which he was raised.

Jacks parents were Daniel and Adelaide. Dan worked at Tyner’s Mill as manager and as an agent to Tinney’s Potato Merchants at Bungaree.

One of five children, Jack was third, his siblings being Eileen Nestor (Nellie), Ron, Joyce Hunt, and Delia McDonald

Jack married Eila (Eileen Grace Clohesy) in 1943

Their children were - Noelene Prendergast, Annette Mahar, and Peter

Education was completed at Newlyn, leaving school after obtaining his Merit certificate, the equivalent to year 8. Jack’s mother would walk the children across to the school and on returning home would often find Jack back at the family home.

Jack commenced work as an apprentice at AJ Wilson, builder and Plumbing Contractor in Ballarat in 1934.

The CDN “Personality of the month” in 1999, records Jack as riding his bike to Ballarat from Newlyn, earning thirty shillings a month and on completion of his apprenticeship he continued to work for Wilson on building contracts.

As an apprentice he was also known to ride his bike from Newlyn to Terang for work, and then back home again at the end of the week.

The day Australia entered WW2, was the day work commenced on major extensions to the Maryborough Hospital.

Early in the war years, skilled tradesmen were drafted to reserved occupations. Jack was posted to the Allied Works Council and spent some time in the Williamstown and Newport areas building air raid shelters and gun emplacements.

There followed a short period building the Kiewa Valley Hydro Electric project before Jack was released to join S.J. Weir , Ballarat, to build a hospital for the American Army Personnel then based at Ballarat.

At the end of the war, Jack returned to Newlyn to develop his own business and raise a family. This was a time when there was plenty of maintenance work and building to be done.

Examples of Jack’s work and expertise included at farms where water supply and irrigation schemes were installed and maintained. Jack is recorded as being a man who would tackle any problem and was noted for developing irrigation systems when little was known about this science. Jean Yates’ diary recorded many times that Jack was called, and of when he arrived at odd times (not always convenient) to fix or install water pipes for the house or farm irrigation.

Three of his first major projects started in 1949 included the maternity wing at Creswick District Hospital, St Augustine’s Primary School and an extension to Ballarat Redemptorist monastery.

At the end of the war, Jack and Eila returned to Newlyn, having lived in Ballarat since their marriage.

In the 1950’s, Candy and Partners became consulting engineers to the then Creswick Water Authority. Respecting Jack’s local knowledge and expertise in plumbing and irrigation, Mr Candy invited him to tender for water and sewerage projects in many of the Water trusts and Authorities that employed his consulting Engineers.

Bennett staff travelled widely in Victoria, after being invited to tender for major plumbing projects, mostly entailing laying of pipe lines and sewerage mains.

Greenhill estate near Buninyong and the Ballarat University Complex engaged Bennet’s for many months.

Bennett’s constructed the new Diving tower at Calambeen Park, designed by shire engineer J.B. Wilkie, and in 1958 constructed the reticulated water supply to Smeaton and then in 1970, the construction of Cosgrave’s reservoir. The overflow wall was filled with stone mostly recovered from district farms and cost $150,000.

Jack employed local boys as apprentices, many of whom are well known and respected builders in the district.

Other major district projects included the outfall for the Creswick Sewerage scheme , renewal of water mains in Albert St in the 1950’s and the mains from Dean Reservoir to Lincoln Basin.

Jack is said to have owned the first back hoe in the district.

Newlyn Football Oval and Community Hall are lasting monuments to his commitment. Jack drew up the plans and supervised erection of the current building. His voluntary contribution is honoured by a room in his name. This complex was built by the amazing generosity of district farmers, Jack being just one.

At the opening of the complex the program recorded the following –

“Although the Community Complex has 2 committees which have made multiple decisions throughout the construction, there have been countless day to day decisions which have been left to one man, Jack Bennett.

Jack has shouldered a tremendous workload during the past two years. Not only has he been required to make decisions, but he has spent countless hours planning, pricing, and co-ordinating and in many instances actually doing the jobs at the complex. Jacks dedication to the project has been without equal and hopefully in future years the younger members of the community will follow the example set by Jack in the maintenance of our complex as well as other community activities. Thank you Jack from the entire district.”

Much gratitude was also extended to other district families for their contribution and effort in raising funds locally and through government.

He was President of Newlyn Tennis Club in 1957.

Always a keen tennis player and supporter of the game, Jack was very involved in Country Week tennis when it was staged at the City Oval in Ballarat and at Hammon Park in Creswick. Because of the drought in 1967, Country Week could not be held in Ballarat. It was Jack’s expertise used in preparation of the surface and marking of courts which allowed all games to be played at a single venue at a time when other courts were not available during this drought. Jack also assumed responsibility for watering of these temporary courts. In Creswick this involved running water and pipes from Blue Waters to Hammon Park to prepare and maintain the surface suitable for tennis.

The Creswick Advertiser of Dec 22nd 1967 headed an article as – “The Great Hammon Park Project is on” detailed the process of pumping the water into

the creek below the junction of Slatey Creek, near Hammons Bridge. Near the park another pump lifted the water from the creek and spread it over the turf. The article ended … “there will be cutting and rolling, cutting and rolling to do too, then there’s the big job of laying out tennis courts”.

The writer called it a “Tipper and Bennett drive” as so many men from the tennis clubs, football clubs, farmers and surrounding district club members arrived to assist in the project, using their personal equipment in many instances. Again in the Creswick Advertiser, we read of ongoing working bees at weekends which ensured the quality of the surface, including fences, for a big week of tennis. All this was completed in just eight weeks.

Jack was awarded a life membership of Mt Prospect Tennis association in 1967 following the above successful project and for his contribution to the planning, preparation and laying out of the original 14 grass courts and the erection of the equipment shed which was the original club rooms.

Probably an inaugural member, his involvement with the fire brigade included being the apparatus officer in 1945-1946 and he was awarded a 40 years medal by the Newlyn fire brigade. In truth he probably was involved for many more years. One member tells of him always having the truck out and ready to go when the alarm sounded, and before anyone else arrived, and also ensuring the ongoing maintenance of the truck.

Several anecdotal reports record that on total fire ban days, Jack would return heavy equipment back to the district to ensure there was support should there be a fire.

As the children grew up and went to school, Jack was always involved in school projects and functions.

In the early 1970’s Jack and the committee at the Creswick Golf Club instigated a plan to convert the sand scrapes to greens. This was completed over several years, the final greens being opened in 1979. Bennett’s were also responsible for construction of watering systems and greens at the golf course. The social room at the club was named - “The Jack Bennett Social Room”, and there is still a hole named after him.

His contribution to this project was described as “phenomenal”, having donated all his time and machinery to ensure the project was completed.   

Jack was a supporter of Creswick and a major achiever. From small beginnings, riding his bike, Jack Bennett and Bennett Newlyn, created a family contracting business, capable and willing to undertake projects ranging from farm water supplies, building reservoirs and installing state of the art water treatment plants for regional water boards.

His skill in installing irrigation systems to potato growers enabled farmers to be at the forefront of modern production requirements.

As a carpenter, builder and plumber Jack was well liked and much respected, a worthy inclusion on the Creswick Honour Roll to acknowledge his contribution.

Most of his community work was done quietly and efficiently, making research into his contribution difficult, as he never looked for accolades, but his legacy is all around us.

The Creswick Historical Society and the Honour Roll Committee is committed to honouring people who contributed time and effort into the development of Creswick and District – Jack was one of these.  

Learn More About our Society

  • Family History
  • Creswick & District
  • Migration
  • Honour Roll
  • Membership

Contact Creswick and District Historical Society today. We would love to hear from you!