GEDDES, Mr John Alexander Selwyn, OAM, JP

1914 - 1989

Geddes Mr John Alexander Selwyn - Creswick Historical SocietyJohn Alexander Selwyn Geddes, known to all as Selwyn, was born on 2nd January, 1914, in a house on the corner of Webster and Frank streets in Ballarat, the son of Jim and Catherine Geddes.  He attended the Macarthur Street State School until his family moved to St Arnaud.

During his early life, Selwyn was involved in the Scouting movement, and he took up some of the interests which he maintained in later life such as bee keeping and fishing.

In St Arnaud, he started his Secondary education at St Arnaud High School and left with his Intermediate Certificate (Year10) in 1928, quite an accomplishment in those days. He had hopes of becoming a chemist but when the Depression occurred he followed his father into the bricklaying trade and was very proud of the houses they built, some of which are still standing today.  In 1935 he first became interested in Creswick when he worked for Dick Pasco as a bricklayer, and was well known to be able to lay up to a thousand bricks a day.

Selwyn married Joyce Medlyn in 1941 and they went on to have four daughters, Pamela, Elizabeth, Marjorie and Anne.  Their early marriage was interrupted by the advent of WW2 when Selwyn joined the RAAF 32nd Squadron Beauforts.  He served as a wireless gunner and advanced to the rank of Warrant Officer, however he missed going overseas with his squadron due to a bout of measles. Most of the squadron were lost over Germany.  He finished his war service as a Gunnery Instructor, and returned to civilian life where he joined the RSL and became President in 1959 and was often a speaker at ANZAC services.

He returned to bricklaying and in 1949 the family moved to Creswick where his passion for the community and its affairs was destined to be fulfilled.

Starting out, as many parents do, with the school his children attended, he became President of the North Creswick Primary School in 1951 through to 1967.  When the school burned down he organised a deputation to the Education Minister, Lindsay Thompson, and such a strong case was presented that the school was kept open.  He also presided on the Creswick Secondary School Committee for ten years but, even though the land was set aside for it, the Government decided that bussing children to Ballarat was the best option.  He also served as President of the combined District Schools Association in 1954.

In 1959 Selwyn was one of the instigators and first President of the newly formed Pre-School Committee. Following numerous working bees, the Pre-School commenced at St John’s Anglican Church Hall, and the new building was finally opened in February 1967.  It was too late for his own children but perfectly timed for his grandchildren.

Selwyn was made a Justice of the Peace in 1957 and sat as a magistrate on the bench at the old Creswick Courthouse.

While these educational matters were occupying him, he still had the ambition to run for the Shire Council in 1956.  He was a Councillor for nineteen years, President for three, the last occasion in 1972-74.  During this time he served as the Shire representative on the Sewerage and Water committees, the regional Town Planning committee, Calambeen Park committee and Regional Tourist Authority.

Selwyn lent his time and assistance to a great many community organisations over the following years, to name a few:

  • Elderly Citizens, welfare committee.
  • President of the Creswick Water Board.  (When there were rumours that the Government was taking control of all funds – and the water boards themselves – the Creswick Board quickly built a new Water Board Office (now the CFA) to keep the money in the Creswick Community, which otherwise would have gone into Consolidated Revenue.
  • The “Made in Australia Council of Victoria” for six years (1963).
  • Made Life Governor of the Old Colonists club, Ballarat in 1964.
  • President of the Creswick Group Scout Committee. He also helped in the construction of the Scout Hall.
  • Board of Directors of the Australian Natives Association, elected 1961. He was also ANA Chief (National) President twice, in 1964 and 1974 and was on the board when the building and land was purchased in St Kilda Road, Melbourne.
  • Local ANA President three times, and presented many ANA awards all over Victoria for schools with the most improved gardens and for Spelling Bees.
  • Worshipful Master at Havilah Lodge and member for many years.
  • Creswick Hospital Board of Management for twenty years; President in 1965/66/67;
  • Life Governor of the John Curtin Hostel where a ward is named after him.
  • North Creswick Recreational Hut committee, until it was given to the Sunday School at North Creswick
  • Treasurer of the North Creswick Church Trust.
  • President of the Wood for Pensioners committee, which chopped, collected and delivered wood to needy pensioners.
  • President, member and player at the Creswick Bowls Club and helped with any building works.
  • Secretary of the Dean-Newlyn branch of the Country Party (now Nationals).
  • Creswick Cemetery Trust Chairman 1974-77. 
  • The Poultry Pavilion at the Kingston showgrounds was named in his honour.

Selwyn was also involved with the Creswick Field Naturalists and, being a passionate fisherman, with the Creswick Fishing Club.  Many Creswick dams were stocked with fish from the hatcheries in Ballarat.  He involved himself with the Creswick Museum as well, as a volunteer.

He had a farm at Wattle Flat for a number of years where he had a huge interest in beekeeping as a hobby, turning it into a commercial venture in 1966.

Selwyn Geddes was presented with the Order of Australia Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 1983.

To quote from his Eulogy “Selwyn was a man of vision, always looking to the future, and if he, himself, did not have the skills to put these visions into practice, he was always able to achieve the objective by encouraging and using others with the necessary skills.”

Selwyn Geddes passed away in Creswick on 24th November, 1989.

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