1819 - 1893

Roycraft Mr John BA - Creswick Historical SocietyMr John Roycraft (sometimes rendered as Roycroft) was born in Lisnover, County Cavan, Ireland, in 1819, the son of John Roycraft, gentleman, and his wife Charlotte. Although details of his education are no longer available, it is known that he attained a Bachelor of Arts degree in the UK.  He migrated to the Colony of Victoria, arriving on 24 October, 1848 aboard the “Lochnager” with Mary and John Roycraft, who may have been his father and sister, and Mary Donohoe whom he was to marry in 1849 in Melbourne.

Moving from Melbourne to Creswick he took on work as a “Station Manager” administering the sale of estate properties and goods.  He later purchased the Creswick Newsagency and staunchly supported the Creswick Advertiser which was the voice of the fledgling town.  Contemporaries reported that he was often known to walk to Ballarat and back to collect newspapers and magazines for the benefit of locals who patronised his newsagency.

During this time, he and his wife Mary had four children; John who died early, Elizabeth, William and John Charles.  Mary however died in 1867 aged 42.  After an interval of four years John married again, in 1871, to Susan Jane Burgoyne.  Susan was also Irish, from Danesport, County Roscommon. They had no further children but had a long and happy marriage, residing at White Hills.

He was a devout member and Secretary of St John’s Church of England.  The Reverend James Glover was quoted as saying “there was nothing showy, nothing pretentious, nothing wordy in his Christianity, but it was throughout genuine, real, true, heartfelt and all-pervading.  ...And he took care to contribute as liberally of his means as he did by his example, to the support of the church’s ministrations. Whatever the weather might be, and however others might stay away from church, he was never absent.”

John’s education must have included qualifications in accountancy or economics as, apart from his Secretaryship of many of the towns charitable organisations, he also worked for over 25 years as a very thorough and conscientious Auditor of the Borough Council, to which position he was repeatedly re-elected without opposition. 

He was esteemed and respected by the Council and the Mayor reportedly remarked that Mr Roycraft was a “grand man, and there was not another man in the whole district who had done so much public service or who was prepared to give so much of his time to help suffering humanity.

He was ever willing to help any good cause, but was retiring in his demeanor and would have blushed if he thought his services had become famous.”

John Roycraft  was active within the Creswick Benevolent Society, organising help for needy families, of which there were many, and in this too it was said that he had discharged his duties exceedingly well.  He was also a Hospital Committeeman for many years and served a term as President.

As a member and Secretary of the Cemetery Trust he, together with Mr J. T. Jebb and Mr A. Lewers, was one of the three who selected the site of the present Cemetery.

A Havilah Lodge member, Past Master and Honorary Secretary for more than a quarter of a century, he was one of the original founders of the Masonic Order in Creswick.

John Roycraft passed away in May, 1893 at the age of 74.  Flags flew at half-mast on the Town Hall, the Hospital, the bowling green, Dr Tremearne’s residence and all over town.  His funeral was conducted at his beloved St John’s and later at the Havilah Lodge, before moving to the Creswick Cemetery for the final service and interment.

The last word should perhaps be left to his friends at the Creswick Advertiser who wrote –

“The deceased gentleman leaves a splendid record, and the positions he has occupied in connection with local public institutions will not readily be filled to the same advantage.  The church, the hospital and the Benevolent Society alike had the benefit of his labors, and his removal will arouse feelings of the most sincere regret, not only in the minds of those who have to some extent been associated with him in his work, but also amongst Creswick people generally and all who have had the pleasure of observing his self-denying life and his readiness to assist every good and worthy cause.”

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