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Street, John Rendell (1832–1891)

A life spent in attention to private business is not the best preparation for a member of the Legislative Assembly, and it renders a man less willing to take upon himself the cares and worries of a Parliamentary life. Tastes are formed antagonistic to such a career, and it can only be at the call of duty that a man in the autumn of his life will take upon himself the toil of public concerns. When such an one so does, to him must be shown respect and admiration, and when his action is wholly free from the smallest suspicion of self-seeking, then must his conduct be valued at a high price. John Rendell Street is an example of an unselfish man who, at much inconvenience to himself, has entered public life, considering that his duty called him, and that his country demanded his services.

John Rendell Street is a native of the colony, having been born at Woodlands, near Bathurst, on the 19th December 1832. He is sprung from a good old English stock, being the son of the late Mr. John Street, of Birtley, in Surrey, England, who came to the colony in 1823. At that time New South Wales was not much opened up, nor had the capacities of the country been tried, there being but a comparatively small portion of her great territory explored. Then, as now, attention was directed to wool-growing, and it was in view of this that Mr. John Street emigrated from England. He brought with him some merino ewes from the stud flock of the late Mr. Thomas Henty, of West Tarring, Sussex, with the intention of cultivating a better breed of sheep in the country of his adoption. The flocks of Mr. Henty were well known at that time as being of a superior quality, and were eagerly sought by sheep-breeders as the source of the best blood. This Mr. Thomas Henty was afterwards well known as the pioneer squatter of the western part of Victoria, Shortly after the arrival of Mr. John Street in the colony he obtained a grant from the Crown of the estate of Woodlands, near Bathurst, where the subject of this memoir was born.

John Rendell Street received his early education at home under the direction of private tutors, and at an early age he entered into a merchant's office in Sydney in 1848. After some years spent in acquiring a knowledge of mercantile affairs, for which he showed a special aptitude, he began business on his own account in 1859 as a member of the firm of Allen, Street and Norton, general merchants and importers. Since that time he has attended to mercantile pursuits of different natures, and throughout his career has always held a high place in the commercial world of Sydney. Interested closely in his private business, he has not been able to take any very active part in public affairs until the last general election, when he was persuaded to come forward in the interest of Free-trade. However, he has never been backward in other matters that could be of service to his fellows, and in all things of a charitable or philanthropic nature he has ever been most prominent. For many years he has been Vice-President of the Sydney Hospital, which institution owes much to his clear common sense and to his honest and kindly disposition. Among his fellow-citizens he is looked upon as a man whose word once passed will never be broken, and who, when he puts his hand to the plough, will go forward and cut his furrow without once looking back. With such a reputation as this any man might be proud, and though reputation is known to be "oft got without merit, oft lost without deserving," in the case of John Rendell Street it has been honestly earned, and will not be easily lost. For a considerable time he has been pressed to permit himself to be nominated for different constituencies, but could not be prevailed upon to do so until, as before stated, the last general election. Then the question of Free-trade or Protection was the election cry, and in the interest of the former he came forward for East Sydney, and was returned. Since his election he has given a large portion of his time to the business of the House, and as a member of various committees his business knowledge has made his services invaluable. He is a regular attendant in his place, and though not taking any prominent part in the debates, he gives a conscientious vote on each matter of public importance. He holds the opinion that a new member ought to abstain from speaking until he has become familiar with the forms and rules of the House, and so while avoiding waste of time, he will be then better able to perform his duty at a later period. John R. Street is a good citizen, and his life is one that may be well held up for the imitation of those who come after him.

Original Publication

  • Australian Men of Mark, vol 2, 1888, pp 112-13

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Street, John Rendell (1832–1891)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/street-john-rendell-28357/text36300, accessed 21 November 2019.

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