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Sir John Hay (1840–1909)

Mr. John Hay was born at Coolangatta in 1840, shortly after the arrival of his parents in this colony per the ship Palmyra. When about two years old, having been deprived by death of a mother's fostering care, he accompanied his father, the late Mr. David Hay, to Auckland, New Zealand, and at the age of eight years was sent to Scotland, placed under the care of his uncle, the late Mr. James Hay, and educated at Madras College, St. Andrews. Having learned that his father was dangerously ill, he returned to New Zealand in 1860; and after a brief stay, his father having meanwhile re covered his health, he proceeded to Sydney in 1861, and entered the warehouse of Mr. Christopher Newton and Co. Remaining there for three years, he, in 1854, embarked on a mercantile career in New Zealand, in partnership with his cousin, Dr. J. H. Honeyman, now in London, and in 1865 made a voyage to England to open business connections. He retired from business in 1871, and in the same year was married to Miss Jessie Sinclair, youngest daughter of the late Mr. John Sinclair, of Glasgow, and niece of Dr. Andrew Sinclair, R.N., late Colonial Secretary of New Zealand. While resident in Auckland Mr. Hay interested himself in the mining industry, in steam companies, and other enterprises calculated to develop the resources and stimulate the progress of the country, and in furtherance of these undertakings made several visits to England. He also took part in civic affairs, and was elected a member of the Auckland City Council.

After a residence of 20 years in New Zealand, Mr. Hay left that colony for New South Wales, and, at the request of his relative, the late Mr. David Berry, resided for the mo3t part at Coolangatta. Subsequently he was commissioned by Mr. Berry to proceed to England, for the purpose of securing vessels suitable for conveying the produce from the estate to the Sydney market, was instrumental in having the steamers Meeinderry and Coomonderry constructed for this service, and on his return assisted Mr. Berry in the management of his estate during the latter years of his life. It was during this period that he rendered the important service to the public of having the terminus of the Hornsby-Milson's Point railway brought down from the heights of St. Leonards to the shores of Port Jackson. The railway engineers had completed their survey and fixed the site of the terminus at the Old Crow's Nest, when, on Mr. Hay's suggestion, Mr. Berry submitted to Mr. Whitton, chief engineer, a proposal for transferring the site to Milson's Point, with the result that the proposal was entertained, approved, and ultimately acted on. The greater portion of the land required for the extension of this line from St. Leonards station to Milson's Point was given to the Government, free of cost, by the Hon. Dr. Norton and Mr. Hay, trustees under the late Mr. Berry's will, as also was the whole of the land, from Jerringong to Bomaderry, required for the Kiama-Nowra extension of the Illawarra line— an example which the Earl of Jersey said  "was worthy of recognition, and might, with advantage to the public, be followed by other landowners."

As acting trustee in the Berry estate, Mr. Hay has always shown an earnest desire to promote the well being of the tenants, has, as patron of the Berry Agricultural Society, given a generous encouragement to all the exhibitors, and sought to further the general interest of the community in which he principally resides, following in these respects the kind and liberal policy so long pursued by Mr. Berry. He has also shown considerable energy in the measures devised for draining the extensive swamps on the estate, rendering them avail able for pastoral and agricultural purposes; and, by embarking on reproductive works, has done much to encourage the spirit of enterprise throughout the neighbourhood. The liberal administration thus steadily prosecuted has given entire satisfaction to the whole community, and particularly to parties directly interested. Pleasing evidence of this has been furnished on several occasions, more especially in 1890, when, on his return from a visit to Auckland, he was banqueted by the tenants and residents at Jerringong; in 1891, when he and Mr. Hay were welcomed back from a visit to England with a picnic demonstration at Berry on the part of the united tenantry; and more recently, when tenants and citizens combined in giving him a banquet after the first sale of farms at Nuruba. It may here be mentioned that the portion of the estate specially bequeathed to Mr. Hay by the late Mr. Berry is that known as Coolangatta, and that the remainder is now being dealt with to provide for the other legacies made in Mr. Berry's will, the chief of which are: one in favour of the University of St. Andrews, of which the late Dr. Alexander Berry was an alumnus, and where Mr. Hay also received his training; one for the establishing of a hospital at Berry, and one on behalf of the sustentation fund of the Presbyterian Church of New South Wales. It also deserves to be noted that Mr. Hay is a Fellow of St. Andrew's Presbyterian College in connection with the University of Sydney, having been elected to that position as successor to the late Hon. Alexander Dodds, in recognition of his liberal disposition and general business aptitude. For the same reasons he has likewise been appointed, by the General Assembly of the New South Wales Presbyterian Church, a member of its treasurership and finance committee.

Original Publication

Citation details

'Hay, Sir John (1840–1909)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 19 June 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

John Hay, c.1893

John Hay, c.1893

Sydney Mail, 10 June 1893, p 1175

Life Summary [details]


Berry, New South Wales, Australia


26 February, 1909 (aged ~ 69)
North Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

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