Pioneer ahead of his time

James Nicolas with one of Warrnambool’s reminders of John Hyland.

James Nicolas with one of Warrnambool’s reminders of John Hyland.

THE name of John Hyland is immortalised in several places around Warrnambool.

There’s a street named after him and his name is inscribed on the foundation stone of the former town hall, now the Lighthouse Theatre.

But not many people know much about this rather remarkable character who could list mayor of Warrnambool as just one of his many achievements. 

John Hyland came to Australia as part of the great Irish exodus of the 1800s, his family having been impoverished by the famine.

In Australia he lived an eventful and fruitful life, mainly in Warrnambool and Mortlake.

He was, at various times, a policeman, squatter, councillor, stock and station auctioneer and friend of highly influential people. Throughout he was a mover and shaker who helped shape the communities in which he lived.

Mr Hyland’s story captured the attention of Melbourne amateur historian James Nicolas.

Mr Nicolas has no connection with Warrnambool or John Hyland, but became fascinated by his story during a visit to Warrnambool’s History House.

“Wherever I go I always delve into the local history. I read a bit about John Hyland and realised he was a man who led an extraordinary life. So I thought I would write a book about him,” Mr Nicolas said.

The book, Warrnambool, a long way to Tipperary — the incredible life of John Hyland, chronicles Mr Hyland’s life from his early days in Ireland, through his many careers and personal life to his death at 79 years of age.

Its pages reveal a character who just got on and did things, creating his own opportunities. It also depicts a man ahead of his time — he was an advocate for the women’s vote when such a thing was considered untenable by wider society. He also suffered his own personal tragedies, most notably the loss of a son to scarlet fever.

History buffs who want to learn more about this district pioneer can buy the book at a number of local bookstores or from cobrascfc@gmail.com for $29.95.

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