Historical information

John Anning MacLeod
John was born in Ballarat as the second generation of Ballarat MacLeod’s, with his grandfather arriving in Geelong on the Hornet in 1857 as an 11 year old child with his 60 year old father John and mother Mary aged 37 years and 5 brothers and one sister. He grew up on the corner of Drummond Street and Mair Streets, opposite what became St John of God hospital, at his parents house of Dunvegan. John entered Ballarat College as a junior student in 1923. He received 3rd in Form prizes in both 1924 and 1925. His sister Margaret, attended Clarendon Ladies College. The household employed a chauffeur, a cook, a gardener and a ladies maid to care for them. In the 1930’s his father lost his fortune in the collapse of the jute future’s market so the staff were dismissed and he left Ballarat to go to Geelong College as a boarder. He was an officer in the Geelong College cadet corps and joined the Army as a private and rose to the permanent rank of Major after meritorious performance in the intelligence area of operations. He served in North Africa, in Palestine, Egypt, Moratai, the Philippines, Java and New Guinea. He was awarded his Military MBE by King George VI for exceptional devotion to duty and for brilliant coordination work amongst the allied intelligence team. During the war he met Mary Monica Carrol Bateman, a lietenant in the 2/4th Army General Hospital at a dinner party in Brisbane. The couple had four children, Hamish John Torquil born in 1945, Rory Hugh Alexander born in 1947 and twins Ian Donald and Katriona Margaret born in 1948.
After the Second World War he worked for Lumley’s Insurance Brokers in London for a couple of years to follow up his accountancy training and then returned to Ballarat due to his father’s failing health and took over the management of John MacLeod and Co, Wholesale grocers and Merchants in Lydiard Street, Ballarat. The business had been started by his great grandfather and they produced the famous Sirdar brand of products and a special tea blend called Afternoon Cup. There was a spice mill in nearby Market Street and there they roasted peanuts, coffee and ground spices for packaging and distribution to the small corner shops who were the mainstay of commercial grocery.

In the 1950’s John MacLeod and Co merged with James McKay and Sons to form McKay MacLeod Pty Ltd., wholesale tobacco, wine and spirits and grocery merchants who also manufactured the Sunny South brand of sweet mustard pickles, brewed vinegar and tomato sauce. He introduced the semi-automated system for extensions and financial records on the Bradma plates that saved staff the problems of sorting out the calculations for sales tax, miscellaneous charges etc. that greatly sped up the transactions at the checkout points. A new warehouse and office complex was built in Mair Street east up near Humffray Street, with the manufacturing factory on the opposite side of the street. They had a shop in St Arnaud and one in Geelong which was the local wholesaler for supplying to the corner shops of the greater Geelong area. With the development of supermarkets the demise of the corner store began and so the sales profiles began to diminish.

He unsuccessfully stood for Liberal Party pre-selection for the seat of Ballarat in 1948 and served on the Liberal state finance and executive team for many years before resigning over the issue of conscripts being sent to Vietnam. He was instrumental in leading a group of Ballarat academics in opposition to the Vietnam war and publicly resigned from the Liberal Party over their foreign policy. John MacLeod saw the writing on the wall of the business in the early 1970’s and suggested that the firm restructured with focusing on tobacco, wine and spirits. His partners did not agree and so he sold out and retired to Barwon Heads. After a few years of golfing and surfing he became frustrated and joined SCORE, the Service Corp of Retired Executives. In this role he worked for ten years in the Geelong area solving accounting problems for Geelong small businesses and so helped Beaumont’s bakery back onto its feet. He worked gentlemen’s hours of 10 am to 3 pm which allowed him to have time for a round of 9 holes on the golf course at the end of the day and to have a surf before breakfast. He fully retired at the age of 65 and had ten years of voluminous reading of local library books before dying of burns at the age of 75. His war record has been documented in other archives at the College. He was a member of the Naval and Military Club and of the Barwon Heads Golf Club. He had good crafting skills and built a series of steam driven boats for his four children that used to be sailed at home on Lake Wendouree, Lake Learmonth and on the sheltered waters of the Barwon River. The boats are now being restored to operational order to be sailed by his great grandson Grayson Girardi.