SERVICE NO: 55422
YEAR OF BIRTH: 1883
PLACE OF BIRTH: Hamilton
DATE OF ENLISTMENT: 2 April 1918
PLACE OF ENLISTMENT: Broadmeadows
AGE AT ENLISTMENT: 34
UNIT: 6th Battalion
EMBARKED: 17 July 1918
TROOP SHIP: HMAT A30 Borda
FATE: Died of Disease – 17 October 1918 – England
John McLuckie was the eldest son of Robert McLuckie and Isabella Manson, born in 1883 at Hamilton. Robert was a baker and the family lived in Grayton in Gray Street. In 1887, Robert McLuckie opened the Hamilton Coffee Palace in Brown Street. Coffee Palaces were generally the name given to hotels keeping in line with the temperance movement by not serving alcohol, however, Robert operated the Hamilton Coffee Palace from his bakery.
In 1907, John married Elsie Muriel May Jennings of Coleraine and the couple also resided in Gray Street and John worked as a law clerk. In 1908, their first child arrived, a son Robert John. Three more children followed with William Hamilton born in 1909, Mary Isabel in 1911 and Allan Houston in 1913. By that time John was also working as a baker. Around town, he was a member of the local fire brigade and played football and cricket.
During December 1915, John and his family moved to Melbourne, taking up residence in Florence Street Armadale and John worked as a clerk for the Metropolitan Gas Company. Before his departure from Hamilton, John was given a send-off by the local fire brigade and presented with a purse of sovereigns. John was a well-respected member of the community and Hamilton was sorry to see him leave. On 27 August 1917, Robert McLuckie was elected Mayor of Hamilton after serving as a councillor for some years.
At thirty-four, John enlisted on 2 April 1918. He left Australia on 17 July 1918 aboard the HMAT A30 Borda. On 6 August, during the voyage, John was admitted to the ship’s hospital with a groin abscess and discharged the following day. At home, on 24 August 1918, Robert McLuckie planted a tree for John along Hamilton’s Clarke Street Memorial Avenue. The avenue was a tribute to the men of the street and others, such as John, who had enlisted to serve their country. Some were still serving while others had paid the supreme sacrifice. As Mayor, Robert McLuckie presided over the occasion. Two days later, on 26 August, Robert was re-elected Mayor of Hamilton.
The HMAT A30 Borda arrived in London on 27 September 1918 and John went to Fovant in Wiltshire with the 1st Training Battalion. He was then allocated to 6th Battalion. On 12 October, John was admitted to hospital and diagnosed with pneumonia. He died on 17 October 1918 and six days later at 3:00 pm, laid to rest in the Sutton Veny Cemetery (below).
After John’s enlistment, Elsie and the children moved back to Hamilton, living in Skene Street. By the time of their father’s death, Robert Jr was ten, William nine, Mary seven and Allan five. A notice was placed in The Argus from the family on 31 October 1918 and in the Hamilton Spectator on 2 November.
It was May 1919 before Elsie received details of John’s burial at Sutton Veny.
While grieving for his son, Robert McLuckie kept up his Mayoral role. It was a busy time for a town Mayor with the added responsibility of organising the local war effort. (Garden, Donald S. (Donald Stuart) and Hamilton (Vic.). Council Hamilton, a Western District history. City of Hamilton in conjunction with Hargreen, North Melbourne, 1984, p188). Robert was often presiding over send-offs and homecoming welcomes to soldiers, attending the unveiling of memorials and in his day-to-day Mayoral duties was known as a very active Mayor. At his re-election in 1918, he was described as a “live wire”. To perform those duties at that intensity while grieving for a son must have been difficult and it was not surprising to find that Robert died suddenly on 20 July 1922 aged sixty-five while still Mayor.
By 1924, Elsie had moved to Moonee Ponds, however, the 1925 Electoral Roll tells a sad story. By then, Elsie was living at Cheltenham, her home the Heatherton Sanitarium for Tuberculous sufferers. She died there in 1926 aged forty-one. By then son Robert was eighteen, William seventeen, Mary fifteen and Allan thirteen. The four children had lost both parents and their grandfather over eight years. By 1930, their grandmother Isabella McLuckie was also dead at age seventy-two.
Despite their losses at a young age, the children of John and Elsie McLuckie moved on with their lives. Robert married Sadie Adams in 1936 at Scone, NSW and during WW2, all three boys enlisted. Allan served with the 2/24 Battalion and was for a time a prisoner of war. Robert was a Captain with the 1st Australian Railway Survey Company and William was a Corporal with the Australian Railway Construction Company. At the time, William was living in Queensland and married. Allan’s death at Robinvale in 1984 gives a sad insight into their lives having barely known their parents. The informant at the time of his death had no knowledge of the names of Allan’s parent and they were recorded as Unknown.
John McLuckies’ name is on the Hamilton War Memorial.