John Alexander Claude Kennedy (Jack) Tyson

John Alexander Claude Kennedy (Jack) Tyson


Black and white portrait in oval frame of young man in suit.
John Alexander Claude Kennedy (Jack) Tyson, photographer unknown, c1915. Hamilton Rouse Hill Trust Collection, Sydney Living Museums
At the end of October 1915 Kathleen Rouse farewelled family friend Jack Tyson, who was off to Melbourne to enlist. The grazier had agisted stock from his property near Hay on George Terry’s Box Hill during the drought, and was a frequent visitor to both Rouse Hill and Box Hill.

John Alexander Claude Kennedy Tyson, universally known as Jack, was born on 23 September 1890 at Corrong Station in the NSW Riverina, the only child of Walter Seal Tyson and his first wife, Blanche Mary Gwydir. His father was the nephew of the Hon James Tyson MLC, and one of the many heirs to his multimillion-pound fortune. Jack remained with his mother when his parents divorced in 1895, until he was sent away to boarding school at seven. In November 1896 The Australian Town and Country Journal featured a charming photograph of ‘Master Jack Tyson’, describing how ‘Nothing gives the boy more pleasure than to ride his favorite [sic] pony over the plains, and attend to his poultry, amongst which he has some well bred bantams’.

In January 1916 Jack left Melbourne as a gunner in the 3rd Reinforcements of the 4th Field Artillery Brigade. He arrived in France in March, and in August suffered a head wound and was sent to hospital in England. Returning to the battlefield, he was gassed, further damaging his health. Described as ‘too delicate to stand the work’, he was transferred to the Young Men’s Christian Association. On 14 April 1918 Jack and another orderly were killed instantly by a German shell at Amiens railway station. He was buried in St Pierre Cemetery. Curiously, although he wasn’t underage, on enlistment he had stated that both his parents were dead. In fact, his mother was still very much alive, and had to sign a statutory declaration to establish their relationship. A hint of estrangement is also suggested in his will. After bequests to his aunt and station manager, Jack left his estate – valued at over £50,000 – in trust for his cousins and half-sister Idora, born just two months before their father’s death in 1902.

For seven long years Jack’s mother wrote a series of poignant letters seeking details of her son’s death, entitlements, corrections to the inscription on his permanent headstone, and, unsuccessfully, the temporary wooden cross which had initially stood over his grave. Blanche Tyson died in 1961, the ‘sorrowing mother’ on his headstone outliving her only child by 43 years.