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PATERSON, John Black (1900-1975)

John Black Paterson (Athletics, 1919)

John Black Paterson (Athletics, 1919)

PATERSON, John Black (1900-1975) was born in the Victorian rural town of Boort to parents Robert Sturrock Paterson (?-1938) and Isabelle nee Ison (?-1942) and spent many of his years in Geelong. His father matriculated in 1876 and became a school teacher at Mildura, Malmsbury and Geelong. John attended Miss Clanchy’s Central College in Skene St before commencing at Geelong College as a day student in 1918. A talented athlete, he played in both the College Athletics Team and 1st Football XVIII in 1918 and 1919, as well as winning both the College Swimming Championship and the T B and J B Hawkes Trophy for the Open High Jump in 1919.

He went on to Melbourne University to study industrial chemistry although little is known of his working career. In 1923, he married Isabella May nee James. He enlisted on 24 October, 1939 gaining a commission as lieutenant in the 2/6th Batallion. The Geelong Advertiser of 28 July 1941 reported: 'Lt J B Paterson is a prisoner of war, . . .. For some years he played for Geelong Football Club. At the time of his enlistment early in the war he was employed by Strachan & Co Ltd. He went overseas in April last year, and fought in Libya and Greece.' His photograph appeared in the paper the following day. He was held in Offlag 7B Eichstatt and was Mentioned in Despatches by His Majesty the King on 23 June, 1942 ' for services rendered by him in the Middle East during the period February to July, 1941. This officer, who is now a prisoner of war, left Australia for service overseas in April, 1940, after taking part in the operations in Libya, he went to Greece and it was there that he was taken prisoner '. He was discharged from the army on 18 December, 1946.

He appears in the Federal Electoral Roll in 1936 and 1937 at 48 Maude St, Geelong as a horticulturalist with his parents. In 1942 only John appears at Maude St. From 1949 to 1968, he is listed with Bernice Irma Paterson at 67 Skene St, Geelong but curiously he is listed with occupation, AIF. He was interred at Geelong's Eastern Cemetery.

Research by Susan Kruss reveals that during his football career he was known as 'Jack' or J B' 'and played 23 senior games for Geelong in 1920 and 1924-16 and kicked 10 goals. He played on the half-forward flank and was a member of the Seconds (Reserves) Premiership Team in 1923. He was a founding member of the Past Players and Officials Association (PPOA) in 1933, Vice-President in 1959-60 and followed T J Buchan as President from 1961 to 1966. He was made a life member of the PPOA in 1967.'

A researcher has alleged him to be the Queensland Gold Coast’s impossibly colourful 'Mutton Bird Man'. This John Patterson became well-known among visiting tourists as a result of his promotional activites. His fanatical efforts to sell his 'Vita Tan' sunscreen oil featured his ancient placarded Rolls Royce on the Esplanade, his stentorian voice, and his trade mark white pith helmet with a stuffed mutton bird perched on top. He first won the concession to spray sun screen oil on Gold Coast Beaches in 1952 and for twenty years until he lost his concession he was not only a peculiar focus for publicity but a daily challenge to the local Council. No clear information identifying the 'Mutton Bird Man' as John Black Paterson and verifying this improbable story has been discovered however.

Sources: Gold Coast Bulletin, 12 February, 1993 (David Conley, Madcap and Mischievous) p 9; Alexander Robbie, 20th Century Gold Coast people (Characters and Celebrities) pp 344-5; James Affleck - Geelong Collegians at the Second World War citing AWM p417: National Archives; David Hay. Nothing Over us: the story of the 2/6th Australian Infantry Batallion; Geelong Advertiser 28 July, 1941; Susan Kruss (PPOA Minutes). Both the College and the Geelong Football Club list his date of birth as 12 June, 1900 though his army service record lists it as 6 Dec, 1904. Vic BDM records list 1900.
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