Backward Glance – John McNab: A Successful businessman dedicated to public service

In 1890, Daniel McNab opened a drapery, tailor and clothing store in Queen Street Brisbane.

In 1894 he expanded his commercial enterprise by opening a branch in Landsborough. He employed John Tytherleigh as manager.

Daniel McNab and his son John purchased land in Yandina in 1891.

The Post Office Directory of 1893 listed Daniel McNab as Draper, Yandina and a surviving Excelsior store docket shows that John McNab, General Storekeeper, Tailor, Grocer and Ironmonger was trading in Yandina in April 1894.

John rented out premises he had built in Yandina to take over the Landsborough business in 1895 when John Tytherleigh left to start his own store in town.

He continued to run the store until 1909 and during that time he built a new Excelsior store in 1899.

In 1909, John returned to Yandina to build a new store, named Excelsior House.

In 1929, a report in the Nambour Chronicle stated that a celebratory dance was held for a new store nearing completion for Mr J McNab at Yandina.

Over 300 people attended with special reference made to the energy of the proprietor for his enterprise in adding to the buildings in the township. The health of the host and hostess (Mr and Mrs J McNab) was duly honoured.

Owning land in both Yandina and Landsborough allowed John McNab to become an elected member of both the Caboolture Divisional Board (1895–1909) and the Maroochy Divisional Board (1894-1899).

He was also on the Maroochy Shire Council from 1909-1912 and again 1918-1932. From 1911-1912 he also served as chairman of Maroochy Shire Council.

Being part of council in the early part of the century had similar challenges to those of today.

Early roads were damaged, especially in wet weather by bullock wagons and as a result wheel tax was introduced.

At a council meeting in June, 1925, wheel taxes were increased for bullock wagons to nine pounds per annum, motor taxes for vehicles using one horse was two pounds per annum and vehicles using two horses were five pounds per annum.

The decision was also made to purchase a power-driven roller manufactured by Marshall for 1075 pounds.

Being Chairman of the Yandina Racecourse committee, John McNab was also a very keen racehorse owner.

His horses included Jenny Lind and Terrible Billy with Terrible Billy being placed in many races.

One notable race was the North Arm Stakes in 1896 as reported in the Moreton Mail.

Terrible Billy had a bad run after a regular ding-dong go from start to finish with the redoubtable Shamrock. Hardly to be wondered when the terrible one had a 24lb (10.8 kg) weight disadvantage, the report stated that the owner himself could have ridden and the ground was “as heavy as a newly ploughed paddock”.

In the early 1890s, farmers supported the establishment of a sugar mill. A provisional committee was formed and the Moreton Central Sugar Mill Company was incorporated and registered as a company, with a registered office in Nambour.

John McNab was a member of this provisional committee and was one of the company’s first five directors. Their first meeting was held in Brisbane on 12 January 1895.

He was also a Justice of the Peace and was called upon to preside at the Magistrate’s Court.

In 1895 John McNab married Miss Agnes Dath, daughter of Mr Robert Dath from Dath, Henderson & Batholomew firm at the Wickham Terrace Presbyterian Church.

A silver teapot was presented from the employees of Sawmillers Dath, Henderson & Batholomew and is treasured by the family.

On 3 April 1896, the birth of their son was reported in the Moreton Mail.

Robert Stuart McNab became Yandina’s first solicitor and served in World War I. His name is on the honour board donated by his father at the Yandina School of Arts.

Away from his council and business interests, John McNab loved to sing and would perform at local concerts.

One benefit concert report in the Moreton Mail on 27 March 1897 says Mr McNab sang “The Old Turnkey” in his usual free style.

John McNab donated many prizes for Sunday school picnics, school sports, and other sporting events.

At an Arbor Day celebration, as reported on 8 May 1896, was an attractive display of a physical drill by the children with more difficult movements being performed which had never been seen before; prizes on the day were donated by John McNab and Grant Bros.

In the evening there was an excellent concert followed by a ball with songs interspersed and the elder folks kept up the fun until daylight. No doubt John McNab contributed to the entertainment in no small way!

One of the most remembered and appreciative memories of John McNab is the donation of the allotment for the Yandina School of Arts by the McNab family.

The grand opening of the School of Arts hall was on 9 October 1916 with much fanfare and many dignitaries.

When John McNab died in 1932, his obituary in the Nambour Chronicle described him as a worthy Yandina resident and councillor who earned the respect and confidence of those with whom he came in contact.

He is recognised as one of Yandina’s leading citizens and one of the outstanding public men of the Sunshine Coast.

Thanks to the staff of the Heritage Library for the words and Picture Sunshine Coast for the images.

Image details

Hero image – John McNab’s residence, Yandina, ca 1910. The house (pictured) was built ca 1905 on land nearly opposite McNabs Yandina store on the Old Gympie Road (Farrell Street). In 1965 it was relocated to Perwillowen Road, Nambour and restored.

Image 1 – John McNab’s General Store, Farrell Street, Yandina, ca 1900. McNab established the store in ca 1890 and in 1909 he moved to a new store at the corner of Stevens and Railway Streets.

Image 2 – Staff in front of John McNab’s General Store, corner of Stevens and Railway Street, Yandina, ca 1910. McNab transferred his business to the new store in 1909. He had previously conducted a store in Farrell Street, Yandina.

Image 3 – Maroochy Shire Councillors outside the Shire Hall, Nambour, ca 1930. John McNab pictured fourth from left in front row.

Image 4 – Yandina Cricket Team, ca 1908. John McNab pictured standing (left) with hat.

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