J. A. Cuthbertson


Mr. J. A. Cuthbertson

West Hobart Pioneer

Interesting Career

The death of Mr. J.A Cuthbertson, an ex-alderman of Hobart, aged 73 years, which occurred at his residence, Cavell Street, on Christmas morning has removed one of the oldest residents of the suburb of West Hobart. Born in West Hobart, Mr. Cuthbertson lived there all his life and died there. His life was interesting, chiefly for two things – the prominent part which he took in helping the city to acquire the trams, and the very large boot and shoe manufacturing and retail business which he built up from a small beginning into one of the largest in Tasmania. He had been in failing health for some time.

Mr. Cuthbertson was born in a little house in Warwick Street, on the grade which leads to Lansdowne Crescent on May 14, 1857, and was one of a very large family. His father, Mr. James Cuthbertson had been a boot manufacturer and repairer in England, and when he came to Tasmania in 1854, a few years before the birth of the subject of this notice, he immediately began to carry on that business.

Mr.Cuthbertson, senior, early took an interest in the affairs of Hobart in general, and of West Hobart in particular, taking a leading part in the formation of the first West Hobart Progress Association many years ago. This, it is believed, was the first occasion upon which a progress association was formed in the city. Mr. Cuthbertson, senior, was an intense admirer of the lofty and healthy suburb of West Hobart as a place of residence, and he was the first who built a house on what is now Lansdowne Crescent. In those days it was little better than a gorse wilderness, though already the Crescent had been laid out by a far-sighted pioneer who looked forward to making it the prettiest road in Hobart.

As the business of boot manufacturing grew, Mr. Cuthbertson, senior, made an enlarged workshop in his home, later becoming the owner of a shop in Liverpool Street, which bears the name of Cuthbertson to this day.


When the late Mr. J. A. Cuthbertson was a boy, Mr. John Woodcock Graves and his confreres used to hunt deer along Lansdowne Crescent and the wilds of Knocklofty, and he often used to recall the stirring sight which the red-coated huntsmen and their hounds made. In those days of course, West Hobart was little better than a wilderness, and even when Mr. Cuthbertson was grown to manhood it consisted of nothing more than paddocks and bare ­hills.

A great event which used to be held annually was the West Hobart sports, which were held on a spot not far from the Crescent, and a feature of them used to be calf races in which youngsters of the district rode calves along a course.

Mr. Cuthbertson carried on the business which his father began, never working at anything else or anywhere else throughout his life and he succeed­ed in building it up from something very small and local into a flourishing State-wide business. He also took up his father’s interest in the district in which he lived carrying oil his work for the progress of West Hobart, which was then one of the most neglected parts of the city.

At that time it was considered that it was useless to think of the city growing up there and for years the people who had built upon Knocklofty were regarded as foolish, and left to go their own way as best they might. Mr. Cuthbertson was far-sighted enough to see that this was wrong, and he firmly believed that West Hobart would flourish to a greater ex­tent than other parts of the city if it were only given the same consideration.

He made it his Life’s work to see that it did get that consideration: that he succeeded is amply demonstraled by the appearance of that fine suburb today.


Most people knew that Hobart’s municipal tramway service was once owned by a private company, but few know that the movement to purchase those trams, and the driving force which completed the negotiations and the purchase came from West Hobart. For a considerable number of years it was noticed that the progress of West Hobart was languishing because of the absence of trams. People would not go to live there when there were other places which they could reach far easier by tram. It was easy enough to reach the city from West Hobart but going up was a different matter and the absence of proper and regular means of conveyance was keenly felt.

The tramway company was asked to extend its service to embrace West Hobart but the authorities of the day would not grant it any further street concessions and it was unable to do so. It was felt in West Hobart that since the City Council would not allow the company to give residents of that suburb a service the only thing the Council could do was to take over the service and see that West Hobart got its dues.

The idea once formed, no pains were spared to see that it was brought to fruition and in these efforts no one played a more prominent part than Mr. J. A. Cuthbertson. For years the committee which was seeing the thing through met at his house in Cavell Street, no other meeting place being available and there in the old home that was once a centre of the sport of hunting, developments were watched and policy guided until at last came the day when the City Council purchased the trams and West Hobart got its service. Neither was accomplished without a very strenuous struggle, and far the great work that he had done on their behalf residents of West Hobart returned Mr. Cuthbertson to the City Council in December, 1916 and there he continued to serve until his retirement owing to ill health in May, 1928.


Mr. Cuthbertson had seen service on practically every committee of the City Council and was one of the Council’s representatives on the Public Library Trustees Board.

He was one of the revivers of the West Hobart Progress Association which he did a great deal to keep alive through many years. He was also a prominent member of the Lansdowne Crescent State Scho0l Parents’ and Friends’ Association and was one of the trustees of the West Hobart recreation ground until it was taken over by the City Council.

Almost to the last Mr. Cuthbertson was keenly interested in and energetically fighting for three big improvements for the suburb for which he had already done so much. Those improvements were:

  • A proper post office for West Hobart, as the other suburbs are provided:
  • improvements to the tram service by the elimination of the Y (where trams are derailed frequently) and other alterations:
  • and the conversion of the recreation ground on Lansdowne Crescent and the children’s playground at the corner of Warwick and Hill Streets.


Keenly interested though he was in West Hobart, Mr. Cuthbertson always proved himself a stalwart supporter of the city’s interests us a whole on the Council and more than the residents of West Hobart will feel his loss He was an elder of Chalmers Presbyterian Church, taking a very prominent part in support of the church when an effort was made to have it closed some time ago. He was also prominently associated with the Masonic Lodge being treasurer of the Lodge Loyalty.

Mr. Cuthbertson was married 51 years ago to Alice Hodson, daughter of Captain Hodson, an old and respected resident of Hobart and she survives him. He had a family of seven, five sons and two daughters.
The sons are James, Thomas, Eric and Donald (Hobart) and Roy (In New South Wales). while the daughters are Alice (Mrs. Home) and Jean (Mrs. Homebush), who live in Tamworth, New South Wales.
The funeral will arrive at Cornelian Bay cemetery this afternoon at 3 o’clock.


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