John Taylor chalks up a century and reflects on a rewarding life

John Taylor
John cooking at his stove

He might be 100 years old but John Taylor is enjoying life as much as ever, living independently, cooking his own meals, driving and gardening.

His wry sense of humour and outlook has stood him in good stead down the years, especially in the dark days of World War II when he served in Papua New Guinea.

John has lived at Thomas Perrott Village in Rossmoyne since 1992.

With four children – Maureen 75, John 72, Katharine 70 and Colleen 60 – eight grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren, life is never dull but he embraces his independence.

The day I called he was busy in the kitchen, surrounded by bags of carrots and other vegetables, whipping up a big container of soup which he freezes in batches for future use. 

“I also bake cakes and scones a few times a week, I like to be occupied and busy,” he said.

“The oldest man in NSW is 103 and still drives, I aim to knock that record over.”

John Taylor

Born in Fremantle on 12 June 1920 in a maternity hospital run by nurse Mary O’Grady, John was the youngest of six siblings born to hardworking parents Mont Alexander Taylor and Catherine Taylor (née Symonds). The family had a war service home in Petra Street.

“My first memory at Petra Street was being held and shown water flowing from a standup tap in the backyard,” John said.

“When I was very young I wandered down to the chook pen and was attacked by a rooster, inflicting a deep scratch under my eye which I still have to this day.

“One of my favourite pastimes was digging tunnels in the backyard. I remember one day I must have done something naughty, my mother came after me but I jumped down my shaft into the tunnel.

”As I grew older, I took long walks in the bush, especially in spring to pick wildflowers, walking from Petra Street to North Lake Road and beyond. The bush flowers were in abundance and I would come home with an armful.”

After primary school, John attended Fremantle Boys High School for several years but left to start work as a plumber’s assistant with his father and brother-in-law. 

“I remember one occasion doing plumbing for a new house for John Tonkin (later to become premier). I was doing the cement moulding and he commented, ‘you are very good at it, aren’t you?’

John’s parents were keen for him to join the Postmaster General’s Department because of the security it offered with the Depression of the 20s and 30s. As World War II broke out, he started work as a trainee at the PMG line school in Lord Street, East Perth.

In 1940 John registered for national service for the army, volunteering for the AIF.

Along the way he met his future wife May Boyle and a friendship blossomed, he “a handsome young soldier and she a pretty young miss.”

John Taylor in World War II
John Taylor in World War II

After completing national service, John decided to remain in camp, being promoted to lance corporal, lecturing to new inductees of linesman signallers. 

John and his colleagues then headed for New Guinea, sailing from Fremantle on a troop ship.

He landed in Milne Bay on the Anshun and was only there a few days when the Japanese arrived. He contracted a severe bout of malaria and was evacuated to Charters Towers in Queensland to recover, returning to Milne Bay and later Port Moresby. 

Granted three weeks’ leave, John returned to Perth and married his sweetheart May on 11 January 1944. He went back to Port Moresby but was posted to Bribie Island in Queensland where he maintained a communication land line to the fortress artillery.

Back in Perth, John returned to work at the PMG, as manager maintaining telephone exchanges south of the river (the PMG later became Telecom and then Telstra).

The couple, who now had a daughter Maureen, first lived in East Fremantle but then built their own home in Applecross, living in the garage while John laid several hundred bricks for the main house each day before leaving for work.

“I would also work on weekends and finished the house, which still stands today, in 18 months,” John said. The couple went on to have three more children and a happy life, travelling overseas after John retired in 1990.

John and May moved to Rossmoyne in 1992, May sadly passing away in 2004.

John took up oil painting, one work taking pride of place on his dining room wall. He used to play golf, achieving a hole in one at Royal Fremantle in 1968, he says proudly. He has carried out copious family research on his computer and has all their birthdays noted on a calendar on his fridge.  He still drives to the shops in his Ford Falcon car.

“The oldest man in NSW is 103 and still drives, I aim to knock that record over,” he chuckled.

“I have relatively good health, don’t take any medication, have never smoked and have only an occasional glass of wine. The village gave me a big party for my 100th, it was great.”

A medal of citation from the Queen in 1977

There was a message of congratulations from the Queen for his century and a medal and citation in 1977 for her Silver Jubilee.

John proudly wears this medal and others earned from his World War II service on Anzac Day alongside his father’s World War I medals.

Life is always full for this inspiring centenarian.

Previous articleWorld War II veterans honoured…
Next articleThe 2020 Have a Go Day a Livelighter event is on… see you at Burswood Park
Josephine Allison started her career in journalism at 18 as a cadet on the Geraldton Guardian newspaper. She realised her ambition to work on a daily newspaper when she later joined The West Australian where she spent almost 34 years covering everything from police courts to parliament, general news, the arts and real estate. After moving on from The West, she worked on several government short-term media contracts and part-time at a newspaper in Midland before joining Have a Go News in 2012. These days she enjoys writing about interesting people from various fields, often unsung heroes who have helped make WA a better place.