Vale John Parin, Wanneroo Pioneer

John and Dorothy Parin celebrating their golden wedding anniversary.
John and Dorothy Parin celebrating their golden wedding anniversary.

John was the eldest of the Australian born children of Peter and Maria Parin, who settled in Wanneroo from Croatia, and started the district’s first wine growing business in partnership with Peter’s brother Roko in 1921.

A much-loved son of Wanneroo, John was born at the Seven Mile Hotel in 1923, Balcatta, on the way to a Newcastle Street midwife in the family’s horse and cart.

In a 1987 interview, John said there were no hospital facilities in Wanneroo in those days and it was not unusual for babies to be born along the bumpy Wanneroo Road trying to get to a midwife in Perth.

‘I was born in the Seven Mile pub, with Dad and Mrs Neaves, the lady who ran the pub, helping with the delivery,’ John said. ‘Charlie Ariti wasn’t as lucky. He was born in the back of the horse and cart.’

When John started school in Wanneroo, Herbert Speers was the schoolmaster. He picked John up on Wanneroo Road each morning on his way to the school. ‘Mr Speers had a Willys Overland Open Tourer,’ John said.

‘But after six months I walked to Bob Steele’s place, a quarter mile north, and caught the horse drawn charabanc to school. We called Mr Steele ‘Uncle Bob’. He started the school bus run to Wanneroo from the 10 Mile, where he ran a dairy.’

Despite his family’s successful, pioneer, winegrowing business in Wanneroo, John was determined to make his own way in life and became a fitter and turner after serving an apprenticeship in the Kalgoorlie School of Mines.

When war broke out, he was an amateur short-wave wireless operator, and tried to enlist in the Australian Air Force as a radio technician.

However, he was manpowered out of the service because his munitions expertise was considered more vital to the war effort.

In 1946 John joined the Swedish Merchant Navy and served several years as a marine engineer, travelling around the world. He also spent several years in New Zealand, working on a hydro-electric dam at Roxburgh, in the South Island.

By 1959 he was in Sweden and it was there in 1960, he met a young English international exchange student Dorothy, who would become his wife.

‘I didn’t know a word of Swedish, when I went to Stockholm,’ Dorothy said. ‘On my first day at work, I was asked for my passport, which I had left where I was staying. I raced back to get it, but when I returned I couldn’t remember which building I was supposed to be in.

‘I was nearly in tears, when a Swede poked his head out of a window and asked if I was all right. I told him I was lost, and then another face peered out of the window covered with shaving cream. It was John. ‘What’s an English girl doing here?’ he asked.

‘Later the same evening, I got lost on my way home from a student party on the other side of town. I was asking the bus driver for directions, when a tall, handsome man suddenly appeared at my side and said, ‘G’day, are you lost again?’ It was John, my knight in shining armour.’

John and Dorothy were married in England in 1963, before returning to live six years in Sweden.

In 1968, John brought Dorothy and their two Swedish-born children Steve and Maureen to live in Wanneroo. A third child, Robert, was born in Australia.

John was always mindful of his pioneer roots and his own and Wanneroo’s multicultural history.

‘For the newcomers, there were language problems and expectations,’ he said. ‘It was particularly hard for women.’

Passionate about local history, old Holden cars and radios, John joined the Wanneroo Historical Society at its first meeting in 1989. He served many years as a delegate on the City of Wanneroo’s historical sites committee and was responsible for researching the first Wanneroo School built in Greenwood in 1876.

He also kept in touch with his first Wanneroo schoolteacher, Mrs Lindsay, and when the City of Wanneroo staged the ‘Back to Perry’s Paddock Picnic Race Days’ re-enactments in the early 1990s, John made sure Mrs Lindsay was Guest of honour.

In 2012 John was officially named a Wanneroo Pioneer.

For many years Dorothy has taught English to newcomers to Australia, and like John can speak other languages. ‘Every day I would watch the French news, John would watch the Croatian news and we would both watch the German news,’ she said.

‘John was a member of the Swedish Club of WA for more than 40 years. In June 2014, he was made an Honorary Life Member. He accepted the honour with a speech in fluent Swedish.’

When asked about her long and happy marriage to John, Dorothy said many things impressed her, including his love of family, his attention to detail, an ability to fix everything and his love for all creatures, great and small.

‘A willy-wagtail nest fell from a rafter out the back,’ she said. ‘John made a perfect circular nest holder and secured it to the rafter. Since then generations of willy-wagtails have used that nest.’

John Parin will be sadly missed by all who knew him.