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Rediscovering Ginninderra: A database:
Thacker 'Jack' Singh

Born: c. 1868; Died: 1938; Married: Unmarried

Perhaps the best known of the so-called ‘Syrian Hawkers’ who serviced the isolated homesteads of the Ginninderra community with their wares was Thaker Singh (known as ‘Jack’).

Despite being a common sight in his covered horse-drawn van as he sold his goods (mainly clothing and haberdashery) from door to door, virtually nothing is known about him. Thacker was a Sikh and wore a white turban and was believed to have been born in northern India around 1868.

He was very popular with the Ginninderrans, especially the children. Leon Smith in his Memories of Hall says of him:

My last memory of Jack Thackersing [sic] was meeting him in Queanbeyan after he had been rather badly beaten up. What became of that lonely old man I cannot say, he just did not come around any more.

Thacker Singh died of what was thought to be a heart attack in Yass in 1938.

An obituary in the Queanbeyan Age reported:

He went about his business in a quiet unobtrusive way. He had no enemies in a foreign land. No more will he travel towards the setting sun with his picturesque old covered wagonette … He would only eat food killed and prepared by his own hands. If in the process it became tainted with other hands he would cast it aside. Sometimes the local lads in times gone by caused him much annoyance by interfering with his cooking. If he ate a fowl he would kill it himself and pray while it died. He would not eat meat from a butcher’s shop.

Other 'Syrian Hawkers' of the district were Noor Mohamad, Albaile Singh (from Calcutta and no relation to Thacker), Abraham Joseph, and Peter Melham (the latter two being actually Syrian in origin). Albaile Singh suffered from mental illness, became aggressive and died on the streets around 1905. Abraham Joseph married a Syrian woman and settled in Queanbeyan. He was well-loved and renowned for his integrity and died in 1953. Peter Melham was the most sucessful of the hawkers with the largest range and highest quality of goods. He was also the first of their number to use a motor lorry.

References

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