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Death of John Purbrick

By Tuesday 27 June 2023No Comments

Reginald John Stevens Purbrick, known as John, passed away at 93 years of age at Nagambie Health Care last Thursday morning.

Born in London on 2 February 1930, John came to Australia with his parents, Marjory and Eric, and settled at Tahbilk Wines in 1931.

Educated at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School, John boarded from the age of six until he left school as a 17-year-old.

He embarked upon an initial stint as a jackeroo in the Western District of Victoria and the Riverina of NSW in 1948.

John then decided to travel to England in 1949, during which he celebrated his 20th birthday with grandfather Reggie, before returning to jackerooing in Australia in 1951.

He developed exquisite horse-riding skills and regularly competed in country race meetings which often resulted in a top three finish.

John met Bonnie McAllister at the Deniliquin Picnic Races in 1952 and married her in June 1953 by which time he was managing his own rice farm at Moulamein on the Edward River in NSW.

He decided to sell this property in 1955 and return to Tahbilk, to work with his father, and manage the sizeable farm on the estate.

John loved this role and continued it for 15 years, until 1970, when he was promoted by his father to general manager of Tahbilk before his final promotion to managing director in 1975.

John continued in this role until he handed over the reins to his son Alister in 1980.

John served on the Shire of Goulburn from 1962-1964 and the Victorian Wine and Brandy Producers Association, now Wine Victoria, as well as other industry committees.

He moved to Sydney and set up the Stone Wine Company in 1979, which distributed Tahbilk and other wine brands in NSW.

This company was a remarkable success and increased Tahbilk’s sales quite dramatically in that state.

After the national distribution for Tahbilk was handed to Rhine Castle Wines in 1982, he decided he did not want to return home but wanted to try something quite different.

John began with the Regent Hotel as its first sommelier at Cables Restaurant from 1983 to 1985.

After leaving Cables he had various stints as a delivery man and jack-of-all-trades in Sydney and he returned to Tahbilk as marketing director from 1989 to 1995 before being appointed chairman of the board.

“John loved change, he pursued and embraced change and he was no stranger to controversy,” son Alister says.

“We will miss this unique man, miss his strengths, and miss his flaws and quirks, because this was what made John Purbrick the man he was.”

John is survived by his former wife Bonnie, their three children Alister, Debbie and Mark, eight grandchildren and ten great grandchildren.

A Memorial Service to celebrate John’s life will be held at the Tahbilk Wetlands View Restaurant on Tuesday 15 August.

The memorial service will be live streamed.

Visit Tahbilk’s website after Tuesday 8 August for streaming log-in details.

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