John William Aplett

#368, (12 April 1852-8 November 1936)
FatherJohn Ablett1 (c 1825-5 Jun 1860)
MotherRosanna (?)2
ChartsBrown family - descendants
Miller Family (Scotland) - descendants
Nicholson Family 1 - descendants
Four generations
Last Edited11 Sep 2022
     NOTE: The information on this page is my research to date and is subject to change as I become better informed. I very much welcome any corrections or additional info you might have - my email address is at the bottom of this page. Whilst historical facts are not copyright, my writing about these facts are. If you wish to use any text from this site on Ancestry or on any other website, please ask me first - Tim Hill.
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John was born on Monday, 12 April 1852 at Castlereagh, New South Wales.3,4 He was the son of John Ablett and Rosanna (?)1,2 His common name was Jack. There were many different ways that John's surname name could be spelled, but I use 'Aplett' which was used in the most recent of the newspaper articles about him. He was actually registered 'Applet' even though his father's surname was 'Ablett'. To further confuse things he typically used 'Aplitt' when registering his children, but also used 'Applett' and 'Applitt' on at least one occasion each. John William Aplett moved to Parkes, New South Wales, circa 1860.5

In 1874 Jack became known as a foot runner after a remarkable series of sucesses in handicap races in western NSW. With a musclar figure and eight and half foot stride, he was only beaten twice in the next nine years.6

In 1876 he challenged the Irishman R. F. "Scone" Watson to a 200 yard race for a stake of £300. After at lease 13 false starts, Jack won by seven yards.7

John John William Aplett had an article written about his history, giving some local Parkes colour on 4 November 1876:
I don't think it would be void of interest to the public to give a short history of our champion runner. John Applett was born at Parramatta on the 12th April, 1852. He is therefore In the 24th year of his age. His height is 5ft 10 1/4 in ; weight in tunning costume, 11st 11lb. At a very early age his parents removed with him to Penrith, where he lived till he was eight years old. They then removed to the diggings, where he has remained ever since, sometimes gold-mining, sometimes working for wages, but never assuming any other position save that of a steady, hard-working young man. His first appearance as a pedestrian was in a handicap foot-race for £3, receiving three yards from the scratch man, in which he ran a dead heat with James Berrigan, a pedestrian of considerable local fame ; this was in December, 1873. His next appearance was in 1874 in another handicap match at Parkes, in which he had nlne competitors, he being the scratch man; still he won easily. In this race he so astonished his Parkes friends that they thought him quite able to beat Sam Thompson, the then crack runner of Forbes, with whom he was matched to run 200 yards for £25 a-side, which he won easily. In August of the same year he ran Donald Nicholson 160 yards, giving him 8 yards; this he also won.

Within a few short weeks, John had married the defeated Donald Nicholson's sister.8 John lived in November 1876 at Parkes, New South Wales.9 At this time his occupation was given as a miner.9

He married Frances Nicholson, daughter of Donald Nicholson and Margaret Brown, in a Presbyterian ceremony on Saturday, 18 November 1876 at Forbes, New South Wales. He was 24 and his wife Frances was 19. The marriage took place at the home of Henry Clancy in Browne Street. Frances was the sister of the runner that John had recently beaten at Parkes. Fanny was the daughter of a Scottish carpenter.. Others who attended the wedding include Donald Nicholson as father of the bride. Brothers and sisters who may have attended include James Brown Nicholson, Margaret Nicholson, Donald Henry Nicholson, John Nicholson, Susannah Alletta Nicholson, Mary Jane Nicholson and Daniel Malcolm McBean Nicholson. Frances and John went on to have about nine children together.9,5

Jack continued to run in match races. On November 2nd, he lined up for the second time against Bob "Scone" Watson at West Maitland racecourse before a crowd of 7,000. It was a very popular race; excursion trains had brought enthusiastic crowds from every town in the Hunter Valley. Jack started well but lost over 200 yards to Watson's time of 19.75. This was Jack's first defeat and "Scone"'s last race - he announced his retirement that night.7,6 John was employed as a contractor in June 1879.3 John and Frances lived in June 1879 at Stokes Hill, Forbes, New South Wales.3 John William Aplett was a hotel-keeper at Merowie hotel, in Hillston, New South Wales.5

He was scheduled to run a 150 yard race for a purse of 100 pounds.10

On 23 April 1883 he transferred his license to a J. T. Brown.11 He continued to run until at least his mid thirties, when he suffered his second defeat on Monday, 25 June 1883 to an unknown 19 year old by the name of Frank Robertson at Bourke, New South Wales. Despite John being the favourite at 2 to 1, Robertson defeated him by 2 feet over 150 yards in 15 1/2 seconds to take a 100 pound prize pool.7,12,13

John raced against in Grenfell, New South Wales, an Irish import, Malone, but lost decisively as he "was not in anything like his old form". Malone won by seven yards over 175 yards.14 "Later he sold out of hotel-keeping and went to Mt. Hope and Euabalong. At these towns he became a carrier with a lengthy connection, having about six horse teams on the roads at one time."5 John lived circa 1897 at Byrock, New South Wales.5 John and Frances lived circa 1901 at Bathurst Lane, in Brewarrina, New South Wales.1

John had a lengthy article written about him on 10 July 1925:



Not many of the champion Australian runners of the times' preceding Botany and Carrington history are left to tell the stories of big athletic events of their days. One of the most famous was Aplett, whose deeds in the seventies and eighties were known right through ' sportinq Australia from one end to the other.

To look at this once famous Australian runner as he steers his little motor boat on the Darling River at Brewarrina, one would never think he is; the same John Aplett, the acclaimed hero of a hundred pedestrian races in the late seventies of last century! At 73 years of age he is thick set, straight and muscular. John Aplett was born at Parramatta, April 12, 1852. His height is 5ft. 10 1/4ins. The Apletts are a very old Australian family. His father and grandfather were natives of Castlereagh, on the Nepean River. When at the age of 8 years, his father died at Penrith, June 5, 1860, aged 36 years. The widow re-married, and the family, removed to the diggings, at Parkes, where Jack Aplett grew to manhood, and where he worked at gold mining, being a steady, hardworking young man, and very popular on the old Kurrajong and Bushman's Lead. Aplett's first appearance as a pedestrian was in a handicap foot race at Parkes in December, 1873. The winner was to get £3. He received 3yds start from the scratch man, in which he ran a dead heat with James Bergin, a pedestrian of considerable local fame. His next appearance was in 1874 in another handicap match, also at Parkes, in which there were nine competitors, Aplett being the scratch man. Still he won easily. In this match he so astonished his Parkes friends that they thought him quite able to beat Gam. Thompson, the then crack runner at Forbes, with whom he was matched to run 200 yards for £50 aside, which Aplett won easily. In August, 1874, he ran Donald Nicholson 150 yards, giving him eight yards start. This match Aplett also won. Aplett's friends then began to think him worthy of competing with some more famed antagonists, so they backed him to run Charlie Baxter, of Taralga, 250 yards for £100 aside. Although he had thereby to contest with a noted runner for the first time in his life, Aplett treated Baxter as he did his predecessors, taking the lead and keeping it to the finish, beating his opponent by about nine yards. This match took place on December 24, 1874. He was then matched to run David Meehan, of Forbes, 150 yards for £50 aside. On this occasion his opponent forfeited to him the first deposit of £10 and consequently the match fell through. He was next matched to run H. H. Manning, of New Zealand, a quarter of a mile over four jumps 3ft. 6 in., high for £25 aside. This event took place in January, 1876, at Parkes. Manning was favorite at the start, but Aplett, as before, astonished even his own friends by winning just as he chose. Some time after this he was again challenged by David Meehan to run 150 yards for £100 aside. This challenge Aplett accepted, and the race took place at Forbes in July, 1876, Aplett winning by about 7 yards without the slightest apparent distress. He was next challenged by Jim Watson (known as the Melbourne flyer), to run 200 yards for £100 aside. This race was run at Forbes in September, 1876. Watson was favorite at first, but as the day of the race drew near a greater amount' of confidence was shown for Aplett, which he proved was not misplaced, for he again won with ease by about seven yards.

Aplett had now reached the top of the tree, and his friends thought that, after the many victories he had scored, he could stand alongside any man in Australia. A challenge was therefore despatched to Robert F. Watson, an Irishman, then considered to be the champion of Australia, in October, 1876. The challenge was for a 200 yards race at Parkes for £300 aside. The match took place in the presence of 1,000 spectators on November 4, 1876, the largest number of people that had witnessed a foot race in that part of the State. Bob Watson started favorite at 5's. and 6 to 4. but although Bob' (or 'Scone' Watson, as he was more popularly known) had never been beaten, his colors were lowered by the great Australian, who beat Watson by about seven yards in 191/4 sec. In describing the match at Parkes, an old chronicle says: 'After 13 or 14 false starts Aplett got away with a slight advantage, and it was a grand race for half the distance, when the Parkes man ran clean awav from 'Scone' Watson, and the time recorded was 191/4sec. Watson's defeat was a great blow to his friends and supporters, who believed that there was not a man in the world who could beat him by four or five yards in 200 yards." A jingle in verse thus refers, to the occurrences at Parkes. when some two years later another contest was arranged to take place at Horseshoe Bend, West Maitland; between the two champions:

Well, since this same meeting bold Bob's been competing
At Parkes, and a beating he got I must own;
But there they are smart in
the ways of false starting,
So instead 'of posting' the stakes they now own.
Still, though that trip lightened our pockets and tightened
Their purse-strings, unfrightened Bob's backers have been;
For Aplett's to meet him, and Bob, should he beat him,
Will get such a greeting as never was seen.

The return match took place at West Maitland On. November 2, 1878— 200 yards, £200 aside, in the locality of the northern district of New South Wales, where Watson was well-known. R. F. Watson was born at Londonderry, Ireland, June 11, 1854, and was 5ft 10 1/2ins, in height. David Dunlop was his trainer, Aplett having the services of John Hewitt as his trainer, a man who brought out many good runners, such as Joe Gaudry, Joe Yeomans (of Bathurst), Mat Higgins (of Tasmania), Hughie Cummings (of Sydney), Joe Witley and E. Mills. On the day of the race at West Maitland, there was at least 7,000 spectators, and excitement ran high as to who would win . Another rhymster published his 'Dream of the Race,' Aplett versus Watson, thousands of the pamphlets being sold by enterprising bookmakers' clerks for some time previous to the race. One verse ran something like this:

They're off, thousands of voices cry;
Bob leads, Aplett's drawing nigh.
Instantly Bob puts on steam.
Remember, this is but a dream.
On they go at lightning speed,
And still our Bob retains his lead.
One half the distance now is passed.
Aplett spurts — the pace is fast.
Bob holds his own, his heart is stout.
'Aplett wins' the Parkesites shout,
No fear, the Maitland lads reply ;
It's Watson's' race, though Aplett's nigh.
A few more yards, the thing is done, -
Bob Watson's first— he has really won .

The tipster was prophetic, as Watson won on that occasion in a canter by two yards, this being Aplett's only defeat in his long and meteoric career as a pedestrian. Aplett took part in many other match and handicap races, the more important of which was a match with Ben Carver, of Kurrajong, in 1880, for £100 aside, 50 yards, at Sandy Gallop, Clarendon, near Windsor (where the aerodrome now is), Aplett; winning, easily. A match for a like amount and distance also took place the same year at Fairfield. Windsor, with Jack Warwick (who died at Vineyard in 1921), Aplett again winning easily. In 1880 Aplett had many races at the St. Joseph Banks grounds, Botany. A race with Charles Carver, of Moree, for £100 aside, 150 yards, Aplett won easily. In the same year and place the champion easily beat Pat Callaghan, of Maitland, over 150 yrds for £150 aside. John Aplett after his notable success over R. F. Watson at Parkes, married the same year (1876) Miss Frances Nicholson (a sister to the runner of the same name). The couple then went into the Merowie Hotel, near Hillston, on the Lachlan. Later he sold out of hotel-keeping and went to Mt. Hope and Euabalong. At these towns he became a carrier with a lengthy connec tion, having about six horse teams on the roads at one time. Later he was at Byrock, Bourke, Goodooga, and lastly at Brewarrina, where he now lives. There are two sons and. four daughters in the family. A son, Jack Aplett, the fourth of the name, is a storekeeper at Auburn, near Sydney. There can be no question but that John Aplett was the greatest pedestrian that Australia has ever produced.

The original family surname was Ablett; but through people sounding the B as P, the runner made it Aplett, in spelling his name. Nowadays the name is spelt Aplitt, by the two sons of the runner. In St Stephen's Churchyard (Church of England) Penrith, (N.S.W.) a stone bears the inscription Sacred to the memory of JOHN ABLETT who died June 5, 1860, aged 36 years. It is a remarkable fact' that "This is a world of compensations" inasmuch as the runner's , father had one leg cut- off when a boy through an accident. Also, the runner's grandfather (father, of the above) had only one leg. The latter was, in the fifties, a well-known carrier (horse teams) running over the. Blue Mountains from Penrith to Bathurst, and is also credited by Canon George Spencer Oakes, in his little booklet, as being one of ten first settlers at Bathurst. It 'will thus be apparent that what Aplett's paternal ancestors "lacked in legs" the grandson made up in 'toe,' i.e. speed with two legs.5

John died on 8 November 1936 at the Sydney suburb of Petersham at age 84.15,16 He was buried on 10 November 1936 at Orange cemetery (old Presbyterian section), in Orange, New South Wales.1


1852BirthCastlereagh, New South Wales3,4
Note memo only
1860MoveParkes, New South Wales5
1874Note memo only CR CR6
1876Note memo only CR CR7
1876Quotation type 18
1876ResidenceParkes, New South Wales9
1876MarriageForbes, New South Wales9,5
1878Note memo only CR CRWest Maitland, New South Wales7,6
1879ResidenceStokes Hill, Forbes, New South Wales3
OccupationMerowie hotel, in Hillston, New South Wales5
1880Note memo only CR CR10
1883Note memo only CR CR11
1883Note memo onlyBourke, New South Wales7,12,13
1883Note memo only CR CRGrenfell, New South Wales14
Occupation-hideMount Hope, New South Wales
Note memo onlyMount Hope, NSW5
1897ResidenceByrock, New South Wales5
1901ResidenceBathurst Lane, in Brewarrina, New South Wales1
1925Quotation type 1Brewarrina, New South Wales5
1936Deaththe Sydney suburb of Petersham15,16
1936BurialOrange cemetery (old Presbyterian section), in Orange, New South Wales1


Frances Nicholson (30 Nov 1856-28 Dec 1933)


  1. [S452] Private Nicholson Source, Genealogical Notes, unknown date p.19.
  2. [S1] New South Wales, Birth Certificate, Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages 1853 Vol 39A No.1675.
  3. [S1] New South Wales, Birth Certificate, Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages 1879 No. 13144.
  4. [S586] Private Nicholson Source, Genealogical Notes, January 2013 p.7.
  5. [S596] The Windsor and Richmond Gazette, Richmond(?), New South Wales, Australia, 1925 'JOHN APLETT.', Windsor and Richmond Gazette (NSW : 1888 - 1954), 10 July, p. 5, viewed 16 March, 2013,
  6. [S220] The Daily Mirror, Sydney, NSW,.
  7. [S345] Australian Dictionary of Biography Online ( p.131.
  8. [S593] The Australian Town and Country Journal (New South Wales), Parkes, New South Wales, Australia, 1876 'PARKES.', Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW : 1870 - 1907), 4 November, p. 10, viewed 16 March, 2013,
  9. [S3] New South Wales, Marriage Certificate, Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages 1876 No.2551.
  10. [S1031] The Herald, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1880 'TELEGRAMATTA.', The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 - 1954), 17 September, p. 3. , viewed 18 Nov 2020,
  11. [S1207] The Hillston News, Hillston, NSW, Australia, 1883 'Licensing Court.', The Hillston News (NSW : 1882 - 1883), 28 April, p. 3. , viewed 18 Nov 2020,
  12. [S1208] The Camperdown Chronicle, Camperdown, NSW, Australia, 1883 'PEDESTRIANISM.', Camperdown Chronicle (Vic. : 1877 - 1954), 27 June, p. 3. , viewed 18 Nov 2020,
  13. [S1178] The Sportsman, Melbourne, Victoria, 1883 'ATHLETICS.', Sportsman (Melbourne, Vic. : 1882 - 1904), 27 June, p. 2. , viewed 18 Nov 2020,
  14. [S1178] The Sportsman, Melbourne, Victoria, 1883 'NEXT WEEK'S WALK.', Sportsman (Melbourne, Vic. : 1882 - 1904), 1 August, p. 4. , viewed 18 Nov 2020,
  15. [S2] New South Wales, Death Certificate, Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages 1936 No.23490.
  16. [S452] Private Nicholson Source, Genealogical Notes, unknown date p.19.