The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 5 (August 1, 1934)
Early Life in Ireland and England
Early Life in Ireland and England.
John Ballance was born at Glenavy, County Antrim, on March 27, 1839. His father, Samuel Ballance, was a tenant farmer on Lord Hertford's estate. He had no opportunity of following up his education in a National primary school with a college or university course. He was apprenticed to an ironmonger when he left school, and in this occupation he removed to Birmingham, where he spent eight years. There he was in the heart of the Radical movement, and also in the midst of the new progressive crusade which was filling the youth of the great industrial places with a craving for self-improvement. That was where he began to develop his powers of expression in public debate. He read much; he exercised body as well as brain and while he learned to use the English tongue with accuracy and force he became also a skilful boxer in the gymnasium. It was in Birmingham, therefore, in one way and another, that his real training for life's work began.
With this activity of mind and muscle there came presently a desire to see more of the world than his life in Birmingham afforded, and he read of the British colonies and the possibilities there for young men of spirit, as the old phrase went. He decided to emigrate to Australia, and took passage in a sailing ship for Melbourne. That was in 1866, when he was twenty-seven years old.