The son of a farmer, John Cain arrived in Northcote in 1911, working as a green grocer in Westgarth. Involved in the Victorian Socialist Party and the Clothes Trade Union, Cain made the transition to Northcote Councillor in 1915. Elected as a Labor Party representative, Cain’s political platform included such issues as transportation in Victoria Street and improving the state of Westgarth Street.
Cain picked a turbulent time to enter politics with the First World War raging and issues such as conscription and free speech dividing the community. Cain’s skills as a speaker and debater held him good stead in the often fiery Council meetings, despite accusations of being “disloyal” and a “shirker.”
Cain was re-elected in 1917 and went on to champion the causes of street drainage, police protection and improving the bridges across the Merri Creek.
After the war, Cain married and moved into State politics. In 1924 he resigned from Northcote Council to take a position in the Victorian Labour ministry. In 1937 he became leader of the Victorian Labor Party, a position he was to hold until his death. As such he was three times premier of Victoria; 1943 (for 4 days), 1945 - 7 and 1952 – 55.
Despite clashes with fellow councillors, Cain never lost the popularity of the Northcote people and his funeral in Northcote in 1957 was attended by large crowds.
Darebin Libraries. Local History File: Cain.
Lemon, Andrew (1983). The Northcote Side of the River. North Melbourne: Hargreen.