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Statesman ‘a true friend’

Monday, 21st December, 2015

Presenting the gift: John Bannon and wife Angela with Lesley and Peter Black at the St Patrick’s race meeting in March, 1983. Mr Bannon will be laid to rest at a State funeral in Adelaide today. Presenting the gift: John Bannon and wife Angela with Lesley and Peter Black at the St Patrick’s race meeting in March, 1983. Mr Bannon will be laid to rest at a State funeral in Adelaide today.

By Craig Brealey


The late John Bannon, ex-Premier of South Australia, was an honourable man and a good friend to Broken Hill, says the city’s former mayor, Peter Black.

He was also a very nice bloke, said Mr Black who, with his wife Lesley, hosted Mr Bannon and his wife, Angela, when they visited the city in its centenary year, 1983. 

Mr Black took the couple to the St Patrick’s race meeting where Mr Bannon delighted the big crowd by presenting the mayor with a cheque for $25,000 to help the city promote its centenary.

It was a very generous gift - in 1983 it could have bought you a house.

“About six thousand people sent up a great cheer, they went ballistic, although you have to remember that this was in the days when they still served full-strength beer at the races,” Mr Black said.

“I told John Bannon that if Broken Hill was in South Australia we were big enough then to have given him two extra seats.”

Mr Bannon was Labor’s longest-serving premier and the second-longest serving in SA’s history. He held office from 1982 to 1992 during which time he brought to the State Olympic Dam, the submarine building industry, the Grand Prix, the Adelaide Convention Centre and the Casino.

He also handed back the Maralinga lands to their traditional Aboriginal owners but was brought down by the collapse of the State Bank which the government owned.

He took full responsibility and resigned, even though the bank’s collapse was due its own negligence. Mr Black said this showed the man’s integrity.

“It was not his fault; he was given bad advice. But he said ‘the buck stops with me,’ and he stepped down.”

Mr Black said that Mr Bannon, in his speech that day at the races, acknowledged Broken Hill’s big part in building South Australia.

“He was the last premier of any State, in living memory, to acknowledge our contribution to Australia,” Mr Black said.

It is well known that Mr Bannon was a keen runner of marathons and a lover of Test cricket but he was also very fond of the horses.

In the BDT he declared his first St Pat’s, on March 19, 1983 a “terrific day”. It was also one that went down in history.

The winner of the last race was the infamous “ring-in”, a 50-1 shot called Foden that was backed in by crooks from Melbourne to 9-4. It won easily because it was in fact a much better horse called Nordica.

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