Verran, John

Miner, trade unionist and first Labour premier of South Australia, he was born at Gwennap, Cornwall, on 9 August 1856. He was the twin son of John Spargoe Verran, a copper miner, and was baptized down the pit. The following year the family emigrated to South Australia, finally settling in the Cornish mining settlement of Moonta. With a very limited education, at 10 he went to work in the mine but the Primitive Methodist ministers encouraged him to read and influenced his trade union activity and he became a local preacher. A Freemason and Rechabite, he died at Unleya on 7 June 1932 and was buried at Moonta with a state funeral.

Having stood unsuccessfully in 1896 and 1899, he was returned to the South Australian House of Assembly for Wallaroo at a by-election in 1901. He became Labour Party Leader in the Labour-Liberal coalition in 1909, and Premier on Labour winning the 1910 general election, although the administration only lasted twenty months. During World War I he was a major opponent of those of German birth and descent and supported the closure of Lutheran schools. He broke with his party in 1917 over conscription and never regained his political unfluence. Having alienate his constituents, in 1918 he lost his seat to another fellow Methodist local preacher, trade unionist, Freemason and Labour member, Robert Stanley Richards (1885-1967), who was premier for nine weeks in 1933, before a divided Labour group lost power. From 1927 to 1928 Verran was a federal senator.

His son John Stanley Verran (1883-1952) had a strict Methodist upbringing. In his youth he worked in the mines before becoming a clerical worker and trade unionist at Port Adelaide. From 1918 to 1927 he was a Labour member for Port Adelaide in the House of Assembly.

  • Australian Dictionary of Biography

Entry written by: DCD
Category: Person
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