John Verran

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For his son, also called John Verran, see John Stanley Verran.
John Verran
26th Premier of South Australia
Elections: 1910, 1912
In office
3 June 1910 – 17 February 1912
Monarch George V
Governor Sir Day Bosanquet
Preceded by Archibald Peake
Succeeded by Archibald Peake
14th Leader of the Opposition (SA)
In office
Preceded by Richard Butler
Succeeded by Archibald Peake
In office
Preceded by Archibald Peake
Succeeded by Crawford Vaughan
Senator for South Australia
In office
30 August 1927 – 16 November 1928
Preceded by Charles McHugh
Personal details
Born (1856-07-09)9 July 1856
Gwennap, Cornwall
Died 7 June 1932(1932-06-07) (aged 75)
Political party Labor (1901–17)
National Labor (1917–18)
Spouse(s) Catherine (nee Trembath)
Children 8
Religion Primitive Methodist

John Verran (9 July 1856 – 7 June 1932) was the 26th Premier of South Australia, serving from 1910 to 1912 and a senator for South Australia from August 1927 to November 1928. The 1910 state election saw the United Labor Party form a majority government, the first time a party had done so in South Australia. He was a resident of Moonta, and was member for the South Australian House of Assembly seat of Wallaroo from 1901 to 1918. As premier, Verran helped to improve conditions for Aborigines while also making efforts to make home ownership more possible for the underprivileged.

Early life[edit]

Verran was born at Gwennap, Cornwall in UK, on 9 July 1856 and when only three months old was taken by his parents to Australia. The family lived at Kapunda, South Australia, until he was eight, and then moved to Moonta where copper had been discovered in 1861. Verran received very little education and before he was 10 years old was working at the copper-mines as a pickey-boy, whose job it was to sort the ore above ground. He attended a night school some years later. Verran learned to read wih encouragment from the ministers of the Primitive Methodist church at Moonta.[1] When 18 he went to the Queensland gold-mines but soon returned to Moonta, where he worked as a miner for nearly 40 years. He was elected president of the Moonta miners' association (the Amalgamated Miners' Association) and held this office from 1895 to 1913. Verran was an active member and local preacher in the Primitive Methodist church, and later recognised this influence with the comment "I am an M.P., because I am a P.M."[1]

Verran married Catherine Trembath in Moonta on 21 February 1880. They had eight children together before she died in 1914.[1]

State parliament[edit]

In 1901 he was elected a member of the South Australian House of Assembly in a by-election for Wallaroo, having been defeated for the seat at the 1896 and 1899 elections.[1] On the death of Premier Thomas Price in 1909, Verran became Labor leader. Labor demanded the Premier position for Verran, however LDU leader Archibald Peake refused which saw Peake form a one-year government. The following year, Verran led Labor to South Australia's first majority government in the House of Assembly at the 1910 election, with Labor on a primary vote of 49.1 percent and 22 of 42 seats, less than two weeks before Labor formed Australia's first elected federal majority government and first elected Senate majority at the 1910 federal election.

On 3 June 1910 Verran became Premier, and was also commissioner of public works and minister of mines and of water-supply. Lasting less than 21 months, the government faced riots due to a drivers' strike in Adelaide streets, and criticism of how Verran handled the problem. Considerable sums were spent on railways and harbours. The Advances for Homes Act of 1911 allowed the State Bank of South Australia to grant loans to poorer people, but the Legislative Council would not support the government attempts to create state brickyards and timber mills. Relations between the assembly and the council were strained, with Verran petitioning the British parliament to veto the council's decision. Verran called a 1912 election over the power of the upper house to veto the lower, however Labor suffered a swing against them, and were left with 16 of 40 seats.

Verran introduced the Aborigines Bill[2][3] in 1910 which revealed the ignorance and racism of white attitudes towards Australia’s indigenous people at the time, and was a member of the Royal Commission on Aborigines (1912-1916).[1] As a backbencher during World War I, Verran was supported by the All British League in leading a campaign against people of German descent. He sought to close all Lutheran schools, disenfranchise (remove the right to vote from) people of German origin or birth and demand that Lutheran children "be taught pure English, and taught by those who are British, and taught what it is to be British".[1]

Verran was succeeded as leader of the Labor party by Crawford Vaughan in 1913, and he broke with that party in 1917 over the conscription issue. In 1918 he stood as a National Party candidate and was defeated. He stood as an independent in 1921 and a Liberal in 1924, also without success.[1]

Federal parliament[edit]

Verran was also defeated at the federal election held in 1925. In 1927 he was elected by the South Australian parliament to fill the vacancy in the federal Senate caused by the death of Senator Charles McHugh. He lost his seat in 1928 and henceforth lived in retirement.

Later life[edit]

His wife predeceased him and he was survived by three sons and four daughters. He died at his daughter's home in Unley and was given a state funeral. He was buried at Moonta.[1]

Verran was a man of fine character whose honesty was proverbial. For many years he was a power in the Labor ranks, but his career really ended when he left the party.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Elizabeth Kwan (2000). VERRAN, John (1856–1932) Senator for South Australia, 1927–28 (Nationalist Party). The Biographical Dictionary of the Australian Senate 1 (Melbourne University Press). pp. 211–214. Retrieved 26 April 2015. 
  2. ^ "Acts of the Parliament of South Australia. Aborigines Act 1911. Item from South Australia. Acts of the Parliament of South Australia.". National Library of Australia. 1911. Retrieved 26 April 2015. 
  3. ^ Keith Windschuttle. "The legal status of child removal in South Australia". Retrieved 26 April 2015. 


External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Archibald Peake
Premier of South Australia
1910 – 1912
Succeeded by
Archibald Peake
Party political offices
Preceded by
Thomas Price
Leader of the United Labor Party
1909 – 1913
Succeeded by
Crawford Vaughan