News State SA News Former South Australian Premier farewelled

Former South Australian Premier farewelled

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Hundreds of mourners, including former premiers and other senior dignitaries, have gathered at St Peter’s Cathedral in Adelaide for the state funeral of John Bannon.

Dr Bannon, South Australia’s longest-serving Labor premier, died last week aged 72 after a long illness.

Eulogies are being delivered by Mr Bannon’s daughter, Victoria, former attorney-general in the Bannon government, Chris Sumner, and Chris Gent.

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Former premier Lynn Arnold, who became leader after Dr Bannon resigned, is leading prayers at the service.

Ms Bannon said her family would miss her father most at Christmas who was known for carefully mixing champagne cocktails in the morning, carving roast at lunch and epic recitals of Robbie Burns.

“For all of his love of tradition, he rejected the prejudices of the age,” she told the gathering.

“In fact my Dad, the feminist, turned out to be one of the staunchest supporters in his life, and encouraged all of us to pursue our passions with the same unyielding vigour that he had.

“I often wondered about this, how was Dad able to fit so much into his life, without seeming to break a sweat, or a promise for that matter.”

She recalled a conversation she recently had with her father about his passion for marathon running which also gave insight into his life in general.

“He said ‘the decision to stop or keep going should never come up, you decide at the start how far you want to go, and that’s how far you go.

“If you have to walk, you walk, even if you have to crawl, you get there.

“This revealed to me the depth of his sense of duty and obligation, to always follow through on a promise or commitment, no matter how inconvenient it may become.

“It also helped to explain his resilience, drive and energy, which kept him on a rigorous schedule of work, travel, gardening, exercise and still enjoying time with his family and friends, right up to his final day, despite an illness which would have broken many of us years ago.”

Mr Bannon was described by Bill Shorten as a "great Australian". Photo: ABC
Mr Bannon was described by Bill Shorten as a “great Australian”. Photo: ABC

JB ‘had something for everyone’

Lifelong friend through university and academia Chris Gent told the service Dr Bannon brought roles ranged from the political arena to sport, education and writing.

“John Bannon was brilliant company, always good natured, interesting and informative, with his wide-ranging and detailed knowledge, so well articulated through his lifelong love affair with the English language, his Scots terrier research skills, benign wit and unfailing liveliness and openness of mind,” he said.

“His father Charles said of his own art that it was meant to be out there for the people to see, and similarly JB’s enthusiasms and interests were rarely cloistered.

“What an outstanding range of roles and interests and talents he brought to bare in his perspectives and insights.

“State premier, national president of the ALP, master of Saint Mark’s College, historian, author, Tennyson medallist, president of the Adelaide University Union, founding member of Trees for Life, thespian, athlete and sportsman, sports administrator, educationist, beekeeper, A-grade debater, magazine editor, the list just goes on.

“There was something for everyone in JB, no matter who you were, no matter where you came from, and he was just as much at home in his beloved country acres as he was in city and suburb.

“It was in the quiet times he spent near daily in the surround of his inner sanctum, that one glimpsed a profound, personal and scholarly searching and contemplation. We may hope, we may believe, that his quest was fulfilled.

“He was a good friend, a wise mentor and a delightful companion, and he was a thoroughly decent man. We will miss him.”

Mourners gather inside the cathedral. Photo: ABC