John Hannah Gordon

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John Hannah Gordon

Sir John Hannah Gordon (26 July 1850 – 23 December 1923) was a Scottish-Australian politician and judge. He was a member of the South Australian Legislative Council from 1888 to 1892 and from 1893 to 1903. He was a minister under four Premiers: John Cockburn, Frederick Holder, Charles Kingston and John Jenkins, variously as Minister for Education, Chief Secretary, Attorney-General, and Minister Controlling the Northern Territory. He was a judge of the Supreme Court of South Australia from 1903.

Early life[edit]

Gordon was born at Kilmacolm, Renfrewshire, Scotland, the eldest son of the Rev. James Gordon, preacher of the Free Church, and his wife Margaret, née Leonard. The family emigrated to South Australia in 1859 where Rev. Gordon took charge of the Presbyterian church at Mount Barker, and was afterwards stationed at Gawler. Gordon's younger brother, William Beattie Gordon, who was born in Gawler, became a member of parliament in Western Australia.

Gordon was educated at Mount Barker under James Clezy, M.A., and at Gawler under the Rev. J. Leonard and L. S. Burton. On leaving school he studied theology and classics for two years, and was then for some years in the offices of W. Duffield and Company of Gawler, and Dunn and Company, Port Adelaide. He took up the study of law and served his articles with J. J. Bonnar in Strathalbyn. He was admitted to the South Australian bar in 1876, but practised for 11 years at Strathalbyn as a solicitor. Gordon did not become a Q.C. until 1900.

On 4 January 1877 at the Presbyterian church, Strathalbyn, Gordon married Ann Wright Rogers (20 February 1855 – 20 April 1951), youngest daughter of William Rogers MHA. They had two sons and two daughters.[1]

Political career[edit]

In 1888 Gordon was elected to the Legislative Council for the Southern District, a seat he held for 15 years. He was Minister of Education in the Cockburn ministry from June 1889 to August 1890, and held the same position in the first Holder ministry from June to October 1892.

Gordon became Chief Secretary in the Kingston ministry in June 1893 but resigned on 15 February 1896. He was Attorney-General of South Australia in Holder's second ministry from December 1899 to May 1901 and from May 1901 to December 1903 in the Jenkins ministry.

A strong federalist, he was a representative of South Australia at the 1891 convention, was elected fifth out of 33 candidates in 1897, and sat on the constitutional committee.

Women's Suffrage[edit]

Gordon introduced the successful Bill for women's suffrage into the Legislative Council in July 1894. Of the five members of the South Australian Parliament who introduced bills providing votes for women, four were Scottish born and the fifth, Edward Charles Stirling, although born in South Australia had Scots parents. Their shared philosophy was that the demand to enfranchise women was based on the principle of equity and would not result in social upheaval.[2]

Later life[edit]

J. H. Gordon.jpg

Following his political career Gordon became a Supreme Court Justice for South Australia and he was knighted in 1908.

In February 1913 Gordon declined an invitation from Billy Hughes to move to the High Court.

Gordon was also a lecturer on literary subjects, such as the Elizabethan period, publishing occasional articles in the Adelaide press.

Gordon died at Adelaide, South Australia of cardiac disease on 23 December 1923. On 4 January 1877 he married Ann "Annie" Rogers (20 Feb 1855 – 20 Apr 1951) who survived him.[3]

  • Annie Louise Gordon (3 November 1877 – 18 June 1955) married James Robert Anderson KC (12 June 1864 – 7 April 1913) on 29 October 1896. Anderson was Attorney General for four months in 1905. She married a second time, to Dr. Edgar Jabez Brown on 2 March 1915.[4] She was, as Louise Brown, author of the novel Paul Strange and other works.
  • (Margaret) Kathleen Gordon (13 July 1882 – 1958), married Neil Campbell (11 September 1882 – April 1918) on 23 May 1914. Neil served in the Boer War and was a member of the Tunnelling Corps in World War I, killed in action.[5]


  1. ^ Loughlin, Graham. "Gordon, Sir John Hannah (1850–1923)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  2. ^ Jones, Helen (1986). In her own name. Kent Town: Wakefield Press.
  3. ^ "Death of Sir John Gordon". The Chronicle. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 29 December 1923. p. 39. Retrieved 21 May 2015. obituary makes no mention of daughter Kathleen Campbell.
  4. ^ "Family Notices". The Mail. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 6 March 1915. p. 6 Section: Saturday News. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
  5. ^ "Blackwood Soldiers Project:Lieut. Neil Campbell of Blackwood". Retrieved 21 May 2015.