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From childhood, Gordon had a heart problem, and he once had to resign because of poor health.

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Sir John Gordon

National Library of Australia

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Hammer & Co

John Gordon (1850–1923)

Fighter for South Australia's water

Gordon came with his family to Australia from Scotland. He became a lawyer and was mayor of Strathalbyn in the Adelaide Hills, where he had his legal business. He entered parliament as a reformer.

He attended the federal conventions of 1891 and 1897–98. He was at first afraid of Federation and wanted the colonies to cooperate with each other, rather than forming a strong central government. At the 1897–98 Federal Convention, he was one of the great fighters in the battle over the waters of the Murray-Darling. The South Australians wanted the constitution to say that enough water must flow down the Murray River for the boats from South Australia to sail up it. The delegates from New South Wales and Victoria wanted water to be able to be taken from the Murray and Darling rivers, for irrigation. Gordon's great victory was that the constitution finally said that only a 'reasonable' amount of water could be taken
for irrigation.

In 1903 he became a South Australian judge. In 1913 he turned down an offer to be judge of the High Court because he was in
poor health.