Tom Hannan had few peers as a footballer at Port Pirie during a career that covered more than 20 years and was crowned by his captaincy of Proprietary from 1898 to 1901.
Fleet of foot, brainy, fearless and scrupulously fair, he accepted an invitation to play with Norwood in 1892. Travelling to and from Adelaide at weekends, he played three games that year and five in 1893. “Hannan brilliantly relieved, his fine handball play evoking cheers,” said The Advertiser after he shone at full back in a drawn match with the premier team, South Adelaide, at Adelaide Oval on July 22 1893. Stalwart defence by Tom, in the back pocket, and Alf Grayson held off Port Adelaide for a stirring 8.5 to 6.4 victory in a spiteful match which ended in a fracas at Adelaide Oval on 5 August. At the end of the season, ‘Onlooker’ commented in The Chronicle: “Hannan has played some grand games in the few contests he has been able to participate in.” A bright future was forecast but Tom did not return for the 1894 premiership.
Born at Salisbury on 18 June 1868, Tom grew to young manhood at his parents’ farm there. Tall and lithe, he never climbed through a fence or opened a gate but saved time by going over the top. He was well to the fore in the early days of keenly contested athletics, both at Salisbury and then Napperby, after the family shifted there in the mid-‘80s. He won many Sheffield handicaps in the North and developed into an all-round performer, holding his own from 75 yards up to a mile against top company.
After Tom moved from the Napperby farm to Port Pirie, he made many friends as an upright citizen and gifted sportsman. He carried off some good prizes in cycling and was a prominent baseballer in the boom days of that sport in Pirie. One of Pirie’s foremost oarsmen, he was a member of SA’s champion four in three successive years. He also had success putting the shot and tossing the caber.
He married Mary Fitzgerald in 1894. After she died in childbirth with her baby Patrick, he married Cora Wood in 1898. Tom encouraged his children to pit their strength and skill against each other, with the result that all six - Jack, Tom, Ivan, Doreen, Vida and Cora – became prominent athletes. Cora Hannan was the first Australian national champion in shot put and discus events. She competed in all seven national championships between 1930 and 1940, setting a range of records. While travelling with the NSW team to Perth in 1940, she was feted at Kalgoorlie when locals discovered she shared the family tree of the city’s founder, Paddy Hannan.
Tom Hannan worked for the BHP company in Port Pirie and later became head of the lead contractors before moving to Whyalla. Eventually he decided to return to the land and was busily engaged in farming at Kimba almost up to the time of his death at 57 on 13 December 1925
P Robins, D Cox July 2019
* For the picture we thank Heather Hannan, whose husband Brian was a grandson of Tom Hannan