Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

John, Eric Daniel Bevan (1902–1968)

by Marion Consandine

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Eric Daniel Bevan John (1902-1968), radio producer, was born on 30 August 1902 at Bathurst, New South Wales, son of Bedlington Ernest John, a railway engineer from Tasmania, and his New Zealand-born wife Evelyn Mary, née Hargreaves. Educated at Miss Hamilton's and Trinity Hill State schools, Hobart, Eric spent some time in South Africa. He was employed by the Public Library of Tasmania on a part-time basis (from 1926) and as full-time assistant-librarian on £160 a year from 1929. Described as 'a well-read and well-educated man', he carried out 'responsible and technical work'.

In his spare time John freelanced as a journalist and reviewed books for the Mercury. He was cubmaster (from 1927) and scoutmaster (1933-37) of the 3rd Hobart (The Hutchins School) Scout Group. Rejected for military service in World War II on medical grounds, he supported organizations concerned with soldiers' welfare. In the 1940s he trod the boards with the Hobart Repertory Theatre Society, wrote an audience-participation session entitled Charades and co-produced Richard of Bordeaux for the Hobart Theatre Guild. His interests also included biography and the history of music, and he collected records that ranged from classics to swing.

Convinced of the educational value of radio, from 1935 John had assisted the Australian Broadcasting Commission's 'Children's Session' and contributed scripts to the series, 'Historic Tasmania', for which he drew on his knowledge of early Australian history. By the time he joined the A.B.C. in May 1942 as a presentation officer, he was considered to have a good radio technique, as well as a flair for writing and arranging material. A prolific worker, he devised and produced features, musical comedy, quizzes and dance-band shows.

John was transferred to Sydney in July 1950 as a producer in the drama and features department. He gathered scripts for 'Quality Street', 'No Mean Company' and 'Poet's Corner'. Affable and charming, he was especially good at casting and encouraging young actors, among them Rod Taylor and Rosemary Hills. In 1952 he took over the production of Gwen Meredith's long-running serial, 'Blue Hills'. Enjoying her complete confidence, for the next sixteen years he worked tirelessly to maintain the highest standards. The programme expressed contemporary Australian attitudes and values, and was immensely popular with both country and city listeners.

Serious and sensitive, he understood human nature and its frailties. Neil Hutchison believed that John waged an unrelenting war 'to keep in subjugation the rebellious heart of which he was always conscious'. Christopher Koch based the character, Martin Gadsby, in The Doubleman (London, 1985) on him and remembered the many soirées John held in his Potts Point flat, often holding court in bed. Towards the end of his life, he became cranky, cynical and unhappy. He smoked cigarettes, dressed well and wore a polka-dot bow-tie. Because of high blood pressure, he was never made a permanent member of the A.B.C.'s staff; his salary remained modest, obliging him to live sparingly. He died of cerebral vascular disease on 5 August 1968 in St Vincent's Hospital and was cremated with Methodist forms.

Select Bibliography

  • K. S. Inglis, This is the ABC (Melb, 1983)
  • Radio Active, Sept 1968
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 7 Aug 1968
  • ABC Document and Radio Archives, Sydney
  • Hal Porter papers (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Marion Consandine, 'John, Eric Daniel Bevan (1902–1968)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/john-eric-daniel-bevan-10628/text18487, published in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 1 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014