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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Stratton, John Peter (1886–1966)

by Charlie Fox

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

John Peter Stratton (1886-1966), trotting promoter, was born on 6 May 1886 at Mirboo North, Victoria, seventh of fourteen children of Thomas Stratton, an illiterate farmer, and his wife Elizabeth, née Tainsh, both Victorian born. John was raised at Mooroopna and sent to the local primary school. Moving to Western Australia, he settled (about 1906) on a small farm at Benjaberring. On 9 March 1910 at the Church of Christ, Lake Street, Perth, he married Maud May East, a waitress; they were to have five children before separating in 1932. Stratton was injured in a farm accident in 1911 and lost the use of an arm. By 1920 he was living in Perth. He bought and sold real estate there, developed extensive farming and grazing holdings in Western Australia and Victoria, and in 1925 became treasurer of the Primary Producers' Association.

In 1929 Stratton and two lesser guarantors underwrote a loan to set up the Brennan Park trotting ground. In return, they were given three positions, and the right to nominate another member, giving them a majority on the Western Australian Trotting Association's committee of seven. Elected president of the W.A.T.A. in 1930, Stratton dominated his fellow committee-members by the strength of his personality and controlled the administration of trotting in Western Australia. Dynamic, egotistical, ruthless, and unrelenting in his pursuit of power, he engineered the exclusion of James Brennan, a former president and guarantor, from the committee.

Stratton was the moving force behind the establishment of the Inter-Dominion Trotting Conference in 1936 and its president until 1966. His horses ran in twenty-one consecutive Inter-Dominion Pacing championships and his wealth set him apart from the rest of the trotting fraternity. He served as president (1939-45) of the W.A. Sportsmen's Organizing Council for Patriotic Funds. In 1946 he established the Jane Brook horse stud at Midland, near Perth.

The guarantor system proved unpopular with many W.A.T.A. members, who frequently tried to abolish it and elect their committee democratically. In 1946 a royal commission into the administration, conduct and control of trotting found that Stratton had 'stacked' the W.A.T.A.'s membership, improperly changed the name of Brennan Park to Gloucester Park in 1935, benefited financially from his presidency and forced the departure of the chairman of stewards who had disqualified one of his horses. It was also suspected that he had interfered in the handicapping of his horses. Although the commissioner thought that Stratton was 'not as frank in his evidence as he should have been', he acknowledged his strengths in managing and promoting trotting. The State government took control of trotting under the Western Australian Trotting Association Act (1946), but Stratton's power was left intact. Although the guarantors' liability ended in 1945, they were elected to the committee and Stratton retained the presidency until his death. He was a founding member (1961-66) of the Totalisator Agency Board of Western Australia.

Survived by his wife, and their two daughters and three sons, Stratton died on 26 July 1966 at his Nedlands home and was buried with Anglican rites in Karrakatta cemetery. His estate was sworn for probate at $842,606. He left relatively small bequests to his children and a pittance to his wife, and made generous provision for his long-time mistress—on the condition that she remained single. The bulk of his estate was used to set up a charitable trust from which funds were first distributed in 1974 to people suffering from physical or intellectual disabilities. The W.A.T.A. named the J. P. Stratton Cup after him.

Select Bibliography

  • Western Australian Trotting Association, History of Trotting in the State of Western Australia (Perth, 1970?)
  • Royal Commission . . . into the Administration, Conduct and Control of the Sport of Trotting in the State of Western Australia, Votes and Proceedings (Western Australia), 1946, 2
  • West Australian, 27 July, 25 Aug 1966, 10 May 1967, 4 Feb 1974
  • Daily News (Perth), 11 May 1967.

Citation details

Charlie Fox, 'Stratton, John Peter (1886–1966)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 27 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

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