Neville Wran, one of Labor's most popular and controversial leaders, has died at 87.
The Balmain boy who won power in NSW in 1976 and remained the state's premier for the next decade, died about 6pm on Sunday night at the prestigious Lulworth House nursing home in Elizabeth Bay.
Mr Wran's reign as premier was marked by lively parliamentary brawling, substantial reforms and big transport and infrastructure projects, including Darling Harbour, but it was also dogged by suspicions of corruption. Although he was exonerated, he lamented: ''Some of the mud will eventually stick.''
When Mr Wran declared in June 1986 that he would resign as premier, he was asked to reflect on his highest and lowest points. ''Oh, winning was the best,'' he said. ''That's the politician's aphrodisiac: winning. And the lowest point was that wretched royal commission.''
That ''wretched'' inquiry was the one led by Chief Justice Sir Laurence Street, who decades later would become a fellow resident at Lulworth House but who, at the time, cleared Mr Wran of allegations made on the ABC's Four Corners program that he had interfered in committal proceedings against former NSW Rugby League chief Kevin Humphreys, charged with defrauding the Balmain Leagues Club.
Mr Wran stood down as premier for three months and it was at the height of this ordeal that he uttered his most quoted line, telling the NSW Labor Conference at Sydney Town Hall: ''Balmain boys don't cry.''
The youngest of eight children, Neville Kenneth Wran was born in Paddington on October 11, 1926, but was raised in his young years in a Balmain terrace house. His father, Joe, worked as a seaman, coal lumper and labourer. Young Neville witnessed vicious street fights and kids with their ''arses hanging out of their pants''.
He made it into the selective Fort Street Boys High School, then studied law at Sydney University, where he joined the Liberal Club until it affiliated with Robert Menzies' new Liberal Party. Wran joined the Labor Party at 27. He was called to the bar in 1957 and became a Queen's Counsel in 1968. ''That's what being in the working class is all about - how to get out of it,'' Mr Wran said in 1982.
He excelled at the bar and a fellow industrial lawyer, Morgan Ryan, is said to have coined the nickname ''Nifty'', which would stay with Mr Wran throughout his political career. His Labor patrons were Lionel Murphy and Jim McClelland.
Mr Wran joined the NSW upper house in 1970 and he became deputy opposition leader in the Legislative Council. Mr Wran defeated Pat Hills for the leadership in 1973, and in May 1976 - only six months after the dismissal of the Whitlam federal government - Mr Wran led NSW Labor to a one-seat victory to evict the Liberals from 11 years in power. He married Jill Hickson, his second wife, that year.
In the ''Wranslide'' election of 1978, Labor took 63 of 99 seats. It returned with an even bigger majority of 39 seats in 1981.
Mr Wran became Labor's federal president and, despite his own ambitions to move to national politics, he was given some credit for Labor's resurgence with Bob Hawke as prime minister in 1983.
After announcing he would step down at the 1986 state Labor conference - to cries of ''no, no, no!'' in the Sydney Town Hall - Mr Wran told reporters: ''I didn't set out to achieve much, actually. My principal objective was to keep beating the Liberals, and I've had amazing success at doing that. That's been my main triumph.''
However, he counted among his achievements the introduction of democratic elections to the upper house; ending systematic destruction of rainforests and giving them World Heritage protection; a $2 billion integrated transport system including the Eastern Suburbs rail line and electrification of the Newcastle and Wollongong lines; finishing what Mr Whitlam had started by ''creating a multicultural society in which all people are equal''; and revolutionising government administration.
His government also claimed credit for extending parliamentary terms to four years; disclosure of MPs' pecuniary interests and public funding of election campaigns; establishing a ministry of Aboriginal affairs; introducing anti-discrimination laws and the Equal Opportunities Tribunal; commissioning the Richmond report into mental health; introducing random breath testing; establishing an internal unit to investigate police corruption; liquor laws allowing Sunday trading.
Asked his first priority when he resumed his job as premier after the Street royal commission, Wran said: ''Kick in a few heads.''
At news conferences he would rebuke journalists: ''Are you from the ABC?''
In 1984 came the so-called Age tapes, police recordings of conversations between politicians, judicial figures and criminals. Then NSW chief stipendiary magistrate Clarrie Briese claimed he had been leant on by High Court judge Lionel Murphy, who allegedly said, ''And now, what about my little mate?'' in relation to criminal charges against Morgan Ryan, the solicitor said to have nicknamed Mr Wran '' Nifty''.
Briese also gave evidence to a Senate select committee alleging someone called Neville had attempted to influence the Ryan case. Then NSW solicitor-general Mary Gaudron cleared Mr Wran, who told John Laws' radio program: ''The biggest organised crime that has been committed in Australia this decade was wholesale, unlawful, illegal, criminal phone-tapping by police.''
When Murphy was charged with perverting the course of justice, Mr Wran declared his ''very deep conviction'' the judge was innocent - a slip that earned him a contempt-of-court conviction. Murphy would be convicted but then acquitted in a retrial.
When Mr Wran resigned, at 59, in July 1986, he had been premier for 10 years, one month and 20 days. He had seen off six Liberal leaders but the seventh, Nick Greiner, won the next election.
Mr Wran was the state's longest serving premier until Bob Carr's 10 years, three months and 29 days ended in August 2005.
He admitted ''the dullness and the boredom'' had got to him and ''after a decade there is a certain repetitive quality about state politics''. He said he probably would have stayed in politics had he become a ''federal minister or even better''.
In November 1987, he and Ms Hickson, then 38, announced they were having their first baby after 11 years of marriage.
''His joy is childlike,'' she said. They had two children together: Hugo, whose godfather was Mr Turnbull, and Harriet, whose godfather was Kerry Packer. Mr Wran had a daughter, Kim, with his first wife, Marcia Oliver, who also had a son from a previous marriage.
Mr Wran became the chairman of the CSIRO, advised on Australia's bicentenary and thrived in business, including his chairmanship of the cleaning contact company Allcorp and his merchant bank venture with a young Mr Turnbull, who is now a Liberal frontbencher in the Abbott government. Mr Wran had been a university friend of Mr Turnbull's mother, Coral Lansbury.
In 2011, Ms Hickson said she had been ''frozen out'' of her millionaire husband's personal affairs by his appointed guardians, Mr Turnbull, Kim Wran and his long-time business associate Albert Wong. Mr Wran moved out of the couple's Woollahra house and into Mr Wong's home. Mr Wran lashed out at Ms Hickson's suggestion he had a form of dementia.
The couple reconciled in late 2011. Mr Wran moved into Lulworth House seven months later.
In a 1991 interview with the Herald, Mr Wran said he could not retire. ''That would be tantamount to dying,'' he said. ''I'll retire when I die.''
with Lucy Carroll
Correction: An earlier version said Mr Wran became Labor leader in 1972 and led NSW Labor to victory six months after prime minister Gough Whitlam’s dismissal, not five.
The story Neville Wran: Praise, controversy and 'Balmain boys don't cry' quote marked time in office first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.