Essington Lewis was a self-reliant son of the land who was an outstanding sportsman before becoming Australia’s leading industrialist and wartime director of munitions.
Born at Burra, he worked at family grazing properties from a young age and was an accomplished horseman who later shone at polo. At St Peter’s College he was captain of football, one of the best tennis players, the champion gymnast and a fine athlete and cricketer. He continued for years to play games with intense determination, representing South Adelaide, Norwood and South Australia at football. The Chronicle in 1907 adjudged him 'one of the finest footballers in the Commonwealth'.
“Snowy” (or “Essie”) Lewis was 178 cm tall, broad shouldered, fair-haired and handsome. Generally regarded with affection and referred to as 'big-hearted', he played as a follower-half-forward and with younger brother Lance was a member of Norwood’s 1907 premiership team which went on to beat Carlton for the Championship of Australia.
In 1908 he was influential in Norwood’s defeat of West Adelaide in the minor round, but the Lewis brothers were unavailable when the teams met in the grand final challenge and the Redlegs went down by three points.
In 1904, he signed on with the Broken Hill Proprietary Co Ltd and by 1921 was chief executive; an unpretentious workaholic with rare vision and a keen eye for detail (once he noticed a magnifying glass at a plant and asked an old hand what it was for, only to be told : “So I can see me pay”). He was BHP chairman from 1950 until his death at 80 while riding his horse at his Tallarook property in 1961. For his World War II work he was appointed a Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour.
P Robins May 2013