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The Last Snake Man

‘The Mans a Legend’ is often said of many who have achieved in one sport or pursuit, but in John Cann’s case he is a true legend, a man perhaps not all that well known outside of New South Wales  today. His fame spread far; much further than La Perouse where he grew up, one of the family of Cann’s known throughout the area as “Snakies” for their skill at handling snakes, deadly and non-deadly, a family who had made a business out of ‘snake shows and tours’ for several generations.

Back in the early settlement days of La Perouse, a soldier settlement area after the First World War, brown, tiger and black snakes roamed freely throughout the area, a common everyday inhabitant of the scrub and sandhill country.

John and his brother George grew up with snakes as pets, learning early on about handling, safety and the art of showmanship from their parents and grandparents; His family where renowned for their traveling snake shows. John and George roamed the countryside with their mates consisting of indigenous kids and other Aussie, roaming the sandhills, chasing and catching snakes.

As he grew older he had a natural ability for sport, becoming a top rugby league footballer who played State alongside many of the nations greats, an Olympic athlete competing in Decathlon for the 1956 Summer Olympics held in held in Melbourne, moved on to become a noted State boxer and in a complete change of carer and direction, a world turtle expert.

In 1965 he and his brother George took over the family business of Snake Shows and in in doing so he earned the title of ‘Snake Man’, a moniker he held until his retirement in 2010.

His fascination for turtles began when he was working on a powerline construction out of Tumbarumba, a job that allowed him to continue catching snakes, his first love, and to dive for fresh water turtles, a fast growing interest, and one that was eventually to find him traveling the world with several species and subspecies of turtle now named in his honour.

His autobiography is one of fascination, fun, and an excellent read looking back to a life that was and still is filled with adventure and challenge. In his lifetime he has seen the best and worst of bureaucracy, racism, competition and people’s fascination and fear of snakes. He has also grown up through a period of change in Australian history, and is a member of Australia’s last family of “Snakies”.

AuthorJohn Cann with Jimmy Thomson
PublisherAllen and Unwin
DistributorAllen and Unwin
ReleasedFebruary 2018