Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating talks to Wran family members at the State funeral of former NSW Premier Neville Wran at Sydney Town Hall.

Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating talks to Wran family members at the State funeral of former NSW Premier Neville Wran at Sydney Town Hall. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Neville Wran has been farewelled at the scene of some of his greatest triumphs, the Sydney Town Hall.

It was here during ALP state and federal conferences that Mr Wran held the torch high for Labor in the years after the dismissal of the Whitlam government.

It was also in the same auditorium that he shocked the 1986 state conference by announcing his intention of retire after a string of stunning election victories

Mourners line up for Neville Wran's funeral service at the Sydney Town Hall.

Mourners line up for Neville Wran's funeral service at the Sydney Town Hall. Photo: Kate Geraghty

And on Thursday, the party faithful came to honour perhaps their most respected hero. Among them, former prime minister Bob Hawke, former premiers Kristina Keneally, Nathan Rees and Morris Iemma; the incumbent Mike Baird; the president of the NSW Upper House Don Harwin; and opposition leader John Robertson. The governor's husband, Nicholas Shehadie, represented Marie Bashir.

Thousands began lining up outside the Sydney Town Hall before 9am to attend the service.

A roll call of Labor’s pantheon stood waiting to be admitted, including Opposition leader Bill Shorten, former premier Barrie Unsworth, former ALP federal leader Barry Jones, MHRs Chris Bowen, Anthony Albanese, senators Sam Dastyari and John Faulkner, and former colleagues such as Laurie Brereton.

Neville Wran's funeral service at the Sydney Town Hall.

Neville Wran's funeral service at the Sydney Town Hall. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Representatives from the other side of politics included Barry O’Farrell an Philip Ruddock.

Speechwriter Bob Ellis said Mr Wran’s 1976 NSW election victory was truly significant for Labor.

“It came six months after the dismissal of the Whitlm government and it's not too great a  claim to say Neville saved Labor,” he said.

Neville Wran, pictured here with Princess Mary of Denmark.

Neville Wran, pictured here with Princess Mary of Denmark.

Mr Wran died on April 20. He was 87. The former premier had been suffering from dementia.

Eight people spoke. They were former prime minister Paul Keating, a daughter from Mr Wran’s first marriage, Kim Sheftell, a son and daughter from his second marriage, Hugo and Harriet Wran, Labor historian Rodney Cavalier, former High Cout justice Michael Kirby, former premier Bob Carr and his widow Jill Wran.

Mr Keating said: ''He had a PHD in profanity.'' And he could attack people with quips and turns of phrase ''no one was ever quite sure if he really meant it.''

Mr Kirby said Mr Wran was no one else’s man.

“No one else controlled him: No faction, no person. He made his own decisions. He was a latecomer to politics. He arrived and then travelled with little baggage. And that was the way he wanted it to be. He was different from most successful politicians in our country. He was a leopard that walked virtually alone,” he said.

Mr Carr said Mr Wran understood the ''use of power'' and his whole poliical life was devoted to it.

Born in Balmain in 1926, Mr Wran had a successful career as a barrister, earning the nickname “Nifty” before he entered politics in 1970 in the NSW Upper House.

He won Bass Hill three years later and led the ALP to a close run victory in 1976. Two years later he won the famous “Wranslide” election scoring 58 per cent of first preferences.

Mr Wran's legacy included introducing Lotto, rate-pegging for councils, random breath-testing, the Land and Environment Court and laws allowing homosexual acts between consenting adults.

He also triggered the redevelopment of Darling Harbour and built the Sydney Entertainment Centre, but once said his proudest achievement had been creating national parks.