Australian Dictionary of Biography Volume 19: 1991–1995 (A–Z)
RAIL, VICTORY ROBERT (VIC) (1945–1994), racehorse trainer, was born on 15 August 1945 (the day World War II ended) at West Townsville, Queensland, seventh of nine children of Queensland-born parents William Rail, railway worker, and his wife Doris Emily, née Bullock. Following his elder brother Billy into horse-racing, Vic left Townsville West State School (1951–59) to work at stables near the city’s racecourse. At age fifteen he became apprenticed as a jockey to the trainer Arthur ‘Sadie’ Standley. A good athlete, he took up amateur boxing and won eighteen of nineteen bouts, including three junior North Queensland championships.
In 1963 Rail moved to Brisbane to continue his apprenticeship under the trainer Jim Griffiths. He won three country races in June and none thereafter but gained prizes at the Queensland Turf Club Apprentices’ School as champion athlete and boxer. Because of his increasing weight, he moved in 1964 to Melbourne to ride in hurdle and steeplechase events; the horses in these races were handicapped on a heavier weight scale. Unsuccessful, he abandoned competitive riding in 1965 and remained in Melbourne for another twelve months, working as a stablehand for the trainer Des McCormick, near the Epsom racecourse at Mordialloc.
Rail went back to Brisbane in 1966, where he turned his hand to anything that enabled him to work with horses: strapping, riding trackwork, and learning the basics of the farrier’s craft. On 9 July 1966 in a Church of England ceremony at the Church of the Holy Trinity, Fortitude Valley, he married Coleen Cecily Thomsett, a shop assistant; they would later divorce (1981). In 1968 he returned to Melbourne and became stable foreman for the trainer Tommy Woodcock [q.v.18] at Mordialloc. He later credited Woodcock with teaching him how to prepare horses for races, in particular, how to feed them correctly to suit their training regime.
Seeking to train in his own right, Rail settled in Brisbane in 1973. The Queensland Turf Club granted him a permit and in his first season (August 1973 to July 1974) his horses won six races on country tracks. For ten years he eked out a living by training a small stable of thoroughbreds and supplementing his income by riding trackwork and doing some farrier work. His fortunes changed when a group of friends bought a colt they named Rode Rouge and asked Rail to train him. Rode Rouge came first in ten races, mostly in Brisbane. When he had first shown promise, one of his owners, John Murray, decided to buy his younger half-brother for $5,000. Neither the new colt’s sire, Ivor Prince, nor his dam, Vow, had won a race but this did not deter Murray, who enticed a friend, Jeff Perry, to share in the ownership. They named the horse Vo Rogue, and in 1984, when he was just a yearling, Murray and Perry arranged for him to come into Rail’s stables at Hendra, not far from the Eagle Farm and Doomben racecourses.
Vo Rogue won twenty-six races and $3.1 million. He raced from 1986 to 1991 and captured the imagination of racegoers with a brave, front-running style. Six of his victories were at the Group 1 level, including the 1989 and 1990 Australian Cup at Flemington, Melbourne, and another ten were at Group 2 level.
The horse’s success thrust the knock-about, craggy-faced Rail into the limelight. His training methods were unorthodox. Keeping his horses as close to nature as possible, he preferred to turn them loose in yards during the day rather than lock them up in the confines of stables; discarded the use of rugs except in extreme cold; and avoided horseshoes because, as he said, they were not born wearing them. On one occasion the stewards discovered him working Vo Rogue without horseshoes and fined Rail $200. He maintained close personal contact with the horses and often rode Vo Rogue in his trackwork. That brought another fine after stewards spotted him wearing thongs rather than the obligatory riding boots.
In September 1994 Rail brought two horses into his stables from a suburban Brisbane paddock. Soon, both showed symptoms of a respiratory illness. Despite veterinary treatment, their condition worsened and other horses in his and a neighbouring stable became ill. Within a week fourteen horses had died or been put down by veterinary surgeons. Rail himself developed similar symptoms to those that had presented in his horses. Urged by his partner, Lisa Symons, he sought medical treatment. He was admitted to hospital in South Brisbane and died there a week later, on 27 September 1994. Following a Catholic funeral, he was cremated. His partner survived him, as did the two sons of his former marriage. This was the first time in the world that the disease, identified as an acute equine respiratory syndrome, had been detected; it was named Hendra virus. Researchers found that the virus’s natural host is the flying fox. The horses initially infected had probably sniffed or eaten vegetation contaminated with flying fox droppings. Rail’s last winner had been Shampan, in a Maiden Handicap at Toowoomba. It was ridden by his son Troy.
Carlyon, Les. True Grit: Tales from 40 Years on the Turf. North Sydney: Random House Australia Pty Ltd, 2013; Clark, Bruce. ‘Reverse Way of Going Was No Problem for Larrikin Vic.’ Courier Mail (Brisbane), 28 September 1994, 57; Cormick, Brendan. ‘Chatty Trainer a Breath of Fresh Air in Racing.’ Australian, 30 September 1994, 12; Dawson, Graham. ‘Is Queensland Champ Racing’s New Superstar?’ Turf Monthly 36, no. 9 (1988): 18–21; McKinnon, Michael. ‘Why Vic Lost the Big Race.’ Sunday Mail (Brisbane), 2 October 1994, 7; Personal knowledge of ADB subject; Sinclair, Bart. Personal communication; Sinclair, Bart. ‘Unforgettable Larrikin Honoured.’ Courier Mail (Brisbane), 5 October 1994, 5; Walker, Jamie. ‘Mystery Illness Claims Vic Rail.’ Australian, 28 September 1994, 1–2.
RANKIN, RONALD (RON) (1914–1991), teacher, rugby player, air force officer, and farmer, was born on 3 November 1914 at Majors Creek, New South Wales, second of four children of New South Wales–born parents James Daniel Rankin, butcher, and his wife Louisa May, née Keyte. Educated at Hurlstone Agricultural High School, Ron excelled academically and represented his school in swimming, boxing, athletics, cricket, and rugby union. He captained his school and the Combined High Schools rugby teams. After studying at Sydney Teachers’ College, where he won Blues for cricket, athletics, and rugby, he taught at Burnside Public School, Parramatta, and Sydney Grammar School.
A fine full-back, Rankin played first-grade rugby for Drummoyne from 1934; later he joined Randwick. Standing 5 feet 9 inches (175 cm) tall and weighing 162 pounds (73.5 kg), he was known for his toughness, displaying ‘prodigious stamina and capacity for hard play, both in attack and defence’ (Sydney Morning Herald 1945, 6). He captained the State team and twice scored more than 100 points in a season. Rankin represented New South Wales (capped twenty-two times) against Queensland (1935–38), Victoria (1936), South Africa (1937), and New Zealand (1938), and played for Australia (capped seven times) against New Zealand (1936, 1938) and South Africa (1937). In 1939 he was en route to Britain with a Wallabies team when World War II was declared. The tour was cancelled and he returned to Australia.
On 19 September 1940 Rankin enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). After flying training in Australia and Canada, he was presented with his wings and commissioned in April 1941. He completed further training in Britain and played for England in the combined services rugby XV. In February 1942 he joined No. 236 Squadron, Royal Air Force, flying Blenheims on shipping reconnaissance and escort missions. Four months later he was posted to No. 227 Squadron, RAF, which was absorbed that month into No. 272 Squadron, stationed in Egypt. He flew Beaufighters over Egypt and Libya and, when Malta-based from November, Tunisia and Sicily. In November he led a flight in an attack on El Aouina aerodrome in Tunisia, shooting down one aircraft and braving enemy fighters and fire from the ground to strafe the airfield. For his determination in this and other operations, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. He completed his tour in January 1943 as an ace, having shot down at least five aircraft and shared two other aerial victories. His promotion to substantive flight lieutenant followed in April.
After serving in Britain as an instructor on rocket firing from Beaufighters, Rankin returned to Australia in October. He was awarded Belgium’s Croix de Guerre on 1 February 1944. In April he was posted to No. 30 Squadron, RAAF, with which he flew Beaufighters on bombing and strafing missions over New Guinea and the Netherlands East Indies. Promoted to acting squadron leader on 1 August, he commanded a flight, and the squadron for a month, and was awarded a Bar to his DFC for his outstanding courage, ability, and skilful leadership. His final sortie, on 12 December, ended with a crash landing. From February 1945 he instructed at No. 5 Operational Training Unit, Williamtown, New South Wales, until demobilised on 20 December.
Rankin briefly resumed teaching and playing rugby in Sydney, again leading the State team. On 25 October 1946 at St Jude’s Church, Brighton, Adelaide, he married Ellen Betty Bown, an ex-servicewoman. He took up farming at Braidwood, New South Wales; he later returned to teaching in Canberra, where he also bred horses and farmed. While feeding his horses he died suddenly on 7 August 1991, and was cremated. A generous and gregarious man, he was survived by his wife and two sons; another son had predeceased him.
Braidwood Review and District Advocate. ‘Ron Rankin. Famous Flyer’s Amazing Career.’ 17 April 1945, 1; Canberra Times. ‘Rugby Union Star to Play in Canberra.’ 16 May 1947, 2; Canberra Times. ‘WWII Pilot Had Love of Horses.’ 15 August 1991, 4; Garrison, A. D. Australian Fighter Aces. Canberra: Air Power Studies Centre, 1999; National Archives of Australia. A9300, Rankin, Ronald; National Archives of Australia. A705, Rankin, Ronald; Sydney Morning Herald. ‘Sporting Personalities – Ron Rankin.’ 10 April 1945, 6; Sydney Morning Herald. ‘Sport Biography of the Week.’ 31 July 1946, 1.
RANKINE, DOROTHY LEILA (1932–1993), Aboriginal musician and community worker, was born on 31 December 1932 at Rose Park, Adelaide, seventh of eight children of Daniel Wilson, of Ngarrindjeri descent, and his wife Rebecca Kumi Wilson, née Harris, who was of Kaurna descent on her mother’s side and Ngarrindjeri on her father’s side. Leila attended school and spent her early adult life in the small community at Point McLeay Mission Station (later Raukkan) on the southern shore of Mungkuli (Lake Alexandrina), in the Coorong region of South Australia. Under the influence of the Salvation Army, music played a significant role in the social and religious life of the mission, shaping her later involvement in music and the arts. She married James William Rankine (d. 1969) at Point McLeay on 22 April 1954, and together they had five children. In 1965 the family moved to Adelaide to provide greater access to educational opportunities for the children.
Having been brought up under the Aborigines Protection Board (1939–62), which exercised supreme authority over Aboriginal people in the State, Rankine was determined to contribute to improvements in the lives and circumstances of her people. In 1966 she was a founding member of the Council of Aboriginal Women of South Australia, and, along with other influential women including Ruby Hammond [q.v.] and Gladys Elphick [q.v.17], worked to promote Aboriginal education and advancement.
With her younger sister Veronica Brodie, also an activist and community leader, in 1972 Rankine was an inaugural member of the Adelaide Aboriginal Orchestra. Three years later, the orchestra was one of the founding initiatives in the establishment of the Centre for Aboriginal Studies in Music (CASM) at the University of Adelaide. The orchestra sought to benefit children living with family, with foster families, or in hostels, and gave them the opportunity to receive training and perform on a variety of instruments. ‘Auntie Leila’, as she was respectfully and fondly known to the many CASM students who benefited from her wisdom and firm but kind support, was the chairperson of the urban committee of CASM and editor of the centre’s journal Tjungaringanyi from 1976 until her retirement in 1986. During this period she also participated in the development of the Radio University 5UV multimedia resource Music, Music, Music (1978). CASM yielded a number of ground-breaking musical groups including Us Mob and No Fixed Address.
Rankine was involved in numerous organisations, including the Aboriginal Community College, Aboriginal Community Centre, and the Aboriginal Sobriety Group of South Australia Inc. She was a member of the Aborigines Advancement League of South Australia, the Aboriginal Arts Board of the Australia Council of the Arts (1974–77), and the Sydney-based Aboriginal Artists Agency (1978–93). She also worked with Aboriginal students at Warriappendi Alternative School, contributed to the educational resources The Kaurna People (1989) and The Ngarrindjeri People (1990) for South Australian secondary schools, and to the book Our Place Our Music (1989), one of the first comprehensive published studies of Aboriginal music. In 1987 she played an important role in founding the Ngarrindjeri cultural centre, Camp Coorong. A poet, actor, cellist, a fine trombonist, and singer, she performed at the South Pacific Festival of Arts in Tahiti in 1985, and told Ngarrindjeri stories for ABC television. She had previously acted in the films Sister, If You Only Knew (1975) and Wrong Side of the Road (1981).
While working at CASM, Rankine had developed diabetes which caused her to become very ill. She died on 15 January 1993 in Adelaide, survived by four daughters and a son, and her ashes were scattered at Panmurung Point on the Coorong, the beloved spiritual place to which she had always wished to return. Following her death Leila’s role as a custodian of her people’s lore and culture came under scrutiny during the long-running and divisive controversy over the construction of a bridge linking Hindmarsh Island in the Coorong with the mainland. Those against the construction of the bridge, including Leila’s sister, gave evidence to the royal commission that construction of the bridge would be detrimental to the secret women’s sites on the island, of which Leila had been a custodian. The bridge was opened in 2001 over the Ngarrindjeri women’s protests but they were partly vindicated in a Federal Court of Australia case (Chapman v Luminis Pty Ltd (No 5) 2001) the same year in which the judge accepted that the women were genuine in their beliefs about the importance of the waters, and that they should be protected from development.
Breen, Marcus ed. Our Place Our Music. Aboriginal Music: Australia. Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 1989; Gale, Mary-Anne. My Side of the Bridge: The Life Story of Veronica Brodie. Kent Town, SA: Wakefield Press, 2002; Kartinyeri, Doreen. Ngarrindjeri Nation: Genealogies of Ngarrindjeri families. Kent Town SA: Wakefield Press, 2006; Mattingley, Christobel, and Ken Hampton, eds. Survival in Our Own Land: ‘Aboriginal Experiences’ in ‘South Australia’ since 1836 told by Nungas and others. Melbourne, Vic.: Australian Scholarly Publishing, 1998; Rankine, Leila. ‘Centre for Aboriginal Studies in Music.’ Pivot: A Journal of South Australian Education 6, no. 2 (1979): 19–20; Rankine, Leila. Pelican in Flight: A Collection of Poetry about Childhood Experiences and Adult Knowing of the Coorong and Point McLeay. Mt Barker, SA: Flashback Press, 1993; Tjungaringanyi (1975–85). Journal of the Centre for Aboriginal Studies in Music (CASM). The University of Adelaide; Wilson, Jane. Personal communication.
Jennifer K. Newsome
RASHEED, KEVIN SAJIEH (1919–1992), tourism operator and promoter, was born on 20 November 1919 at Orroroo, South Australia, eldest of three children of Lebanese-born Dean Rasheed, pastoralist, and his Irish-born wife Edith Ellen, née Merrett. Kevin was educated at home by a governess before attending the Carrieton Public School and the Collegiate School of St Peter, Adelaide. Dean Rasheed owned significant landholdings around Orroroo and Carrieton, but lost most of them in the late 1930s due to the effects of the Depression and drought. At the age of fifteen Kevin left school to assist his father droving sheep. He later worked in the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd (BHP) machine shops at Whyalla as a boilermaker and fitter.
Enlisting in the Royal Australian Air Force on 25 April 1942, Rasheed trained as an air gunner. In December he was commissioned and in March 1943 sent to Britain, where he flew with two Royal Air Force airborne forces units: No. 295 Squadron (1943), and No. 570 Squadron (1943–45). He was demobilised in Australia on 3 December 1945. His brother, Ross, and sister, Ronda, also served in the air force in World War II.
On 20 July 1944 at Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, Rasheed had married Joyce Hearn, a nurse. Joyce travelled to Australia ahead of him, staying with his parents at Carrieton until his return. The couple moved to Whyalla, where Rasheed worked for BHP before purchasing a house at Panorama, Adelaide, in 1948. In 1950 he was appointed manager of Murray Valley Coaches Ltd. The company owned land and some basic accommodation at the entrance to Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges. In 1958 he took over the lease of the Wilpena Chalet. His wife and children remained in Adelaide, visiting the chalet on school holidays.
Commencing the pioneering work of bringing tourism to the Flinders Ranges and beyond, Rasheed built considerable infrastructure at Wilpena Pound, transforming the chalet from a small operation accommodating twenty people, to a large facility with room for up to 100 guests. He never missed an opportunity to publicise the chalet. In 1972 he appeared in an episode of the television series Boney that was filmed at Wilpena Pound. When the Ford Motor Company of Australia Ltd made a series of television commercials advertising its Fairlane range in the area in the mid-1970s, Rasheed was in them. He was also the face of Ford’s print advertising campaign, claiming that ‘I take lots of people in this car, particularly at Wilpena’ (Canberra Times 1975, 4). His efforts put Wilpena Pound on the map as an international tourist destination.
Rasheed purchased a light plane, and land adjacent to Ayers Rock (Uluru) where he later built accommodation. When flying to and from Adelaide to be with his wife and children, he would often take paying passengers. He also transported Aboriginal people for medical treatment.
Rasheed sold the Wilpena Chalet to the South Australian government in 1980; the family leased it back and his son and daughter-in-law managed the Wilpena Pound Resort until 2008. Fulfilling his dream of restoring his family’s roots in the land, in 1984 the Rasheed family bought Arkaba station, a 60,000-acre (24,281 ha) property adjacent to Wilpena Pound. That year Rasheed was named South Australia’s tourism personality of the year. He won a State Tourism award in 1988.
Kicked in the face by a horse at Arkaba in the mid-1980s, Rasheed suffered a fractured skull and afterwards remained in poor health, spending his retirement years at Panorama. Survived by his wife, three sons, and a daughter, he died on 5 May 1992 at the Flinders Medical Centre and was cremated following a Catholic service.
Advertiser (Adelaide). ‘Tourism Pioneer of the Flinders.’ 7 May 1992, 8; Canberra Times. [Ford Fairlane advertisement.] 11 June 1975, 4; National Archives of Australia. A9300, Rasheed, K. S; Rasheed, Dean. Interview by Bill Gammage, 18 August 2007. Oral History and Folklore Collection. National Library of Australia; Rasheed, Elizabeth. Personal communication.
READ, WILLIAM JOHN (JACK) (1905–1992), coastwatcher and public servant, was born on 18 September 1905 in Hobart, the only son of locally born parents William George Read, hairdresser, and his wife Eleanor Elfridine, née Absolom. After attending Hobart State High School, Jack worked as a bookkeeper for the Electrolytic Zinc Co. of Australasia Ltd. In December 1928 he successfully applied for a cadetship in the public service of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. On 26 June 1929, the day before he left Tasmania, he married Gwenneth Ballantyne, a teacher, at the Holy Trinity Church, Hobart.
Arriving in Rabaul, Read was informed, probably by Harold Page [q.v.11], the government secretary, that his appointment would be cancelled because he was married. A subsequent investigation found that the job advertisement made no mention of a marriage bar and Read was allowed to remain. He initially served on New Britain under the district officer Ted Taylor. On patrols he was trained by, among others, Lance Corporal Ludwig Somare Sana, whose eldest son would become prime minister of Papua New Guinea. In 1931, together with two other cadets, he undertook a course in social anthropology at the University of Sydney. Returning to Rabaul in February 1932, he was assigned to a single-officer’s post ‘247 miles away up the dreaded outlandish Sepik River’ (SLV MS 14503) and promoted to patrol officer. He moved to Madang, from where he established a new post at Bogia. Suffering amoebic dysentery, he took leave in Sydney in December 1933. Next year he returned to Bogia accompanied by Gwen. Elevated to assistant district officer in August 1936, he served at Madang, Wau, and Lae.
At the outbreak of World War II, Read took Italian and German gold miners into custody before their internment in Australia. On leave, in mid-1941 he went to Australia with his wife and four-year-old daughter, Judith; he returned to New Guinea alone. Refused release for military service, in November he was sent to Bougainville, attached to the Buka Passage sub-district. His duties included coastwatching under the command of Lieutenant Commander Eric Feldt [q.v.14]. As a former district officer at Madang, Feldt knew Read well, describing him as being of medium height and wiry in build, with a deep and somewhat harsh voice and an explosive laugh. His manner was ‘blunt and straightforward, with more firmness than tact in it’ (1946, 119).
From March 1942 Japanese military forces occupied Buka and Bougainville. Although Read had been mobilised as a sergeant in the New Guinea Administrative Unit in February, he preferred to go to Australia and enlist in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). Feldt persuaded him to stay and on 2 April he was appointed as a lieutenant in the Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve (RANVR). He quickly established a coastwatching network across Bougainville to provide information on enemy movements. On 8 August, the day after Allied forces had landed at Guadalcanal, he transmitted ‘forty-five dive-bombers going south-east’ (Feldt 1946, 144). His signals and those sent by a fellow coastwatcher, Paul Mason [q.v.15], gave the Allies time to disperse their ships and have the fighters fuelled and waiting. On 7 October Read and Mason were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (United States of America) for their extraordinary heroism.
On Bougainville the Japanese intensified their hunt for the coastwatchers with the support of some of the coastal people, and Read was lucky to escape alive from one attack. In late June 1943 he urged immediate evacuation. On 24 and 28 July the submarine USS Guardfish removed the coastwatchers, scouts and native police who had assisted them, military personnel, and civilians. Admiral William F. Halsey, the US Navy commander of the South Pacific Area, said that the intelligence forwarded from Bougainville had ‘saved Guadalcanal and that Guadalcanal had saved the South Pacific’ (NAA B3476, 68). Commissioned in the AIF in September 1944, Read was appointed as a major in the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit and served as acting district officer on Bougainville. In May 1946 he joined the provisional administration of the Territory of Papua-New Guinea as assistant district officer and moved to Kavieng, New Ireland. He transferred to the Reserve of Officers on 26 July and was mentioned in despatches for exceptional service in the field. Having retained his RANVR commission, he was promoted to lieutenant commander in 1950 and would be placed on the Retired List in 1963.
On 3 May 1951 Read left the Territory of Papua and New Guinea’s public service and took civilian employment with the Department of the Navy in Melbourne. Hating the winters, a year later he returned to a new position in the Territory as native land commissioner. In this role he investigated local histories of occupation and determined what land was the hereditary property of individuals or communities by customary right. Retiring in March 1975, he left for Australia soon after Papua New Guinea achieved independence. In Melbourne he continued his hobby of photography. After Gwen’s death in 1980, he moved with his ageing dog, ‘Hawke’, to Ballarat to be closer to Judith. Survived by her, he died on 29 June 1992 at Ballarat and was cremated.
Feldt, Eric. The Coast Watchers. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1946; National Archives of Australia. A452, 1959/6070; A518, F852/6/1B; A6769, READ W J; B3476, 68; B3476, 77; B883, VX95356; Pacific Manuscripts Bureau. PMB 1309, Read, Jack. New Guinea Patrol Reports, Related Documents and Photographs, 1930–1940; State Library of Victoria. MS 14503, Jack Read collection, 1942–2009; Read, Jack. Coast Watcher: The Bougainville Reports 1941–1943. Port Moresby: Papua New Guinea Printing Co., 2006.
P. A. Selth*
REED, THOMAS THORNTON (TOM) (1902–1995), Anglican archbishop, was born on 9 September 1902 at Eastwood, Adelaide, younger son of Victorian-born Alfred Ernest Reed, horse-trainer, and his locally born wife Clara, née Wells. After financial pressures led to his father’s suicide in 1903, Tom was raised by his mother and an aunt. At St Oswald’s Church, Parkside, he was influenced by Rev. S. J. Houison, who introduced him to Anglo-Catholic worship based upon the Book of Common Prayer. He was educated at St Oswald’s parish school and the Collegiate School of St Peter (1912–21), where the headmaster, K. J. F. Bickersteth [q.v.7], encouraged him to consider taking holy orders. In 1922 he entered Trinity College at the University of Melbourne (BA Hons, 1925; MA, 1927).
Following study at St Barnabas’ Theological College in Adelaide, Reed was made deacon in 1926 and ordained priest in 1927. His first appointment was as assistant curate in the parish of St Augustine, Unley. He was priest-in-charge of the Berri mission (1928–29) and then State chaplain of Toc H (1929–31) while also a resident tutor at St Mark’s College, University of Adelaide. On 21 December 1932 at St Augustine’s Church, Renmark, he married Audrey Airlie Balfour Ogilvy, a nurse. The couple moved to Victoria where he was assistant chaplain of Melbourne Church of England Grammar School (1932–36). He returned to Adelaide as priest-in-charge (later rector) of St Michael and All Angels’, Henley Beach (1936–44), and then rector of St Theodore’s, Rose Park (1944–54).
Having served as a chaplain, 4th class, in the Citizen Military Forces since 1939, Reed was called up for full-time duty with the Australian Imperial Force on 1 July 1944. A few days later he was posted to New Guinea Force headquarters, Port Moresby. In January 1945 he returned to South Australia, where his AIF appointment concluded. He later resumed with the CMF (1953–57), rising to chaplain, 3rd class. A shrewd and efficient administrator, he impressed Bishop B. P. Robin [q.v.16] with his ability. Robin appointed him as a canon of the Cathedral Church of St Peter (1947), archdeacon of Adelaide (1949), and dean of Adelaide (1953). In 1951 he had been awarded the Fred Johns [q.v.9] scholarship for biography to complete his study of the poet Henry Kendall [q.v.5] (begun in about 1930) at the University of Adelaide (DLitt, 1954). This work led to two books: Henry Kendall: A Critical Appreciation (1960) and The Poetical Works of Henry Kendall (1966). In 1955 he was awarded a doctorate in theology by the Australian College of Theology.
In March 1957 Reed was elected bishop of Adelaide, the first Australian to hold the office, and was consecrated on 30 May in St Peter’s Cathedral. He led the diocese through a period of institutional expansion as it sought to keep up with the postwar growth of Adelaide. With the aim of ensuring a supply of locally trained clergy, in 1965 he reopened St Barnabas’ College. To strengthen the Anglican Church in South Australia, he instigated the transfer of territory from Adelaide (1967) to enlarge the struggling diocese of Willochra, and successfully pressed for the creation (1970) of a third diocese, The Murray, that embraced the south-east of the State. In 1973, with three dioceses, it was then possible for South Australia to form an ecclesiastical province with Adelaide as the metropolitan see, and Reed became the first Anglican archbishop of Adelaide.
Instinctively conservative, though not inflexible, Reed resisted moves to allow the marriage in church of those who had been divorced. He was deeply attached to the Book of Common Prayer and cautious about liturgical revision, prompting his criticism of An Australian Prayer Book (1978) on both doctrinal and aesthetic grounds. Although on friendly terms with the heads of other denominations in South Australia, he was wary of the ecumenical movement. He maintained a good relationship with the prominent laymen of the diocese, and his confident High Church Anglicanism and admiration for the English religious tradition resonated with many among his denomination. Yet some regarded him as legalistic and backward looking. He insisted on the use of the title Lord Bishop and was among the last Anglican bishops in Australia to wear frock coat and gaiters as formal dress. At the same time, he was recalled as a ‘small man with an indomitable spirit’ who ‘could be rollicking, good fun’ (Murray 1995, 16). He smoked constantly, wrote comic verse, and pursued interests outside the church, including heraldry and family history. In 1972 and 1973 he helped to establish the South Australian Genealogy and Heraldry Society.
Reed retired on 30 September 1974. With Audrey, he moved from Bishop’s Court to a smaller house in North Adelaide and spent more time playing golf and painting watercolours. Continuing to research and write, he published several works on the history of the Anglican Church in South Australia and also Historic Churches of Australia (1978). In 1980 he was appointed CBE. He died on 19 August 1995, survived by his wife and two of his three daughters. Following cremation, his ashes were interred in St Peter’s Cathedral. Portraits in oils by Sir Ivor Hele [q.v.] are held by St Peter’s College and the diocese of Adelaide.
Adelaide Church Guardian. ‘Retirement of Archbishop.’ May 1974, 5; Advertiser (Adelaide). ‘Archbishop’s Strong Sense of Duty.’ 22 August 1995, 4; Black, Airlie. Personal communication; Black, Airlie, comp. Thomas Thornton Reed, Anglican Archbishop of Adelaide: Essays and Reminiscences. Adelaide: Peacock Publications, 2015; Church Scene. ‘Archbishop T. T. Reed.’ 25 August 1995, 20; Cockburn, Stewart. The Patriarchs. Adelaide: Ferguson Publications, 1983; Diocesan Archives, Anglican Diocese of Adelaide. T. T. Reed, Personal Papers; Hilliard, David. Godliness and Good Order: A History of the Anglican Church in South Australia. Netley, SA: Wakefield Press, 1986; Lawson, Elaine. Personal communication; Murray, James. ‘Devoted Pastor with an Indomitable Spirit.’ Australian, 5 September 1995, 16; State Library of South Australia. PRG 344, Thomas Thornton Reed, Papers and Records; Trenorden, Mabel. Personal communication.
REES-THOMAS, THOMAS (1910–1993), Congregational and Uniting Church minister, was born on 3 May 1910 at Pontard(d)ulais, Carmarthenshire, Wales, third of four sons of Thomas Thomas, master bootmaker, and his wife Sarah Jane, née Rees. The family migrated to Queensland in 1913, living at Yandina for three years and then at Blackstone, Ipswich. Welsh was the language spoken in Tom’s boyhood home and the family attended the local United Welsh Church. Educated at Blackstone State School and Ipswich Technical College’s commercial high school, he worked briefly as a bookkeeper-clerk for Gollin & Co. Pty Ltd, Brisbane.
As a teenager, Thomas joined the North Ipswich Congregational Church, where he received his call to ministry. From 1929 to 1934 he studied at the Congregational Parkin College, Adelaide, graduating with a diploma in divinity from the Melbourne College of Divinity. He served the congregation of Subiaco, Perth, from 1934 to 1941. In this period he changed his surname by a deed poll to Rees-Thomas. While studying at the University of Western Australia (BA, 1939), he developed a strong interest in psychology. On 6 February 1937 at the Trinity Congregational Church, Perth, he had married Ruby Fanny Byerley, from Adelaide. From 1942 until 1948 he occupied the pastorate of Clayton in Adelaide.
On 8 February 1948 Rees-Thomas was installed as minister of the City Congregational Church, Brisbane. He completed further studies with the Melbourne College of Divinity (BD, 1949) and the University of Queensland (MA, 1954). When he began his Brisbane ministry, the City church was located on Wickham Terrace. His provision of a counselling service from his vestry was a significant outreach after World War II. In 1959 the church moved to a new building in Ann Street. On the union of the Congregational, Methodist, and Presbyterian denominations in 1977, he became a minister of the Uniting Church in Australia. He retired in 1980. The next year his congregation joined nearby St Andrew’s Uniting Church, where he was to serve as minister-in-association until his death.
Rees-Thomas had assumed leadership roles as president of the Congregational Union of South Australia (1947–48), Queensland (1951, 1959, 1964, and 1977), and Australia (1972–73). He had been a strong advocate of unification with the Methodist and Presbyterian denominations. His extensive participation in the wider ecumenical movement included the presidency (1969–71) of the Queensland State Committee of the Australian Council of Churches. He represented Australian churches at several international conferences, including assemblies of the World Council of Churches in New Delhi (1961) and Uppsala, Sweden (1968).
In Brisbane Rees-Thomas developed a strong public profile and he frequently contributed articles to the media, particularly the Courier Mail. He published a booklet, Prayers for People We Take for Granted (1991). In a ministry characterised by social concern, his influence in the wider community far exceeded that of his denomination. An example of his extraordinary capacity to be an ally of organisations outside the church was his pastoral intervention in the 1950 strike by members of the Brisbane branch of the Australian Tramway and Motor Omnibus Employees’ Association, a service that led to his election as honorary chaplain of the union. In 1965 he travelled to Mount Isa, offering to be an intermediary in the protracted and bitter mining strike that had begun the previous year. He was active in the Inter-Church Trade and Industry Mission in Queensland and was a co-founder of the Queensland Marriage Guidance Council.
Mindful of his heritage, Rees-Thomas fostered the appreciation of Welsh culture throughout Queensland; he was president (1958–93) and a life member (1977) of the St David’s Welsh Society of Brisbane. As a migrant himself, he assisted newcomers to settle in Australia. He became a foundation member of the Australian Psychological Society, and a member of the British Psychological Society and the Australian College of Education. A keen Rotarian, he was a loyal member of the Brisbane North club. At the University of Queensland he held office as a governor of Cromwell College from 1950; as a chaplain to the university, following the establishment of the service in 1968; and as a member of the senate for twenty-four years till his death. The university awarded him an honorary doctorate of laws in 1985 for his outstanding service to it and to Queensland. He was appointed MBE in 1965 and AM in 1982.
Witty, as well as jockey-size in stature, Rees-Thomas was once asked whether he was betting on the Melbourne Cup. ‘No’, he replied, ‘it just wouldn’t be ethical. I’m riding one of the horses’ (St Andrew’s Church Archives Tribute). His sporting passion was cricket. A pianist, he loved music. Sandra Thompson’s portrait of him (1988) is in the City of Brisbane Collection, Museum of Brisbane.
Rees-Thomas died on 9 September 1993 while holidaying in New Zealand with his daughter. She and his two sons survived him; his wife had predeceased him in 1989. An overflowing congregation attended his funeral in St Andrew’s Church, following which he was cremated and his ashes interred in the family plot in the Congregational section of the Ipswich general cemetery. One of the eulogies had been delivered by the University of Queensland’s chancellor and former deputy premier of Queensland, Sir Llew Edwards, whose family had a long association with the Thomases. Sir Llew paid tribute to ‘his giftedness as a pastor’ and ‘his effort at being the conscience and voice of compassion for the community’ (Journey 1993, 34).
Adsett, Noel. Valuing our Heritage: The Story of Saint Andrew’s Uniting Church Brisbane. Brisbane: CopyRight Publishing Co. Pty Ltd, 2005; Journey (Brisbane). ‘Tom Rees-Thomas: 1910–1993.’ October 1993, 27, 34; Lockley, G. Lindsay. Congregationalism in Australia. Edited by Bruce Upham. Melbourne: Uniting Church Press, 2001; St Andrew’s Uniting Church, Brisbane, Archives. Rev. Dr Thomas Rees-Thomas … Tribute by his Family. Unpublished oration given at his funeral on 15 September 1993, n.d.; St David’s Welsh Society of Brisbane. Brisbane Welsh: A History of the Saint David’s Welsh Society of Brisbane 1918–2008. Salisbury, Qld: Boolarong Press, 2009; Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of Queensland. Minutes and Supplementary Reports of the Fourth Synod Held at Brisbane October 3rd – 10th, 1980. Vol. 2. Brisbane: Synod of Queensland, 1980.
REID, BARRETT (1926–1995), poet, librarian, editor, and arts critic, was born on 8 December 1926 at Eagle Junction (Clayfield), Brisbane, younger child of George Barrett Reid, newsagent and stationer, and his wife Effie Alberta Minnie, née Collins, both born in Queensland. Sir George Reid [q.v.11], a former premier of New South Wales and prime minister of Australia, was a great uncle. Barrie’s mother, who also had a daughter from a previous relationship, died in 1928. The three children were raised by George, a rationalist and a lover of poetry and music, who cultivated in them a love of the arts.
Educated at Chermside and Windsor State schools and Brisbane State High School (1940–43), Reid was an editor of the high school magazine Senior Tabloid, which from its fifth number in August 1943 was renamed Barjai: A Meeting Place for Youth. With a fellow student, Laurence Collinson [q.v.17], an aspiring poet, playwright, and artist, Reid was the precocious co-editor of this radical arts journal, which soon severed its ties with BSHS and acquired a wider readership. A bohemian ‘Barjai Group’ of young people, up-and-coming writers and artists, met regularly at the Lyceum Club, and established links with other literary journals, including Angry Penguins and Meanjin Papers, to which Reid contributed poems in 1944. Barjai ceased publication with issue 23 in 1946 due to a lack of financial support.
In December 1946 and January 1947, on a hitch-hiking trip to Adelaide and Melbourne with the artist Laurence Hope, Reid met a number of artists, including Arthur Boyd [q.v.7], John Perceval, and Joy Hester [q.v.14], who were to become lifelong friends. He visited the arts patrons John and Sunday Reed [qq.v.18] at their home, Heide, in Melbourne, where (Sir) Sidney Nolan [q.v.] was painting his Ned Kelly [q.v.5] series, a deeply formative experience for Reid as he and Nolan became close friends. Back in Brisbane, he worked at the Public Library and in a bookshop with his partner Charles Osborne, who was later a journalist and arts critic.
Reid moved to Melbourne in 1951. The next year he joined the staff of the Melbourne Public Library (later the State Library of Victoria), where he worked in most departments, taking on appointments as chief cataloguer in 1961 and as the first executive officer of the public libraries division from 1967. His breadth of interests, taste, and activities influenced his vision of making books and ideas and works of art available to all. Among many public roles, he was a founding member (1973) of the National Book Council and a member (1974–78) of the literature board of the Australia Council. A network of municipal libraries across Victoria was his greatest achievement in the public sphere. When he retired in 1982 due to ill health, 207 of Victoria’s 211 local councils provided a library service. He was appointed AM in 1983.
Throughout his library career, Reid maintained his literary interests. With Max Harris [q.v.] and John Reed, he was co-editor (1952–55) of the short-lived Ern Malley’s Journal, to which he contributed poems and reviews. Although he rarely published his own work after the 1950s, he was poetry editor (1965–88) of Overland, taking on the role of editor (1988–93) following the death of Stephen Murray-Smith [q.v.18]. As editor, he brought to Overland ‘a new aesthetic emphasis, which was evident in the enhanced visual appearance of the magazine’ (Barnes 1999, 31), and introduced Overland Extra, which featured new writers. He was a prominent art critic and curated a Perceval retrospective exhibition for the National Gallery of Victoria in 1992. Shortly before his death, he received an honorary degree from the University of Melbourne (LLD, 1995).
Barrett Reid was a reserved person, but with strongly held ideas which he expressed with grace and courtesy. An experienced negotiator and consummate political operator of great determination, he mixed easily at every level to achieve his goals for public libraries in Victoria. He was renowned for his encouragement of young artists, writers, and librarians. As well as possessing a wry sense of humour, he was knowledgeable about plants and had a great love of gardening. Tall, blond, and blue-eyed, he had deep personal relationships with both men and women. An intensely private man, he kept his professional life separate from his creative activities and personal life, but Philip Jones, his long-term partner from the mid-1950s until 1984, wrote about their bisexuality and their relationships in his 2004 memoir.
After the deaths of his friends John and Sunday Reed in December 1981, Reid made his home in their original cottage at Heide, adjacent to the more recent home that had become a public gallery. Following years of suffering from Hodgkin’s lymphoma, he died of bowel cancer at Bulleen on 6 August 1995 and was cremated. A collection of his poems, Making Country (1995), was published posthumously, as was Letters of John Reed: Defining Australian Cultural Life, 1920–1981 (2001), which he compiled and edited with Nancy Underhill. His collection of books, papers, correspondence, and artistic works is held by the State Library of Victoria and the Heide Museum of Modern Art. He is commemorated by the SLV’s biennial Barrett Reid scholarship for library professionals, established in 2001, and an annual award for poetry, which was inaugurated by Overland in 2008.
Anderson, Michele Elizabeth. ‘Barjai, Miya Studio and Young Brisbane Artists of the 1940s: Towards a Radical Practice.’ BA Honours thesis, University of Queensland, 1987; Arndt, Rona. ‘His Father’s Son: From a letter to Shelton Lea.’ Overland 142 (Autumn 1996): 35; Barnes, John. ‘From Barjai to Overland: A Note on Barrie Reid.’ La Trobe Journal 64 (Spring 1999): 30–32; Harding, Lesley, and Kendrah Morgan. Modern Love: The Lives of John and Sunday Reed. Carlton, Vic.: The Miegunyah Press, 2015; Papps, Phyllis. ‘Barrett Reid: A Charismatic Chameleon.’ La Trobe Journal 87 (May 2011): 136–48; Philip, John. ‘Barrett Reid—A Memoir.’ Overland, no. 142 (Autumn 1996): 31–34; State Library Victoria. MS 13186, Reid, Barrett. Papers, 1924–1995.
REID, Sir GEORGE OSWALD (1903–1993), lawyer and politician, was born on 22 July 1903 at Hawthorn, Melbourne, fifth child of Victorian-born parents George Watson Reid, inspector of railway works, and his wife Lillias Margaret, née Easton. He was educated at Camberwell Grammar School and, from 1917 to 1920, Scotch College, Melbourne. While George was no sportsman, at Scotch he was a debater, a founding member of the literary club, and a prefect. He won a non-resident exhibition for Ormond College and a senior State scholarship to the University of Melbourne (LLB, 1924), where he studied arts subjects as well as law. Excelling in languages, he gained honours in English and Latin and won the W. T. Mollison [q.v.2] scholarship in Italian (1923).
After serving his articles at the firm Eggleston [q.v.8] & Eggleston, Reid was admitted as a barrister and solicitor on 3 May 1926 and joined Cleverdon & Hayes. He worked at the Bar from 1929 to 1937, when he bought out Hayes, and the firm was renamed Cleverdon & Reid. On 12 August 1930 he married Beatrix Waring McCay, a barrister, at St Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral, East Melbourne. In 1925 Bix, daughter of the lawyer and politician Sir James McCay [q.v.10], had been the second woman to practise at the Victorian Bar. Retiring after her marriage, she became vice-president of the Legal Women’s Association of Victoria and later returned to the law as a special magistrate attached to the Children’s Courts. By the early 1930s Reid had become politically active: he served on the committee of the conservative Constitutional Club, was a foundation member of (Sir) Robert Menzies’ [q.v.15] Young Nationalist Organisation, and was an unsuccessful United Australia Party candidate at the 1934 by-election for Nunawading in the Legislative Assembly.
On 26 March 1940 Reid was commissioned as a flying officer in the Royal Australian Air Force. For much of World War II he was engaged on administrative and personnel duties at RAAF Headquarters, Melbourne. As officer-in-charge of the Casualty Section, in late 1944 he was sent to the United States of America and Britain to study plans for the repatriation of RAAF prisoners of war from the European theatre, and to obtain information that would assist similar planning in the South-West Pacific Area. Following cessation of hostilities, he travelled around the SWPA and recommended that the RAAF establish an organisation to locate missing aircrew while Allied forces remained in occupied areas. He was regarded as ‘an extremely sound, conscientious, industrious, and loyal officer’ (NAA A9300) with outstanding organisational skills, and he rose to the rank of temporary wing commander. His appointment terminated on 18 June 1946.
In November 1947 Reid entered the Victorian Legislative Assembly, winning the seat of Box Hill for the Liberal Party of Australia. A convert from Presbyterianism, he later claimed he was the only Catholic in the party. He attracted controversy in 1951 when he successfully made representations to the Federal immigration minister, Harold Holt [q.v.14], to liberalise the ban on Japanese brides of Australian servicemen entering the country. Nobuko ‘Cherry’ Parker was the first to arrive, in July 1952. Her husband, Gordon, was the son of two of Reid’s constituents.
Reid lost his seat in the Australian Labor Party’s landslide win in 1952, but regained it three years later. He was among those members who had removed Tom Hollway [q.v.14] as the leader of the Liberal and Country Party in 1951 and expelled him from the party in 1952. On 7 June 1955 Reid was included in Sir Henry Bolte’s [q.v.17] first ministry and he served in cabinet continuously until 1973. He held the portfolios of labour and industry and electrical undertakings (1956–65), fuel and power (1965–67), and immigration (1967–70), before his appointment as attorney-general (1967–73). Although he was considered conservative rather than law-reforming in this latter role, he had carriage of the legislation which established the office of ombudsman in 1973. In retirement he was disappointed not to be appointed to the post. He had been a loyal supporter of Bolte, but was uncomfortable with the progressive liberalism of his successor, (Sir) Rupert Hamer. In 1972 he announced that he would not contest the 1973 election.
‘Gentleman George’ was religiously devout and ‘very much of the old school; very conservative in outlook’ (Age 1993, 22; Roberts 1993, 6). He was appointed QC in 1971 and was knighted a year later. After Bix’s death in 1972, Sir George married Dorothy Maitland Ruttledge, former teacher, on 3 July 1973 at the Anglican Church of St Stephen, Warrandyte. In retirement he was active in a range of community groups: he chaired the Music for the People committee (from 1964), the Middle Yarra Advisory Council (1975–82), and the C. J. Dennis [q.v.8] Centenary committee (1976–77). Survived by his wife and the daughter from his first marriage, he died on 18 February 1993 at Macleod. Following a state funeral at St Francis Xavier Church, Box Hill, he was buried in the Warrandyte cemetery.
Age (Melbourne). ‘Tributes for Bolte Cabinet Member.’ 23 February 1993, 22; Herald-Sun (Melbourne). ‘Lib a Stayer in Whirlpool of Politics.’ 20 February 1993, 8; National Archives of Australia. A705, 166/1/84; A705, 182/1/396; A9300, REID G. O.; Reid, George Oswald. Student Record Card. University of Melbourne, Student Administration, 1995.0071. University of Melbourne Archives; Reid, G. O., and Joan Katherine Webster. In and About Parliament: The Life and Speeches of the Hon. Sir George Reid, Q.C., Victorian Parliamentary Representative 1947–1973 and Afterthoughts 1981–1. Melbourne: privately published, 1991; Roberts, Jo-Anne. ‘Former State Liberal MP Dies, Aged 89.’ Progress Press, 24 February 1993, 6; Victoria. Legislative Assembly. Parliamentary Debates, 9 March 1993, 3–9.
B. J. Costar
REID, WILLIAM JOHN (BILL) (1917–1993), Aboriginal welfare worker and emu egg carver, was born on 23 January 1917 at Wee Waa Aboriginal Reserve, New South Wales, youngest of four children of New South Wales–born parents Frederick William Reid, labourer, and his wife Charlotte Helen Josephine, née Leonard, a Kamilaroi woman. Bill was partly raised by his grandmother, because his mother often had to leave the reserve to work as a laundress on nearby pastoral stations. His grandmother taught Bill traditional Kamilaroi hunting and gathering skills. He attended school for two years at Wee Waa before the family moved to Pilliga Aboriginal Reserve. At the age of eight, shortly after resuming school at Pilliga, he was permanently blinded in his right eye after colliding with a girl holding a pen. This resulted in his nickname, ‘one-eyed Bill’. Leaving school at fourteen years of age, he worked as a ringbarker and drover.
Enculturated to be ashamed of his skin colour, Reid lost touch with the Kamilaroi language and culture until the late 1930s. After meeting Aboriginal leader Bill Ferguson [q.v.8] in 1939 he became involved in the Aborigines Progressive Association. In 1938 the APA had mounted a Day of Mourning protest and conference in Sydney to mark the sesquicentenary of European settlement. Ferguson persuaded Reid to attend the APA’s second conference at Dubbo as a Brewarrina delegate. Elected APA secretary, he joined Ferguson on a tour of the north coast missions and reserves to recruit members and rally support for the association. During World War II he joined Jimmy Sharman’s [q.v.11] boxing troupe, touring around Australia. He later blamed boxing for having ‘addled’ (Reid 1993, 29) his brain.
On 9 September 1961 at the United Aborigines Mission Church, Bourke, Reid married Marjorie Isobel Smith. He subsequently obtained a permanent job with the Bourke Shire Council and involved himself in the life of the UAM Church. This helped him overcome a drinking problem he had developed during his years as an itinerant boxer; he eventually stopped smoking as well. He became a lay preacher at the church and, although unordained and untrained for the ministry, was known as ‘Pastor Reid’. Much respected in the town, he joined the local Rotary Club and became involved in community welfare projects. With Wally Byers, another Aboriginal community leader, in 1971 he founded the Bourke Aboriginal Advancement Association (AAA). Reid was the president and Byers the treasurer. Reid and Byers became full-time AAA field officers. Their main focus was the construction of low-cost Aboriginal housing in the town rather than on the mission, to help Aboriginal people integrate into the wider community.
During Reid’s five years as a AAA field officer (1971–76), he became closely associated with Max Kamien and John Cawte, medical practitioners who were interested in Aboriginal health in the Bourke district. They recognised that improved Aboriginal health depended on medical practice being successfully related to Aboriginal society and culture; both regarded Reid as their mentor in this respect and formed enduring friendships with him.
Despite his lack of formal education, Reid succeeded in gaining a field officer’s position in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Canberra in 1976. His duties included travelling widely among Aboriginal communities and assisting them in making applications for Commonwealth funding. He held the position until his retirement in 1982. Living in Tamworth—in the heart of Kamilaroi territory—he divided his time between painting and pyrogravure (‘pokerwork’); helping to retrieve the Kamilaroi language by building vocabulary lists; giving talks on Aboriginal culture to schools and community groups; granting interviews to newspapers and journals; and carving emu eggs, an artform for which he was renowned. In 1992 he composed a country and western-style song, ‘Pollution’, the title and opening couplet hinting at his resentment of the effect of European settlement on Aboriginal society: ‘You introduced your alcohol, to sap us of our will. To gain possession of our land, you even stooped to kill’ (Koorie Mail 1993, 6).
Predeceased by his wife and two of their nine children, Reid died on 8 October 1993 at Dubbo Base Hospital and was buried at the Bourke cemetery. His grave remained unmarked until 2017 when Kamien engaged a local Aboriginal artist, Bobby Mackay, to produce a headstone. The National Museum of Australia holds a set of sixteen emu eggs carved by Reid and collected by Cawte.
Ellis, Rose. ‘Stories for Sharing: Mr Bill Reid Senior.’ Aboriginal and Islander Health Worker Journal 17, no. 6 (1993): 28–30; Howie-Willis, Ian. ‘Reid, W.’ In The Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia, Vol. 2, edited by David Horton, 936. Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 1994; Kamien, Max. The Dark People of Bourke: A Study of Planned Social Change. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, 1978; Koori Mail. ‘Bill Reid Sees Reconciliation from Another Point of View.’ 6 October 1993, 6; New Dawn. ‘News from Bourke.’ January 1972, 4–5.
RHOADES, RODNEY (1909–1991), naval officer and charity manager, was born on 8 April 1909 at Woollahra, Sydney, youngest of four children of English-born Walter James Rhoades, timber company manager, and his New South Wales–born wife Edith Laidley, née Doddemeade. In World War I his father served in the British Army and Rodney’s brother John, who joined the Australian Imperial Force, was killed in action.
Rhoades attended Edgecliff Preparatory and Mowbray House schools, and entered the Royal Australian Naval College, Jervis Bay, Federal Capital Territory, as a cadet midshipman in January 1923. Awarded the English prize on graduating in May 1927, he proceeded to Britain as a midshipman, completing courses and serving in Royal Navy (RN) warships. Promoted to sub-lieutenant in May 1930, in the following year he returned to Australia, where he was posted to the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) heavy cruiser HMAS Australia. On 5 December 1932 he married Valerie Myra Florence (Val) Williams at St Mark’s Church, Darling Point, Sydney, in a Church of England ceremony. Between May 1935 and July 1936 he was on secondment to the RN.
In 1938 Rhoades was appointed as an aide-de-camp to the governor-general. A month after World War II broke out in September 1939, he sailed for the Mediterranean in the destroyer HMAS Vampire. He became Australia’s youngest destroyer captain of his day when given command of HMAS Vendetta on 30 March 1940, before promotion to lieutenant commander in July. During a hectic eighteen months, Vendetta—part of the famed ‘Scrap Iron Flotilla’—escorted convoys, bombarded shore positions, evacuated troops from Greece and Crete, and ferried reinforcements into Tobruk, Libya. Regularly under fire, ‘Dusty’ Rhoades was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (1941) and mentioned in despatches for his devotion to duty, courage and skill.
Following a stint back home, he sailed for Britain in April 1942 for the commissioning of the destroyer HMAS Quickmatch, which he would command. After convoy escort service in the South Atlantic and Indian oceans, in March 1944 he returned to shore duties in Australia. He was promoted to commander in June. During 1946 and 1947, he captained the frigate HMAS Shoalhaven, before commanding the shore establishment HMAS Moreton, Brisbane (1947–48), and serving as executive officer of HMAS Albatross, the Naval Air Station at Nowra, New South Wales. Seconded to the RN (1950–52), he commanded the destroyer HMS Opportune. He was appointed to Denmark’s Order of Dannebrog after escorting King Frederick IX’s flotilla during a royal visit to Britain. Having been promoted to captain on 30 June 1951, he performed staff duties ashore. In December 1952 he took command of HMAS Albatross.
In 1955 and 1956 Rhoades commanded the 10th Destroyer Squadron, in HMAS Tobruk—for much of the period in the British Commonwealth Far East Strategic Reserve. Command of the shore establishment HMAS Watson, Sydney, followed. Some admirals, reporting on his performance as a captain, emphasised his excellent professional and personal qualities. Others, however, found him wanting in keenness and ambition in comparison with the most outstanding among his peers. By 1958 he had given up hope of becoming a flag officer. That year he was appointed Australia’s defence representative to New Zealand. He and his wife, both articulate and sociable, became popular and effective members of Wellington’s diplomatic circle. New Zealand’s minister for defence, Philip Connolly, commended Rhoades for his ‘sound advice, his frank and forceful approach to problems, and his willingness to help’ in trans-Tasman defence relations (NAA A3798). Returning to Australia in 1960, he was naval officer-in-charge, West Australia Area (1960–62), as a commodore, and commodore superintendent of training, HMAS Cerberus, Westernport, Victoria (1962–63).
Transferred to the RAN Emergency List on 4 July 1963, Rhoades was appointed director-secretary of the Melbourne Lord Mayor’s Fund for Metropolitan Hospitals and Charities. He was also a director (1964–67) of David Syme [q.v.6] and Co., which owned the Melbourne Age. A respected manager, effective communicator, skilled networker, and member of the Melbourne Club, he became a familiar sight on Collins Street ‘steer[ing] a straight course … as he makes for his club’ (Hamilton 1973, 2). Fishing and gardening were his recreations. He retired in 1975, settling at Wahroonga, Sydney. Despite losing his eyesight, he retained his renowned sense of humour. Survived by his wife and one of their two daughters, he died at Hornsby on 22 November 1991 and was cremated.
Daily News (Perth). ‘On the Tip of My Tongue.’ 13 August 1939, 9; Dunn, Suzanna. Personal communication; Eldridge, Frank Burgess. A History of the Royal Australian Naval College. Melbourne: Georgian House, 1949; Gill, G. Hermon. Royal Australian Navy 1942–1945. Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1957; Hamilton, John. ‘The Commodore Expects You to Do Your Duty.’ Herald (Melbourne), 22 October 1973, 2; National Archives of Australia. A6769, RODNEY RHODES; A3978, Officers (RAN) personal record – RODNEY RHODES; Sydney Morning Herald. ‘The Man Who Fed Tobruk.’ 27 November 1991, 12.
RICE, PHILLIP JOHN (1927–1991), barrister, judge, and naval officer, was born on 20 May 1927 in Adelaide, the elder of two sons of John Vincent Rice, station-master, and his wife Lorna Nilpinna, née Giles. His father’s work took the family to remote parts of Australia, with the result that Phillip was educated at various primary schools in South Australia and at Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. From 1940 he boarded with relatives to attend Adelaide High School and in 1944 he worked as a law clerk with a firm of solicitors. That year he began law studies at the University of Adelaide (LLB, 1951).
On 23 April 1945 Rice was mobilised for full-time duty in the Royal Australian Naval Reserve (RANR). Having served in HMA ships Australia and Manoora in 1946, he was discharged from the RANR as an able seaman on 7 February 1947. He then commenced articles of clerkship with G. H. Boucaut and resumed his degree course. He was admitted to the Supreme Court of South Australia as a barrister and solicitor on 18 December 1950.
Rice returned to Alice Springs, which he regarded as his hometown, in January 1951. On 28 April that year, at the Presbyterian Church, Seacliff, Adelaide, he married a South Australian–born typist, Marjory Helen Mitton. He practised in Alice Springs until 1958 when he joined the Adelaide firm of Alderman [q.v.13], Brazel, Clark and Ligertwood [q.v.15] where he became the senior partner before being appointed QC on 8 October 1970 and moving to the independent Bar.
Active in the Law Society of South Australia, Rice served as a council member (1967–74) and on a number of committees. He was chairman (1983) of the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal, president (1976–83) of the South Australian Bar Association, vice-president (1980, 1983) of the Australian Bar Association, and part-time lecturer (1970–71) in the law of evidence at the University of Adelaide. Rice served as a legal officer (1971–87) in the RANR, rising to the rank of commodore and holding the appointments of judge advocate general (1983–85) and judge marshal (1985–87). His marriage was dissolved in 1983 and on 7 May, in a civil ceremony at Thorngate, he married a divorcee, Prudence Codrington Holmes.
Rice achieved national fame as the lead counsel for Michael and Lindy Chamberlain at the first and second inquests into the death of their daughter, Azaria [q.v.13]. At the first, in December 1980, he was successful in persuading the coroner Denis Barritt that Azaria had been taken by a dingo. The finding was subsequently quashed and the second inquest, before the chief stipendiary magistrate, Gerry Galvin, in September 1981, was held largely in camera. Des Sturgess, the counsel assisting the coroner, refused to reveal to Rice details of new evidence and insisted on calling the Chamberlains before this new evidence had been presented. Despite strong protestations from Rice, the coroner permitted this, notwithstanding legal precedents cited to the court that required the Chamberlains be called last. These tactics not only disadvantaged the Chamberlains but meant that Rice had no opportunity for effective cross-examination of important expert witnesses. As a result, the Chamberlains were committed to the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory for trial for murder. Rice was not briefed for the trial because Lindy Chamberlain’s legal adviser thought he was not a criminal trial specialist. On 15 December 1983, he was made a judge of the District Court of South Australia, a position he held until appointment as a judge of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory on 8 March 1986.
A great raconteur and bon vivant, Rice was a popular figure, and a man of presence and dignity with an infectious sense of humour. Always cheerful, he possessed a large vocabulary of outback metaphors, Australian idioms, and bon-mots. He insisted on high standards of personal behaviour, particularly on formal occasions. Although usually immaculately turned out, he could dress down when the occasion warranted. As a judge, he was regarded as diligent, hardworking and capable in all areas of the law, with special expertise in criminal law and evidence. His work was written in a simple and clear style, without prolixity or unnecessary shows of academic learning. Rice conducted his court with courtesy and professionalism but he disliked paperwork, which sometimes resulted in long delays before cases were finalised. Nevertheless some twenty-three of his written judgments were published in the Northern Territory Law Reports alone.
As a young man in Alice Springs Rice had played for the Federal Football Club and had presided over the Memorial Club (life member). Later he was regional chairman for the Northern Territory and a member of the national executive of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust. Rice was a keen gardener who lived in the Darwin suburb of Nightcliff. In 1990 he contracted melioidosis, ironically known as ‘Nightcliff gardener’s disease’. Survived by his wife, one of two sons and one of two daughters of his first marriage, he died of liver failure on 5 June 1991 at Calvary hospital, Adelaide, and was cremated.
Australian Law Journal. ‘Captain P. J. Rice Q.C.’, April 1979, 234; Chamberlain-Creighton, Lindy. Through My Eyes/Lindy Chamberlain. Port Melbourne: Mandarin Australia, 1990; Advertiser (Adelaide). ‘Lawyer Seen as “Rumpole of the Rock”.’ 6 June 1991, 18; Mildren, Dean. Big Boss Fella All Same Judge. Leichhardt: Federation Press, 2011; Northern Territory. Legislative Assembly. Parliamentary Record, vol. 32, 6 February 1991, 320–21; Rice, Phillip John. ‘The Court As It Was.’ Australian Bar Review 2 (1986): 50–54.
RICKETTS, WILLIAM (BILL) (1898–1993), potter, and Aboriginal and ecological spiritualist, was born on 11 December 1898 at Richmond, Victoria, fifth and last child of locally born parents Alfred Clarence Ricketts, ironmoulder, and his wife Susan, née Jones. Bill was educated at Thornbury and Preston South State schools. A frequent truant, he spent time larking about at Darebin Creek. At fourteen he was apprenticed to a jewellery manufacturer. He also learnt violin, gaining evening work in Melbourne’s picture theatres, until the ‘talkies’ eroded orchestral employment.
Despite being untrained, Ricketts briefly worked as a potter at the Australian Porcelain Company Pty Ltd. In the early 1930s he met and was influenced by Gustav Pillig, an immigrant German sculptor, producing images of the Australian natural world. After Pillig introduced him to Sir Baldwin Spencer [q.v.12] and F. J. Gillen’s [q.v.9] classic book, The Arunta (1927), Ricketts made Aboriginal people his principal creative motif. A fellow ceramicist, Marguerite Mahood [q.v.18], reviewed his first solo exhibition and judged his work to be passionate and ‘more imaginative and more individual’ (1935, 25) than other Australian pottery. A central piece, a grasping octopus-like Wild Life Trader of the Forests, expressed his revulsion of the rapacious attitudes of the White man towards Australian flora and fauna.
In 1935 Ricketts purchased several acres of forest at Olinda near Mt Dandenong as an artist’s retreat. By 1937 he had been joined by his mother in his primitive hut. They adopted a frugal lifestyle, selling sculptures when funds were needed. He held a dozen solo exhibitions before 1948, often at the Velasquez Art Gallery, Melbourne, and in Adelaide. They were opened by personalities such as: the doyen of Australiana R. H. Croll [q.v.8], the potter Ola Cohn [q.v.8], and the Aboriginal rights campaigner Dr Charles Duguid [q.v.17]. Related events included lectures by the Aboriginal pastor (Sir) Douglas Nicholls [q.v.18] and the linguist T. G. H. Strehlow [q.v.16]. Reviews of his sculpture were mixed. In 1945 the art critic Alan McCulloch [q.v.] had admired its originality, passion, and sense of the divine behind each natural object, but considered that his work ‘sometimes smacks of not very good rococo’ plaster decoration (1945, 6).
Ricketts rejected being labelled as an artist or sculptor, explaining that ‘my Creator has put into my hands weapons of the spirit’ (1994, 3). In 1949 he visited Central Australia with a trailer of works to show Aboriginal people, the first of several trips. While he was there an Arrente man observed ‘Numbakulla [the creation deity] made this. He made mountains, trees; He made everything’ before exclaiming of a sculpture ‘No man made that’ (Ricketts 1994, 37). Ricketts, who believed he had captured the totemic essence of things, installed his works at Pitchi Richi near Alice Springs.
At his ‘Mountain Gallery’, Olinda—amidst towering mountain ash, a small diverted stream, and winding bush paths—Ricketts created a hymn to nature in dozens of mostly unglazed pottery sculptures. His busts of Aboriginal men and women, together with animal figures, spoke of the unity of all life. His works preached the necessity of bridging cultures, salvation of the environment from rapaciousness, and a personal mysticism, based on a totemic view of life adopted from Aboriginal people. In 1961 he agreed to transfer his land to the Victorian Forests Commission. He remained resident and the commission built him a new house, studio, and kiln. The William Ricketts Sanctuary opened in 1964. Undeterred by a lack of funds or preparation, he shipped a truck loaded with sculptures and travelled to the United States of America (1966) and India (1970–72) to share his message.
When an octogenarian, Ricketts—small and slim, wearing a green beret and kaftan—danced like his lyrebird totem, declaring: ‘I use clay. It opened up my love for the country, the earth, the clay, the wild life. I am part of that … I am trying to share what the Aboriginal gave me. It is not the William Ricketts Sanctuary, it is the forest of love’ (1998). With the exception of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney, institutions rarely collected his work. In May 1993 he was admitted to William Angliss Hospital, Upper Ferntree Gully, where he died on 9 June. His ashes were scattered around The Tree of Life in the sanctuary. Over time, damaged by tree falls and the elements, his sculptures may revert to the forest.
Blake, Elissa. ‘Ricketts, A Seeker Lost in the Wonder of Aboriginal Life.’ Age (Melbourne), 12 June 1993, 2; Brady, Peter. Whitefella Dreaming: The Authorised Biography of William Ricketts. Olinda, Vic.: Preferred Image, 1994; Centralian Advocate. ‘Noted Sculptor Has Plans for Native “Reserve”.’ 27 August 1954, 9; Hanson, Elizabeth. ‘Sculptor Dedicates Life to Bush Beauty.’ Australian Women’s Weekly, 20 January 1951, 12–13; The Forest of Love. Documentary. Produced by Bilcock & Copping Film Productions, 1998; McCulloch, Alan. ‘Aboriginal Lore in Sculpture.’ Argus (Melbourne), 7 August 1945, 6; Mahood, Marguerite. ‘The Art of William Ricketts. A Poet in Clay.’ The Australian Home Beautiful: A Journal for the Home Builder, 1 January 1935, 25, 56; Public Record Office Victoria. VPRS 1156, Unit 572, 62/763; Ricketts, William. Australiandia Land of the Holy Spirit. Knoxfield, Vic.: Highway Press, 1994. First published 1986.
RINGWOOD, ALFRED EDWARD (TED) (1930–1993), geochemist and earth scientist, was born on 19 April 1930 at Kew, Melbourne, only child of Australian-born parents Ena, née Robertson, and her husband Alfred Edward Ringwood, traveller. His father fought in World War I and, his health affected, was largely unemployed during the Depression. Supported by his clerically skilled mother and the extended family, Ted gravitated towards geology and earth sciences partly ‘as a way of getting rich’ (Ringwood quoted in Moyal 1994, 125). His early interest in science was stirred by his paternal grandfather, a self-educated man who enjoyed building radio sets and owned a ten-volume set of inorganic chemistry texts that young Ted liked to browse. He was educated at Hawthorn West Central School and, after winning a scholarship, Geelong Church of England Grammar School.
The recipient of a Commonwealth scholarship and a Trinity College resident scholarship, Ringwood attended the University of Melbourne (BSc, 1951; MSc, 1953; PhD, 1956). He began his doctoral research in economic geology, examining the origin of metalliferous ore deposits. However, steered by a young lecturer, Arthur Gaskin, to the foundational geochemical work of V. M. Goldschmidt, he changed his topic, applying geochemistry to elucidate the structure of the Earth’s mantle, not then considered accessible scientific territory. He developed a method for examining the Earth’s interior using thermodynamics based on crystal chemical concepts in his doctoral thesis. In 1957 and 1958 he undertook postdoctoral research at Harvard University, working under Francis Birch in the development of high-pressure equipment. He returned to Australia the next year, after being invited by John Jaeger [q.v.14] to join the fledging department of geophysics at the Research School of Physical Sciences at The Australian National University (ANU). Appointed to a personal chair in 1963, he became professor of geochemistry in 1967.
Ringwood’s research objectives initially focused on the nature and properties of the Earth’s interior, particularly the unknown transition zone, for which he constructed a Bridgman-anvil high-pressure apparatus in his new laboratory. He also developed an interest in the chemical composition and evolution of the solar system with special emphasis on the nature and significance of different classes of meteorites. His insights on the various suites of differentiated meteorites were summarised in key papers in the 1950s and 1960s. This work, which emphasised the importance of different oxidation states in accounting for differing densities between Venus, Earth, and Mars, led to an invitation, along with two other world centres, to study lunar samples recovered by the Apollo missions in the early 1970s.
Combining deep theoretical knowledge, creative experimental skills, and technology, Ringwood’s distinctive pattern of work was to focus intensively on themes in pure science, using robust data on which multiple hypotheses might be built, until experiments or other observations rendered them untenable or in need of a revised synthesis. He preferred to lead the rejection of an earlier idea and the acceptance of a new one. A prolific and skilled writer, he published two influential books, Composition and Petrology of the Earth’s Mantle (1975) and Origin of the Earth and Moon (1979), and more than 300 papers. He also developed and patented an ultra-hard cutting-tool material based on diamond aggregates and cubic boron nitride.
An articulate enthusiast for Australian science and deeply committed to a leadership role in research for the ANU, Ringwood led a campaign in the late 1960s for a Research School of Earth Sciences (RSES), which was established in 1972. Director from 1978 until 1983, he supported the introduction of geophysical fluid dynamics and environmental geochemistry as central activities and added mineral physics, seismology, and geodynamics. An important venture concerned the disposal of high-level radioactive wastes from nuclear power reactors. Drawing on his geochemical and mineralogical knowledge, he produced and patented SYNROC (synthetic rock), an engineered mineral assemblage whose longevity could be guaranteed in diverse geological environments. Despite the support of two Commonwealth grants and the cooperation of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, SYNROC was not taken up as part of the world nuclear industry’s program. Nevertheless, Ringwood’s innovative approach, spelled out in some thirty-five papers, book chapters, a monograph, and patents issued in Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Japan, Canada, and Europe, was judged by his colleague David Green as one of his ‘fundamental contributions leading into the 21st century’ (1993, 4) along with his contributions in earth science and in the science of very hard materials.
Ringwood’s outstanding career placed Australia at the world centre of earth science and geochemistry. The long list of medals, awards, and other honours bestowed by international and Australian universities and major scientific and geochemical societies marked him as Australia’s most internationally renowned earth scientist: these included fellow of the Australian Academy of Science (1966); fellow of the Royal Society, London (1972); the Bowie medal, American Geophysical Union (1974); honorary DSc, University of Göttingen (1987); the V. M. Goldschmidt award, Geochemical Society (1991); and the Feltrinelli International prize, National Academy of Italy (1991). Upon receiving the latter award, he declared: ‘This has been an exhilarating period to have been an Earth scientist’ (Green 1993, 4).
On 26 August 1960 Ringwood had married Gun Ivor Carlson in Sweden. A short, lively man of boundless energy and enthusiasm, he was a creative, stimulating, and approachable leader. He supervised fewer PhD students than he would have liked, a reflection of working in fields in which there was little undergraduate teaching. Survived by his wife, son, and daughter, he died of lymphoma on 12 November 1993 in Canberra and was cremated. In appreciation of his contribution to earth sciences, RSES established a postgraduate scholarship in his name; the mineral ringwoodite is also named after him.
Canberra Times. ‘Professor A. E. Ringwood.’ 13 November 1993, 4; Candela, Andrea. ‘Sorting Out Nuclear Concerns: The Australian Uranium Debate from Jervis Bay to Ringwood’s Synroc.’ Earth Science History 36, no. 1 (2017): 116–41; Green, D. H. ‘Alfred Edward Ringwood 1930–1993.’ Historical Records of Australian Science 12, no. 2 (1998): 247–66; Green, David. ‘Professor A. E. (Ted) Ringwood.’ ANU Reporter Supplement, 24 November 1993, 4; Moyal, Ann. ‘Professor Alfred Edward (Ted) Ringwood.’ In Portraits in Science, compiled and introduced by Ann Moyal, 123–34. Canberra, ACT: National Library of Australia, 1994; Ringwood, Alfred Edward. Interview by Ann Moyal, 11 March 1993. National Library of Australia; Sun Herald (Sydney). ‘Scientist Leaves a Lasting Legacy.’ 21 November 1993, 44.
RISSON, Sir ROBERT JOSEPH (1901–1992), army officer and tramways board chairman, was born on 20 April 1901 at Ma Ma Creek, near Grantham, Queensland, the son of Queensland-born Robert Risson, farmer, and his English-born wife Emma Florence, née Turner. He was educated at nearby Gatton High School, where he was a cadet (1915–19), and at the University of Queensland, where he studied civil engineering (BE, 1923) and won a blue for football. After graduating, Risson joined the newly formed Brisbane Tramways Trust in 1923 (Brisbane City Council tramways department from 1925), remaining until the onset of World War II. On 12 May 1934 at St John’s Church of England Cathedral, Brisbane, he had married Gwendolyn Edith Millicent Spurgin. The couple did not have children.
Risson was seconded to the Australian Imperial Force on 13 October 1939 with the rank of major and joined the 2/3rd Field Company, Royal Australian Engineers. Sent with his unit to the Middle East in December 1940, he played an important role in the defence of Tobruk, Libya, in March–May 1941, and was appointed OBE (1942) in recognition of his initiative, ability, and leadership. On 29 May 1941 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and placed in command of the 7th Division’s engineers. He planned and developed vital defences during the Syrian campaign of June–July and was mentioned in despatches for this work.
On 24 January 1942 Risson took command of the 9th Division’s engineers. During action at El Alamein, Egypt, in October–November, his men cleared seven enemy minefields, contributing significantly to the division’s success. Again mentioned in despatches, he was wounded on 1 November and awarded the Distinguished Service Order (1943) for gallantry and inspiring leadership. After recuperation, Risson returned to Australia in February and resumed his command. On 23 March he was promoted to temporary brigadier and appointed chief engineer, II Corps. Following recovery from a bout of malaria, in October he embarked for New Guinea, where, on 12 April 1944, he took over as chief engineer of I Corps. For his meritorious work in the South-West Pacific Area between 1 April and 30 September he was elevated to CBE (1945). Having returned to Australia in September 1945, he was demobilised on 21 December. He transferred to the Reserve of Officers. Although feared by his junior officers, he was highly regarded by his seniors. Beneath a stern exterior he could be warm and understanding of human problems. Many benefited from his wise counsel and positive advice.
Resuming work with the Brisbane City Council, Risson helped the transport department to modernise and expand its bus and tramway services, rising to the position of assistant general manager (1948). In October 1949 he assumed office as chairman of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board (MMTB). He took up his new position during a period of debate on the future of the Melbourne transport system and, in particular, the capacity of the tramway system to serve the needs of an expanding city. Risson was ‘passionate about trams’ (Cervini 1994, 15), which he believed were the best vehicles for efficiently moving large numbers of passengers around the inner Melbourne metropolitan area (Turnbull 2001, 3). In the face of widespread public opposition, the car lobby, and the opinions of some within the government, he ‘almost single-handedly saved the city’s century-old tramway system from expulsion’ (Cervero 1998, 404). He achieved this ‘by sheer force of personality, and aided by a boom-box voice, he managed to intimidate his opponents and fend off efforts to curb tram services’ (Cervero, 321). Being 6 feet (183cm) tall gave him presence too. After attending mess dinners he would return home on a tram wearing his scarlet mess uniform and sit behind the driver, watching his every move. Tram drivers preferred not to be driving on such evenings because Risson was very observant and aware of the MMTB’s every policy and rule.
Risson continued part-time service with the Citizen Military Forces and, holding the rank of major general, commanded the 3rd Division (1953–56). He was CMF member of the Military Board (1957–58) and was appointed CB (1958). A Freemason from 1961, he served as president of the board of general purposes (1969–71), senior grand warden (1971–72), deputy grand master (1972–74), and grand master (1974–76) of the United Grand Lodge of Victoria. Other offices held by Risson included president of the Victoria division of the Institution of Engineers, Australia (1954); chief commissioner of the Boy Scouts Association, Victoria (1958–63); chairman of the National Fitness Council (1961–71); president of the Good Neighbour Council Victoria (1963–68); and chairman of the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme (1963). He was also a foundation committee member of the Victorian Association of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, holding the presidency between 1980 and 1983.
Knighted on 13 June 1970 for services to the community, Risson retired as chairman of the MMTB at the end of that month. He then served as executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Committee until 1978. Predeceased by his wife, Sir Robert died on 19 July 1992 at his home in Murrumbeena, Melbourne, and was cremated at Springvale Crematorium. The inaugural Sir Robert Risson memorial lecture at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology was held in 2001.
Cervero, Robert. The Transit Metropolis. Washington, DC: Island Press, 1998; Cervini, Erica. ‘The Spirit that Saved the Icon.’ Age (Melbourne), 26 April 1994, 15; Defence Archive Centre, Fort Queenscliff, Victoria. Australian Army Service of QX6062, Major General Robert Joseph Henry Risson; Henderson, Kent. The Masonic Grand Masters of Australia. Melbourne: Ian Drakeford Publishing, 1988; McNicoll, Ronald. The Royal Australian Engineers 1919–1945, Teeth and Tail. Canberra: Corps Committee of the Royal Australian Engineers, 1982; National Archives of Australia. J1795, item RISSON ROBERT JOSEPH HENRY; Turnbull, Graeme. The Sir Robert Risson Era: An Enduring Legacy. Hawthorn: Friends of Hawthorn Tram Depot, 2001.
ROBERTS, BERTRAM AINSLIE (1911–1993), commercial artist, advertising executive, and surrealist painter, was born on 12 March 1911 in London, elder of two children of Harold Roberts, public companies clerk, and his wife Rose Ernestine, née Dougall. His father, a theosophist, was Welsh and his mother was Scottish. After migrating to South Australia in 1922 the family lived briefly at a 1,000-acre (405 ha) property near Ardrossan before settling in Adelaide. Ainslie attended (1923–26) Westbourne Park Primary School, where he gained his qualifying certificate as both dux of the school and the top State student.
In February 1927 Roberts began work as an office boy with London & Lancashire Insurance Co. The next year he commenced night classes at the South Australian School of Arts and Crafts. Resigning from the insurance company in 1929, he became a self-employed commercial artist and a part-time advertising manager for a cinema complex. On 27 February 1937 at the Methodist Church, Malvern, Adelaide, he married South Australian–born Melva Jean (Judy) Andrewartha, a schoolteacher.
Roberts started an advertising agency with Keith Webb, an advertising space salesman in 1937. The next year, with Maurice McClelland, they formed Webb Roberts McClelland Pty Ltd, which later established itself as the largest advertising agency in South Australia. In World War II he served part time (1942–45) as a corporal in local infantry and artillery units of the Volunteer Defence Corps.
Returning to advertising work after the war, Roberts also established a photographic salon. Overworked and exhausted, he suffered a nervous breakdown in 1950. While convalescing in Alice Springs, he fell in love with the central Australian landscape and, wearied by the demands and drudgery of commercial art, he resolved to commence painting on his return to Adelaide and to withdraw from the advertising business. In 1952 he met the anthropologist Charles Mountford [q.v.15], with whom he shared a keen interest in photography. The ensuing friendship altered the course of Roberts’s life; together they made a number of journeys to Aboriginal art sites, including several trips to Central Australia.
In 1959 Mountford sought Roberts’s interest in illustrating a book he was planning based on Aboriginal myths. Finding the proposed line drawings too restricting, Roberts turned to paint instead. The resulting twenty-one paintings were exhibited in October 1963 at the Osborne Art Gallery, Adelaide, and sold out in two days. The publishing manager of Rigby Ltd, Ian Mudie [q.v.15], subsequently commissioned The Dreamtime: Australian Aboriginal Myths in Paintings (1965), the first in a series of nine books, which included The Dawn of Time (1969) and The First Sunrise (1971). By 1988 the first book had been reprinted eighteen times, with more than 1 million copies sold. Throughout the series, the formula remained the same: Roberts’s surrealist paintings interspersed with line drawings illustrating Mountford’s simplified, popularised, and radically contracted versions of Aboriginal myths. Beginning with the fifth book, Dreamtime Heritage (1975), and for the remainder of the series, Roberts’s wife, Judy, wrote the text based on Mountford’s notes. Stripped of all cultural specificities, the myths supposedly represented a uniform pan-Aboriginal culture. The dedication in most of the series was ‘To the Brown People, who handed down these Dreamtime Myths’.
Reflecting beliefs commonly held in the 1960s (but even then often repudiated), Roberts believed that Aboriginal mythologies encapsulated a primitive way of perceiving the world that existed at ‘the very dawn of time, when all men were of one race’ (Roberts and Roberts 1975, 15). Western rationality had alienated modern minds from these unifying myths. Roberts believed that he was helping to bridge the gap between two cultures, and he professed great respect for Aboriginal people, which undoubtedly he did feel, but his portrayal of them was cast in romanticised primitivism.
During Roberts’s lifetime his paintings were purchased by private collectors but not by major public galleries. His most recognisable artwork is his line drawing of the Aboriginal elder Gwoja Tjungurrayi (better known as ‘One Pound Jimmy’) that appears in the prefatory pages of some of the Dreamtime series of books. In 1988 the Royal Australian Mint used this image without permission on its $2 coin. Following legal representation, Roberts received a small amount of compensation in 1989. Appointed AM in June 1993, Roberts died on 28 August at Blackwood, South Australia, survived by his wife and son.
Hulley, Charles E. Ainslie Roberts and the Dreamtime. Melbourne: J. M. Dent Pty Ltd, 1988; National Archives of Australia. B884, S66287; Roberts, Ainslie, and Melva Jean Roberts. Dreamtime Heritage: Australian Aboriginal Myths in Paintings. Adelaide: Rigby, 1975; Rolls, Mitchell. ‘Painting the Dreaming White.’ ACH: Journal of the History of Culture in Australia, no. 24 (2006): 3–28.
ROBERTS, EDWIN PETER (1913–1991), grazier and wool industry leader, was born on 20 September 1913 at Toowoomba, Queensland, younger child and only son of Queensland-born Alfred John Spencer Roberts, medical practitioner, and his Victorian-born wife Sybil Zouche, née Ross. His mother died when he was about seven, and in 1922 his father married Laura Heness, his governess. Educated at Harristown State School, Church of England Preparatory School, Toowoomba, and The King’s School, Parramatta, New South Wales, Peter was nicknamed ‘Speedie’ because of his athletic ability and position on the wing in the rugby union first XV. He was a sound scholar and his father wanted him to study medicine but he was drawn to the land. He worked as a jackaroo on several properties during the 1930s before becoming an overseer on his uncle Jack Ross’s property, Boobera, at Goondiwindi in 1937.
On 29 May 1940 Roberts enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. He served in the Middle East (July 1941 to January 1942) with the 2/1st Anti-Aircraft Regiment, in Papua and New Guinea (April 1942 to May 1943 and August 1943 to February 1944) with the Port Moresby AA Group and the 114th Light AA Regiment, and in Borneo (June–October 1945) with the 2/3rd AA Regiment. Having been commissioned as a lieutenant in November 1942, he transferred to the Reserve of Officers on 3 November 1945. In 1946 Roberts and Harry Craig, a friend from school, purchased Minnel, a 15,000-acre (6,070 ha) grain and grazing property at Toobeah, near Goondiwindi. When the property was split, Roberts retained the homestead at Minnel.
The experience of accompanying (Sir) William Gunn on a tour of Queensland during the 1956 shearers’ strike alerted Roberts to the importance of united action. Over the next two decades he put this experience into action, progressing from local to state to federal organisations associated with the land. He was president of the Graziers’ Association of South Eastern Queensland (1957–63), the United Graziers’ Association (UGA) (1971–75), the Queensland Producers’ Federation (1971–75), and the Australian Wool Growers’ and Graziers’ Council (1973–76); vice-president of the UGA (1961–71); and a member of the Australian Wool Industry Conference (1963–79), the Queensland Rural Reconstruction Board (1976–91), the Trade Development Council (1976–82), and the National Bank of Australia’s advisory board (1977–82).
A long-time supporter of the reserve price scheme, which provided growers with a guaranteed minimum price for their wool, Roberts used his ‘gentle art of persuasion’ to help convince the Federal government not to introduce compulsory acquisition of wool (Kerr 1990, 85). He worked closely with Queensland’s representative on the Australian Wool Corporation that was established with UGA support in 1972 to administer the scheme. The AWC purchased all wool not meeting the minimum reserve price at auction and sold it during periods of higher prices. Roberts was one of the presidents of the UGA in the 1970s who steered the association to a rational organisational structure, allowing autonomy in policy making by the commodity councils. He was appointed CMG for services to government and the wool industry in 1969.
As a member of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s executive (1960–72), Roberts saw research as the lifeblood of the wool industry and took pride in the introduction in 1974 of sale by objective measurement, an innovation made possible by CSIRO’s pure research program. He was chairman of the Queensland Agricultural College (later the University of Queensland, Gatton campus) from 1975 to 1983, and on this basis was made an honorary life member of the UQ Gatton Past Students Association (1976). Roberts served as patron of this association from 1985 to 1991.
Loyal to friends, school, and family, Roberts was a committed Christian with a strong sense of responsibility. He enjoyed sports, followed numerous schools’ sporting teams, and served as a polo umpire in Australia and abroad. He earned respect from the top echelons of agricultural politics to the hundreds of schoolchildren who knew him affectionately as Uncle Peter. On visits to Brisbane, he took the orphaned Legacy children at Moorlands on outings and arranged for them to holiday at Minnel. He took special interest in the students of the Toowoomba Preparatory School, Glennie Memorial School, and the Toowoomba Grammar School.
Of moderate height, urbane, with almost Menzian eyebrows, he was quiet, modest, amusing, and generous, but, with a ‘full head of steam’, could also be ‘irascible’ (Roberts 1989, 101–08). He believed in hard work, good manners, devotion to God, and a healthy mind in a healthy body. He spoke quickly yet precisely, with thoughts that tumbled out ‘sometimes with startling rapidity’ (Roberts 1989, 179). An excellent communicator and an accomplished chairman, he exuded an air of wanting to get to the kernel of things with a minimum of delay.
Roberts did not marry. He died on 20 May 1991 at Minnel and was buried at the Drayton and Toowoomba General cemetery with Anglican rites. The Peter Roberts Continuing Education Centre at the University of Queensland’s Gatton campus is named after him.
Kerr, Ruth. Freedom of Contract: A History of the United Graziers’ Association of Queensland. Brisbane: United Graziers’ Association of Queensland, 1990; National Archives of Australia. B883, NX22517; Roberts, Mary. Personal communication with author; Roberts, Mary. Uncle Peter: Edwin Peter Spencer Roberts C. M. G. Man of Achievement. Victoria Downs, Qld: M. Roberts, 1989; Chronicle (Toowoomba). ‘Saviour of Wool Industry in 1970s Dies, Aged 78.’ 21 May 1991, 12.
ROBERTS, FRANK EDWARD (1913–1992), solicitor, politician, and lord mayor, was born on 28 February 1913 in Melbourne, eldest of six children of Hugh Edward Roberts, farmer, and his wife Mary Alice, née Carpenter. As a baby he suffered paralysis of the legs and feet and required several operations that necessitated the lifelong wearing of custom-made surgical boots. Frank lived on a farm in the Victorian Mallee, not starting school until he was nine because of the isolation. He was educated at Mittyack, Victoria, and Hay, New South Wales. In 1932 he moved with his family to Queensland, where he was assigned relief work on the roads and quarries, as a sewerage miner, and as a builder’s labourer.
An evening student at the Teachers’ Training College from 1933, Roberts matriculated to the University of Queensland in 1936. On 3 June that year at St Andrew’s Church of England, South Brisbane, he married English-born Gladys Turtle, a shop assistant (d. 1975). He joined the Queensland public service as a clerk, working in the Lands Department and the Public Curator Office while studying arts and law at the university (BA, 1941; LLB, 1943). Rejected for war service on medical grounds, Roberts set up in private practice. He was admitted as a solicitor in 1949 and his firm, Duell, Roberts and Kane (later Roberts and Kane) was well known in Brisbane legal circles.
A member of the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU), the Builders’ Labourers’ Union, and the State Service Union, Roberts was a ‘solid Labor man’ (Worker 1952, 1). In 1943 he ran unsuccessfully as an Australian Labor Party (ALP) candidate for the State seat of Hamilton against (Sir) John Chandler [q.v.13], who was concurrently serving as lord mayor of Brisbane. Elected a member of the Legislative Assembly for Nundah in 1947, Roberts spoke stridently against capitalism, claiming to be ‘firmly convinced that true Christianity is completely and irrevocably incompatible with the capitalistic principle of the maximum gain for the minimum of effort’ (Qld Parliament 1948, 485). In what seemed an unwinnable contest, in 1952 the ALP nominated Roberts as its lord mayoral candidate for Brisbane against Chandler who had held the position for twelve years.
Brisbane was rapidly expanding. Although few realised it at the time, a recent redistribution had created a number of mortgage-belt seats, the residents of which were anxiously awaiting water and sewerage connections. Roberts, referring to the beautification projects of the previous council, called for ‘utility before camouflage’ (Cole 1984, 152). Promising to provide Brisbane and its suburbs with an ample supply of reticulated water and with sewerage, his team won seventeen of twenty-four wards in the Brisbane City Council elections. Despite criticisms from the rank and file, the Queensland central executive (QCE) of the ALP sanctioned Roberts’s holding the positions of State member and lord mayor, both paid positions. Roberts believed that he was not doing anyone out of a job because no one else in the party had wanted to run against Chandler.
With funds in short supply the new lord mayor found it difficult to keep his election promises. Parsimony was a hallmark of his stewardship. Cutting through red tape, he used second-hand pipes to connect residents in some outlying suburbs to reticulated water. During his time in office (1952–55), the City Fund’s position went from debit to credit and the Loan Fund debt was greatly reduced.
State Labor parliamentarians planned to raise their own salaries at the end of 1953, retrospectively to 1 July. In order to maintain the traditional proportional relationship between parliamentary and aldermanic salaries, Roberts proposed to increase the latter immediately as no retrospective provisions applied. Incensed, the QCE issued a directive ordering the council to rescind the salary increase. Unwilling to ‘accept dictation from any body or organisation which is not responsible to the people’ (Courier Mail 1953, 1), Roberts resigned from the ALP on 25 August. The president of the Queensland branch of the AWU, Joe Bukowski [q.v.13], claimed that he was ‘discredited in the eyes of the people as the key figure in the salary grab’ (Worker 1953, 1). Ironically, the council approved the increase in aldermanic salaries a few weeks later.
Roberts served for twenty months as an Independent lord mayor. Pledging to ‘navigate the civic ship between the rocks of ultra conservatism and the cliffs of excessive enthusiasm’ (Cole 1984, 166), he sought re-election as an Independent in 1955. The Labor premier, Vincent Gair [q.v.14], described his campaign as ‘a lot of high-minded nonsense’ (O’Dwyer 1996, 19). Roberts lost the mayoralty. At the 1956 State election he vacated his seat, where he was personally popular, to contest Gair’s seat as an Independent, but was defeated. Readmitted to the ALP in 1958, he failed to win back Nundah at the 1963 State election. The ALP executive did not endorse him for a Federal seat in 1966. The rest of his life was devoted to family, his legal practice, and honorary work for a wide range of community associations including Rotary, the Bribie Island Surf Life Saving Club, and the Nundah Aged Advocacy Centre.
Witty, intelligent, courageous, and fiercely independent, Roberts was the ‘sort of man who thinks before he speaks, and is hard to shift once he has spoken’. In appearance he was ‘bland’, ‘plump’, and ‘bespectacled’ (Summers 1953, 2). On 12 August 1978 at his residence at Nundah, he married Florence Edith Schultz, née Rogers, a widow. Survived by his wife, and by the two daughters and two of the three sons of his first marriage, he died on 7 June 1992 in Brisbane and was cremated.
Cole, John R. Shaping a City. Greater Brisbane 1925–1985. Brisbane: William Brooks, 1984; Courier Mail (Brisbane). ‘Independent Lord Mayor.’ 26 August 1953, 1; Courier Mail (Brisbane). ‘Former Lord Mayor Dies, Aged 79.’ 8 August 1992, 7; O’Dwyer, Tim. ‘Shades of a Labor Maverick.’ Courier Mail (Brisbane) 13 January 1996, 19; Queensland. Parliament. Parliamentary Debates, vol. 193 23 September 1948, 485; Summers, H. J. ‘Frank Roberts Wanted to be a Doctor.’ Courier Mail (Brisbane) 28 August 1953, 2; Worker (Brisbane). ‘MLA Speaks of Political Morality.’ 14 July 1947, 15; ‘Frank Roberts for Lord Mayoralty.’ 11 February 1952, 1; ‘Reply to Roberts’ Attack on the QCE.’ 31 August 1953, 1–2.
Brian F. Stevenson
ROBERTS, MERRILIE D’ARCY (1915–1993), headmistress, was born on 6 November 1915 at Greenwich, Sydney, youngest of five children of locally born parents D’Arcy Falconer Roberts, clerk and later assistant manager at the Perpetual Trustee Co. Ltd, and his wife Joan Margaret, née Fitzhardinge. The Roberts children grew up next door to their grandfather Jeremiah Roberts, the first mayor of Lane Cove, whose 4-acre (1.6 ha) estate had a tennis court, orchard, and beautiful garden. Educated at Sydney Church of England Girls’ Grammar School (SCEGGS), North Sydney, and Abbotsleigh, Wahroonga, Merrilie won an exhibition to the University of Sydney, where she studied mathematics (BA, 1937). She taught briefly in Sydney before moving to a small Melbourne boarding school and studying at Melbourne Teachers’ College and the University of Melbourne (DipEd, 1941).
During World War II Roberts joined De Havilland Aircraft Co. Pty Ltd, Sydney, where she prepared mathematical calculations for Royal Australian Air Force propeller designs. This period was extremely challenging but it convinced her that she could earn a living outside teaching if necessary. As a woman employed in this work she experienced no discrimination, except in wages, and relished the close friendships she made with people from diverse backgrounds.
After the war, Roberts worked as a secretary in the mathematics department at the University of Sydney, before being appointed deputy headmistress at SCEGGS Moss Vale in April 1947. Here she found a renewed interest in teaching. Resigning in November 1949, she sailed for England and taught mathematics in London schools. Intrigued by a reference in the Times Educational Supplement, she enrolled in a short course at William Temple College, a theological institution near Chester. While at Abbotsleigh, she had developed an intense involvement with the Christian youth organisation the Crusader Union. She continued this commitment at university through the Evangelical Union’s daily meetings and as a student speaker. As a graduate she became women’s representative on the national committee.
The war had led Roberts to question her evangelical religious beliefs, prompting her to extend her stay at William Temple College. These years as a resident reader helped her not only to reaffirm her faith but also to abandon the constraints of evangelical doctrine and return to the liberal Christianity of her upbringing. While in England, she gained the Cambridge certificate of religious knowledge (1950) and completed a thesis through the University of Melbourne on the provision of boarding school education by the English public authorities (BEd, 1953).
In 1952 Roberts had returned to Australia to take up the position of headmistress of Newcastle Church of England Girls’ Grammar School. To expand the school’s standing in the community, she joined numerous local and professional committees, gave public addresses, and opened church fêtes. She raised academic standards and supervised building expansion. After seven years she resigned, exhausted, and sailed to England. En route she visited China, where she received official permission to visit several secondary schools, and India.
Following two years teaching in London, Roberts returned to Sydney in September 1961 as headmistress of Ascham School, an independent, non-denominational girls’ school at Edgecliff. She became a dedicated supporter of the Dalton plan, a self-directed method of study introduced to Ascham in 1922 by Margaret Bailey [q.v.7]. Roberts wrote and spoke extensively on Ascham’s modified Dalton plan, on the social upheavals of the 1960s, and the increased educational opportunities for girls through the new six-year Wyndham [q.v.18] scheme. She administered two major building programs and also gave lectures to university students. An active member of the Teachers’ Guild of New South Wales and the Association of Heads of Independent Girls’ Schools (president 1968), she became a fellow of the Australian College of Education (1970). Some former students remember her as relaxed and approachable, others as somewhat reserved. All recall her smoke-filled study and her warnings to avoid the nicotine habit.
Retiring to Greenwich in 1972, Roberts immersed herself in researching and writing local history, producing in 1982 Roads to the River: Prelude to a Municipality, 1884. She was also a member of the New South Wales Bursary Endowment Board. Although she scorned personal publicity, she contributed numerous newspaper articles on education and controversial social issues. Having moved to Lourdes Retirement Village, Killara, she died at Hornsby on 25 September 1993, and was cremated. At Ascham, Roberts’s era is commemorated by the gymnasium and swimming pool, named in her honour, and a portrait by Brian Dunlop.
Danziger, Rowena. ‘Obituary: Miss Merrilie Roberts B. A., B. Ed., F. A. C. E.’ Newsletter (Australian College of Education, New South Wales Chapter), no. 93–94 (December 1993): 27; Roberts, Merrilie D. Interview by Barbara Blackman, 1 November 1984. Transcript. National Library of Australia; Simpson, Caroline Fairfax, Annette Fielding-Jones Dupree, and Betty Winn Ferguson (eds). Ascham Remembered 1886–1986. Sydney: Fine Arts Press, 1986; Williams, Evan. ‘Excellent Work, Pamela!’ Sydney Morning Herald, 13 November 1969, 10, 13.
ROBERTSON, JAMES (SANDY) (1908–1995), teacher of ballroom dancing, was born on 9 April 1908 in Edinburgh, son of James Robertson, saddler, and his wife Mary Wight, née Moffat. After his mother’s death, his father remarried. A second son was born, to add to the existing family of a son and daughter. Sandy attended Dalry Primary School, before working in a bakery for two and a half years. Unhappy at home, he moved to Craigielinn farm, Paisley, which trained poor boys for employment as rural labourers in the dominions. In 1925 he made a ‘Lads’ Application’ (QSA 1122825) for assisted migration to Australia. To qualify for the scheme, he signed an undertaking to engage in agricultural work. He sailed for Queensland in March.
The story of Robertson’s impoverished background and his escape from it was one he liked to tell. Having worked in the bush to repay his passage, he moved to Brisbane as the Depression hit. One night, he went to the Trocadero dance palace, and found his vocation. He practised tirelessly, blackened his ankles with boot polish in place of the socks he could not afford, and went on to win a series of amateur ballroom-dancing competitions. In 1934 he and his partner, Peggy Smith, became the Queensland and Australian champions. This win heralded the beginning of a more glamorous life. He was contracted to give demonstrations at gala events from Melbourne to Cairns, performing with popular orchestras such as Billo Smith’s band. His success gained him employment in C. E. Moss’s dance studio. On 1 November 1936 he opened his own studio in Brisbane, trading as J. Sandy Robertson.
National dancing competitions declined in importance during World War II. When they resumed, Robertson’s pupils were prominent. Among his protégés were Dick and Noela Orchard, who won the South Pacific amateur championship in 1952, and John and Carol Kimmins, who would later be British champions (1976). Those dancers became teachers in his expanding studio, and their success attracted many other pupils.
Social dancing was a major form of recreation in the years following the war, and in Brisbane its popularity was reflected in the number of well-attended venues, among them the legendary Cloudland, where romance flourished and many a proposal of marriage was made. Dancing was also promoted to returned servicemen to aid their reintegration into the peacetime community. Robertson worked with soldier amputees and children with prostheses, and with the vision impaired, so that they could participate in social life. He would continue to work with disabled people throughout his career.
In 1946 and 1947 Robertson toured Britain and met Constance Dorothy Harmer, née Dolden, a divorcee. She joined him in Brisbane in 1948, as a teacher in his studio. On 22 March 1951 they were married in the Ann Street Presbyterian Church. The couple gained local recognition as authorities on dance, demonstrating the latest crazes. They also gave advice on deportment. At their classes, children and teenagers were taught not just how to dance, but how to behave. When the young Queen Elizabeth II visited Brisbane in 1954, Connie demonstrated the curtsy to women preparing to attend the royal ball in Brisbane.
After television came to Queensland in 1959, Robertson saw an opportunity to broaden dance’s appeal to young audiences. He became a regular on the live Saturday morning children’s show The Channel Niners, hosted by ‘Captain’ Jim Iliffe. Children queued around the block for tickets to the show, and a fortunate few were plucked from the audience to learn the steps from ‘Uncle Sandy’.
Robertson promoted the professionalisation of dance teachers. One of the first members of the Queensland Society of Dancing and a member (1938) and later fellow of the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing, London, he had represented the Federal Association of Teachers of Dancing, Australia, on his tour of Britain and, while there, had arranged its affiliation with the imperial body. As a result, he and other Australian dance teachers were recognised internationally as examiners and adjudicators.
Divorced in 1976, Robertson married Barbara Mary Boddy, herself an accomplished dancer, on 22 March 1982 at his house at Sorrento, on the Gold Coast. They travelled with an international group of dancers to Hong Kong, Macau, and the People’s Republic of China in 1988 for festivals and demonstrations of ballroom and Latin American dance, which drew vast audiences at live venues and on television and, in China, raised money for disabled people. He was one of a panel of six international adjudicators for the twenty-day tour.
The Australian Dancing Board granted Robertson life membership and in 1994 he was awarded the OAM. He died on 9 November 1995 at his home and, following a Presbyterian funeral, was cremated. His wife survived him; he had no children.
Carbon, Daenie. ‘AM [sic] Recognises Lifetime’s Work.’ Courier Mail (Brisbane), 26 January 1994, 2; Queensland State Archives. Item ID ITM1122825; Robertson, Barbara. Personal communication; Smith-Hampshire, Harry. ‘100,000 Chinese Welcome Dancers.’ Dance News, no. 1051 (August 1988): 1, 8–9; Smith-Hampshire, Harry. ‘The Pioneers of 20th Century Dancing: Sandy Robertson.’ Dance News, no. 1102 (August 1989): 13–14.
ROBERTSON, KENNETH VICTOR (1915–1994), air force officer, was born on 28 March 1915 at Brighton, Victoria, second of four children and eldest son of Scottish-born Charles Victor Robertson, accountant, and his second wife Ida, née Caron. Kenneth attended Geelong Church of England Grammar School and, while his family was in England (1929–30), Berkhamstead Grammar School. He won Geelong Grammar’s school cup for house athletics in 1934 and completed his Leaving certificate that year. Demonstrating an early interest in aviation, in 1935 he was one of six applicants selected to try out for the Public Schools’ Flying Scholarship run under the auspices of the Royal Victorian Aero Club, though he was not the eventual winner. In 1938, while employed as a clerk, later a tutor, at his father’s business education institution, Hemingway & Robertson Pty Ltd, he passed the intermediate examinations of the Commonwealth and Federal institutes of accountants.
Robertson participated in Light Car Club trials in 1938 and 1939. He also undertook private flying lessons. Enlisting in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) on 5 February 1940, he completed flying training and was appointed a pilot officer on 28 June. On becoming a flying instructor in December, he was promoted to flying officer. Further promoted to flight lieutenant in April 1941, he was soon after selected to test Professor Frank Cotton’s [q.v.8] prototype anti-G flying suit, designed to help fighter pilots remain conscious when subjected to high levels of centrifugal force. Robertson was awarded the Air Force Cross (1943) for courageously pushing himself ‘to the limit of human endurance’ in the air (NAA A12372). On 24 August 1943 at Christ Church, South Yarra, he married Jean Douglas Keys, a private in the Australian Army Medical Women’s Service.
Posted in November 1943 to No. 452 Squadron, a Spitfire unit, Robertson gained his first experience of operational flying in the defence of Darwin. After being promoted to squadron leader in July 1944, he was posted in October to No. 1 Aircraft Performance Unit, Laverton, where he returned to test flying, which duty largely came to define his RAAF career. In March 1946 he attended No. 5 Empire Test Pilots’ School, England. He learned to fly the Sikorsky R-4 helicopter, the first rotary wing aircraft in the Royal Air Force, before being sent to the Sikorsky factory in the United States of America, where he took delivery of an S-51 helicopter for the RAAF. For his work as a test pilot he was awarded a Bar to the Air Force Cross in 1951. In November that year he went to Woomera, South Australia, where he became officer commanding the Aircraft Research and Development Unit.
On completing RAAF Staff College in 1953, Robertson joined Home Command headquarters at Penrith, New South Wales. Though displaying no aptitude for staff work, he was promoted to wing commander on 1 January 1954. He was sent to Singapore in January 1956 to take command of No. 1 Squadron, an RAAF Lincoln bomber unit assigned to the Malayan Emergency. The commander-in-chief of the British Far East Air Force, Air Marshal Sir Francis Fressanges, blamed him for the accidental loss of a Lincoln on 9 January 1957 and criticised his leadership. Nevertheless, Air Marshal (Sir) Frederick Scherger [q.v.18] supported him and he retained his command. By the time the squadron was ordered home in July 1958, he had led 113 operational sorties, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Appointed base commander at Point Cook in September, he was subsequently selected to set up an aviation section for the Australian Army. In 1960 he became the commanding officer of the newly raised No. 16 Army Light Aircraft Squadron, an integrated RAAF and Army unit based at Amberley, Queensland.
Robertson was posted to a staff position at the headquarters of RAAF Support Command in Melbourne in 1962. He elected to take twelve months leave without pay in March 1964 to pursue civilian employment with International Helicopters (Aust.) Pty Ltd, officially retiring from the RAAF on 28 March 1965. His superiors had consistently reported him to be a pleasant, cheerful, and cooperative officer. Of average height, he had fair hair and blue eyes. During his RAAF service he logged nearly 4,677 flying hours on some 105 aircraft types. He continued to work as a flight instructor, making his last flight on 14 November 1970. Survived by his wife, and their daughter and son, he died on 5 September 1994 at East Brighton and was cremated.
Age. ‘Kenneth Victor Robertson, 79.’ 19 September 1994, 19; National Archives of Australia. A12372, O33013; A471, 86507; Rolland, Derrick. Airmen I Have Met: Their Stories. Bright, Vic.: D. Rolland, 1999.
ROBINSON, BRIAN CLARK (1934–1991), film-maker and lecturer, was born on 27 September 1934 at Mildura, Victoria, second of three sons of Harold Joseph Charles Robinson, bank manager and horticulturalist, and his wife Iris Lila Caisley, née Clark, both Victorian born. On completion of his secondary schooling, Brian moved to Melbourne where he obtained a diploma in art and graphic design at Caulfield Technical School in 1953. The next year, under bond to the Education Department, he enrolled at the Technical Teachers’ College. Meanwhile, to gain industrial experience, he worked for the advertising agency Briggs, Canny, James, & Paramor Pty Ltd, where the staff members included the cartoonist Bruce Petty and Robinson’s lifelong friend and collaborator Phillip Adams. From 1959 he taught at Mildura State School.
In 1961 Robinson was recruited to Swinburne Technical College as a lecturer in the school of art. He began teaching commercial design and illustration, but soon shifted his focus to the moving image. From 1966 he was in charge of the diploma of art (film and television) and in 1976 he was appointed inaugural head of the school of film and television. Later he served as dean (1987–89) of the faculty of art, a role he did not enjoy. He was happier working with students, especially the talented ones, on conceptualising and scripting their films. Professing no technical skills, he left talented colleagues to work with the students on their projects.
Robinson believed that the best way to learn film making was from practical experience. To that end, he and Adams had begun work in 1965 on a low-budget feature film called Jack and Jill: A Postscript (1969). Using a cheap clockwork Bolex 16 mm camera and with a budget of $6,000, Robinson and Adams shared the tasks of scriptwriting, production, direction, cinematography, and editing. The film told the tragic love story of a bikie and a kindergarten teacher through the use of nursery rhymes which provided an ironic counterpoint to the visual narrative. In December 1969 it received a silver award from the Australian Film Institute, the first local feature film so honoured. It is regarded as a landmark in the revival of the Australian film industry. In 1970 it had a limited commercial release, after the film-makers paid $4,000 to produce a 35-mm version. Robinson made other experimental films such as A Fine Body of Water (1968) and Some Regrets (1971), which expressed a romantic sensibility and explored everyday life in an avant-garde way.
As an adviser to Prime Minister (Sir) John Gorton in 1969, Adams had urged that Robinson’s Swinburne film school become the basis of a proposed Australian Film and Television School, but in 1970 the school’s interim council recommended that it be located in Sydney. That year Robinson wrote a report for the council after visiting film schools in Europe, Japan, and the United States of America, and he was subsequently a member (1973–75) of its inaugural council. Adams later described Robinson as ‘tall, bald, and white bearded’ with an ‘oceanic generosity of spirit’ (1991, 14). He served the industry with active membership of committees and boards for the Melbourne Film Festival (1984), Film Victoria (1981–89), and the National Film and Sound Archive (1984–85).
A confirmed bachelor who was discreetly homosexual, Robinson had a wide range of friends, who found him an engaging and amusing host, and an excellent cook. His extensive network of associates in the revitalised film industry was a testimony to his professional contribution as well as his congenial disposition. Retiring in 1989, he considered moving to England to write novels, but he suffered a cardiac arrest in December 1991 whilst Christmas shopping in a city department store. He died three days later, at Parkville on 9 December, and was cremated. The next year the Swinburne film school moved to a new home at the Victorian College of the Arts, where a scriptwriting award was created in his name.
Adams, Phillip. Interview by the author, 29 January 2013; Adams, Phillip. ‘The Larger than Life of Brian.’ Australian, 21–22 December 1991, Weekend Review 14; Buesst, Nigel. ‘The Life of Brian Robinson.’ Filmnews (Sydney), 1 December 1991, 8; Paterson, Barbara. Renegades: Australia’s First Film School from Swinburne to VCA. Ivanhoe East, Vic.: Helicon Press, 1996.
ROBINSON, ROLAND EDWARD (1912–1992), poet and collector of Aboriginal legends, was born on 12 June 1912 at Balbriggan, County Dublin, Ireland, second of three sons of English parents Walter Robinson, lace worker, and his wife Sarah, née Searson. Unsettled by the rising tide of Irish nationalism, the family returned to England during World War I, and then emigrated to Australia when Roland was nine, settling at Carlton, Sydney. Roland was educated at Blakehurst Public School and Hurstville Technical School, where an inspirational teacher encouraged his interest in writing. Following the death of his mother, and unhappy at his father’s remarriage, he went to work at fourteen as a houseboy on a sheep farm near Coonamble, New South Wales, and then as a rouseabout and station hand on other properties in the area.
Returning to Sydney about 1932, Robinson was employed at Lustre Hosiery Mills, Rushcutters Bay. Conditions there, together with a passion for poets such as Shelley, Blake, and William Morris, radicalised him. He was active in the Australian Textile Workers’ Union and also began to write poetry. Edward Thomas, the English poet and essayist, was a lasting influence, as were the novelists Turgenev, Tolstoy, and D. H. Lawrence.
On 20 March 1937 at St Cuthbert’s Church of England, Langlea (South Carlton), he married Barbara Alice Robinson, an English-born stenographer. On weekends the couple would bushwalk and camp in and around the (Royal) National Park, an activity that awakened in him a deep love of Australian nature. The Sydney Morning Herald and the Bulletin began publishing his verse. He then embarked on one of his nomadic periods, travelling in rural New South Wales and Tasmania as a fruit-picker and labourer. Called up in Hobart early in World War II, he declared himself a conscientious objector by refusing a medical examination, and spent a night in gaol. He was soon back in Sydney and working as an artists’ model. When cleaning her studio he met Hélène Kirsova [q.v.15] and joined her company in the corps de ballet. Later he would review both books and ballet for the Sydney Morning Herald.
Robinson shared the cultural nationalism of the Jindyworobak poets, and while in Adelaide with Kirsova in 1944 he became friends with their founder, Rex Ingamells [q.v.14], who published his first book of verse, Beyond the Grass-Tree Spears (1944). Robinson edited the 1948 Jindyworobak Anthology, and later in life would declare ‘I was, and still am, an ardent, an aggressive “Jindyworobak”’ (Robinson 1976, 70). In 1948 he co-founded the Lyre Bird Writers cooperative, which published his second collection, Language of the Sand (1949). This and Tumult of the Swans (1953), which won the Grace Leven prize, were republished with later poems as Deep Well (1962). Mixing strong natural imagery with taut, sharply turned lines, he sought to capture an animistic, at times erotic, vision of the Australian landscape: ‘I wanted what I had to say to be in-dwelling, immanent’ (Robinson 1973, 220).
Towards the end of World War II Robinson had worked for the Civil Constructional Corps in the Northern Territory, an experience that ‘changed my blood’ (Robinson 1973, 319). He became friends with the bushman and author Bill Harney [q.v.14] and the naturalist Eric Worrell [q.v.18], and met Aboriginal people for the first time. Returning to the Territory with Worrell after the war, he visited Roper River and took down the stories for his first collection of Aboriginal myths, Legend & Dreaming (1952). Of the influence of Indigenous people on his own outlook, he wrote, ‘I think that I have received more comfort, more enlightenment, more religion, and poetry … from the Aborigines, than from any of the wise books of the white man’ (Robinson 1973, 352).
Robinson eventually became a groundsman at Woollahra Golf Course, Sydney, a job that would support him for two decades. He worked on a screenplay for John Heyer’s documentary The Back of Beyond (1954), about the Birdsville Track mail run, but his difficulties with screenwriting and with Heyer’s conception of the film meant that only part of his script was used; the main work was done by Douglas Stewart [q.v.18]. At this time his involvement in the peace movement attracted the attention of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.
Having divorced Barbara in March 1952, Robinson married Elizabeth Anne Lonergan, a teacher, on 5 July 1952 at St Andrew’s Scots Church, Rose Bay; this marriage also ended in divorce. In 1954 he and Elizabeth travelled around the Northern Territory on a Commonwealth Literary Fund fellowship to collect Aboriginal legends that he published in The Feathered Serpent (1956). While holidaying on the south coast of New South Wales they became friends with a Yuin man, Percy Mumbulla (Mumbler) [q.v.], with whom Robinson collaborated on stories recorded in Black-Feller, White-Feller (1958) and The Man Who Sold His Dreaming (1965). Alcheringa and Other Aboriginal Poems (1970) contained verse renditions of tales by Mumbulla and other informants.
In 1962 Grace Perry [q.v.18] invited Robinson to join the editorial board of Poetry Magazine, the journal of the Sydney-based Poetry Society of Australia. He was elected the society’s president, but soon chafed at Perry’s influence and resigned, only to resume an editorial role after Perry was herself displaced in 1964. Together with his then partner, Joan Mas, Robinson became an anchor of the society, and later returned to the presidency. At the height of his influence he revived Lyre Bird Writers to publish emerging authors such as Robert Gray and Peter Skrzynecki. He nevertheless resisted growing pressure from other younger poets, led by Robert Adamson, to open the society and its journal to contemporary American influences. When a meeting to decide the issue in 1969 reached a stalemate, Robinson chose to withdraw rather than fight on. In 1971, under its new editors, Poetry Magazine became New Poetry.
Robinson was never a prolific poet, but his output slowed further in the 1970s, when he directed his energies to three volumes of autobiography: The Drift of Things (1973), which won the inaugural National Book Council award in 1974; The Shift of Sands (1976); and A Letter to Joan (1978), which recalled his troubled relationship with Mas. He was a passionate, deeply intuitive writer, who was proud of his bush skills, suspicious of intellectuals, and defensive of his lack of education. Subject to fits of depression, he possessed little self-irony and ‘nae tact’ (Robinson 1973, 147, 166), yet was a helpful mentor and encourager. His obsessions lent him charisma, though some found him theatrical. Having read the psychology of C. G. Jung in the 1960s, Robinson felt that he had ‘two selves’, and that ‘the demonic self, the primitive self, has always pursued me’ (Robinson 1967, 4, 177). Believing that he was ‘a reincarnation of one of the ancient oral bards—preferably Anglo-Saxon’ (Robinson 1973, 278), he took pride in being able to recite from memory his own and other poets’ work ‘for two hours non-stop’ (Robinson 1973, 323). His lean, active physique, strong features, and a leonine shock of hair enhanced his bardic persona. Always in need of a muse, he was attractive to women and had numerous amours.
In the late 1970s Robinson moved to Belmont, New South Wales, where he lived for the remainder of his life. He was appointed an emeritus fellow of the Australia Council in 1982 and awarded the OAM in 1984. In 1988 he won the Patrick White [q.v.18] award and, from the Fellowship of Australian Writers, the Christopher Brennan [q.v.7] award. The University of Newcastle awarded him an honorary DLitt in 1991. Survived by his then partner, Jacqueline Diplock, he died on 8 February 1992 at Belmont and was buried in the local Anglican lawn cemetery. The City of Lake Macquarie named the Roland Robinson Literary Award and the Roland Robinson Library, Belmont, in his honour. He was the last of the Jindyworobaks, and his poetry has proved the most enduring of the group’s, not least because he took Indigenous culture closest to heart.
Ramsland, John. ‘Roland Robinson, 1912–1992: “Verses in Charcoal”.’ Magazine of the Royal Australian Historical Society, June 1992, 8; Robinson, Roland. The Drift of Things: An Autobiography 1914–52. South Melbourne: Macmillan, 1973; Robinson, Roland. Interview by Hazel de Berg, 14 December 1967. Transcript. Hazel de Berg collection. National Library of Australia; Robinson, Roland. A Letter to Joan: An Autobiography 1962–73. South Melbourne: Macmillan, 1978; Robinson, Roland. The Shift of Sands: An Autobiography 1952–62. South Melbourne: Macmillan, 1976.
ROBINSON, WILLIAM LESLIE (1896–1994), horse trainer, boxer, police tracker, and artist, was born on 16 March 1896 at Casino, New South Wales, youngest of three children of William Edward Robinson, horse trainer and special constable, and his wife Caroline. Young William was of Bundjalung descent. When he was about ten years old his mother died and he went to live with the Mitchells of Goolmangar. Bill Mitchell was a cream carrier, and during this time William developed skills as a horseman. At the age of fifteen he started boxing with Jack Ross’s travelling show. He began work as a coach driver at Keerrong and Goolmangar.
In 1916 Robinson went to Grafton for the annual cup carnival. He was recognised by a local policeman, who had observed his ability and fearlessness in dealing with the horses at Lismore police station—Robinson having taken charge of them when his father was on holiday—and who offered him a job at Grafton. On 10 April 1917 he married locally born Ruth Little at the Baptist manse, Grafton. Following her death in 1920, he married Grafton-born Mabel Evelyn Jackson on 18 March 1924 at the local Presbyterian manse. He would also share his life with Maude Daley and Kathleen Khan.
Robinson went on to have a lengthy career with the New South Wales Police Force. Promoted to sergeant in December 1945, he was renowned for his exceptional horsemanship and tracking skills. He also continued his boxing career. Known for his willingness to take on opponents of any class, he was able to overcome as much as a 3-stone (19 kg) weight advantage with his speed and agility. During his years in the ring he held the bantamweight, featherweight, and lightweight titles for the North Coast.
Robinson’s distinguished police career was somewhat marred by the fact that, as a special constable, he was not entitled to a pension when he retired in 1961. This made life financially difficult. A special appeal was made to the premier, R. J. Heffron [q.v.14], but it was refused on the ground that it would set a precedent. It was not until Robinson was aged ninety-six that he received recognition for his service. At a civic reception in Grafton he was awarded certificates of honourable discharge and appreciation from the New South Wales Police Service. He ‘described [the event] as the most important thing to happen in his life’ (Wilson 1992, 1).
A self-taught artist, Robinson had painted for much of his life. In 1963 his career received a boost when his local Legislative Assembly member, W. R. Weiley, took two of his paintings to Sydney for appraisal. After they were exhibited and quickly sold, there was demand for more. The expert who did the appraisal commented on the ‘vividness’ and ‘freshness of color [sic]’ (Dawn 1964, 3) in his work. This is evidenced in his painting of Mount Warning held by the Grafton Regional Gallery, which fits broadly within the genre of naive painting, and shows a highly individualised sense of perspective and colour.
While Robinson did not believe that being Aboriginal had been an obstacle in his life, he recognised the difficulties his children would face if they were to succeed in white Australian society. His small cottage was home to a large extended family and although it was hard to make ends meet, all his children were encouraged to complete their schooling.
Athletically built, with a dignified bearing, Robinson possessed a deep spirituality, keen instinct, and innate talent honed by discipline. He had a wonderful sense of humour and a ready laugh, and at the age of ninety-six retained a ‘nimble, hopping gait’ (Wilson 1992, 1) and a twinkle in his eye. He died on 13 October 1994 at Grafton, survived by fifteen children. Three hundred family and friends attended his funeral at the Jehovah’s Witness church, Grafton, and he was accorded a guard of honour by the New South Wales police. He was buried in Clarence lawn cemetery, Grafton.
Dawn. ‘Former Black Tracker Succeeds as Artist.’ 13, no. 8 (August 1964): 3; Feirer, Mavis. Personal communication; McClymont, Mavis. ‘“Tracker” Bill is a Man of Many Skills.’ Daily Examiner (Grafton), 1 April 1978, 6; Moy, Mick. ‘Expert Sleuth of the Bush.’ Australian, 25 October 1994, 19; Wilson, Janine. ‘Police Finally Catch Up with Tracker.’ Koori Mail, 16 December 1992, 1.
ROCHER, RAYMOND LESLIE (RAY) (1932–1994), Australian Rules footballer, company director, and building organisation executive, was born on 28 September 1932 at Deloraine, Tasmania, third of four sons of Tasmanian-born parents Thomas Trinder Rocher, schoolteacher, and his wife Athanie Emily, née Webb. He also had a younger sister, whom his parents adopted in the mid-1930s. In 1944 Ray was awarded a scholarship to attend Burnie High School, where he won the Janice Bromley special prize for most improvement in commerce, and was a member of the school’s successful junior relay team and a house captain. In his final year he was awarded trophies for cricket and football.
Rocher’s football brought him significant attention because of both his skills and his size. When he was picked in 1947 for the Tasmanian State Schools team for the schoolboys’ football carnival in Perth, one newspaper called him ‘Tasmania’s giant schoolboy’ (West Australian 1947, 5): at fourteen he was 6 feet 3 inches (191 cm) tall and he weighed 13 stone 3 pounds (84 kg). As a full forward, he was devastatingly effective in school football and later in first grade competitions. In his first year of senior football at age sixteen, playing for Wynyard, he kicked the most goals in Tasmania’s North-West competition. He maintained his interest in football and cricket—he would later play in Perth and then for Balmain in Sydney (captain-coach 1962–64) as well as for the Epping cricket team.
Eschewing a career as a professional footballer, Rocher began working for the Tasmanian branch of the Australia-wide building company A. V. Jennings [q.v.] Industries (Aust.) Ltd in 1950. This was the beginning of a long career in the building industry. In 1953 he was transferred to Perth, and on 9 January the following year he married Margaret Una Wyatt at St John’s Church of England, Devonport, Tasmania. After five years in the west he moved to Adelaide as State manager for Jennings, and then to Sydney in 1964. He left Jennings in 1967 to become New South Wales manager of the Perth-based project-home company of T. S. Plunkett Pty Ltd. This job was short-lived and in 1970, with two partners, he opened his own business, MPS Constructions, which took its name from the initials of the three men’s wives; he was its managing director until 1974.
By this time, Rocher had found what was to become the focus of his life’s work: the Master Builders’ Association of New South Wales (MBA). Having joined the association in 1964, he was appointed to its council of management the following year. Among other council work, he chaired its committee on the importance of licensing for builders. In the boom years of the 1970s, he was keen to preserve the reputation of the building industry and the MBA. His work on this committee, underpinned by his reputation from his time with Jennings, saw the MBA appoint him its executive director in 1974. This office allowed him to develop ideas he had long held about the building industry in a modern society, especially the importance of the role and training of apprentices and the licensing of builders. He also defended the view of MBA members that the organisation should protect employers’ rights to determine employment matters. He assumed office at a challenging time for not only the MBA but also the building industry. The New South Wales branch of the Australian Builders Labourers Federation (BLF) had begun imposing ‘green bans’ on building work and challenging the authority of the MBA. When Norm Gallagher, the federal secretary of the BLF, supported by developers and the MBA, encouraged the federal executive to take over the State BLF, the resulting decline of green bans and support for developers did not bring peace to the industry.
In 1990 the New South Wales government established a royal commission into productivity in the building industry. Examining the building unions, private contractors, and peak bodies such as the MBA, the commission criticised the MBA over tendering practices and for its handling of an apprenticeship scheme; it recommended that the State government have no further dealings with the MBA until it was restructured. In response to these findings, Rocher resigned in June 1992.
On the football field, Rocher was a fearsome competitor. Away from football, he was a skilful and often persuasive negotiator who always knew that despite the adversarial nature of football and trade negotiations, he had a loving and supportive family at home. He supported a number of charitable causes. He helped supply accommodation to parents whose children were being treated at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children, Camperdown, and he assisted in rebuilding Nyngan after floods in 1990. That year he received the MBA’s Florence Taylor award. He died on 21 May 1994 at Strathfield and was cremated, survived by his wife and their two daughters and one son. His younger brother, Allan Charles, also held a senior position in the building industry, as president of the Master Builders Association of Western Australia (1973–74). Later he was one of a small group of parliamentarians elected to both the House of Representatives (1981–98) and the Senate (1977–81).
Boyd, Brian. Inside the BLF. Melbourne: Ocean Press, 1991; Burgmann, Meredith. ‘Builder at Centre of Union Storm.’ Australian, 12 August 1994, 15; Burgmann, Meredith, and Verity Burgmann. Green Bans, Red Union: Environmental Activism and the New South Wales Builders Labourers’ Federation. Sydney: UNSW Press, 1998; Elder, John Richard. A History of the Master Builders Association of NSW: The First Hundred and Thirty Years. [Maraylya, NSW]: [John Richard Elder], 2013; Mitchell, Glenn. On Strong Foundations: The BWIU and Industrial Relations in the Australian Construction Industry 1942–1992. Sydney: Harcourt Brace, 1996; New South Wales. Royal Commission into Productivity in the Building Industry in New South Wales. Final Report. Sydney: Government of New South Wales, 1992; Rocher family. Private collection; Sydney Morning Herald. ‘A Building Industry Leader.’ 20 July 1994, 6; West Australian. ‘Mark for the Giant.’ 6 August 1947, 5.
ROGAN, FRANCIS HENRY (1915–1992), town clerk and local government reformer, was born on 26 November 1915 at Maryborough, Victoria, youngest of four sons of Victorian-born parents John Le Liever Rogan, railway employee, and his wife Margaret Emma, née Ford. Frank was educated at Maryborough East State School and Maryborough High School (1928–32), where he was dux and athletics champion. He was briefly a junior clerk with Maryborough Borough Council, before joining the Education Department as a junior teacher in April 1933. He entered the Melbourne Teachers’ College in 1935 and the next year he joined the staff of Boort Higher Elementary School. Meanwhile, he enrolled part time at the University of Melbourne until World War II interrupted his studies. He completed his coursework in 1948, but did not formally graduate until 1964 (BA; BCom).
Having attempted aircrew training in the Royal Australian Air Force in 1941, Rogan enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 29 June 1942 and qualified as a wireless mechanic. He served in workshops in Australia and, from October 1943 to January 1944, in Papua. Topping his officer-training course, he was commissioned in December as a lieutenant, Corps of Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. On 14 December 1946 he transferred to the Reserve of Officers. By then he had learned that advancement came from steady work, and his military experience affirmed the value of clear aims and sound leadership.
After the war Rogan taught mathematics at Ararat, Bendigo, and Mordialloc high schools. On 17 January 1946 at St Mark’s Church of England, Camberwell, he married Melita Jean Steel, also a high school teacher. They had no children. By 1948 Rogan was a qualified municipal clerk and the Maryborough council appointed him town clerk. In his related role as secretary of the Maryborough Sewerage Authority, he negotiated State government borrowing approval for the sewering of the town. He also served as secretary of the Central Highlands Regional Committee, a State government planning body.
In 1955 Rogan was chosen from nearly 100 applicants to be the town clerk of the Melbourne City Council (MCC). Maryborough’s citizens were jubilant, but some among the Melbourne press were sceptical about the prospects of a country boy in the city. Within a year he was made chief executive officer as well as town clerk. In addition to the usual municipal functions, the MCC was responsible for electricity supply and the city’s wholesale markets. It also faced traffic and parking challenges as car ownership grew. The demand for capital works money was intense, and Rogan took control of land acquisitions and loan allocations in consultation with key councillors. He skilfully negotiated the redevelopment of the market sites, leading to the construction of new wholesale fish, and fruit and vegetable markets.
During the early part of Rogan’s tenure, (Sir) Henry Bolte’s [q.v.17] Liberal and Country Party State government was content to follow traditional conservative practice and let the council govern the city. A hint of change came in 1960 when the government imposed 40 per cent of the cost of the proposed city underground railway on MCC ratepayers. Later in the 1960s State government bodies such as the Housing Commission and the Board of Works jostled with the council for control over town planning, and Rogan was forced to defend established local government functions. His ‘Rogan plan’ (1967) for Melbourne’s amalgamation with neighbouring municipalities was thwarted, but his championing of a council strategy plan in the 1970s won important ground for local government urban planning. He also initiated the Australian Capital Cities Secretariat, a lobby group for capital city governments. Urban initiatives under the Whitlam Federal government raised the profile of local government, and Rogan was a key proponent of local government training at Melbourne and Canberra tertiary colleges.
Rogan presented an austere countenance in negotiations and at public functions. Well prepared, he could deliver telling points, which did not always endear him to ministerial adversaries in the State government. Councillors of all political hues acknowledged his competence: one often referred to him as ‘the great man’ (Meldrum, pers. comm.), while another noted his ‘masterly control’ of projects and ‘fiscal prudence’ (McDonald 2009, 182). They also recognised his integrity. He detested defalcations and instantly dismissed perpetrators.
Rogan was a trim tennis player and after work graced the town hall billiard room where ‘he ruled with authority’ (McDonald 2009, 194). Retiring in November 1980, he was appointed CBE in December. He became chairman of the Municipal Clerks’ Board (1980–89) and the Local Government Boundaries Commission (1983–85). He upheld local government as a profession and believed in the importance of elected councillors democratically expressing the will of the council. Survived by his wife, he died suddenly at Sunday morning tennis on 14 June 1992 at Malvern and was cremated.
Ellingsen, Peter. ‘The Faceless Man of Melbourne.’ Age (Melbourne), 11 October 1980, 21; McDonald, Colin. ‘CC’ The Colin McDonald Story: Cricket, Tennis, Life. North Melbourne: Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2009; Meldrum, Richard. Personal communication; National Archives of Australia. B883, VX80313, A9301, 409229; Osburn, Betty. Against the Odds: Maryborough 1905–1961. Maryborough, Vic.: Central Goldfields Shire Council, 1995; Personal knowledge of ADB subject.
ROMBERG, FREDERICK (1913–1992), architect and academic, was born Friedrich Sigismund Hermann Romberg on 21 June 1913 at Tsingtao (Qingdao), China, second child of German parents Kurt Romberg, judge, and his wife Else (Elspeth), née Gilow. His father had joined the German Colonial Office as a judge in the Kiautschou Bay concession in 1911. In September 1913 the family returned to Berlin, just prior to the outbreak of World War I and the reclamation of Tsingtao by the Chinese government. Kurt Romberg volunteered for service and was killed in action near Ypres, Belgium, in May 1915.
Else Romberg moved the family to Berlin-Dahlem where they remained during the war. In 1920 she married regimental doctor Hans Riebling and they moved to the northern city of Harburg where Frederick was educated at the Streseman Real-Gymnasium, matriculating in 1931. Intending to follow his father into the law, he spent a semester at law school in Geneva and continued his studies in Munich, Berlin, and Kiel. In Munich he was involved in leftist politics, became known to the police, and in mid-1933, fearing for his future, made a hasty departure to Switzerland. He enrolled in the architecture program at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH-Z), where he spent five years as a student and was much influenced by the charismatic modernist professor Otto Salvisberg.
To avoid compulsory military service should he return to Germany, Romberg accepted a scholarship from the Swiss Federal Board of Education, which he used to travel to Australia. Arriving in Melbourne in September 1938, by the end of the year he had secured a position with one of Australia’s leading architectural firms, Stephenson & Turner. On 21 February 1939 at St Peter’s Church of England, Eastern Hill, Melbourne, he married Swiss-born Verena Marguerite Sulzer, a fellow student at ETH-Z who had joined him in Melbourne. Romberg’s appointment by (Sir) Arthur Stephenson [q.v.12] as job captain on the Australian Pavilion at the New Zealand Centennial Exhibition (1939–40) was testimony to the regard in which he was held. In 1940 he established a brief practice with Mary Turner Shaw [q.v.18], during which time they completed some significant works including the innovative off-form concrete Newburn flats in Queens Road (designed in 1939), which brought Romberg immediate recognition in the architectural press. In solo practice from 1941 he managed to complete a few works before World War II halted building, including the family house in Eaglemont where he and Verena lived with their four children before their divorce in 1958. All these projects show his debt to the humanist Swiss tradition of architectural modernism.
After service in the Civil Aliens Corps with the Allied Works Council in the Northern Territory (1943–44), Romberg returned to Melbourne and spent the rest of the war with the Public Works Department. Naturalised in February 1945, he returned to practice. The following years were dominated by projects for the developer Stanley Korman [q.v.17], of which Stanhill flats (1943–51) in Queens Road and Hilstan in Brighton (1947, demolished) became icons of the modernist movement in Melbourne. At this time Romberg commissioned Wolfgang Sievers to document his work, finding in the photographer’s German modernist training a complementary aesthetic.
In 1953 Romberg joined forces with (Sir) Roy Grounds [q.v.17] and Robin Boyd [q.v.13] to establish Grounds, Romberg and Boyd, one of the most innovative architectural practices in Australia. It harnessed the well-developed individual but complementary talents of the three principals, each of whom continued his own practice under the umbrella of ‘Gromboyd’, collaborating on certain projects. Having focused on domestic building prior to the partnership, Romberg became the specialist in industrial, commercial, and institutional work, conducted largely in Melbourne. The ETA Factory (1957) at Braybrook became a benchmark for modern factory design. He also began to experiment with the centrally planned, geometric architecture that Grounds had pioneered for domestic work early in the 1950s. Sacred Heart Girls’ School (1954) at Oakleigh and Holy Trinity Lutheran Church (1960) in Canberra were both square in plan, while the Ormond College buildings Picken Court (1959), MacFarland Library (1962), and McCaughey Court (1965), commissioned by Davis McCaughey, were polygonal. These led to the commission by Sydney Rubbo [q.v.16] for the Microbiology building (1965) at the University of Melbourne, a bold composition that, with McCaughey Court, indicated a move towards New Brutalism. At the same time Romberg developed the courtyard plan using vernacular elements such as the verandah at the ICI Staff Recreation Centre (1955) at Deer Park, Luther College (1958) at Croydon, and St George’s Church of England (1962) at East Ivanhoe.
On 19 April 1961 at the register office in Marylebone, London, Romberg had married Diane Fay Masters (née Bunting), a fashion journalist. On their return to Melbourne they lived in Carlton and then East Melbourne; they had two children. The partnership of Grounds, Romberg and Boyd dissolved in 1962 following a dispute about the commission for the Melbourne Arts Centre, which was carried out by Grounds alone. Romberg continued in practice with Boyd but both felt the breakup of ‘Gromboyd’ keenly.
Romberg entered a new phase of his career in 1965 when appointed foundation professor of architecture at the University of Newcastle. While in this post he designed the modest, warmly textured Architecture Building (1968) in bushland, now known as the Romberg Building. He designed the Newcastle City Council offices (1970) in conjunction with the local firm Suters; the structure developed the polygonal pavilion of Ormond College as a strong urban form. Romberg had always been interested in environmental issues and co-authored, with David L. Smith, The Decline of the Environment (1973). In 1975 he retired from the university as emeritus professor.
During these years Romberg and Boyd (d. 1971) retained their practice in East Melbourne, which in 1967 included Berenice Harris, Norman Day, Carl Fender, Bill Williams, and Paul Couch. Returning to Melbourne in 1975, Romberg conducted a small practice from his new home in Hotham Street, East Melbourne. The most significant work of these late years was the Aboriginal Keeping Place (1982) at Shepparton, now the Bangerang Cultural Centre, a polygonal pavilion constructed of modest materials with wide eaves and a verandah.
Impeccable in dress in a European manner, Romberg was not tall but held himself well, his black hair slicked back, his face tanned, and with dark eyes. He spoke with a slight accent and was careful with words but ready to engage in conversation, while waving his aromatic cigars around. Considered by the eminent engineer John Connell to be one of the ‘most complete’ architects he had ever worked with (Edquist 2000, 64), Romberg bequeathed to Australia a fine body of work that exemplified his ideals of a well-built, functional architecture that embodied European modernism while responding to Australian conditions. In 1980 Romberg and his family had changed their name by deed poll to Romney. Survived by his wife and the three sons and three daughters of his two marriages, he died on 18 November 1992 at home in East Melbourne and was cremated. An exhibition of his work was held at RMIT University in 2000 and the Australian Institute of Architects later named the Frederick Romberg Award for Residential Architecture in his honour.
Day, Norman. Personal communication; Edquist, Harriet (ed.). Frederick Romberg: The Architecture of Migration 1938–1975. Melbourne: RMIT University Press, 2000; National Archives of Australia. MT8/4, 5903428, ROMBERG FREDERICK; A435, 7012671, ROMBERG FREDERICK; Romberg, Diane (née Masters). Personal communication; Romberg, Frederick. ‘Before Gromboyd: An Architectural History.’ Typescript, 1986. RMIT Design Archives.
ROOM, THOMAS DUDLEY (TOM) (1908–1994), accountant and community leader, was born on 4 March 1908 at Invermay, Launceston, Tasmania, elder son of Tasmanian-born parents Eila Mary, née Gunn, and her husband Richard Daniel Room, clerk and later orchardist. Tom or ‘TD’, as he was known, was born into a prosperous mercantile family: his maternal grandfather, Thomas Gunn, was a founder of the building and hardware company J. & T. Gunn; his paternal great grandfather William Hart [q.v.4] had made his fortune from the Mount Bischoff tin mine and the Beaconsfield gold mine. Room’s early years were spent on his father’s orchard at Deviot. He was educated at Launceston’s Scotch College before transferring to Launceston Church Grammar School.
In 1926 Room started work as a clerk with the accounting firm Inglis, Cruickshank & Creasey, while studying part time. Having passed his final Commonwealth Institute of Accountants exams, he was registered in 1933. That same year he and his cousin John Ewart Hart, who had also worked with the firm, set up the partnership Hart & Room. Five years later they merged with their old employers to form a new practice known as Cruickshank, Creasey, Gow, & Layh with Room and Hart. On 9 February 1934 at ‘Warringa’, Woodbury, he had married Olive Edeline Jones. Rev. J. W. Bethune [q.v.7], his headmaster at grammar performed the Church of England service.
Room was a keen sportsman, especially in golf, tennis, cricket, and football, and had been an outstanding schoolboy player of the latter two games. He briefly played football for the city’s senior team (1931), but gave it away to concentrate on cricket. In the Launceston and South Launceston clubs, he was a top-order batsman and a safe slip fieldsman. He scored 118 runs on debut in 1927 for the Northern Tasmanian Cricket Association team and made irregular appearances in the side over the next decade and a half. Off the field he was an active administrator locally and at State level. Made a life member of the NTCA in 1977, he was the association’s president for seven years and chairman for a further twelve.
When World War II broke out in 1939, Room attempted to join the Australian Imperial Force but was deemed medically unfit. On 30 January 1942 he enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force. Commissioned in March, he performed accountancy duties at headquarters and in units in Australia and rose to temporary flight lieutenant (1944). His RAAF appointment terminated on 7 March 1946. Maintaining an interest in aviation, he served as president of the Tasmanian Aero Club and of both the northern branch and State division of the Air Force Association. He was also the foundation president of the Tasmanian Ex-Servicemen’s Club.
Since the 1930s Room had been involved in a number of community organisations and charitable causes. In 1935 he was appointed as honorary secretary to the board of management of Launceston Grammar and acted as the school’s business manager until a bursar was engaged in the 1960s. Remaining on the board (chairman, 1974–75), he coached the school’s cricket team and funded the building of a new gymnasium. In 1937 he became secretary to the Crippled Children’s Aid (later St Giles) Society that had formed in response to the polio epidemic. His interest was both personal and philanthropic as his elder daughter contracted a mild form of the disease. He later filled the positions of treasurer (1944–64), chairman (1964–68), and president (1976–77), before being honoured as a life governor emeritus in 1987. Similarly his appointment (1938) as secretary of the Launceston Homeopathic (later St Luke’s) Hospital Association was followed by terms as chairman (1958–77) and treasurer (1979–86). In 1978 he was made a life governor.
Recalled as ‘too gentle a man to be a mover and shaker’ in politics (Courtney 1994, 15), Room remained dedicated to local concerns. He was twice elected to the Launceston City Council (1959–62, 1967–79). During his final term he was mayor (1975–77), and represented the city on the Municipal Association of Tasmania (1975–79). He served on a number of committees in which the council had an interest including the Launceston Airport Noise Abatement Committee (1971–79), Tamar Regional Master Planning Authority (1974–79), and Metropolitan Transport Trust (1972–80, chairman 1979–80). Appointed AM in 1975, he was made a freeman of the City of Launceston in November 1990.
Room became a senior partner in his firm. A diligent member of the profession, he had chaired (1958–62) the Tasmanian council of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia and represented the State (1950–61) on the general council. He retired from practice in 1973, but retained his office until November 1993. Survived by his wife and their son and two daughters, he died in Launceston on 26 October 1994 and was cremated.
Alexander, Alison. Blue, Black, and White: The History of the Launceston Church Grammar School, 1846–1996. Launceston, Tas.: The school, 1996; Charter: Journal of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia. ‘Vale Tom Room, AM.’ 66, no. 1 (February 1995): 9; Courtney, Michael. ‘Tom O’Byrne, Tom Room R.I.P.’ Examiner, 13 November 1994, 15; Examiner. ‘Former Mayor Dies at 86.’ 28 October 1994, 4; Gill, Jenny. The Story of the Launceston Homœopathic Hospital. Launceston, Tas.: J. Gill, 1990; Green, Anne. Billycarts & Wheelchairs: 75 Years of St Giles. Launceston, Tas.: Foot and Playsted, 2013; National Archives of Australia. A9300, ROOM T D; Personal knowledge of ADB subject; Williams, R. To Celebrate A Century of Northern Tasmanian Cricket: The Story of the Northern Tasmanian Cricket Association, 1886–1986. Launceston, Tas.: Foot and Playsted, 1986.
ROSE, FREDERICK GEORGE (1915–1991), public servant, anthropologist, and communist, was born on 22 March 1915 at Croydon, London, second of three children of George William Rose, municipal clerk, and his wife Frances Isabel, née Godfrey. Educated at Whitgift Grammar School, where he played in the rugby union first XV, in 1933 Frederick won a scholarship to St Catharine’s College, Cambridge (BA, 1936; MA, 1940). There he was exposed to left-wing political ideas that were at odds with his parents’ social and political conservatism. During his final year he developed an enduring passion for anthropology and in 1937 travelled to Australia with the goal of undertaking fieldwork and pursuing a career in the discipline.
After working in Sydney as an analytical chemist and undertaking a course in meteorology, in November Rose was appointed an assistant meteorologist with the Bureau of Meteorology and moved to Darwin. He performed anthropological research alongside his duties as an assistant meteorologist. In 1938 he was posted to Groote Eylandt and in the following year to Broome. Rose’s most sustained and important fieldwork was carried out on Groote Eylandt (1938–39, 1941).
On 3 March 1939 at the registry office in Perth he married German-born Edith Hildegarde Linde, whom he had met in Britain in 1935 and whose communist ideas had greatly influenced his political views. After the Japanese bombing of Broome in March 1942 they moved to Perth. There he joined the Communist Party of Australia. From 1943 he was employed by the Bureau of Meteorology in Melbourne as a climatologist and after the war moved to Canberra to work in a series of public service positions. In 1948 he returned to Groote Eylandt as a temporary member of the American-Australian Arnhem Land Scientific Expedition led by Charles Mountford [q.v.15]. The Groote Eylandt research was the foundation of much of Rose’s scholarly work, above all his book, Classification of Kin, Age Structure and Marriage Amongst the Groote Eylandt Aborigines (1960).
It was said of Rose, ‘It is hard to imagine a less trendy man’; that ‘in spite of a comfortable background in the English middle class’, he took on ‘the manner and appearance … of an Australian worker’ (Maddock 1991, 67). Being a communist, Rose was under surveillance by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. In 1953 he resigned from the Department of Territories when his position was abolished and settled on King Island in Bass Strait, intending to farm cattle. He appeared twice in 1954 at the royal commission on espionage in response to allegations of involvement in a Soviet spy ring. Although no firm evidence was produced to lay charges, suspicions have persisted that he was the Soviet contact code-named ‘Professor’ (Ball and Horner 1998, 215). From early 1955 he worked as a stevedore on the Sydney wharves and in March 1956 left Australia to join his wife and four children in the German Democratic Republic. Edith and three daughters had moved to Berlin in 1953.
He was appointed to an academic post in the anthropology department at Humboldt University, East Berlin. Promoted to professor in 1961, between 1974 and 1980 he was attached to the Museum of Ethnography, Leipzig. His numerous attempts to resume fieldwork in Australia, specifically on Groote Eylandt, were largely thwarted by the Federal government. Refused entry to Aboriginal reserves in 1962, he conducted fieldwork at Angas Downs station in Central Australia, which resulted in his book, The Wind of Change in Central Australia (1965). He was a strident advocate of Aboriginal rights. In his scholarly work, which moved beyond its initial focus on kinship to broader studies of Australian Indigenous culture and society and, finally, hominisation (the process of developing characteristics that are distinctive of humans), he remained firmly anchored in his Marxist worldview, which is evident in his books, Australia Revisited: The Aborigine Story from Stone Age to Space Age (1968) and The Traditional Mode of Production of the Australian Aborigines (1987).
A committed communist and supporter of his adoptive homeland, Rose also worked for the Ministry of State Security as an unofficial collaborator. Nevertheless, he found it ‘a bit of a bugger living behind the iron curtain’ (Maddock 1991, 68). Survived by his wife and three daughters, his son having predeceased him, Rose died in Berlin on 14 January 1991, three months after German reunification, about which he was sceptical.
Ball, Desmond, and David Horner. Breaking the Codes: Australia’s KGB Network, 1944–1950. Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1998; Commonwealth of Australia. Royal Commission. Official Transcript of Proceedings of the Royal Commission on Espionage. Canberra: Government Printer, 1954–55; Horner, David M. Spy Catchers. Vol. 1, The Official History of ASIO, 1949–1963. Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 2014; Maddock, Kenneth. ‘Frederick Rose, 1915–1991. An Appreciation.’ Oceania 62 (1991): 66–69; Monteath, Peter, and Valerie Munt. Red Professor: The Cold War Life of Fred Rose. Adelaide: Wakefield Press, 2015; Munt, Valerie. ‘Australian Anthropology, Ideology and Political Repression: The Cold War Experience of Frederick G. G. Rose.’ Anthropological Forum 21, no. 2 (2011): 109–29; Rose, Frederick George Godfrey. ‘Frederick Rose Further Papers.’ Unpublished manuscript, 1992. State Library of New South Wales. Copy held on ADB file.
ROUNTREE, PHYLLIS MARGARET (1911–1994), microbiologist and bacteriologist, was born on 13 January 1911 at Hamilton, Victoria, elder child of Victorian-born parents James Henry Rountree and his wife Elsie Gertrude, née Hodgson. Phyllis’s Irish grandfather, James Hughes Rountree, had been a pharmacist and several of his children—including two of his five daughters, Ella Hughes and Jean Grace, and Phyllis’s father—followed his profession. Jean later attended the University of Melbourne (MB, BS, 1929) and practised as a doctor. ‘They were a most splendid family of aunts’, Phyllis recalled, ‘I think they had a great influence on me’ (Rountree c. 1991, 1). Like her aunts, she attended Alexandra Ladies’ College, Hamilton. Later, she boarded at Tintern Church of England Girls’ Grammar School, Hawthorn. In 1927 she was accepted into the University of Melbourne (BSc, 1930; MSc, 1931; DSc, 1950). She had hoped to study medicine, but her father protested that she was too young; instead, she studied zoology and bacteriology, the latter under H. A. Woodruff [q.v.12], director of the bacteriology department.
Awarded a three-year research studentship by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in 1931, Rountree moved to Adelaide to work on soil salination at the Waite [q.v.6] Agricultural Research Institute. Her entry into a ‘field of science usually monopolised by men’ (News 1931, 4) caused a minor sensation in the Adelaide press. She was described as ‘smartly dressed’—‘“there is no reason why science and smart frocks should be strangers,” she said’ (News 1932, 5); ‘brilliant’ (Mail 1932, 1); and without marriage plans—‘there is too much interest attached to my present career to begin another’ (Mail 1932, 1). Although her research was exemplary, she was not offered a permanent position at the end of her studentship. She reflected that, had she ‘been a man, they probably would have found me something’ (Rountree c. 1991, 3).
Returning to Melbourne in 1934, Rountree worked at the Walter and Eliza Hall [qq.v.9] Institute of Medical Research under Lucy Meredith Bryce [q.v.7] and (Sir) Frank Macfarlane Burnet [q.v.17]. Her participation in Bryce’s research on staphylococci and Burnet’s research on psittacosis gave her ‘a passport to go almost anywhere’ (Rountree c. 1991, 3). Accepted into the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, she gained a diploma of bacteriology in 1937. She was recalled to Melbourne to care for her ailing father, and took a position as bacteriologist at St Vincent’s Hospital the following year. Finding the work too routine, she left in 1943 and, after working briefly as a Commonwealth Food Control tester, joined the staff of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney. As research bacteriologist (1944–61) and then chief bacteriologist (1961–71), she became expert on Staphylococcus aureus (golden staph), a group of bacteria that cause infections such as septicaemia, osteomyelitis, food poisoning, and the suppuration of wounds. A breakthrough came during an outbreak in the 1950s known as the ‘nursery epidemic’ (Hillier 2006, 733); resistant to most antibiotics, including penicillin, the virulent strain caused deaths among newborn babies in Australia and overseas. Rountree used the relatively new technique of phage typing (mastered during a study visit to London in 1947) to track the bacteria’s progress. She proposed a range of non-pharmacological solutions for controlling staphylococcal infections, including the use of cotton blankets and regular hand washing, which proved effective.
From 1943 Rountree had attracted the attention of authorities for her ‘communist tendencies’ (NAA A6119). Active in the communist-dominated Australian Association of Scientific Workers and Federation of Scientific and Technical Workers during the war, she was suspected of recruiting ‘members for the Australian Communist Party from [among] the professional and academic classes’ (NAA A6119). The Commonwealth Investigation Service monitored her movements until the late 1950s, when it noted that she ‘had completely given up all association with the Party’ (NAA A6119).
Elected a fellow of the Royal Society of New South Wales in 1945, Rountree served on its council and as vice president (1953–54). A founding member of the International Subcommittee for Phage Typing of Staphylococci (established 1953), she served as chair from 1966 to 1982. She also chaired (1967) the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Society for Microbiology. Following her retirement in 1971, she continued to consult at the Royal Prince Alfred and became an honorary research associate at the University of New South Wales, writing papers on the history of microbiology. She was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Sydney in 1987. Tall (5 feet 11 inches or 180 cm) and broad shouldered, she wore glasses in later life. Unmarried, she died on 27 July 1994 at Darlinghurst and was cremated. Her work on phage typing contributed to the transformation of bacteriologists from laboratory technicians to specialists in infection control; yet, reliant on male patronage, her career opportunities and rewards were limited.
Hillier, Kathryn. ‘Babies and Bacteria: Phage Typing, Bacteriologists, and the Birth of Infection Control.’ Bulletin of the History of Medicine 80, no. 4 (2006): 733–61; Mail (Adelaide). ‘Women Pry into Secrets of Science.’ 20 February 1932, 1.; National Archives of Australia. A6119, 1380/REFERENCE COPY; News (Adelaide). ‘Girl MSc of 20 Specialised in Soil Research at Urrbrae.’ 30 October 1931, 4; News (Adelaide). ‘Frocks and Science: Women MSc Says They Need Not Be Strangers.’ 3 November 1932, 5; Rountree, Phyllis M. Phyllis Margaret Rountree, Honorary Research Associate in the School of Microbiology, the University of New South Wales, 1971–: An Interview Conducted by Kerry Gordon, edited by Victoria Barker. Kensington, NSW: University Interviews Project, University of New South Wales Archives, c. 1991; State Library of New South Wales. MLMSS 6482, Records of Rountree, Phyllis Margaret.
ROXBURGH, RACHEL MARY (1915–1991), artist, educator, conservationist, and architectural heritage campaigner, was born on 21 September 1915 at Point Piper, Sydney, eldest child of Sydney-born parents John Norton Roxburgh, bank inspector, and his wife Norah Marjorie, née Carleton. Rachel was educated at Ascham School, Darling Point, gaining her Intermediate certificate in 1932. Having studied art at East Sydney Technical College and the Adelaide Perry [q.v.15] Art School, she exhibited with the Contemporary Group and the Society of Artists, and at the Macquarie Galleries, Sydney. In 1940, early in World War II, she organised a loan exhibition of works by Australian and international artists in aid of an ambulance fund organised by the Sydney Artists’ and Journalists’ Fund. She later served as a member of a Voluntary Aid Detachment before qualifying as a nurse at Sydney Hospital.
After the war Roxburgh lived and worked in London for ten years. She studied drawing at the Central School of Art; travelled and sketched in France, Italy, and Spain; and painted in Cornwall. She sent pictures back to Australia in 1949 for an exhibition of Sydney artists working abroad and had a painting hung in the annual London Group exhibition for 1953. She worked as an assistant to the textile designer Michael O’Connell [q.v.11], and took on commissions for painted mural decoration through the furniture retailer, Heal’s.
Roxburgh had a modest income from a family trust, which she further supplemented by casual work making period costumes for productions at the Old Vic theatre, private nursing, dressmaking, and teaching art as therapy in rehabilitation hospitals. About 1950 she had begun to consider pottery as a possible livelihood and later enrolled at the Hammersmith School of Arts and Crafts, winning the annual prize for pottery in 1953. She worked part-time at the Kenneth Clark Pottery in West London.
On her return to Australia in 1956 Roxburgh had a solo exhibition of paintings at the Bissietta Art Gallery, Sydney. She became a member of the newly formed Potters Society of New South Wales, exhibiting in its inaugural group show at the Macquarie Galleries in 1958. She sold pots through the fashionable interior decorating firm Marion Hall Best [q.v.17] Pty Ltd and later through the David Jones [q.v.2] Art Gallery. For more than twenty years she taught art and pottery at a number of schools including East Sydney Technical College, Sydney Church of England Girls’ Grammar School, and the Abbotsleigh and Ravenswood schools for girls. Roxburgh continued to exhibit her pots until the late 1970s but in the 1960s her driving passion became the preservation of historic buildings, catalysed by the doomed campaign to save The Vineyard, Hannibal Macarthur’s [q.v.2] fine Greek Revival villa at Rydalmere, Sydney.
She joined the National Trust of Australia (NSW), becoming a member of its council (1961–67) and executive (1961–63). Roxburgh served on the trust’s historical and architectural survey committee, working to identify and classify the colonial architectural heritage of New South Wales. She also joined the women’s committee, founded to raise funds for the trust. It was a natural vehicle for her considerable talent for campaigning. She was the chief organiser of No Time To Spare, the landmark exhibition in 1962 of the trust’s newly released ‘A’ list of buildings, and was the key figure in a huge and successful campaign to raise funds for the restoration of St Matthew’s Church of England, Windsor, designed by Francis Greenway. The trust made her an honorary life member in 1968. Her passion for Australia’s early colonial buildings and commitment to increasing public understanding of their significance turned Roxburgh into a writer. Her major work was Early Colonial Houses of New South Wales (1974). This was followed by Colonial Farm Buildings of New South Wales (1978) and by other books and articles.
In 1968 Roxburgh moved to Moss Vale, converting an old barn, once part of the historic Throsby Park property, into a residence. She was appointed chairman of the Throsby Park Advisory Committee following the State government’s purchase of the property in 1975. An office holder of the National Parks Association, she was active in the campaign to save the south-east forests and she served on the National Parks Advisory Council (1981–84). Roxburgh was elected to the Wingecarribbee Shire Council (1977–80) on a platform of planned development. She was the shire’s first elected female councillor and was awarded the British Empire Medal (1979).
As a young woman Roxburgh had been a competitive equestrienne and a keen surfer. In later years she was an ardent bushwalker, observing birds and studying wildflowers. She was a woman of strong convictions, rarely given to compromise, and was described as ‘patrician in bearing and manner, she was undaunted by politicians, municipal officers and bureaucrats’ (Schofield 1991, 45). Roxburgh never married. She died of leukaemia on 13 April 1991 at Lumeah Nursing Home, Castle Hill, Sydney, and was cremated.
Fahy, Kevin. ‘Rachel Roxburgh (1915–1991).’ National Trust Quarterly, July 1991, 11; Graham, Flora. ‘Rachel Roxburgh.’ National Parks Journal, August 1991, 21; Schofield, Leo. ‘Leo at Large.’ Sydney Morning Herald, 20 April 1991, 45; Simpson, Caroline, Annette Fielding-Jones Dupree, and Betty Winn Ferguson, eds. Ascham Remembered 1886–1986. Sydney: Fine Arts Press, 1986; Simpson, Caroline. The Power of Four. Talk given for the Friends of the S. H. Ervin Gallery, National Trust Centre, Sydney, 3 April 1995.
RUDÉ, GEORGE FREDERICK (1910–1993), historian, was born on 8 February 1910 in Oslo, second son of Jens Essendrop Rude, a Norwegian engineer, and his wife Amy Geraldine, née Elliot, daughter of an English banker. George’s first language was Norwegian until the family moved to England in 1919. A scholarship winner, he was educated at Shrewsbury School (1924–28) and Trinity College, Cambridge, graduating with honours in French and German (BA, 1931).
Becoming a schoolmaster, Rude taught at Stowe School, Buckinghamshire, from 1932, before being appointed to teach foreign languages at St Paul’s School, London, in 1936. He spent six weeks in the Soviet Union in 1932, a visit ‘that changed his life’ (Stretton 1985, 45), after which he became an ardent anti-fascist and a committed communist, increasingly steeped in Marxist writings. For ten years he was active in the Communist Party while teaching at St Paul’s. During an anti-fascist demonstration (the ‘Battle of Cable Street’) in London’s East End in 1936 he was arrested and fined £5 for obstruction. On 16 March 1940 he married Irish-born Dorothy (Doreen) Frances Claire Therese Willis (née de la Hoyde), a divorcee, at the Catholic Church of St Lawrence of Canterbury, Sidcup, Kent.
Rude served full time in the fire service during World War II. Apparently bored with teaching languages, he enrolled for a history degree at the University of London (BA, 1948; PhD, 1950). His political activities led to his departure from St Paul’s in mid-1949, but small grants enabled him to continue his studies. During a year of archival research in Paris, he focused on wage-earners during the French revolution, the subject of his PhD thesis, and he became a friend of Georges Lefebvre and Albert Soboul. Annales historians became a significant influence in his work. Returning to London, he taught history at Sir Walter St John’s School and then at a comprehensive school in Holloway. As a member of the British Communist Party Historians’ Group (1946–56), he worked with distinguished historians including Eric Hobsbawm, Christopher Hill, and E. P. Thompson.
In the 1950s (having added an accent to his surname) Rudé published several studies; he won the Alexander prize of the Royal Historical Society, and wrote the book which launched his international reputation, The Crowd in the French Revolution (1959). He extended his work to cover popular protest in England during industrialisation and, most famously, rural protest associated with ‘Captain Swing’ (1830–31), which produced an influential book co-authored with Hobsbawm.
Rudé’s efforts to enter the academic profession were unsuccessful, until in 1959 the University of Adelaide (influenced by the then professor of history Hugh Stretton) offered him a senior lectureship, overcoming qualms about his communist affiliations and fears that he might ‘let his own personal politics intrude’ in his teaching (NAA A6119). Adelaide provided a fertile environment for Rudé’s research; he was appointed to a professorship in 1964 and was awarded a DLitt (1967). He widened his researches to the social and political protesters among convicts transported to Australia in the early nineteenth century, and channelled his energies into a remarkable series of publications.
Possessing precise and prolific writing habits, Rudé was extremely well organised, and urgent to make up for lost time as a late starter in academic life. An effective, popular, and stylish teacher and an enthusiastic speaker, he accepted engagements around Australia, North America, and Japan. Although his membership of the Communist Party had lapsed, he was still monitored by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. For Doreen, who had grown up in Adelaide after her family migrated to Australia when she was an infant, the move to Australia was also fruitful. Not only did she become well known for her radio broadcasts on cooking, she and George made a formidable team, a ‘triumph of complementarity rather than similarity’ (Stretton 1985, 44).
In 1967 Rudé moved to Scotland as foundation professor of history at the University of Stirling, but soon returned to Adelaide, to a chair at Flinders University. In December 1970 he took up a position at Sir George Williams University, Montréal, Canada, remaining there until his retirement to East Sussex in 1985. He frequently returned to Australia, and was a visiting scholar at the University of Adelaide, The Australian National University, Canberra, and Latrobe University, Melbourne.
An eloquent pioneer and advocate of ‘history from below’, Rudé sought to retrieve ‘the nameless and faceless people in history’ (Rudé 1967, 349), and he was a fine synthesiser of historical knowledge. He wrote on revolutionary Europe and the history of London with focus on riots and crime to expose the psychology of protest, the structures of crowds, their purposes and intentions, and their changing patterns of behaviour over time. Most of all, he was an archival historian, a true empiricist, confirmed but not constricted by his attachment to Marxist theory. Authoring twelve books and editing three others, his work was influential, widely read, and translated into at least ten languages.
A man of ‘impeccable courtesy’, Rudé was ‘mild-mannered … in a very English way’ (Munro 2014, 151). Seminars named in his honour and two festschrifts reflected his eminence as a historian. Survived by his wife, he died of pneumonia on 8 January 1993 at Battle, Sussex, and was cremated.
Friguglietti, James. ‘The Making of an Historian: The Parentage and Politics of George Rudé.’ In Revolution, Nation and Memory: Papers from The George Rudé Seminar in French History, Hobart, July 2002. Hobart: University of Tasmania, 2004, 13–25; Friguglietti, James. ‘A Scholar “In Exile”: George Rudé as an Historian of Australia.’ French History and Civilization: Papers from the George Rude Seminar, 2005, 3–12; Munro, Doug. ‘The Strange Career of George Rudé – Marxist Historian.’ Journal of Historical Biography, 16 (Autumn 2014), 118–169; National Archives of Australia. A6119, 2489; Personal knowledge of ADB subject; Rudé, George. ‘The Mass Portrait Gallery.’ Spectator, 16 March 1967, 349–52; Stretton, Hugh. ‘George Rudé.’ In History from Below: Studies in Popular Protest and Popular Ideology in Honour of George Rudé, edited by Frederick Krantz, 43–54. Montréal: Concordia University, 1985.
RUNDLE, FRANCIS FELIX (FRANK) (1910–1993), surgeon and medical educator, was born on 13 April 1910 at Newcastle, New South Wales, third surviving child of New South Wales–born Richard Thomas Rundle, merchant sailor, and his wife Catherine Ellen Ackers, née Lindsay, who had been born at sea. Following secondary education at Newcastle High School, Frank won a university exhibition to the University of Sydney (BSc, 1931; MB, BS, 1933; MD, 1941). A resident of Wesley College, where he was active in intercollegiate sport, he tutored there and at several other university colleges. After winning numerous prizes through his undergraduate years—including the G. S. Caird [q.v.3] No. II (1929) and the John Harris [q.v.4] (1930) scholarships for anatomy and physiology, the Parkinson prize for pathology (1930), the Norton Manning memorial prize for psychiatry (1932), and the Henry Hinder prize for clinical surgery (1932)—he achieved first-class honours in his final year of medicine and won the university medal. He graduated doctor of medicine with a thesis entitled ‘The Pathology of the Liver in Graves Disease’.
Following graduation Rundle worked as a resident medical officer at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (as house surgeon to (Sir) Harold Robert Dew [q.v.13] and house physician to Charles George Lambie [q.v.9]). In 1934 he travelled to England where he qualified MRCS, LRCP and FRCS (1935) before embarking on a diversity of clinical and tutoring appointments including at Guy’s Hospital, the Westminster Hospital, and (as assistant director of the surgical professorial unit) at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, as well as several ad hoc ‘lectureships’. He also undertook a number of courses at professorial fracture clinics in Vienna; that venture indicated an internationalist outlook that was to be a hallmark of his career. During his time in Britain he pursued research, principally on thyroid diseases, winning the Royal College of Surgeons’ Jacksonian prize in 1939 for his essay ‘The Pathology and Treatment of Thyrotoxicosis’, and being selected as its Hunterian professor (1940–41). On 1 June 1939 at St Philip’s Church of England, Kensington, he married New South Wales–born Peggy Seccombe Browne.
When World War II broke out in 1939, Rundle was attached to the Emergency Medical Service. In 1944 and 1945 he served as a temporary major in the Royal Army Medical Corps. Later promoted to major, he treated air-raid injuries in London and battle casualties in Normandy and undertook research, notably in the use of extensive infiltration anaesthesia in the management of wounds. The recipient of a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship, he spent much of 1947 and 1948 in the United States of America, undertaking clinical research at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, and Stanford Medical Center, California. At a time when few Australian medical graduates—academics or clinicians—worked in the United States, his exposure to the American hospital system set him apart from those trained in Australia and Britain. He returned to England in 1948 as assistant director of the surgical professorial unit at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, but left in 1949 to take up private practice as a thyroid specialist in Sydney (where he was successful, but not always liked by his patients). Appointed to an honorary position at the Royal North Shore Hospital, he later established and ran a unit of clinical investigation there.
Unsurprisingly, at this time Rundle’s mind turned from the routine of private practice to the academic world. To his later regret, he did not apply for a vacant chair at the University of Sydney; (Sir) John Loewenthal [q.v.15] was chosen for that position and an intense rivalry developed between them. Rundle’s salvation came with the response of the State government to the recommendation, in 1957, of Sir Keith Murray’s [q.v.] committee on Australian universities, that a second medical faculty should be established in New South Wales. Located in the University of New South Wales (UNSW), the new faculty was launched in 1959 with Rundle as founding professor of surgery and later dean. The machinations preceding his appointment as dean secured his loyalty to the vice-chancellor, Professor (Sir) Philip Baxter [q.v.17], who repaid his faithfulness with unwavering support when, in 1967, Rundle clashed with two professors of physiology, Paul Korner and Ian Darian-Smith. Their dispute was about examination standards. Worried by an apparent increase in the failure rate among third-year medical students, Rundle argued that standards be adjusted to yield a greater pass rate. However, he was overruled by other members of the examiners’ committee, including Korner and Darian-Smith. Subsequently, and in the absence of Korner and Darian-Smith, Rundle convened an executive meeting of the examiners’ committee, which passed a substantial number of the students who had failed. Baxter strongly supported Rundle’s action. Neither man acknowledged the intellectual and reputational loss to the nascent faculty when Korner and Darian-Smith resigned.
Another only partial success was Rundle’s drive for a restructured and integrated medical curriculum in 1974. This was intended to be a five-year undergraduate program followed by a mandatory two-year period as hospital doctors under supervision. The faculty fell into line, but the State government was unwilling to provide the additional funds for the increased staffing that would necessarily be involved. The course was expanded to six years in 1988.
Rundle had retired as dean in 1973, after which he assumed the directorship of a new World Health Organization–sponsored centre for medical education research and development at UNSW focused on postgraduate training of medical and paramedical personnel from South-East Asia and the Pacific. He relinquished that post in mid-1975. In 1984 UNSW conferred on him an honorary doctorate of medicine. Although warmly admired by some senior colleagues, junior colleagues often thought very differently of him; indeed, while some were prepared to trust him, very few made that mistake twice. Suffering from advanced dementia, he died on 17 December 1993 at Vaucluse and was cremated. His wife and two sons survived him. Rundle’s name is associated with a graph that depicts temporal fluctuations in the severity of the ocular pathology in thyroid disease: Rundle’s curve. UNSW holds an indifferent portrait of him by Brian Dunlop.
Bartley, G. B. ‘Rundle and His Curve.’ Archives of Ophthalmology 129 (2011): 356–58; Personal knowledge of ADB subject; Sydney Morning Herald. ‘Brilliant Graduate.’ 10 January 1933, 12; Tracy, G. D. ‘Francis Felix Rundle.’ Medical Journal of Australia 161 (1994): 278; University of New South Wales Archives. Francis Felix Rundle Papers.
RUSSELL, ROBERT REID (BOB) (1905–1993), company director, grazier, and businessman, was born on 30 August 1905 in Edinburgh, second child of Scottish-born Robert Reid Russell senior, stockbroker, and his American-born wife Anita Dwyer, née Withers. Educated (1918–22) at Ampleforth College, Yorkshire, Bob was an apprentice shepherd in Scotland before migrating to Australia in 1923. The Russell family had a financial interest in the New Zealand and Australian Land Co. Ltd, for which Bob worked as a jackaroo and later as an overseer, gaining experience at pastoral stations in New South Wales. In 1929 he travelled to the United States of America and Scotland before returning to Australia.
Determined to try his luck as a grazier, Russell bought Carawa, a 5,000-acre (2,024 ha) property near Chinchilla, Queensland, on which he grazed cattle and later sheep. Through a ballot he acquired a second property near Gayndah, which he improved and sold for a profit in 1932. Pursuing a passion for aeroplanes, he purchased a Cirrus II in 1937 and later a Gypsy Moth, and he helped to establish aero clubs at Chinchilla, Roma, and Surat.
Claiming to have been born in 1910, on 4 March 1940 Russell enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) as an air cadet. He qualified as a pilot and, commissioned in August, served initially in training units. From December 1943 to October 1944 he flew with No. 36 Squadron, which operated from Townsville, transporting troops and supplies to the front line. Russell was awarded the Air Force Cross for his courage, skill, and resourcefulness on these operations. Transferred to No. 12 Squadron in 1945, he flew Liberators on bombing missions against the Japanese. He was demobilised on 11 January 1946 as a temporary squadron leader. He served with the RAAF Reserve from May 1954 to September 1960.
Russell had married Elizabeth May (Betty) Bloxsome on 9 January 1942 at St Thomas’ Church of England, Toowong, Brisbane, and she subsequently accompanied him on many of his RAAF postings. While he was stationed at Townsville, they visited the Pioneer Estate near Ayr, in which the Russell family had a financial stake. Russell’s grandfather, Arthur Russell, had been a financial partner of Drysdale Brothers & Co., which had bought the Pioneer Estate near Ayr in 1883. In 1945 the general manager of Pioneer Sugar Mills Ltd, George Ashwell, asked Robert Russell to join the board of directors. Two years later the artist (Sir) Russell Drysdale [q.v.17] also joined the board. As a director, Russell visited the company’s North Queensland properties twice a year, including the Pioneer Mill, near Brandon, and the Inkerman Mill, near Home Hill. He sold Carawa in 1947 and moved his growing family to Toowoomba, where he ran a real estate agency from 1948 to 1963.
In 1960, when Pioneer Sugar Mills became a public company, Russell was appointed chairman of directors. He moved to Brisbane in 1964, working in Pioneer’s Brisbane office and visiting the North Queensland properties once a month. The company sold its cane farms in 1967 and in 1974 purchased the Plane Creek Central Mill at Sarina, south of Mackay. By the time of Russell’s retirement in July 1978, Pioneer was producing more than 350,000 tonnes of raw sugar per year and employing between 1,100 and 1,200 people.
Russell worked to protect Pioneer from economic slumps by diversifying. In 1962 Pioneer acquired the family-owned United Chemicals Pty Ltd, renaming it Pioneer Chemicals and branching into paint production. Russell also formed a subsidiary company, Pioneer Stations Pty Ltd, which purchased grazing properties in the vicinity of Collinsville, Charters Towers, and Brandon, and bred Droughtmaster stud cattle. As managing director of Pioneer Stations, Russell enjoyed inspecting the properties, where he joined in the cattle work and took an interest in ‘everything from the cattle dip to the comfort of the stockmen’s quarters’ (Pioneer 1968, 13).
A man of medium height, compact and wiry, with dark, wavy hair and an air force moustache, Russell expressed his attitudes towards life and work in his ‘Chairman’s Message’, for the staff magazine The Pioneer. Mindful of the company’s long history, and enormously proud of his family’s connection to it, he encouraged staff to identify with Pioneer, believing that ‘loyalty is the attribute that is respected above all’ (Pioneer 1973–74, 1). During a transitional period in Australian business, he balanced the need for modernisation with an appreciation of a company’s heritage and loyal workforce. The 1987 takeover of Pioneer by CSR Ltd was a disappointment to him.
In retirement Russell set up a manufacturing company that made solar hot water systems, but this was unsuccessful. He moved to Charters Towers in 1982 and then, in 1985, to the Sunshine Coast town of Buderim, where he helped form the North Coast branch of the Early Birds Association, for aviators who had flown before World War II. He was also involved with the Headland Croquet Club. Survived by his wife, three sons, and two daughters, he died on 23 August 1993 at Nambour Hospital, and was buried in Buderim cemetery.
National Archives of Australia. A9300, RUSSELL, R. R; North Queensland Register. ‘Key Sugar Identity in Q’land Dies.’ 9 September 1993, 25; Pioneer (Pioneer Sugar Mills). ‘Chairman’s Message’, Summer 1973–74, 1; ‘Change of Command in the Boardroom: A Pioneer Bows Out’, Summer 1978–79, 2–3; ‘Group Head is Active Director’, Summer 1968, 13; Russell, Ian Drysdale. Personal communication, 2 December 2013; Springer, Val. ‘Apprentice Shepherd Who Became Pioneer Leader.’ North Queensland Register, 15 July 1983, 23; Val Springer. ‘He Promoted a Small North Q’land Industry into Powerful Asset.’ North Queensland Register, 22 July 1983, 23.
RYAN, EDWARD JOHN (TED) (1916–1995), company executive, was born on 18 April 1916 in Sydney, son of New South Wales–born Edward Maurice Ryan, tram conductor, and his New Zealand–born wife Mary Moran, née Berwick. Raised in a Catholic family, Ted grew up in King’s Cross, and attended Christian Brothers’ College, Waverley, where he captained the school and cricket and football teams. In 1935 he joined the New South Wales Auditor-General’s Department as a junior clerk. Studying accountancy by correspondence while working, he was admitted in 1941 as an associate in the New South Wales division of the Australasian Institute of Cost Accountants (Australian Society of Accountants from 1966).
From December 1938 to March 1940 Ryan served part time in the 5th Heavy Brigade, Royal Australian Artillery, Citizen Military Forces. His record shows him to have been 5 feet 7 inches (170 cm) tall and weighing 141 pounds (64 kg). On 7 October 1940 he married Sylvia Frances Linton, a saleswoman, at St Canice’s Church, Elizabeth Bay. He continued in the New South Wales public service until resigning as a clerk in the Auditor-General’s Department on 14 November 1945.
In the late 1940s and 1950s Ryan worked as a company secretary in Sydney. By 1961 he was the general manager at the Bellambi Coal Company Ltd. While a long-established company with its origins in the nineteenth century, its infrastructure was outdated, its industrial relations troubled, and its product uncompetitively priced. He started at the company at a time when Commonwealth–State intervention in favour of modernisation and mechanisation through the Joint Coal Board was revitalising the New South Wales black coal industry. Benefiting from such policies, including measures to upgrade the coal ports, his management made Bellambi into one of the largest coal-mining operations in the State.
Between 1960 and 1962, Ryan modernised the mine by introducing a 650-tons-per-hour coal preparation plant (washery) and a system of conveyor belts with surge bins. Following visits by Japanese steel survey missions in 1958 and 1961, South Bulli Colliery, which Bellambi operated, became one of the earliest New South Wales south coast mines to export coking coal to Japan. In 1962 the first shipment of coal went to that country’s steel mills as part of a two-year contract to supply 410,000 tons.
From 1964, after Consolidated Gold Fields (Australia) Pty Ltd took a controlling interest in Bellambi, Ryan managed both a team of executives in Sydney and local managers who were responsible for the daily operations of the mine in the Illawarra. To improve the mine’s efficiency, he introduced the technique of longwall mining. In 1969 he renegotiated contracts with the Japanese worth $150 million to provide 13.8 million tons of coal over ten years. Bellambi became increasingly profitable, with net profits up by 139 per cent in the six months to December 1970, and increased production of coke—including from works at Corrimal, which the company had acquired in 1970 to supplement its works at Mount Pleasant.
Ryan participated in coal industry missions overseas from 1964, and in October 1972 he succeeded Sir Edward Warren [q.v.18] as chairman of the Australian Coal Association and of the New South Wales Combined Colliery Proprietors’ Association. The ACA had been moribund, but the Whitlam government’s imposition of controls over mineral exports in January 1973 made it more important. Whitlam’s minister for minerals and energy, Rex Connor [q.v.13], persuaded the New South Wales CCPA and the Queensland Coal Owners Association to agree that the companies in the Australian black coal industry should be assisted by the ACA in their negotiations with the Japanese steel mills.
Negotiation by Australian coal companies, operating under Federal guidelines, produced initial success for the industry in 1973 and 1974. In 1975, however, Bellambi’s directors criticised Connor’s intervention in coal price discussions for delaying a settlement and antagonising the Japanese steel mills. Industrial action by the coal-mining unions added to Ryan’s problems that year. The company threatened to dismiss employees, arguing that restrictions imposed by the unions would make the South Bulli Colliery uneconomical.
In 1976 an increase in coal production at Bellambi and improved industrial conditions saw net profits rise by more than 400 per cent. Appointed to the board of the company in January 1977, Ryan retired as general manager in March with the appreciation of both management and the work force. Having come to the company with ‘the worst industrial record on the South Coast’, he reflected, he had left it with ‘the best’ (Illawarra Mercury 1977, 49). As one union official commented: ‘He was the only general manager ever to come down to the pits to address the men at Christmas’ (Illawarra Mercury 1977, 49). Ryan thereafter advised and served as executive director (coal) to McIlwraith [q.v.10], McEacharn [q.v.10] Ltd, which operated Bellambi Coal in a joint venture with Shell Australia and the Australian Mutual Provident Society.
During the 1980s Ryan also became director of Oakbridge Ltd and deputy chairman of Coal Resources Queensland. In 1984 he helped forestall a possible national shutdown of the Australian black coal industry, by assisting the chairman of the Joint Coal Board, Jack Wilcox, to mediate an industrial dispute on the south coast. Bellambi under Ryan’s leadership had been one of the few coal companies that saw a future for the South Korean steel manufacturer Pohang Iron and Steel Company Ltd (POSCO). In 1993 South Korea conferred on him the Bronze Tower Order of Industrial Service Merit for his role in developing its steel industry. The Japanese steel industry presented him with membership of the Seven Seas Club.
Always a devoted member of the Catholic Church, Ryan had been a member of the superior (later national) council of the Society of St Vincent de Paul from 1962 to 1974 and vice-president of the metropolitan central council, as well as an organiser of the Eucharistic Adoration, a devotional practice in the Church. In retirement he found more time to devote to the society. He became president of the committee of Scholastica House, a refuge for homeless aged women, mothers, and children. He died on 14 October 1995 at Randwick, survived by his wife, two daughters, and three of his four sons, and was cremated.
CPA Australia. Personal communication; Donovan, Noelene. ‘Coal Captain Stoked Up the Industry.’ Australian, 2 November 1995, 14; Fisher, Chris. Coal and the State. North Ryde, NSW: Methuen Australia, 1987; Flint, Lindsay. Personal communication; Illawarra Mercury. ‘Miners Chip in for Boss.’ 30 March 1977, 49 Lee, David. The Second Rush: Mining and the Transformation of Australia. Redland Bay, Qld: Connor Court Publishing, 2016; National Archives of Australia. B4747, RYAN/EDWARD JOHN; Pryor, Graham. Personal communication; Society of St Vincent de Paul. Personal communication; Wilcox, Jack. Coalman. Maleny, Qld: Jack Wilcox, 2014.
RYAN, MADGE WINIFRED (1919–1994), actor, was born on 8 January 1919 at Townsville, Queensland, younger child of Victorian-born Michael Edward Ryan, commercial traveller, and his locally born wife Sarah Josephine, née Brady. Madge grew up in a musical home. Her father sang in the church choir, while her mother played the organ and later became an accompanist for silent movies. Educated at St Patrick’s College, she knew from an early age that she wanted to be an actress, and regularly took part in theatrical productions, recitals, and elocution competitions. After leaving school she worked for an insurance company. On 31 January 1939 at Sacred Heart Cathedral she married Milton Lynn Rumble, a bank officer.
The couple moved to Toowoomba in 1940, and then to Sydney, where Madge met (Dame) Doris Fitton [q.v.17] and became involved in her Independent Theatre. While the birth of a daughter prevented her from undertaking lengthy tours, she appeared—under her maiden name—on the stage in various roles, including that of Birdie Hubbard in The Little Foxes, as well as in radio plays and serials, among them the long-running Blue Hills. During World War II she drove ambulances for the National Emergency Services. In 1951 she visited Western Australia under contract to the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
Following the establishment of the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust in 1954, Ryan appeared in its production of Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, a new play by Ray Lawler, in the part of Pearl Cunningham. The production toured to London in 1957. Her marriage was dissolved the same year. Well received in London, the production travelled to New York in 1958. It has since become part of theatre legend as the first Australian-written play to become internationally known.
Among the Australian artists attracted to London during the 1950s were June Bronhill, Diane Cilento, John McCallum, and (Dame) Joan Sutherland. Ryan found a theatrical world that was bigger and more complex than the one she had left in Sydney, and she also settled there. Her acting proficiency, which included remarkable ability in smaller, character-filled parts, attracted attention. In 1964 her performance as Kath in the first production of Joe Orton’s Entertaining Mr Sloane was greeted enthusiastically.
Ryan became part of the first National Theatre Company, which played initially at the Old Vic theatre, London. Her first big part was Mother Courage in Bertolt Brecht’s monumental depiction of war and loss, Mother Courage and Her Children, in 1965. She was on stage for more than three hours. Although reviews were mixed, the Times was enthusiastic. The director, William Gaskill, had followed Brecht’s stage directions to the veriest comma. His later assessment of this production was that he had miscast Ryan in the part. It did her career no harm, however. She remained in the company to tour West Berlin and Moscow, before moving to the Bristol Old Vic in 1967. With that company she travelled to the United States of America, Canada, Europe, and Israel, playing among other parts Gertrude in Hamlet. In 1968 she returned to Australia for performances in Sydney and Melbourne of Peter Shaffer’s double bill, Black Comedy and The White Liars. Her versatile skills also brought her parts in films, A Clockwork Orange (1971) among them, and in television programs, including as Evdokia Petrov [q.v.] in the British Broadcasting Corporation play of the month, Defection (1966).
By the 1970s Ryan’s stage career in London seemed assured. The critics Irving Wardle and Sheridan Morley praised her. During the prime ministership of (Baroness) Margaret Thatcher, however, theatre in London became dominated by musical comedies, leading Ryan to find much of her employment in repertory on provincial stages. In 1984, at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in London, she shared the stage with Claudette Colbert and Rex Harrison in Aren’t We All?, Frederick Lonsdale’s vintage comedy of 1923. This production played in Perth, Melbourne, and Sydney between 1986 and 1987. In 1988 she was still in Australia, working with Ruth Cracknell and Warren Mitchell on Patrick Cook’s film Kokoda Crescent. She was back in England shortly after, to play opposite Googie Withers in Ring Around the Moon at Chichester. Her last great part was as Nurse in Medea, opposite (Dame) Diana Rigg.
Ryan’s adaptability allowed her to make the most of whatever part she accepted. She was rarely out of work, a high accolade to be paid to any actor. Described by Lewis Fiander as ‘highly professional, stylishly dressed, full of fun and inclined to frivolous witticisms’, she had a ‘unique dry laugh’ (1994, 13). Adam Benedick considered that she was ‘set … apart’ by ‘a certain, often powerful, independence of spirit and humour’ (1994, 18). She died on 9 January 1994 at Westminster, London; a memorial service was held at St James’s Church, Piccadilly. Predeceased by one daughter, she was survived by another daughter, Lyn Ashley, who had also become an actor.
Benedick, Adam. ‘Madge Ryan.’ Independent (London), 20 January 1994, 18; Billington, Michael. State of the Nation: British Theatre since 1945. London: Faber and Faber, 2007; Fiander, Lewis. ‘Memories of Madge: Friend, Actor and Theatre’s Pearl of Great Price.’ Australian, 24 January 1994, 13; Performing Arts Historical Society Townsville (PAHST) Inc. ‘Madge Ryan.’ Accessed 20 February 2018. pahst.com/madge-ryan/. Copy held on ADB file; Ryan, Madge. Interview by Vivienne Rae-Ellis, October–November 1984. Transcript. National Library of Australia; Times (London). ‘Madge Ryan.’ 15 January 1994, 17.
RYLEY, JOHN WILLIAM (1926–1992), veterinarian, was born on 14 August 1926 at Atherton, Queensland, the third son of English-born parents Frederick Ryley, dairy farmer, and his wife Minnie, née Cheesbraugh. Educated at All Souls’ School, Charters Towers, John finished second in his class and joined the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Stock (later the Department of Primary Industries) in 1943. He studied science part time at the University of Queensland and in 1945 was awarded a state scholarship to study veterinary science at the University of Sydney (BVSc, 1949). He returned to the department as a veterinary officer in 1949.
On 8 April 1950, at St Mary’s Church of England, Atherton, Ryley married Marjorie Doreen Marchant. Posted first to Atherton and later to Roma, he spent several years in the field before moving to the Animal Health Station (later the Animal Research Institute) laboratory at Yeerongpilly where he quickly earned a reputation as a talented diagnostic and research pathologist. With G. C. Simmons in 1954 he published ground-breaking research demonstrating that Leptospira pomona caused abortion in pigs. Moving to husbandry research, he worked on artificial breeding of cattle in Queensland, the feeding of cattle in drought, and pig and poultry nutrition. Progressing into administration, as deputy director (research) he led a distinguished group of researchers in a wide range of animal sciences. Approachable, dedicated, and supportive of younger colleagues and students, after thirty-seven years of devoted service in the department, he finished his career as assistant director general, retiring in 1986.
Ryley represented the department at national and international conferences aimed at improving the productivity of flocks and herds. He was a member of the Australian Pig Industry Research Committee, Pig Research Council, Australian Chicken Meat Research Committee, and Poultry Research Council. His other professional appointments included president of the Queensland Veterinary Surgeons Board (1979–86), State (1960) and national (1971–72) president of the Australian Veterinary Association, fellow of the AVA, and foundation fellow (1972) and council member (1972–75, 1986–89) of the Australian College of Veterinary Scientists.
Elected to the senate of the University of Queensland by graduates in 1968, Ryley enjoyed a close association with the university. He was a member of the board of the faculty of veterinary science, foundation chairman of the committee on postgraduate veterinary science, and part-time lecturer and examiner of undergraduate and postgraduate students. In 1987 he was awarded the OAM. The following year the university conferred a DVSc (honoris causa) upon him.
Crushed against a rail by a bull in the late 1950s, Ryley suffered the burden of ever-worsening physical disability. He never complained, and enjoyed golf and later lawn bowls. Following a severe stroke he died on 9 August 1992 in Brisbane and was cremated. His wife, daughter, and two sons survived him. The John Ryley memorial prize in pig medicine at the University of Queensland commemorates his work.
Australian Veterinary Journal. ‘President of the Australian Veterinary Association, 1971–72.’ 47, no. 12 (December 1971): 615–17; Laws, L. ‘John William Ryley.’ Australian Veterinary Journal 69, no. 12 (December 1992): 340; Queensland Country Life. ‘Scholarships in Vet. Science.’ 1 March 1945, 4; Ryley, J. W., and G. C. Simmons. ‘Leptospira pomona as a Cause of Abortion and Neonatal Mortality in Swine.’ Queensland Journal of Agricultural Science 11 (1954): 61–74.