He felt he could not pass by Athens. He had taken the trouble
to teach himself rudimentary ancient Greek and was curious about
the city of Plato and Aristotle. He stayed a day and a night.
He knew it was absurd to stay such a short time but, as usual,
was in a hurry - in fact, he had taken two unfinished papers with
him to work on and send back urgently. Typically he packed the
time to bursting: discussed the burning political issue of Cyprus
with the Athenians, bought an icon, went to a tavern to try Retsina,
then, becoming extremely hungry, he got someone to translate
'that I was so hungry I could eat a dead baby.' This produced
rapid results, as it had on several occasions over the years.
Then there was the Acropolis, and at night a performance of Oedipus
Rex. He nearly missed the 'plane next morning photographing
eucalyptus trees among antique columns at the edge of the city.
After nine years he arrived back in Sydney and began a complicated
journey tracking about the continent. The expedition would take
off in early September, from Perth where Dr Serventy worked.
Before this he needed to visit Canberra and gain more information
on the Zoology Professorship. He wrote from Sydney: 'The University
of N.S.W. is going to take several years (?) to get going; but
at the University of Sydney today it was made clear (a) that
Pat M. [Murray] will retire in 3 years time, or perhaps before,
& that Charlie Birch, whom I met again, & like, has a
great deal of opposition. Tomorrow I fly to Canberra to see the
people there. It's difficult to know what to do!!'
This unusual state of indecision was engendered by the old pull
of Sydney University which had been a goal in the back of his
mind for so many years. Such goals are difficult to achieve;
the higher you climb the ladder the less options are available.
If he got Canberra, and Murray went in three years, he would
have to forget Sydney. He decided in the end to write to the
Canberra College Principal, Professor Herbert Burton, whom he
had met and talked with, 'telling him that I would be very happy
to come by invitation if they have not already got a suitable
chap among the applicants.' Jock didn't believe they had, in
view of 'the great deal of trouble they took' to show him around
after the closing date. Because of his ambivalence he had not
applied before that date. If one badly needed the job it would
be a risky business to rely on invitation, especially in Australia
where any suspicion that a tall poppy was being thrust forward
could cause defeat. But it seemed well worth a try. He wrote
from Melbourne: 'My own view is that it would be hard for us
to fail, but you never know! Luckily it doesn't matter much,
though the more I see of Australia & Australians the more
I am convinced that our place, as well as our childrens' is here.'
Both Julian Huxley and Alister Hardy had written saying the College
had taken up their references, and Hardy had reaffirmed his view
that he (Jock) was 'just the bloke for pioneering a new department
... ', though Jock reminded me more than once to remember Pantin.
It was good advice. Two months later, while camped near Kalgoorlie,
he received a telegram telling him that the Committee had chosen
Professor Smyth from Dublin University for the Canberra Chair.
Smyth, a parasitologist, came from Professor Gatenby's Department.
It transpired that Gatenby, the good hater, had been in Australia
at this time. It was tempting to conjecture whether his threat
of six years before to prevent Jock from ever getting 'a better
job' than the one he then occupied had come home to roost; especially
when reading part of a letter he sent to another zoologist in
England (the first page is missing): 'Marshall threw his weight
about so much, they were determined not to have him.' However,
this time Jock was not really concerned about any possible stabs
from behind. Although he had decided he liked Canberra and more
importantly the people with whom he would have worked, he felt
there would be further opportunities to return to Australia, and
for the time being London was very much to his advantage. An
item of news which appeared almost exactly a year later bears
on the academic atmosphere in Australia then. On July 8th, 1959:
'Lord Lindsay of Birker announced his resignation from the Australian
National University in Canberra accusing it of compelling him
to waste his time "playing academic politics" ... In
a statement he declared that the Australian National University
gave only grudging recognition to his international academic standing,
and failed to provide conditions in which he could carry on his
More than two months before receiving news of the Chair Jock set
off across Australia to meet Dom Serventy in Perth. These two
had known each other for years, collaborating on various research
projects. Dom visited us in London whenever he was in England.
Tall, black-haired and black-eyed, he had a slight stutter and
wonderfully precise speech and habit, but overlaid with a delightful
sense of humour. He and Jock shared a passion for early editions
of the accounts of the first discoverers, colonisers and explorers
of Australia. They had never been in the bush together but had
some common experience of it and plenty to talk about. When Jock
arrived there were two well-equipped vehicles ready to take them
two thousand miles up the West Australian coast for their rendezvous
with the ship carrying them to the Monte Bello and Barrow Islands;
the islands targeted for the atomic blast of 1952. Also with
them was Ken Buller, taxidermist at the Western Australian Museum,
who would stay until they had finished collecting on the islands
and then return with the specimens to the Museum, and Ivan Carnaby
who joined them with his Dodge utility at Yalgoo. They left Perth
at daybreak on September 11th.
Jock luxuriated in a nostalgic glow, re-discovering the feel of
land beyond cities, red dust on the fringe of desert and cold
beer after long, hot hours on roads that were themselves the only
sign of man's existence. They travelled inland as far as Carnarvon
then hugged the coast, collected and observed animals, and met
characters such as Brandy John and Billy the Lurk who later appeared
in a book about the expedition.
At Onslow, 'a dreary little town' on the north-west coast, they
met up with the whale-marking vessel Lancelin. Her primary
business was to tag whales and mark them with an eleven inch dart
which was fired into their protective blubber bearing information
destined for the British Museum. The crew had finished their
work for the season but prolonged their time at sea to carry the
small party of scientists to Barrow Island and the Monte Bellos.
The islands were uninhabited except for animals which could survive
with a minimum of water. Since the days of H.M.S. Beagle's
visit in 1840 they had rarely been visited, even by scientists.
They appeared desolate, though some, like Lowendall, named by
Baudin in 1803, were less so. But the sea and reefs surrounding
them were full of fish, turtles, crayfish, stingrays, and the
rocks of the shores were encrusted with oysters.
Jock had a geiger counter and on Trimouille Island went ahead
'a little wary of the bay in which the guineapig ship was blown
up in the first explosion.' They found the whole cliff-face scorched
by that 'incredible blow-lamp of the atom bomb', then came to
the slightly radio-active huts in the probable fall-out area as
mapped for them by the people at Aldermaston in England, who were
extremely interested in the investigation. There was not much
more radiation than given off by Jock's watch until they came
to what was probably wreckage from the ship. This was very active.
'We collected 42 terrestrial vertebrates on the islands, retaining
the skins for the W.A. Museum & preserving the bodies for
analysis at Bart's.'
They watched one whale-marking exercise with great interest, then
left the islands to be put ashore at Onslow, and set out for Broome
and the Kimberleys, where they were to meet Russell Drysdale,
his son Tim, and an American zoologist, Professor Donald Farner.
On the way they were collecting vertebrates in an arc around
the Monte Bello area for shipment to London. They called in at
Mardie Station. The owner informed them casually that there were
phenomenal numbers of bronzewing pigeons gathering at a water-hole
near his homestead, of a type unfamiliar even to the old Aborigines
on the property. Instantly alert, Jock and Dom thought this must
be the harlequin bronzewing or flock pigeon, which was thought
to be on the verge of extinction. By the pool at sunset they
were ecstatic to see wave upon wave of this lovely, plump bird
- 'a harmony of blue-grey, cinnamon, black, white and metallic
purple' - which had so enchanted the eyes and palates of the early
travellers to Australia's west coast. They took just one specimen
for a skin for exact identification. This was an unexpected ornithological
Jock was delighted to be in the north west; new and yet familiar.
The bush characters and 'architecture' amused him again. Collecting
and noting animals, they travelled towards Fitzroy Crossing and
the weather-carved limestone ramparts of the Leopold Range rising
from a baobab dotted plain. Within it was the deep water of Geikie
Gorge. This gorge is a mysterious place. It is locked between
immensely high walls of fretted limestone, often seeming to be
carved in the image of a person looking down at the still deep
water. Bats hang in dark caves high in the walls which run with
a rich iron-staining of amber and red above flood-washed pure
white rock. When Jock took a party of scientists there six years
later, in 1965, they were warned it was possible to meet a huge
estuarine crocodile trapped in the deep water by its very size.
Nobody seemed to know how it got there; perhaps as a much younger
animal at a time of flood, which had adapted well to a lack of
salt water. It was alledgedly sighted many times by pilots.
The Gorge was part of the property "Fossil Downs", belonging
to a pioneering family, the MacDonalds, who gave the party hospitality
and permission to roam as they pleased.
At Fitzroy Crossing, before going into the ranges they met Professor
Don Farner who flew in to join them from Seattle, Washington.
And the Drysdales appeared at the camp-site one evening, exultant
that they could have met within a day and a few miles of the agreed
date and place, after their respective journeys of two and three
thousand miles across the continent. 'Dom had let the moths out
of his pocket in Broome, and was flourishing a bottle of Scotch.'
It was on this journey that Jock and Tass discovered the depth
of their friendship. It was in part due to the troubles of Tass's
son Tim, whom Jock was employing for the rest of the trip as mechanic
and general helper. He had deep compassion for the sense of helplessness
and sadness Tass felt in not being able to reach his son emotionally
or guide him out of his difficulties. When Tim died three years
later Tass wrote at length to Jock: 'I write this to you because
he had a great affection for you and you always treated him as
a man.' For Tass and Jock the unburdening of feeling was a gift
After more collecting and a turn to the south east towards Marble
Bar and Maralinga, Tass, Tim and Jock peeled away from the others
who had to return to Perth. Maralinga was Jock's most important
goal. They arrived on October 28th and found 'a swimming pool,
a change of picture show every night, tennis courts & superb
cooking in the Commander's mess, where I am.' He found he had
met the Commander and Chief Administration Officer during the
war. This was another world from the one where they carried their
water and selected their camps according to the firewood supply.
Issued with protective clothing and placed in the charge of a
security officer Jock went about collecting '313 terrestrial vertebrates
in specifically "dirty" areas and in "clean"
areas nearby. As before these included mammals reptiles and ground
birds ... Of the Maralinga material some reptiles showed a count
significantly higher than that of the background.' At home I
was told there was no danger. Obviously there was but apart from
any other considerations the instruments of testing then were
possibly rather primitive.
They then made for almost their last camp - Nin and Geoffrey Dutton's
house in the Adelaide hills. Jock's resolve to return to Australia
was being strengthened. The whole journey had thrown up exciting
possibilities for the future: research on animals unique among
the world's fauna and the chance to press for their survival.
He had returned to a landscape of his youth and in the cities
connected with an old feeling of ease. He was recreating himself
on an Australian canvas - not that he had ever felt other than
Australian on the quite different English one, and relished showing
it: 'He would enter the sedate precincts of a London club telling
outrageous stories at the top of his voice and waving his one
arm - and the great Australian adjective - about like a banner.'
But when the occasion arose 'He had the faculty, without ever
seeming hypocritical, of being at home in the most erudite or
fashionable society, as he was in England or the Continent, or
companionable in the roughest company outback.' He admired many
of the English talents - a respect for scholarship, tolerance
of difference and eccentricity, their amused self-criticism, their
acceptance and nurturing of outstanding people; talents singularly
lacking in Australians on the whole, especially in the forties
and fifties. The reverse was snobbery, unfairness and often downright
tramping on the underprivileged. In spite of set-backs, which
he acknowledged were inherent in any hierarchy, he was glad of
the rich experience of academic life there, the friends and colleagues.
But he was now looking for change, although for the moment the
opportunity had passed.
He arrived back in London in deep winter (February 2nd, 1959).
He had spent an icy but entertaining month travelling and lecturing
across the United States. It was so freezing around Ann Arbor
that planes were grounded and he had to catch a train which also
seized up. However, his lectures were warmly received; being
congratulated after one of them for his relaxed way or talking
he laughed and said 'I see no point in talking at all if I don't
enjoy myself more than the audience does.'
In April he had a letter from Dom Serventy: 'Farner did tell
me of some disquieting news he had picked up during his travels.
It appears that some of the selectors for the Canberra chair
had shown some apprehension of your robust behaviour when in Australia
recently and had wondered whether such flamboyancy, as they termed
it, would be befitting the holder of a University chair here!
Farner, I gather, told them that the best answer was how you
were filling the post at Bart's. Truly it seems that we have
with us a generation that knows not Israel. Anyway, I thought
that I would pass this on to you as indicative of a certain "atmosphere"
in the eastern states, as an aftermath of your visit. You may
be able to take corrective measures.' Jock's own disquiet at
this news was not that he had upset the panel with his 'flamboyance',
but that it counted with them more importantly than his reputation
as a scientist and effective head of a department. What of Australia!
Brian Lofts, then one of Jock's senior lecturers at Bart's and
later Professor of Zoology at Hong Kong University remarked 'his
articulate and forthright manner, and intolerance of pomposity,
shocked some, but endeared him to the many who knew that this
rumbustious nature hid a man of great kindness and humanity.
This was never more evident than in his treatment of students
and young research workers.' And they loved the stories that
trailed after him. One year there was a very pompous ceremony
at the University of London - the Queen Mother, as Chancellor,
was holding a reception and the red carpet was stretched out for
the hierarchical heads to follow Her Majesty into the building
while we lesser members waited to follow on. Jock spotted Sir
Gavan de Beer emerging from his limousine and setting sail up
the red plush. As he came abreast of us he noticed Jock - 'Ah
Marshall' he intoned - 'Ah Sir Gavan' replied Jock 'Sober I see'.
His behaviour could certainly be called robust - decisive, impatient
with ditherers, mocking of pomposity - often unusual. Gilbert
Whitley described an incident - with obvious enjoyment - which
occurred in the national capital a couple of years after this.
'One lunchtime, after the proceedings of the morning at the ANZAS
congress in Canberra Jock took a large pewter mug in hand, and
with enormous panache climbed onto a borrowed bike and went flying
off to the pub where the other members were disgorging sedately
from their cars - banged the mug down on the bar with a "fill
Although Jock appreciated Dom's concern, he was too busy even
to think about 'corrective measures'. Anyway, when had he ever
been prepared to qualify his behaviour for effect? - only to become
more outrageous - never to mollify his detractors. He was now
occupied with work on the animals from Australia and the islands;
also seriously thinking about invitations from America to give
the Trumbull lectures at Yale and the Lida Scott Brown lectures
(covering six weeks) at U.C.L.A. Then, later in the year, two
colleagues were trying to persuade him to allow them to put his
name forward as a Fellow of the Royal Society.
Strangely he was cautious about this as he had been about going
in too soon for the professorship at Bart's. Cautious is doubtless
the wrong word - it would be hard to find anyone less so - but
he cared about necessary preparation when making important moves.
In this case there were considerations that certainly made for
hesitation. Dr Leo Harrison Mathews brought up the matter at
a Zoological Club dinner, but - 'I have long ceased to have much
respect for the thing (because of the methods adopted by so many
to get in, & of the fact that so many second-class people
are "in"). I had no difficulty in keeping my enthusiasm
within bounds.' Later he re-iterated his thoughts that the arguments
he gave Professor Amoroso were still valid - that he had greater
status outside the Society if he refused to be put up - 'After
all, Baker, jealous and emotional, might be hostile or at least
luke-warm; & Smith, after my last encounter with him ...
must be unequivocally hostile!! Much better to have refused nomination
than to be just another failed F.R.S.! I'll have to make a decision
pretty soon.' At this time both Baker and Smith were on the sub-committee
which made selections. Other members of the sub-committee may
well have outvoted those two - his reputation as a scientist was
very strong among his peers within the Society. Professor Amoroso
was extremely enthusiastic about putting him forward but the arguments
Jock gave before prevailed. He decided against it. The risk
seemed too great. He was beginning to feel he had had enough
of such situations.
But the year had, from the moment he came back, shaped up as extraordinarily
busy. Besides catching up on laboratory work after six months
away, writing up results and attending to vast numbers of letters,
there were the three articles for the Observer to be delivered.
When the first of these appeared on May 1st a stream of letters
and telegrams came in from publishers asking for a book to be
expanded from them. There were eight from the big publishers
such as Victor Gollancz, Viking Press, Michael Joseph, Heinemann,
Hodder and Stoughton, etc.; Alec Hope wrote from Canberra saying
the representative of McGibbon and Kee, who was in Australia searching
out poets for an anthology was also interested in the idea. Jock
was luke-warm about it - he knew too well the work involved in
transforming the pithy, amusing sketches into an account long
enough for a book. However, in the end, after consultation with
Tass Drysdale, Hodder and Stoughton got the nod. He was also
asked to give a talk on the journey to the Royal Society of Arts.
More importantly he had to make a decision - whether to apply
for the Foundation Chair of Biology in the new, yet unbuilt, Monash
University in Melbourne, which was advertised in March. Sydney
still tugged at him but he soon decided to apply for Monash without
reserve. It would be a challenge, not just to start a new department,
but to be in on the making of a whole University. This was an
understatement, but he sent off an application 'big enough to
choke a bloody horse.'
The year rolled on. He read a paper at a symposium of the Zoological
Society of London on the subject of hormones in fish and talked
with Dr C.N. Armstrong of the University of Durham who was proposing
joint editorship of a book on Intersexuality, fundamentally zoological
but including man, to be published by Academic Press. Jock had
been interested in the subject ever since the New Hebrides when
he first encountered the cult of intersex pigs, so the idea of
such a book interested him - and it was eventually published in
At this time we were both feeling unaccustomed strain. I was
pregnant - the baby expected in November. Jock had a massive
correspondence with friends and colleagues such as Albert Wolfson,
Don Farner and Dom Serventy on the bird migration work: some
of it sounded rather testy - Wolfson and Farner were dragging
their feet on papers of collaboration he thought. At Princeton
University in January he had heard from Dr Colin Pittendrigh that
it might be possible to get U.S. Navy funding for some of the
research - the huge figure-of-eight migration across the Pacific,
in which the Navy was taking an interest. After a considerable
amount of work this did eventuate.
There were varied requests for help, such as (we laughed about
this), from the University of California Medical centre to report
on the suitability of his friend Malcolm Miller to have his doctorate
translated to a professorship. He did this generously. He always
did, if he did it at all. He was equally generous to one of Ernst
Mayr's research people seeking a position. And he saw, at the
request of one of his medical colleagues, a girl who was deeply
depressed at the loss of an arm. He often took an interest in
people he felt were neglecting some serious medical problem.
He was very worried one day about an unknown girl we saw behind
a stall as we wandered in an antique jewellery market in the old
city - flushed and coughing. He persuaded her to contact him
at the Medical College and took her to a specialist. She had
Beneath all this activity he was simmering at the lack of news
on Monash. A Vice-Chancellor had been appointed at the end of
May - Professor Louis Matheson, an engineer from the University
of Manchester. Ernst Mayr wrote on August 2nd 'Monash has finally
come through and I told them the worst about you! Hope you'll
make it. Of course, why you would want to get there ......?
I am going to try and find out next winter.'
Sometime in June Jock was invited to dine with the Vice-Chancellor
elect, the visiting chairman of the Monash Interim Council and
their chosen external expert, Graham Cannon. 'Before the dinner
I learned from my agents that I was considered the most suitable
of the applicants, but that I had trodden on some tiny toes while
I was in Australia and that some of the Melbournians wondered
whether I was "temperamentally suited" to be in charge
of an Australian department. This caused a good deal of merriment
at Bart's.' A few days later his same agents reported that he
was 'handsomely the best' but that the Monash people were still
nervous about his temperament and had written to John Blacklock,
the head of the Pathology school at Bart's - ' ... if they write
to enough people they will fairly soon find somebody who will
agree that I am not! I understand that Gatenby, for instance,
is virulently anti-me.'
'You brood like the hero of a Shakespearean tragedy' said Dom
Serventy when Jock complained to him in September about being
Australians can be at odds with themselves - loving the independant,
eccentric characters of bush fable, but holding themselves to
a comfortable, conventional base - prepared to put up with mediocrity
rather than disturb the status quo. Jock, flourishing
his snuff-box and Jockian adjectives, fighting for change and
principles was obviously a disturbing black cloud on their horizon.
But not all the selectors for Monash University were so cautious
or confronted. While others complained of Jock being 'wild',
Dr E.V. (Bill) Keo was more interested in his work - 'He's a bloody
good scientist - let's have him.' And later there was appreciation
of this from other scientists. The physiologist, Prof A.K. McIntyre,
wrote: 'It must be exceptional for a new University to have amongst
its first small group of senior appointments a man not only of
high scholastic attainment and outstanding personality, but also
distinguished for leadership and achievement in fields beyond
the usual confines of an academic discipline. Jock Marshall ...
[had] international renown in the field of biology, especially
for his extensive original work on the physiology and ecology
On November 15th Jock joyfully took up his journal again after
a gap of three years, to record the birth of our daughter, Wilga,
the day before - 'a most enchanting little Puss' - and that he
had two weeks before been appointed to the Chair of Biology at
Monash University. He gave very little space to this latter,
but in fact he was enormously relieved. He had been emotionally
stretched - even to the point of being uncharacteristically impatient
and nervy at home. He really wanted an Australian appointment.
He immediately contacted his backers. Julian Huxley was in Chicago,
and wrote - 'Thanks for your letter with the welcome news - welcome,
that is for you, though rather sad for us fellow-Hampsteadians.'
He had heard the news the day before from Ernst Mayr at Harvard
where he was giving an address, and boasted to Jock: 'I got in
my crack about the oceanographer, disgruntled at the poor support
his subject got compared with Space research - "I think the
sea's bottom is just as interesting as the moon's behind".'
We would miss Julian and Juliette. It was the end of an era - more surely than we realised.