Jock Marshall - One Armed Warrior A Bright Sparcs Exhibitions

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The Birth of a University

It seemed like random chance that Jock should come to a university named after the engineer and brilliant leader of Australian troops in World War 1, whose soldiering achievements he admired so much. It was not his first choice. But once he was appointed he set about identifying with the institution and saw a link - that it should emulate the standards of excellence, efficiency, dash and even innovation set by Sir John Monash, although it needed a leap of imagination to see any of these things in the winter of 1960.

The University was in a state of upheaval and daily flux. The 290 acre site had been a farm, the former Talbot Colony for Epileptics, and was being stripped and gouged for the emergence of seemingly crude grey buildings. Jock was only the third professor appointed and the Department of Zoology and Comparative Physiology was then a half-share of a room in an old cottage which was the centre of academic activity for a while. It seemed everlastingly snowed under architects' plans and a constant stream of people came to argue about 'levels', toilets and equipment. It was almost impossible to imagine academic work.

Sir Louis Matheson, the Foundation Vice-Chancellor of Monash University, has had a stroke and is unable to comment on his relationship with Jock, but some time after Jock's death he told this story to Professor Warren: 'I was on a committee up in Newcastle and at the table was a "difficult" man. He was volatile and combative, pushing his ideas. Trouble was I agreed with them: but he wanted to bulldoze them through, make them happen now, this moment. He had thinning hair on top, and fair gingery curls around his ears, and - you're not going to believe this - he had only one arm!! It was as though all my worst nightmares had come to life.'

Louis Matheson was laughing but he had rarely found the subject of his nightmares laughable in such situations. In his book Still Learning - an autobiographical account of his years as Vice-Chancellor - he came to the point more clearly: 'A.J. Marshall, Professor of Biology, was a man of strong convictions who persuaded the Board very quickly to adopt many of the ideas which he had evidently developed in his years of exile from Australia. His views on all sorts of topics were expressed with vigour and a considerable command of invective in the certainty that he was always right.'

Jock's letters and memos to him and the Registrar began in July 1960 - as soon as we reached Melbourne - and continued unabated until his death. Jock's total inability to take a laissez faire attitude - and the infusion of a 'tang of pub and outback campfire' into academic deliberations - put him often at odds later with some other professors of different or indifferent views and an embattled Vice-Chancellor (who did quite often agree with him). Predictably, he despised "all things to all people" attitudes and described any such person as being 'like a feather bed, bearing the imprint of the last chap who sat on him.' His own attitude was not simply a love of combat, rumours of which had frightened the selection committee. He was deeply concerned for standards and the reputation of the University. He had a vision for it which went way beyond the Zoology Department - to its very heart - that it should become an institution of outstanding excellence. Another of the earliest appointees, John Legge, Professor of History, had a long experience of Professorial Board meetings: 'Jock was a big figure - bustling and going direct to the point ... he had style in the way that Monash needed it in those days. He was uncompromisingly concerned with the University's quality. He was always concerned. Though we were new we had to attain the highest standards. On issue after issue he emphasised again and again the importance of first class performance.' When he ran into barriers he fought unrelentingly to remove them, yet 'he didn't mind being opposed in the least - and never held grudges.' He often became very aggressive in pursuit of an aim, the blue eyes flinty and words punched out. He knew this sometimes did his case no good. He said to me after one of these internecine battles 'I wonder what it is in me that makes me want to go too far.' Go too far he did occasionally. Professor Rufus Davis said 'Jock frightened me sometimes. He could be ferocious in his language.' Rod Andrew, the Dean of Medicine, agreed on his ferocity but understood the drive for excellence - 'he rejected with contempt shibboleths, establishment cringes, the outward and visible signs of inward decay, but he had an ineluctable reverence for the serene standards of scholarship which Oxford always meant to him ... A man of great insight and compassion, he took here an inflexible stand and was never prepared to compromise to the smallest degree ... at times almost a bully.'

But back in 1960 in the half a room in the cottage, and at home the memos began to fly off his old Remington typewriter. He wrote about his department, lunch conditions for the scattered secretaries, the formation of a "Grounds Committee" to ensure that in a few years Monash did not discover itself 'in a peculiar floristic situation', for an Animal Reserve, for proper and realistically priced housing for incoming lecturers who were currently paying one third of their salaries in rent - this issue was taken up by Audrey Matheson, the Vice-Chancellor's wife, who solved the multiple problems with great efficiency and understanding. He was interested in the naming of walkways - 'it might add to the grace of the Monash campus if we used the names of some of the old and historic European schools on our squares, streets and walks. This idea may not appeal to the more tradesmanlike members of our brotherhood but it seems to me that it would be preferable to Bolte Avenue, Menzie's Square and the gruesome like.'

He amused himself, even in opposition. There was a move afoot from the Vice-Chancellor and some others of the professoriate to give an Honorary Doctorate of Civil Law to the Premier of Victoria, Henry Bolte, to be bestowed upon him at the opening ceremony the following March. Jock was horrified - 'it's pissing in political pockets'. On November 22nd he sent off a memo in which he drew the Vice-Chancellor's attention to the discussion of this subject by the Professorial Board:

'I beg to give notice of a proposition at our next meeting to the effect:

That at our inaugural ceremony next March, Tulloch, a more distinguished member of the community than another I could name, should be honoured with the degree D.C.L. (Monash).'

Tulloch was a popular race-horse who had won the Melbourne Cup three weeks before. The University was officially opened by Mr Bolte on March 11th, 1961, but there was a diversion, recorded by Dr Ian Hiscock: 'It was Professor Jock Marshall (then Professor of Zoology and Dean of the Faculty of Science) who master-minded one of the most famous (or notorious) incidents in the early history of Monash - parading of the Zoology skeleton, in elaborate ceremonial robes, along the Science roof, while the then Premier, Henry Bolte, below, was declaring the University open. At the time the Melbourne University students were credited with the incident, but the whole affair, actually, was a Zoology production.'

In a more serious mood back in November, he had suggested that Monash should create some free scholarships for Aborigines. Ever since the Cape York reconnaissance of 1942 the image of Joe Callope and his family intermittently haunted him. He talked of it occasionally in London, but now at Monash it came back with force. He saw an opportunity to redress injustice. He became angry when the idea lapsed into inactivity and returned to it several times. It was eventually adopted.

Then there was his own Department of Zoology and Comparative Physiology, which developed a 'unique flavour'. Dr David Pollard has a clear memory of Jock's stated aims concerning it's genesis. He first met Jock at an ANZAS Congress student party, and at the time was applying for a scholarship for post graduate research in aquatic zoology at Monash. During discussion of this 'Jock said that, with a blank sheet, he could have "carved a department" in his own scientific interests, but decided to go instead for the broader option of having a variety of disciplines with an overall concentration on the general concept of physiological ecology.' This allowed Pollard to pursue his interest in fish; and when he reached Monash he asked Jock if he would be his supervisor. 'Well' said Jock 'fish are very much like birds in a way - I wrote a paper on the similarities and general comparison of the two. Yes - go away and get your work going and then we'll talk. I don't believe in spoon - feeding around here.'

'No, he didn't' said James Warren, then one of the earliest senior lecturers (now Professor of Zoology at Monash) - 'Jock's style was off the cuff, brusque - doing things by the seat of his pants. But there was almost always humour with it. And he was fair, extraordinarily fair-minded in his dealings with everyone. He was completely supportive of his staff. He supported their work, general problems, their need for equipment; but there was a bit of a problem about that - the equipment.' When he became Dean of the Faculty of Science after Jock died, Warren discovered Jock had been syphoning off a really enormous proportion of the funds for equipment for the Zoology Department in the early days. 'It was an embarrassing graph when compared with the other departments. It didn't matter then - it wasn't a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul because there was a lot of money in those days - but it was really taking support a bit far.' And another early lecturer, Dr Bill Williams (now Professor of Zoology at Adelaide University) underlined that feeling of support. 'I learnt an enormous amount from Jock about running a department successfully. He was really interested in us and our work, and believed we should be a team. He certainly knew how to use his authority when necessary, but his aim seemed to be to avoid the necessity arising.'

The Zoology Department benefitted from the resolving of a serious disagreement he had with the architects. When he first saw the site for the University he noticed that besides the paddocks there was a patch of a few acres of scrub and trees with a gully running through it which would make an ideal zoological reserve. He called it Snake Gully and set about acquiring it for the Zoology Department. This was not a simple matter. The architects (Bates, Smart and McCutcheon, whom Jock immediately dubbed Bates, Smart and McSnitchum) had it marked for the University Regimental Barracks which they proposed linking to the main oval by a path over an earth wall planned as the dam for a lake. The architects loved their plan; Jock loved Snake Gully. A fight became inevitable. After many memos and talk with the Vice-Chancellor six acres was dotted off for the reserve but the architects affected not to be aware of this, and every change of plan caused more erosion. One day Tim Ealey, a Zoology lecturer, was supervising the removal of hawthorn in the Gully. He was astounded to find bulldozers coming right in among the trees, and tore back to the Department to inform Jock - 'Another person may have written a terse note to the Vice-Chancellor and the trees would have been gone before he received it. Not Jock. We raced back to Snake Gully, pulled out all the survey pegs that we could find, broke them and scattered them about. We left the bulldozers baffled and confused.'

All interested parties were hastily called to a meeting. They discovered that the residential Deakin Hall had been planned almost on top of the proposed barracks and two other halls of residence were sited in the gully - in six feet of water. Tim Ealey recalled Jock commenting acerbically on this to the architects, adding, after looking at the plans: 'We are only simple zoologists, dear boy, and know little of architectural matters, but it does seem to us that someone has blundered. This proposed lake [of yours] is on the side of a hill and not in the gully at all!' He made it clear that if the Department were not given a large enough bush area they would be obliged to have 'smelly and obnoxious' animal houses near the Zoology Department and therefore near other departments. They won ten acres to be fenced and unmolested. It was then gradually made beautiful and useful, a lake expanded from the six feet of water, with islands for water birds, and trees were planted as the weedy undergrowth was removed. The name 'Snake Gully' is still beloved by the zoologists but the University knows it as The Jock Marshall Zoological Reserve.

He also made a strong plea to have an indigenous species planting scheme for the campus, only keeping those mature European trees already on the property. This was coolly received by some of the European members of the University and some Australians who had little knowledge of the diversity and beauty of their native flora. But he was determined - he had seen the triumphant mature result of such an Australian planting at the University of California, Berkley. 'If the Americans can do it why can't these people have some bloody imagination' he snorted in exasperation. However, the plan was not implemented completely. Part laughing, part annoyed, he wrote to Professor Hunt whom he had nick-named "Peaches" :

'Dear Peaches,

Of course you know that I regard you as the one person who for purely selfish reasons caused the defeat of my scheme for a uniform, all-native campus planting. However, if you must have your bloody oaks and peaches (or was it beeches?) we had better help you to do it well and so, though only partially forgiving, I send you some sprouting acorns from under the very biggest and greenest oak on my place at Berwick ... May your geraniums wither.'

In early 1961 he was thinking about having the walls of the University buildings adorned with paintings by contemporary Australian artists. 'He was the father of the art collection' said John Legge 'he put up the proposal that the University spend some of its money each year on a collection.' He did not care who was on the committee 'provided it was composed of people who bought pictures - and he didn't mind what their taste was provided they put their own money into [them].' A Purchasing Committee was set up with Jock as convenor, and a student representative from the Fine Arts Department was invited to participate. Jock did not convene for long, but it was an interesting small beginning of a few paintings and some innovative ceramic sculptures by John Perceval from which has grown the large collection Monash now possesses.

Also, early in that year the important business of selecting a design for the Monash Coat of Arms surfaced. I was asked to sketch alternative designs. The first one, from the College of Heralds in London, had been rejected by everybody. There were endless possibilities and discussions. The permutations for drawing became alarming. There was talk of an eagle or other heraldic animal hovering over the crest. 'A cliche' said Jock - why not a lyrebird, the emblem of the State of Victoria? It could also be admirably decorative. This was not acceptable to the 'Heraldic Clergy' (as he called the Garter King of Arms) to whom it was sent in London. Nothing hovers. Then there was the motto. There were various pieces of Latin wisdom thrown into the ring, but Jock finally came up with one which everybody liked: Ancoro imparo (I am still learning). There was a little trouble - it is not Latin. It is Italian and a favourite saying of Michaelangelo. However, in view of its impeccable origin and its sentiments, it was accepted. I breathed a sigh of relief and muttered that I would have preferred Much learning doth make thee mad.

In June he went off to the Third International Congress of Endocrinology in Tokyo. He wrote to the Registrar on his return saying it had been a 'sobering revelation' to him that, despite advertisements proclaiming jobs at Monash in the international journal Nature, of all the leading endocrinologists to whom he had spoken only one could recall having heard of Monash. He wrote the letter in the hope that senior academics travelling to such congresses would make it their business to point out that Monash was 'already a centre of worthwhile research, and not merely just another provincial degree-giving institution.' He left the Tokyo people in no doubt of this himself. At Monash barely a year, he was identifying the University's problems as his own; in some part, of course, in his own interest. He had no wish to be identified with a third-rate institution. Professor Andrew said: 'Perhaps more than any other member of the University he was jealous for its reputation before Monash realised it was a University.


It was not all work and academic jousting in those early days. We met a lot of old friends again. Bill Cook and various colleagues had settled back in Australia. I met Dr. Diana Dyason for the first time. 'Ding', as she was almost universally known, said later - 'Jock always arrived like a Southerly gale. You couldn't ignore the impact. He blew out trivia - and sometimes people.' She was a tough fighter herself, head of the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Melbourne for many years until her retirement in 1987 - a brave, fun-loving stirrer, the sort of unrepentant rebel Jock loved. He had met her in Melbourne with our old friend from Oxford days, zoologist Frances McCallum.

Over the next few years, our visitors' book at "Quarry Hills" - something never possessed before - was a compilation of curious events (ducks marching down the front paddock and crossing the Princes Highway at our gate, additions to the goose population, migratory birds flying over, trees planted), people and celebratory illustrations after journeys or visits; inspired and slap dash. Clifton Pugh drunkenly portrayed Jock with his right arm missing one evening, while berating him about a lost night at Tiboorburra. Tass Drysdale evoked Flinders Island, Cliff and Eric Worrell with brilliant economy.

Jock had contacted Clifton Pugh (he of the tent flaps) again. Pugh had settled himself with his remarkable partner Marlene and their two children on a property to the north of Melbourne which was a co-operative of painters and potters called 'Dunmoochin'. We became friends; Cliff and Jock in spite of - or perhaps because of - their large egos and strong ambitions driven by untiring energy. Jock had a real interest in painting and Cliff was fascinated by bush animals. Cliff declared he taught Jock something about an emu's penis and Jock persuaded Cliff to paint a blue sky pink. They shared an aesthetic feeling for the Australian landscape. Jock was impressed with the element of danger, death and conflict Cliff depicted in his bush paintings. He introduced him to Dr H.C. (Nugget) Coombs, who also saw 'the scarcely suppressed violence of the Australian natural environment' in Pugh's work and bought paintings for the Reserve Bank. Jock commissioned a 'teaching panel' of Swamp Birds for the Zoology Department, the manner of its acquisition causing another stir in the halls of 'Bullshit Castle' (one of his names for the administration building). It was a beautiful painting and the Vice-Chancellor was justifiably annoyed that it ended up in a place where the rest of the University community rarely saw it. But after Jock died there was a quite public and unusual mural fixed to the plain white wall of the zoology lecture theatre. It was done at the instigation of Professor Warren who knew Jock had wished for a mural there and Cliff donated the design. With the help of many generous donors, a series of fruit bats was constructed from motorbike parts - black, and seen against the white wall through a moving tracery of lemon-scented eucalypts.

At Dunmoochin Cliff played the artistic patriarch. He sat at his long refectory table, curly head alert for a good argument, blue eyes behind round glasses flicking over his motley, mostly very talented guests. One day he got more than an argument. He had roughly portrayed Jock, with a nice touch of humour, as Pontius Pilate in a mural he had been commissioned to paint for the Catholic Church of Eltham. Jock as model seemed to upset a very conventional Melbourne philosopher - who later held one of the Chairs of philosophy at Sydney University. He engaged Cliff and Jock in a heated altercation at the lunch table, and became so furious at Jock's irreverent attitude that he shouted 'if you had two arms I'd take you outside for a fight.' Those who knew Jock froze. Unbelievable - it would normally have caused Jock to eat the man. His riposte has been buried in the emotion of the moment - but the philosopher, and his wife in tears, left. Most fights there were more good-natured; argument and role-playing was common, often funny, at those early gatherings of painters, potters, writers, academics, poets - many of them just at the edge of their greater fame like the brilliantly emerging playwright David Williamson (who said 'Jock loved to play the naughty older man') and painters John Olsen and Fred Williams. We homed to 'Pughland' often.

In the summer of late 1960 or early '61 we met Lord and Lady Casey at a party given by Sir John Medley. Superficially it might have appeared that Jock and Dick Casey had nothing in common to talk about. Jock was an iconoclast, a left-wing sympathiser politically; his academic research seemed to be a million miles from Casey's interests, especially engineering; they had no common ties in background except that it was distinctively Australian. The only thing they seemed to have in common was a strong sense of personal style, however different that might be. In fact they only spoke briefly at the party - but we visited "Edrington", the Casey's Berwick property, not long afterwards. Jock thought this might be a formality that would come to nothing. But no - there was plenty to talk about. For all his conventional and formal behaviour Casey could enjoy off-beat characters provided they did not offend his standards of decency; they struck a quiet chord in him, never apparent on the surface. He had a puckish sense of humour and was not as set in conventional right-wing thinking as rumour would have it. Indeed, in some ways he was less concerned with rank and position than his multi-talented wife, Maie, who had a highly developed sense of style of her own. She enjoyed painting and was very helpful to other artists, had attended George Bell's School of Art, knew many painters around the world, and loved to talk of it all. Very quickly we found a generous and warm friendship with both of them; and their small study full of paintings and lived-in furniture became familiar ground to us, as "Quarry Hills" did to them.

Jock enjoyed his varied friendships; 'he was not elitist - not at all' said Rufus Davis - 'he was on matey terms with all kinds of different people.' Our parties were evidence of his love of scattering the hierarchies; mixing bishops and barmaids, professors and students, anyone with anyone whom he liked.


Back on the hill at Narre Warren it was early Spring. Tass Drysdale came down from Sydney to stitch together with Jock the story of their journey across Australia. Fire roared in the open fireplace of the spacious living room. They sat at two large tables surrounded by papers and diaries, alternately working and flinging ideas and memories about, recreating scenes of dusty heat and cackling at the thought of the characters they had met in bizarre pubs and lonely cattle leads of the North West - Tass with a curl of cigarette smoke constantly rising from his left hand resting on the drawing or against the thinning brown hair of his head; Jock stopping the clatter of the typewriter to open a small silver snuffbox and take a powdery pinch of his aromatic North England brew. Sometimes in the evening tiny bats left their wide, concave coping and dipped about the room. Three baby ring-tailed possums whom Tass and Jock had found abandoned in the garden occasionally forsook their warm box and took to the bookshelves. They were incredibly difficult to catch - 'little bastards, you've pissed on all the best authors' groaned Jock as he lunged at them.

The atmosphere of bonhomie and co-operation lasted through a week of working and making delicate decisions on whose writing should go where. They had an understanding which kept it all elastic. Jock had the professional experience, but also admiration for Tass's word pictures - 'if he hadn't been a painter he could have become a very good writer'. So he did most of the editing and juggling with their writing while Tass added to the collection of drawings he had done for the Observer articles. Then they would have a drink, put their feet up in front of the fire and discuss together or with me how it was all coming together. They admired each other's gifts. Far too much thinks Maisie Drysdale (Tass's second wife, now Lady Drysdale): 'I used to get utterly fed-up with Tass always quoting Jock - "Jock said this, Jock did that" - it drove me mad.'

They finished their work, satisfied that the first draft had gone well. After a lot of polishing Journey Among Men was launched eventually in September, 1962 to very good reviews. One reviewer, John Douglas Pringle, was more probing than most: 'Jock Marshall - now a professor, though those who know this brilliant, wayward and rumbustious zoologist will always find it hard to use the title ... himself a sort of Platonic ideal of the Australian type, naturally sees in the Outback more or less what Australians want to see - a land of adventure, the last frontier, where men are men and women are not wanted, and the language is as rough as the dirt tracks along which they bumped and crashed.' Like other reviewers he was charmed by 'precise and elegant descriptions of birds and beasts and reptiles that live in the desert regions.' He could well have included Drysdale in the 'Platonic ideal'. While not as obviously tough as Jock, Tass was powerfully attracted to the male image of the Outback, painted it, wrote lovingly of it and was comfortable there.


Just as the book was launched we were moving from Narre Warren. "Oatlands" could not be subdivided. The whole 165 acres had been put back on the market and was way beyond our means. Feeling sad, we moved two miles down the Prince's Highway to Berwick. But as usual the luck was with us in our camps: sitting on another hill, the oldest house in the district surrounded by twelve acres had just come on the market. It was the last vestige of a large holding, which had included a bluestone quarry, owned by four generations of the Wilson and Henry families. It was called "Quarry Hills". The original house of two rooms and a kitchen was built with bricks made from clay dug out of the paddocks and baked in the sun and two more additions had been made at different times in the style of their era. It was another rambling character of a house. We put aside regrets. Jock's enthusiasm expanded daily. We started planning - for instance what to do with one of the original rooms falling apart and being used as a garage, how to clean up the dam and bring in some experimental animals, how to screen the paddocks and the house from the dust of the quarry road, what trees and shrubs to plant? - it was going to be an Australian garden among the old trees and camellias already there.

Jock and Dominic Serventy were doing some research on Cape Barren geese and the dam seemed ideal for some experimental birds; so it had to be dredged of four generations of jagged rubbish and the surrounding area fenced and electrified against marauding families of foxes snooping through the paddocks. While this was going on I cleaned 2000 or more old sun-baked bricks from the original room which we decided to rebuild, and then for a while painted only walls not pictures. I thought Jock's retribalisation was going a bit too far when I discovered Cliff Pugh had made a rash promise to help him build a pig-pen - we already had a Jersey cow which the reluctant tribe were supposed to learn to milk - but after several visits, a lot of talk and a lot of empty bottles of Cooper's yeasty ale, they converted an old shed into a chicken house and thankfully forgot about pigs. The tribe were distinctly disconcerted at the sight of 39 day-old chicks but somewhat mollified when Jock bought two more horses.

He loved the physical activity, the involvement with the family in transforming this place to a personal statement and the chance to give the children a life among animals. There was even a tame sheep for a while, who ended up in Professor Derek Denton's laboratory in Melbourne giving data on blood pressure because she couldn't kick her addiction to sweet biscuits fed to her by quarry workers next door, and kept wandering in amongst the large machines. There were assorted possum pets and two resident wombats whose life's work was bulldozing a tunnel under the garage wall into Donald's bedroom, territorialising our shoes and climbing into the most comfortable chair available. Finally too bold, they went to live in Snake Gully. The children loved the animals; Donald, with some reservations, even took part in tree planting and with more gusto helped destroy broken down sheds - but Michelle hated such activity and rather bravely refused to participate 'Jock frightened me sometimes - he didn't touch me - it was just the way he looked.' Wilga (who, not surprisingly, disliked her name and is now Prema) was young enough simply to crawl all over him when he sat down. When he came home from the University he climbed into a boiler suit and shot off to work through the long summer evenings, clearing, digging or planting trees, then back for dinner and a glass or two of our home-bottled wine from Rutherglen or a much better bottle from the cellar we had devised from an old leaking well. 'Let's have a glass of red - we owe it to ourselves.' Then he wrote late into the night.

Those first years were certainly not quiet times. There was pressure as well as fun and challenge: the physical turmoil of building, the demands of family as we all tried to settle into a different mould. There was a lot of entertaining, especially of international guests, although Jock made good use of some of them, often wearing his boiler-suit and keeping a pile of implements in readiness. Tass Drysdale visited and was drawn into using them, wading calf-deep in the cement of the waterlily pool we were devising and then decorating its edge with lovely incised line sketches of animals. And he also honoured our dining room with a drawing - a marvellous Drysdale-like Marshall family mural on the white wall. With infinite sadness I had to leave it behind when I left "Quarry Hills" - the crumbling old plaster and the Post Office crayon would not stand removal. I do not remember Jock handing a spade to Gough Whitlam (later to become Prime Minister) when he spent a weekend with us, although a busy political leader might well have enjoyed such a respite. Gough Whitlam had been elected Deputy Leader of the Labor Party in 1960. He and Jock had known each other at Sydney University when Jock was a mature-age Science student and Tutor at St Paul's College, and Whitlam was reading Law: 'I remembered Jock well - I wanted to catch up with him again.' He took the opportunity when campaigning at the Bendigo by-election for the Party's candidate, Beaton, and came across to Berwick bearing striped "Brighton Pier" candy bars for the children. He and Jock did a lot of talking. I recall education figuring largely - but in general the climate of change stirring in Australia was right for both of them - and exciting.


This was all utterly different from our life in Oxford and London, which had been busy, entertaining and stimulating; marked by 'happy domesticity', more or less ordered but above all governed (by me as well as him) by the needs of his research to which he gave his full energy and attention. Now his energy was still endless but it was being spread too widely. He kept travelling - to Japan, to Cornell University in the States to lecture and to visit the office of Naval Research to talk about radio tagging for his and Serventy's work on the long distance migration flights of the shearwaters, and also to the islands of Bass Strait for work on Cape Barren geese. He was editing two books and for one was writing four chapters. It was a book, which he called The Great Extermination, that Heinemann's had asked him to write on the sad state of environmental care for native fauna and flora in Australia. On this subject he wrote at length to Prime Minister Menzies, particularly on the slaughter of kangaroos. He took on the work of scientific adviser to Penguin books. He conceived an idea for an Oceanarium on the foreshores of Port Phillip Bay which would be a centre for marine research and an interesting aquarium for the public. The project drew support from many well-known Melbournians but, after three years work, was bitterly and successfully opposed by the citizens of Black Rock who wanted their piece of scruffy foreshore left unmolested by scientists and public alike. With Serventy he worked on a field station for Flinders Island. He set up a Native Fauna Conservation Society. The files of letters grew like mushrooms.

He involved himself passionately with almost all these things: the more he did the more flared up like a self-detonating fireworks display. None of it was too much for someone with his energy and talent for organisation - but there was a constant nagging question. His research? - was it being snuffed out? He was worrying about it. Like any art, good research needs the full range of a scientist's creative and intuitive resources. There is nothing cold about it. It must run hot. There are plenty of lack-lustre performers in research as in teaching, but Jock despised them: 'They're time-servers - they're so slow they have dead lice dropping off them.'

The turbulent physical activity and peripheral intellectual enterprises were indeed becoming snuffers. He was being seduced by his own country, his ambition for it, his enjoyment of it - he wanted to have a part in transforming this 'shit-house' as he had described Australia seven years before. And Australia was now growing restless with its undemanding "back-room maid" role on the world stage and looking about for change; opening its collective mind to more intellectually demanding and creative entertainment than sport and war stories. The feeling showed in a new excitement in the arts and even in politics, although conservative forces still had a grip on the reins. It showed in the fact that the Labor Party espoused and elevated such a man as Gough Whitlam; the intellectual left was feeling its muscle. The time was ripe for action rather than talk - perhaps on some of the criticisms in Australia Limited twenty years before. But in Jock's drive to have the Zoology Department, the University, even the Oceanarium functioning as world-class projects, and to thrust the burning necessity for conservation of their environment into the consciousness of laid-back Australians, he was stealing time from research. With his usual self-awareness he said: 'It's my own fault - most of these things are my choice, but they are important - it's bloody frustrating.' A new department, a new university in his own country, owning a mini-farm, wanting to stir and influence - it was impossible for a character like him not to become involved to the hilt with the whole process. It had been quite different in England, not his country; and at Barts where he entered an old system with its own ground rules and momentum. Although he put his stamp on teaching and the Department, he lost little energy on the wider scene - the octopus arms of the University of London. His research and his scientific reputation had flourished.

The burdens of administration were not in Jock's eyes only. An article - "The Monash Story" - was published in The Bulletin in May 1964: it declared 'Monash Administration seems thoroughly heavy-handed and restrictive' but also noted 'the "God-Professor" rules on high as almost nowhere else. He spends about eighty per cent of his time on committees and boards and on administration ...'. In the end Jock's frustration drove him to do something which pointed up a bad lapse of judgement. He pushed for one of his senior lecturers, who had been staff representative on the Professorial Board, to be given the administrative running of the Department and accorded the title of Assistant Professor, in order that he himself could be released to do research. 'When this proposition was put to the Science Faculty members and later to the Professorial Board' said Professor Kevin Westfold 'it was turned down absolutely as being an unsuitable appointment.' It was also against Jock's own stated opposition to any professorial position being given without wide advertisement to attract the best. He fought for it, turning a blind eye to all else. He lost.


In 1963 Jock had organised for late June a small collecting trip to gather desert animals for physiological work going on in the Department, especially some toads to try and illuminate their interesting water storing capacity. It was to be around Cooper's Creek and Lake Calabonna. Eric Worrel, the herpetologist from Gosford, was going to collect snakes in the area and Tass Drysdale and Clifton Pugh were going along for their own artistic reasons.

However, while in Sydney for a few days shortly before this, he was horrified to discover blood in his faeces. His mind flew immediately to cancer, although he hoped desperately it might be a bleeding haemorrhoid. He came straight home. Typically he said nothing to me that night. It had always been so. He kept his concerns to himself until he had checked the situation. In the morning he went to a diagnostic physician. By afternoon his fears were realised. It was cancer. We were stunned with the sudden emotional blow - without warning of previous symptoms; or none that we could recognise. Jock was appalled by the implications but not really surprised to find it was cancer. He had had it on his mind for years. Not obviously - but in retrospect it became clear he had been singularly aware of the smallest aberration in his own physiology and twice had insisted that I should go and have a small dark mole checked out and removed because it was being rubbed by clothing. His mother's family were prone to the disease, so there had been talk of it at home. He would not have acknowledged fear of it. But as he educated himself from earliest times physiologically and medically, he became super sensitive to the need for noting symptoms. The awful irony of this situation was that there had been none. 'But' he said firmly 'it's not as though I have a shanka [a syphilitic sore] on the end of my nose. I don't want to tell the children, but there's no point in slinking around trying to hide it from adults. They say it's big - but we can beat it.' That last phrase - 'we can beat it' - was the key to his whole attitude. He had beaten all sorts of minor and major disasters so far, and this was going to be no different. The next day he was in the Frances Cabrini Hospital in Melbourne waiting for surgeon William Hughes to operate. He spent three weeks in great pain and discomfort recovering from a massive excision of his small intestine. While he was there the Monash student magazine came out with a sympathy notice: 'Hear that Prof. Jock is ill. He has our sympathy but we think it is rather unusual that our beloved agnostic is at one of the most expensive, and incidentally Catholic, hospitals in Victoria.' Their 'beloved agnostic' had not turned spiritual coat - merely complied with the need for speed - but they would have appreciated his outrageous behaviour. The Mother Superior came round one day to ask if there was anything she could do for him - 'Well Mother' he said 'I've always had a desire to sleep with a nun - perhaps you could arrange that for me.'

When he left hospital he caused me acute frustration and concern. He gave me no chance to nurse him back from this trauma. He announced he was going to take off for Innaminka to catch up with the zoologists and artists. Hughes said 'It's a bit soon' but had no way of stopping him. In fact getting straight back on the track was probably the best therapy - away from everything (even talk) into his beloved outback country. It was. He came striding back - rather pale and still a bit weak, but pleased with himself and determined to plunge into life exactly as before.

He found he could not do this - not exactly anyway. We slid into another traumatic patch. Young Donald became ill with constant fevers and I took many trips with him to the Childrens' Hospital where he had tests for leukemia. There was unbelievable relief when we discovered it was glandular fever. At the same time my gentle, whimsical father died. All the old patterns seemed to be breaking up. It was a struggle to keep a positive mood. But Jock gathered strength fast, Spring arrived and the year seemed less black.

Jock Marshall: One Armed Warrior by Jane Marshall
Published by the Australian Science Archives Project on ASAPWeb, 25 February 1998
Comments or corrections to: Bright Sparcs (
Prepared by: Elissa Tenkate

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