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
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
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"
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
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
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
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
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
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