Six months later he was pulling the tiger's tail again - at an
ANZAS Congress in Canberra. There was a prelude to this nearly
a year before. He replied to a letter from Mr T.R. Garnett, headmaster
of Geelong Church of England Grammar School, who sought his views
on certain pre-university courses at school, in particular for
the medical faculty: 'It is not true that we have a great shortage
of medically qualified people in this state. This is propaganda
engendered by politicians who are besieged by Melbourne Mums eager
that their boys should achieve the title "Doctor" and
a nice shiny Jaguar. There is, however, a desperate need of good
teachers. Sometimes children have to come and live in city digs
because they can't get adequate tuition in country high schools.'
He went on to mention the short courses in the opposite discipline
for scientists and arts students which had been instituted at
Monash in the interests of balancing education but - 'my own belief
is a gloomy one: that although you may inject the average science
student with some Kit Marlowe, or the average "Arts"
student with some fascinating stuff on hormones, neither inoculation
will necessarily "take" ... Having said all this, I'd
better admit that it was I who was primarily responsible for the
establishment of an arts course for scientists.' He did believe
unequivocally that the poor selection, training and salary inducements
for teachers put them at the bottom of the heap as educated citizens
- 'there is no snob value and no great financial reward in being
a teacher' - whereas the reverse is true of the major part of
the medical profession.
So to the ANZAS Congress in January 1964, where he was Chairman
of Section D - Zoology. By now there was research in the pipeline
but nothing he thought worthy of report at this stage. He decided
to broaden the conventional address and tackle some of the concerns
he had about scientific and general education. He did not expect
it to be a popular move among his colleagues. It was a serious
decision - perhaps a little driven by a feeling that time for
him to say such things might run out. He wrote a critical, although
fair enough, overview of Australian institutions of learning,
but indulged himself; happily taking a sharp verbal stick to,
and worse still, making fun of the various sacred cows browsing
so complacently in our social landscape. And he went to Canberra
in a quixotic mood - defying the traditions in his old tweed jacket
and riding around on a borrowed bicycle - and, although the theme
of his address was deadly serious, he could not resist the provocative
phrases, particularly the ones concerning the medical profession,
which the next day hit the front pages of eastern states newspapers
and brought forth at least four cartoons:
'It is then highly desirable socially for Mr. and Mrs. Everidge
to have a real live "doctor" for a son, or son-in-law,
and there is also the money to be considered. Medicine is one
of the few professions in Australia in which an industrious dolt,
as distinct from the able diagnostician, can make at least 5000
pounds per year ... and there are simply not enough places [in
the universities] (nor is it necessary that there should be enough
places) for all these young people, an appreciable proportion
of whom are better fitted to the job of selling motor scooters
than the exacting job of practising medicine.'
As could have been predicted these succulent bits of over-emphasis
were quoted completely out of context, but they made a media feast.
Reporters, anxious to have him elaborate, tracked him to the
Hotel Civic where he had gone with friends for refreshment. 'He
elaborated' said one 'but alas profanely.' Jock would have been
quite aware of possible publicity but even he was shocked at the
coverage the whole thing got. It made for problems, not the least
of which was correspondence. The ripples reached as far as Europe:
a Dutch newspaper translated 'industrious dolt' into 'an active
owl-chick'! There was a lot of laughter, a lot of agreement and
a lot of acrimony (mostly in the press) - especially from some,
though by no means all, elements of the medical profession, which
had been targeted by journalists - but the message had been lost.
It was one of the few times when Jock regretted his excess of
language, because his thesis was about teaching and other important
matters - he was merely having a jab at the Australian "god-Doctor"
image in passing: 'In fact, I did not criticise the medical profession
as such. I deplored the shortage of good high-school teachers
and was concerned with the local tribal customs that so exalted
the village medicine man.' But the subject was not dropped for
a whole week. There were letters to the papers and blasts from
the Australian Medical Association and two leaders which declared
that the airing of all this was a very good thing - 'the man from
Monash has got up on his hind legs and told the academics to take
a gander at themselves and their place in the community.' Of
course, the whole episode, particularly the publicity, was looked
upon as reprehensible by the stuffier elements inside and outside
the scientific community. He decided he had better stay healthy
for some time. The Editorial Committee of ANZAS refused to publish
the address. Vestes, the Australian Universities' Review,
published it but edited it into a more bland message.
He was aware that some of the criticism was fair, but he had been
tilting at such established windmills all his life. It was not
surprising that Elsbeth Huxley wrote later 'some of his colleagues
deplore what they consider to be bluster, a liking for publicity
and a tendency to overstate the case. He is certainly no meek
and ineffectual don. But in the modern world of onward marching
technology, battles are seldom won by learned papers delivered
in seminars and scientific conferences. All poses can, on occasion
irritate; but beneath the Professor's Wild Colonial Boy there
lies a sensitive, warm-hearted and civilised man.'
The furore settled. I met him with the children after the conference
for a camping holiday through the hills and valleys of his ancestral
country around the Adelong and Tumut Rivers. We were meeting
family and searching the environment for clues to old tales.
He was well and full of energy, but returning to his roots in
the face of a threat to the existence he so valued and showing
a sentiment for family and country which he felt deeply. It gave
In March 1964, when the weather was clement and the moon was full
we gave a party for more than a hundred people at Quarry Hills.
It was a house-warming and we invited friends from anywhere around
Australia, the country, the city, the university, artists, writers
and many people who had helped us in all sorts of capacities.
Jock loved mixing people and 'making his friends friends with
each other.' He ordered much claret from the Victorian wine district
of Rutherglen, and said 'Let's have a large barbeque - we're back
- it's traditional.' In spite of my qualms - I don't like large
parties - it turned out to be an enjoyable madness and was set
to become an annual event with guests sleeping in hired caravans.
After one of these Jock went out early in the morning and found
Alan Moorehead, Dom Serventy and Martin Knottenbelt, who had shared
a caravan, sweeping the large bluestone flagged courtyard. He
came back grinning 'We must put them together next time - they
probably haven't slept and they're doing a wonderful job with
the chop bones.'
Not long after this he became involved again with journalism.
It was absolutely the last thing he wanted. Long ago in England
he had shown his feelings on such a possibility when he thought
briefly he might have cancer of the scrotum, and declared that
in the worst case he would have to do it for the financial future
of the family. And so it was now. Both of us were against it;
there was much more important work he wanted to do. But, with
three young (the youngest only four at the time) and mortgages,
he thought it impossible to deny an opportunity which arose at
this vulnerable moment. Rupert Murdoch was just starting up The
Australian newspaper and the difficult, gifted, energetic
first editor, Maxwell Newton - whom Jock liked in their brief
encounters - was looking around for interesting contributors.
Jock was invited to write a weekly article of about 2000 words.
The first one appeared with the first edition of the paper on
July 15, 1964. It was a punchy, amusing, serious argument against
the Victorian Government's plan to start a third university and
to elevate seven technical colleges to degree-giving status when
the oldest University was starved of funds and the three-year-old
Monash was already trying to do too much with too little. He
did not confine himself entirely to academic subjects - although
these and the conservation of species made up the bulk of his
writing. For instance, on February 20th 1965, he wrote an article
when Talbot Duckmanton was appointed the new managing director
of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and hoped that this
would bring inspirational change - not that he knew Mr Duckmanton;
his criticisms were directed at the mediocrity of commissioners
which he considered was stultifying creative talent. Whether
this was true or not it stirred the letter writers - from remarks
such as 'the excellent clinical examination of the ills of the
A.B.C.' or ponderous rejoinders from its upper echelons to colourful
crackers from Max Harris in Adelaide: 'The greatest single inadequacy
the A.B.C. has to endure is the calibre of its public critics
... like Professor Marshall pecking angrily away at the carcass
of a fracas ... [he] knows as much about the problems of the A.B.C.
as I so about the mating habits of the campus-crested Tit-warbler.'
The response to many of the articles brought amusement for the
public and satisfaction for the coffers of The Australian.
He was serious on most subjects - although he often had fun hitting
targets, sometimes with a sledge-hammer, sometimes with delightful
irony. He had carte blanche (within the libel laws) to
write as he pleased, and he was often pleased to be provocative.
He aired a huge range of subjects over two years and many academic
concerns which he felt would be useful knowledge for an educated
public - but, at the same time stirred his critics on the subject
of 'publicity'. And privately he was resenting the time spent
In the last quarter of the year he went to the Second Pan-African
Congress in Pietermaritzburg. He was enthusiastic; wanted to
see the problems of South Africa himself and meet scientists there.
He took off on August 28th, read a paper on his and Serventy's
shearwater research and talked with many people at Pietermaritzburg.
He gave four lectures at the University of Cape Town and began
sending back articles for The Australian. He described
the physical beauties of Cape Town and its environs, its sunny
architecture, charming old cape Dutch farm-houses and well laid-out
road systems, the pleasantness of South Africans as hosts - but:
'it is only when you read the newspapers that you realise you
have entered a gigantic mad-house.'. He wrote of the horrendous
injustices of apartheid and they caused him to think of home.
He wrote a fifth article pointing out that we ourselves were
indulging in a form of behaviour hardly different from apartheid
with our own Aborigines. Those articles on South Africa's social
ills and criminal injustice would assure he was not given a visa
to that country again, despite some of the pleasant remarks he
made as well, but they stirred a lot of interest back in Australia.
Nearly two years later, in October 1966, a member of the African
National Congress, Robert Resha, was visiting Australia, and at
a dinner in his honour of one hundred and fifty or so people at
Melbourne University, it was agreed by general acclamation that
they express to Jock their appreciation for 'the splendid series
of articles on South Africa in The Australian' written
at the time of his visit there: 'These, it was agreed, had probably
done more than any other published here to enlighten the Australian
people concerning the aparthied issue.' He then set off for Leningrad
where he wished to talk with the distinguished Russian zoologist,
Portenko. He travelled via Greece, Romania and Moscow. He was
moving fast. It is true it was always his habit but now he was
feeling under pressure - as he had ever since the operation -
to get a lot done and have his research in print. The articles
for The Australian were an impediment to this. However,
in London he saw the oncologist, Naunton Morgan, who pronounced
him extremely fit and free of any apparent problems. Heartened,
he set off to give lectures at UCLA and came back to Melbourne
on November 10th, not in a very good mood because jewellery he
bought me in London had been stolen in a Los Angeles hotel. He
prowled about the house, still upset, even though an antique desk
and chair that he bought in Cape Town were coming in due course.
But he had always brought personal gifts for me and the children
- unpacking them from his old rucksack or battered suitcase as
soon as he came into the house. He felt cheated. And England
had not really been a success - he visited old haunts. Nothing
had the same feel. 'He was one-celled - emotionally rolled up',
one woman commented. There was no real nostalgia for England
but a feeling assailed him: that he had left on a high wave of
successful research which landed him in the shallows of administration
in Australia - or so it seemed to him now, however exciting it
had been in the beginning.
He was certainly going into print in the matter of conservation
with the book he had edited - The Great Extermination.
This subject of conservation was a vehicle for fire and passion.
In the introduction and the other three chapters which he wrote,
amidst erudite descriptions of Australian wildlife and its plight,
he was firing off salvos at institutions and people as he pin-pointed
the attitudes still hanging on from the earliest white history;
denigrating the Australian landscape as un-European, different,
boring and downright ugly. For instance, on Sir Kenneth Clark
who referred to 'that inhospitable fringe between sea and desert'
and made other ill-judged generalisations, he commented - 'I do
not want to make too much fun of this earnest and worthy man ...
'; and the 'sheep-farmers', demonstrating a frightening lack
of ecological or aesthetic sense as they stripped the land bare
for more and more sheep and cattle. Of course, he had much to
say about the dismissive attitudes of politicians when it came
to our national heritage, but for his old kicking-boy he had a
compliment at the end: 'the Victorian conservation program has
had at all times the support of the Victorian Premier, Sir Henry
Bolte and the Chief Secretary, Mr A.G. Rylah.'
In the final chapter he returned to an argument that he and many
others had raised often over years - the 'usefulness' of both
research and wilderness. 'There is no measurable value in a golden
dawn coming up over the rim of the plains, nor of a full moon
rising majestically through coolabahs across a still lagoon ...
'. But more pertinently for those who had to see a material value
in all things he argued 'When Gelmo discovered sulphanilamide
in Vienna in 1908 and incidentally wrote down the wrong melting
point, neither he nor anybody else had any idea that, many years
later, hundreds of thousands of lives would be saved by his work.'
And as for wilderness and the creatures within it, there were
secrets held which might be of immeasurable value for even the
most rigidly practical human when research found a key to their
Another book on conservation published two years after Jock died,
and dedicated to him, was The Last of Lands, edited by
Dr. Leonard Webb. It had 24 distinguished authors and covered
considerably more ground than The Great Extermination.
It was well-reviewed in the British science journal, Nature,
although the reviewer noted 'Such a composite work inevitably
lacks the fire in its belly it would have had if Jock Marshall
had survived to write even a couple of pages for it ... '. And
as a final plea 'Will somebody else now please take a deep breath,
remember Jock Marshall and use the facts in this book to make
a noise that all the unconverted will be bound to hear.' It is
impossible to say how many of the unconverted have heard but undoubtedly
a vast number more than at the time these two books were written.
When Elspeth Huxley came to visit us in January 1965, he was still
steaming over conservation issues. She spent a long afternoon
with us talking about animals, including the lyre-birds in the
forests behind us, and in a later book, remarked: 'Professor
Jock Marshall can put on a display as well as they can and for
the same reason, defence of territory; in this case not so much
his own as that of certain species in the animal kingdom.' They
also discussed the wholesale shooting of kangaroos and the very
live issue of their numbers being decimated to a dangerous level
for reproduction. This was an issue disputed by several scientists
working on kangaroo populations, including Dr Tim Ealey of his
own Department who said 'Jock embarrassed me with his fervour
for stopping the slaughter - it was not as simple as that.' He
was pleased that not long before he died Jock reviewed his own
assessment of the situation: 'Perhaps they should be farmed -
certainly the culling should not be wasted.' It has been proved
that culling - of some wild animals in the world - has become
increasingly necessary for their own survival as they eat out
and destroy the small amount of habitat left to them. At the
time he was speaking to Huxley some grazing properties were disastrously
overstocked and sheep had wiped out the grasses of their own diet
and allowed native grass species to take over. The sheep were
not able to survive on these but certain types of kangaroo multiplied
alarmingly on them. Although he wrote sympathetically of the
necessity for farmers to survive Jock was amused by the irony
- 'It's not funny really, but it makes you believe in God!'
He was one of the first members of the Australian Conservation
Foundation, which was born of discussions between a few people,
sometime in 1964, who wanted to throw a net over the whole continent
and canalise conservation issues nationally. Early meetings were
held at the Hotel Canberra. There were not many people: the
poet Judith Wright, Jock, Dr Leonard Webb of the C.S.I.R.O. in
Queensland and Dr Max Day and Dr Francis Ratcliffe from the same
organisation in Canberra, among a number of others engaged or
interested in the conservation field. 'The business was conducted
in a very informal atmosphere around a long table in the dining
room' said Dr Webb 'and at one meeting, almost in mid sentence,
Judith Wright exclaimed "Oh my God, I've forgotten my nightie!"
- "Don't worry" said Jock with cheerful elan "I've
got a spare pair of pyjamas." With instant decision, while
the rest of us sat in chagrin wondering why we hadn't been able
to think of anything to say or do, he went upstairs and came back
with a pair of wonderful - sumptuous really - silk pyjamas. Judith
accepted with grace and dignity, and that night wrapped herself
in the arms of Morpheus and Jock's pyjamas. Jock, of course,
had enjoyed himself. He no doubt liked the idea of helping Judith
but he loved playing the cavalier gentleman and leaving the rest
of us in disarray.'
Seriously, however, he later became worried about the wishy-washy
course of the A.C.F. - its first formal Council meeting was held
in August 1966 and he was too ill to attend. In November he wrote
to Francis Ratcliff:
'I am at present undergoing barotherapy at the Peter McCallum
Clinic and I do not feel very well but what has made me feel worse
is the horrid little Foundation brochure that has just turned
up and its anaemic appearance in general and its timid invitation
to help "conserve our farmlands, forests and waterways"
... We now have enough money to run for three years and it is
the next three years that will make or break the Foundation -
it will either become a positive success and something important
in the national scene or it will deteriorate into yet another
independent society of nature loving do-gooders ... Those who
have put themselves forward for election to the Executive have
what is almost a holy trust to do the best they possibly can in
forwarding the aims of the Foundation. If we miss this chance
another will probably not come for half a century.'
He was still concerned about it two weeks before he died, when
he wrote to Alfred Dunbavin Butcher of the State Fisheries and
Wildlife Department: 'I am by no means opposed to the Conservation
Foundation as such ... but I have felt that as it stood the Foundation
was pretty ineffectual and needed better teeth in it at Canberra.'
He thought opportunities to make press statements were being
wasted or ignored and believed it was imperative to bring conservation
issues into the realm of politics. He had done what he could
himself in contacting the very sympathetic Senator Tony Mulvihill.
He would have applauded the enormous thrust into the political
arena taken a few years ago by the Foundation under its Director,
Phillip Toyne who certainly made a noise and succeeded in having
conservation put on the political agenda very effectively; even
significantly acted upon.
In 1963 Alan Moorhead was in Australia and asked Jock for his
views on travel in the area of the Great Australian Bight. Jock
replied that the Bight was 'monotonously boring to the superficial
observer, but fascinating in its detail if one is able to soak
oneself into the environment long enough to get its spirit and
feeling.' From his earliest writings in Espiritu Santo and New
Guinea to the tougher pronouncements of his last years that 'spirit
and feeling' came through. His greatest concern was the infinite
damage to all life that occurs when it is divorced from the natural
web which succours it. Over and over again he emphasised the
importance of saving the whole environment of creatures under
threat. 'I don't give a damn about protecting individual animals.
It's the species I want to protect ... Once a species goes, it's
lost forever. You can't resurrect it. It is as if Beethoven
hadn't lived to give us the Ninth Symphony or Shakespeare to give