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Geoffrey Bolton & Cazaly reviews

18 July 2017 404 views No Comment


‘A Historian For All Seasons: Essays for Geoffrey Bolton’
Edited by Stuart Macintyre, Lenore Layman and Jenny Gregory

Monash University Publishing 2017
ISBN (paperback): 978-1-925495-60-7
ISBN (e-book): 978-1-925495-61-4

RRP $39.95

by Ross Fitzgerald

When our daughter Emerald was little, the only person she called by their full name was Geoffrey Bolton. She was obviously impressed by him and why wouldn’t she have been? After all Bolton, my friend and intellectual mentor, was tall and full-bearded and looked like an Old Testament prophet. He cut a striking figure.

In 1963, when his ground-breaking history of early north Queensland, ‘A Thousand Miles Away’, was first published, Bolton was teaching me history at Monash University, where, unforgettably, he lectured entirely without notes.

As he was to many other aspiring academics, Geoffrey Bolton was extremely encouraging to me, personally and professionally. After I took a position at Griffith University in Brisbane in 1977, he was especially helpful in regard to my two-volume history of Queensland and my biography of ex-Queensland premier and federal treasurer, E. G. (“Red Ted”) Theodore, all published by UQP. Then, as is documented in this intriguing book of essays in his honour, in 1993 Geoffrey wrote a revealingly original piece on “Hypocrisy” in my edited collection ‘The Eleven Deadly Sins’.

In between times, as is mentioned twice in ‘A Historian For All Seasons’, I unsuccessfully tried to broker a peace between Geoffrey and my friend Barry Humphries. The trouble between them occurred because, shortly before he became foundation head of the Centre for Australian Studies in Russell Square in London in 1982, Geoffrey told ‘The Australian’ that one of his tasks would be to dispel the impression of brash vulgarity evoked by Rolf Harris and Barry Humphries.

While Harris took no offence, Humphries did. Soon afterwards, in the guise of Professor Les Patterson, Humphries appeared on the doorsteps of the Australian Studies Centre and recorded a television interview with David Frost. It was, according to a reliable source, “venomous in its caricature”.

In their useful essay “Spoils and Spoilers”, Andrea Gaynor and Tom Griffiths argue that “Geoff’s mission was seriously in tension with that of the comedian.” In September 1982 Australian Studies specialist, Jim Davidson, wrote to Bolton: “If you manage to bury Sir Les Patterson you’ll have done a good job.” As Gaynor and Griffiths explain, ten years later in his 1992 ABC Radio Boyer Lectures, Bolton continued to ask: “So why do we so often succumb to self-hatred and self-mockery, why do we accept Les Patterson and (the TV show) Sylvania Waters as icons of Australia?”

In many ways ‘A Historian For All Seasons’ is a revealing and satisfying book.

This tribute to Geoffrey Bolton is edited by three former colleagues – Stuart Macintyre, Lenore Layman and Jenny Gregory – all of whom also contribute to this collection of 12 essays that have been written especially for the book.

Taken as a whole, ‘A Historian For All Seasons’ reveals the essence of Geoffrey Bolton as a person and polymath who often wrote from and about the periphery of our nation. Thus, despite his eminence, Geoffrey was in many ways on the margins, and on the geographical and intellectual periphery of the continent.

In mid-1958, while in London, Bolton married his sometimes long-suffering partner Carol who is still alive and living in Western Australia where Geoffrey was born, in Claremont, on Guy Fawkes Day (November 5) 1931 and where he spent most of his academic career. (He played a pivotal role at the University of Western Australia, and then at Murdoch and Edith Cowan universities). Carol Bolton has written a particularly fine piece for this well-produced book – a candid reminiscence of her relationship with her erudite husband entitled “History at Home, or How Do You Know That’s True?”

One of the most revealing essays in ‘A Historian For All Seasons’ is “A Lifetime of History” by the Melbourne-based Macintyre, who early in his career had been recruited by Bolton to teach at Murdoch University. Macintyre demonstrates how Bolton’s prodigious memory, command of detail and facility of expression, which was first on view at Monash, became his hallmark as a university teacher and a regular broadcaster on the ABC.

For all his positive qualities, Bolton definitely had great difficulty in saying no to the vast number of requests he received. This weakness, which is mentioned by a number of contributors, often placed him in rather distressing situations with those to whom he had made promises that were difficult, and sometimes impossible, to keep.

As well as finding university administration in the age of corporate government increasingly distasteful, Geoffrey remained ill at ease with theoretical incursions into the writing and construction of history. In this he was at one with his arguably more successful rival, Professor Geoffrey Blainey. They were both narrative historians who specialised in telling stories, although Blainey had, and has, the advantage of being situated in the more influential southeast corner of Australia.

In a widely read article, published in 1999, Bolton declared, “I have practised history largely as a provincial”. As the editors rightly state in their thorough and detailed Introduction, Geoffrey saw that location “as allowing an independent perspective, (but) at the cost of greater recognition.”

As well as having written ninety-one entries in the ‘Australian Dictionary of Biography’, Bolton published almost a score of books. For me, the academic highpoints are his history of the Depression in Western Australia, ‘A Fine Country to Starve In’; his pioneering environmental study of Australia from 1788 to 1980, ‘Spoils and Spoilers’ and a charmingly idiosyncratic account of the place where he was raised, ‘Daphne Street’. Perhaps his most impressive work was his magisterial biography of Australia’s first prime minister, Edmund (“Toby Toss Pot”) Barton – who, as this nickname implies, was a notoriously heavy drinker.

Bolton’s last book, released by UWA Publishing in 2014, was an engaging life of another multitalented Western Australian – the ex-federal Liberal Party minister and Governor-General, Sir Paul Hasluck.

Despite suffering for years with emphysema, a hereditary complaint, the uncomplaining Geoffrey Bolton died in Perth on 4 September 2015, at the age of 83.

Fortunately, Bolton’s multifaceted historical and intellectual legacy remains.

Ross Fitzgerald is Emeritus Professor of History and Politics at Griffith University, and the author of 39 books, including the sexual/political satire, ‘Going Out Backwards: A Grafton Everest Adventure’ ( Hybrid Publishers: Melbourne) which was shortlisted for the 2017 Russell Prize for Humour Writing.

The Sydney Institute Review, July 18, 2017


Cazaly: The Legend
By Robert Allen

The Slattery Media Group 2017
ISBN 9780992363161
RRP $39.95

By Ross Fitzgerald

In the late 1920s and early 1930s, which was when the Collingwood football club won a record four Victorian Football League (VFL) premierships in a row, my father Bill (“Long Tom”) Fitzgerald, played almost 100 games for Collingwood seconds. But, because of their depth of talent in those halcyon years, he never featured in the club’s first eighteen.

When I was a lad in the early and mid-1950s, every Saturday evening Dad and I would walk to our local shops and buy, hot off the press, ‘The Sporting Globe’. Remarkably, this pink-colored paper of record included copious details of and about all that afternoon’s footy games. The Saturday edition included the goal kickers, those who were that round’s best players and, most importantly, all the final scores.

As it happens, the birth of ‘The Sporting Globe’ in 1922 coincided with Roy Cazaly’s rise to prominence as a high-flying forward at South Melbourne. Moreover Cazaly’s friendship with the paper’s chief football writer, Hec de Lacy, led to a series of reminiscences published between 1931 and 1938. Written after Cazaly had all but finished playing (but while he was still coaching), they provide, as Robert Allen explains in this fine biography, “valuable insights into (Cazaly’s) career, his fitness and coaching theories, and his recollections of those he played with and against across a quarter of a century.”

As the book documents, Cazaly and de Lacy’s friendship resulted in an intriguingly detailed retrospective – published in ‘The Sporting Globe’ in 1953. Along with all relevant issues of ‘The VFL Record’, and Michael Conaty’s impressive 1996 Sydney University History honours thesis “Up there, Cazaly”, the material from ‘The Sporting Globe’ and many other newspapers, especially in Victoria and Tasmania, has helped Robert Allen piece together the details of Cazaly’s playing and coaching career.

Of all the summaries of Cazaly’s on-field footballing performances, one from ‘The VFL Record’ in round six 1926 is particularly revealing: “High marking at South (Melbourne) opened the eyes and the lungs of the spectators, who cheered long and loud, especially after one effort by Cazaly, who went up and seemed to stay in mid-air … before bringing the ball down like a sky pilot fetching home an enemy plane.”

This is why when, in 1988, myself and the West Australian based Ken Spillman published our path-breaking book of original essays about Aussie Rules, ‘The Greatest Game’, we featured on the front cover Noel Counihan’s evocative painting of Roy Cazaly, playing for South Melbourne, football in hand, flying high above two hapless Collingwood defenders.

But while ‘Cazaly: The Legend’ chronicles Cazaly’s stellar career in Aussie Rules football, Robert Allen’s biography features and explores much more.

Indeed this is one of the most fascinating sporting books I’ve read in a long time. Ranging from a brief history of Cazaly’s Huguenot forbears, to details of the Great Depression, of the two world wars in Australia and elsewhere, as well as details of his large and loving extended family, the book highlights the fact that Cazaly was an all-round athlete who also excelled in rowing, cricket, and harness racing.

On July 29 1911, at the age of 18 and a half, Cazaly played his first VFL game for St Kilda. He moved to South Melbourne at the commencement of 1921, remaining there until the end of 1926.

Cazaly played his last game of Aussie Rules, a charity affair, in 1959, at the age of sixty-six. This was a mere 4 years before he died, aged 70, on Thursday 10 October, 1963 – a week before he and his beloved wife Aggie would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary

In between 1911 and 1941, as well as starring for South Melbourne, where initially he played in the ruck, Cazaly became coach of the South Melbourne “Bloods” and later coach of Hawthorn – who were initially known as “the Mayblooms”, before they were nicknamed “the Hawks”. In the rival Victorian Football Association (VFA), Cazaly also played for Preston and captained-coached Camberwell.

As well as being a fine country footballer, especially for Minyip, a town in the Wimmera region, Cazaly represented the state of Victoria 13 times, was ‘The Sporting Globe’s’ best all-round VFL player for 1923, and starred in the Tasmanian Football league as captain-coach of North Hobart and New Town. He made a huge and beneficial impact on all these teams and also on their local and regional communities.

Wherever he lived and worked, Cazaly was well known as a staunch advocate of a balanced diet, healthy living and life-long fitness. In this, he reminds me of the great teetotal, premiership-winning coach – Tom Hafey (1931-2014).

Later in life, Cazaly became a physiotherapist and masseur whose “healing hands” not only helped injured sportspeople, but also those afflicted with polio. In this regard, he was an avid follower of the techniques of Queensland nurse Elizabeth Kenny, whose then radical therapy of not immobilising polio patients, but of remedial massage encouraging in them a great deal of movement, made her famous worldwide. In May 1950 Cazaly was an unsuccessful Liberal Party candidate for Denison in the Tasmanian state election.

But for all Cazaly’s many activities and achievements, he is rightly best known as a VFL highflyer – who especially excelled at South Melbourne. Of all the photographs in this meticulously researched book, the standout is a full-page iconic image of Cazaly on 16 July 1924, football high in outstretched left hand, in action for the “Bloods” and pitted against Essendon’s Norm Beckton.

No doubt helped by the enormous popularity and cult status of Mike Brady’s hymn to Aussie Rules football – “Up There Cazaly” – in 1996 the highflying full forward became one of the twelve inaugural Legends of the Australian Football Hall of Fame.

After devouring Allen’s finely researched and spaciously illustrated biography, it is hard to disagree with an editorial in the Melbourne ‘Sun-Herald’ of 13 January 1963, which stated that “Roy Cazaly is to Australian Rules football what Babe Ruth was to baseball and Don Bradman is to cricket”.

Ross Fitzgerald is Emeritus Professor of History and Politics at Griffith University, and the author of 39 books, including the sexual/political satire, ‘Going Out Backwards: A Grafton Everest Adventure’ ( Hybrid Publishers: Melbourne) which was shortlisted for the 2017 Russell Prize for Humour Writing.

The Sydney Institute Review, July 18, 2017

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