Tdited text of the eulogy given by his son Martin at his Funeral Thanksgiving Service at St Alban's Church Epping on Friday 22 June, 2018.
It will come as no surprise that a man who devoted his life to the study of history, five years ago wrote a memoir of his own life. It is rich in detail and sets much of his professional and personal life in the context of wider societal events. This is undoubtedly a goldmine for someone giving a eulogy, but also poses many challenges in making sure I do justice to a well lived—and well documented—life.
Brian, as a 17 year old, arrived from England at Darling Harbour in Sydney on the SS Ormond on 24 January 1949, accompanied by his mother, step-father and his two brothers. Here began his life long consideration and grappling with what it meant to be both English and Australian. He notes:
Sydney was still a provincial city, moralistic in tone and culturally lacking in much to which I had become accustomed. There were a few good restaurants, but what predominated was the milk bar where the main meal consisted of a piece of steak accompanied by a rather sad looking salad.
Brian started his long and proud association with the University of Sydney in the same year he arrived in Australia, gaining entry under the Commonwealth Scholarship Scheme to study a Bachelor of Arts, and boarded for five years at Centennial Park. During his time at University he writes of his family who he missed greatly. During the long vacation and on as many weekends as he could, he worked on the farm in Glenorie and he writes of many happy memories of those days. In those years he also built the foundations of his life long Christian faith and commitment to the Anglican Church initially through his association with Saint Matthias at Centennial Park and ultimately through his worship at Saint Albans. In his so-called retirement, many of his research interests turned to Anglican history and he published numerous articles and books on the unique experience and journey of Anglicanism in Australia.
Brian followed his Bachelor of Arts with a Diploma of Education in 1954 and commenced a career in teaching at a junior technical school in Westmead. He returned to Sydney University in 1956 as a Teaching Fellow. This is where he first met Beverley whose office he was fortuitously asked to share at the University. Brian and Beverley were married on 9 August 1958 and would have marked their 60th wedding anniversary this year.
Brian went on to complete his Masters of Arts and in 1960 took up a lectureship at the University of New South Wales. This was the beginning of a 12 year association with the University until 1972 when after much soul searching, he returned to the University of Sydney. This is where he happily taught, researched, published and supervised many students until his retirement in 1999, followed by his conferral as an Emeritus Professor of Australian History. Brian's last student completed his thesis in 2011, so at the age of 80, this brought 64 years of academic life in two universities to an end.
Brian achieved many amazing milestones in his professional life as an academic and historian. He was the foundation Bicentennial Professor of Australian History at Sydney University from 1987 until 1999, perhaps somewhat ironically an appointment made before he became an Australian citizen in 1990; he was a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and of the Royal Australian Historical Society and extensively published on Australian history. He was rightly recognised for his many achievements. These awards are too numerous to list, but include a Centenary of Federation Medal awarded in 2001 for his contribution to Australian History and the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in 2012 for services to education as an academic, researcher and author in the discipline of Australian history.
While his life as an academic and historian was very important to him, he also found plenty of time to be a loving and generous father to his five children. In the past 25 years he has also been a loving Pop to his eight grandchildren. Family was important to Brian and in his own quiet, loving way he was a devoted and caring father and grandfather. He was gentle, kind, reliable and always willing to help.
Perhaps it is only fitting to leave the last words to Brian himself and return to the theme he wrestled with throughout his life—that of an English man in Australia:
Am I an émigré or can I be described as an emigrant? The answer perhaps lies somewhere between the two. I feel the pull of England but I have invested much in Australia and am also drawn to this land. Indeed the fact that this is a longstanding tension in my life does not mean that I am in an unhappy state. There is so much for me here, so many friends to meet, a family to enjoy, a church which has enriched my spiritual life, endless research projects opening up and a wife who for the past sixty years has brought me great happiness and all that I could ask in marriage. Could I really ask for more?
Rest in peace.