Audio: Walter Struve on German family history resources
Date recorded: 25 Aug 2014
Thanks Ann and hello everyone.
Yes I have been here a long time. So I'm, eh, the local dinosaur. And I'm not very good with this equipment but I do have 15 slides. And that's the first one.
Technology's a fantastic thing. I'm sort of learning that gradually.
Anyway, my talk's going to be a bit more general. I apologise if you sort of thought you might get a run-through all these specific sources that we have. I mean, we do have heaps of sources here. But I thought it might be useful to give a bit of a general idea of a. what the state library collects and holds, and also a bit of the story of the Germans and their connection with Australia cause it goes back a lot further than anyone tends to think.
It goes back before the First Fleet for example. Like on the first voyage of Abel Tasman, you know, the second in command was a German, it was 1642-43. Also on the James Cook voyages there were Germans, both seamen and also scientists. And it sort of tells you a bit about how the German states operated. I mean Germany, umm, in a way I don't have to tell all you guys that family history's really a way into history in general and the more history you know the richer your family history can become and, you know, can illustrate certain things.
But Germany was very late in unifying. It occurred in 1871 after the Franco-Prussian War. So before that you know they were just a conglomerate of German states and it was not an empire as such. So it…but one thing that Germany did have was a quite fantastic education system. Sort of in the sciences, mining, engineering and all that kind of stuff. So you sort of had this strange phenomena where this country was educating people to a fairly high level but then had nowhere to, you know, put them to work. So a lot of Germans latched themselves onto, you know, like the British Empire, the Dutch East India company, you know they just sort of found work all over the place.
So, you know, Germans pop up all over the place and in a way that worked the other way too. Like a lot of Australians actually went to Germany in the 19th century for their education. You know there's some well-known examples, you know, like Percy Granger, his musical training in Germany. But Henry Handel Richardson, the novelist, she went over to Germany to Leipzig to study music. And one, one of the interesting characters in Melbourne in the 19th century was Ferdinand Von Mueller. You know the botanist. He, he, he sort of was like a kind of unofficial ambassador for things German and he, he always facilitated. You know he got Percy Granger to study in Germany. And Henry Handel Richardson, you know a woman, she gives a really lovely, quite sweet pen-portrait of Von Mueller in the last of her three novels, The Fortunes of Richard Mahony. Cause her father, Henry Handel Richardson's father, was actually a friend of Von Mueller's. And she presents Von Mueller as a kindly old man, very obsessed, very musical, and he would go around teaching children, young children, about this mad German composer called Schumann. And then the kids would play games about Schu, you know, they didn't understand that Schumann was one word so they'd play these games of shoe, shoe man.
And, so, I mean, there's a really interesting, I'm going off topic but there's little traces of German that's right through Australian history, going back to before the First Fleet, and I use to joke that you can actually tell the whole history of the European connection with Australia through German eyes. You know, you might get a bit of a skewed vision, but it would still be, you'd still have enough eyes there to record most events that happened in Australia.
But anyway, get back to this. The reason why I wanted to start with this painting. It's a painting that the State Library owns. It's Eugene von Guérard who was actually Austrian, so, I mean I snuck it in under false pretenses. He was born in Vienna but he trained in Germany. He's married to a German woman and he was very active in the German community in Melbourne.
This is a kind of painting that was actually ridiculed at the time when it was done. It wasn't seen as art. It was sort of seen as too suspicious. You know, a bit too scientific and not arty enough. It didn't sort of give you a feeling of uplift or whatever arts meant to do. So, I mean, but one reason for this is to try and understand what some of the German thinking was in the 19th century.
In one word, see another thing that's been really useful for an understanding of Germans in 19th century in Australia is the work of historians of science, because so many of the German scientists came to Australia. Generally their idea was just to be here for a couple of years, collect as much as they could and then go back, because, you know, the centres of science in 19th century world were, you know, London, Paris, Berlin, and it wasn't considered possible to have a scientific career within Australia. I mean all that stuff just happened, you know, later in the late 19th century, 20th century.
But the Humboldtian approach, you know based on Alexander von Humboldt, was a kind of holistic science where you sort of go from, you know, mosses and granite right up to, you know, planets and universes. And the idea was to try and bring it all together into one thing or one vision. And von Guérard was, he was imbued by that kind of thinking, and this painting, which is the Northeast, the hard country of Victoria, it was, he painted it later on in Melbourne, but it was based on a whole lot of sketches he did on an actual scientific trip that he was with Von Neumayer, who was oh established the observatory in Melbourne and also did a magnetic survey of all of Victoria.
I mean a lot of the locals here thought he was crazy, because you know he didn't come here to make money, he came to do all these weird things. And that was the dilemma with all of these scientific type people, so they've never really been granted their due.
But anyway, so one thing I wanted to do is just introduce you to some of these Germans, but the other thing is to introduce you to the State Library of Victoria. In a way, for anything to do with the 19th century, this is probably the best library in Australia. Mainly because of gold, I think, and the vision of Redmond Barry. I mean, poor old Redmond Barry gets bagged for having sentenced Ned Kelly to death, but before that he established institutions like the State Library, the University of Melbourne, you know, the foundation stones were laid on the same day.
But also, it was a time when there was there was money in Victoria through gold. You know it's the 1850s. And also it was a time when he realised, he was also one of the kind of 19th century visionaries who realised that if people are, if there's going to be a future for European settlement in Australia, then you have to start providing all the infrastructure, you know, like libraries, universities, and so on.
So the State Library, which was the Public Library of Victoria in those days, it was established in, you know, on one of the most astonishingly broad-minded foundations. I mean, I'm not quite sure what Barry was like, I think he would've been very good at twisting people's arms, because he got donations for this library from virtually all the royals right through to Europe.
The King of Prussia donated heaps of stuff to this library. You know, but, and he was an exceptional. I mean Barry just, you know, went on these tours of Europe and just twisted everyone's arm. So it and also, I mean his whole philosophy for this library was, you know, the best of everything. So given that there was money and vision, he was able to bring it together. So that means that we're in a very fortunate position here. Yeah, especially for the 19th century.
Yeah, I've sort of written out my text, but sort of was a bit horrified this morning thinking how awful it was, so I won't stick to it completely. I've only got 15 images by the way, so don't panic, you know, this is number two.
Now this is the library, and I'm sort of jumping around in time scales, but it's actually a torchlight procession by the Germans to welcome the Duke of Edinburgh. It was in the 1860s. 1867. You know you might wonder—and this is yeah outside the State Library or Public Library as it was then—you might wonder now what on earth is going on here. Well, the Duke of Edinburgh was Alfred, the fourth child and second son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Albert was German, he was Prince Albert, Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. So, the Germans saw any child of Albert as half-German, so they welcomed him with open arms and, you know, put on this astonishing display.
I'm not much of a royalist, so I couldn't really tell you all that much about it, but I went to, you know, that very good source of information called Wikipedia, and I that learned during that trip—I mean, Alfred was on a world tour, he was the first royal to come to Australia—but there was actually an attempt on his life in Sydney and it was an assassination attempt after this. Had nothing to do with Germans, I think. But it meant that people in Sydney and Australia were absolutely horrified that something like that could happen here. But the good thing that came out of it was that a collection was taken up and then the Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney came as a legacy.
So anyway. I'm going to move on. Number three.
Now, I guess what I should have introduced this kind of thing a bit earlier because this is the Lutheran Church in Minyip in the Wimmera. And, but while I've been talking so far on about scientists and various individuals, the big waves of German migration were of course the Lutherans, starting in 1838 coming to Adelaide. But it's really interesting by tracing where the Lutheran churches are, you know, they sort of spread across Victoria and the western district, Wimmera and Mallee, across to Albury, up New South Wales to Queensland, Darling Downs and so on. By tracing where the Lutheran churches are you can actually pinpoint all these migration waves.
This is the St. John's in Minyip. I haven't actually been, haven't seen that, but again I checked Wikipedia, which I'm embarrassed to admit, but they mentioned that it has a very fine organ. And I think, and that, and I was glad I that I read that there because the Lutherans brought their musical traditions with them. That’s why, you know, in the Barossa Valley and so on, you know, fantastic organs, that whole Lutheran, German musical tradition is still alive. And also, you know, South Bank, St John's in South Bank, they have those Bach cantatas.
I think this is another one. This is Tarrington in the Western district near Hamilton. I have seen this church and it's quite astonishing when you see it because anyone who's been to Tarrington knows that, well, there's almost no town there. It's, you know, suddenly this just hits you. And it is a truly, quite astonishing church.
I included this slide, or this picture, just to remind us all that the original name for Tarrington wasn't Tarrington or you know the original name that Europeans gave it, but Hoch Kirche, which is high church. And the name Tarrington occurred in WWI when, you know, German names were taken off the map.
Cause it sort of, now that we're in the 21st century and we sort of look back and the big thing that sort of hits us all is, you know, that the absolute catastrophe of WWII, you know from a German angle, you know, the whole Nazi stuff. So we tend to forget that WWI from an Australian angle, I mean from Germans in Australia, had the biggest effect you could possibly imagine, and I’ll sort of come back to that a bit as we go along.
But since I've been here forever I'd sort of like to, you know, talk about Lutherans. I'd like to acknowledge an old guy who used to come here a lot. In a way a lot of my colleagues couldn't bear listening to him cause he would just talk and talk and talk and talk. And me being the, I wasn't fast enough on my feet, I was the one who got stuck with him all the time.
But, it was to my advantage I reckon cause, I mean, he just had so many stories. And I mean, I hope, maybe his relatives are here, Allen... He is he is dead now but he used to tell me about all the Lutherans in the Wimmera and Mallee, and if I was even vaguely, vaguely, vaguely interested in anything he'd give me, you know, 50 contacts he said, ‘Now ring this person, ring that person’, and I said ‘Look Allen, I can't’. But anyway, but it was through him that I learned a huge amount. And he was, one thing that really obsessed him was his grandfather who was a missionary in Killapaninna in the northeast corner of South Australia, which was a first Hermannsburg mission.
And one of the things that Allen, you know, was just absolutely obsessed with, he wanted to get the story of his grandfather recorded. And he did with the help of one of his sons and it was published and then shortly afterwards he died. I mean, I don't think that it was the causal thing, but it was something that had obsessed him.
But the weird thing in that book is that there's two appendices—I mean, you know, the rest of the book is interesting too, of course, you know, giving you so much insight into what people were doing—but the two appendices is, there are aboriginal grammars. The grandfather had written a dictionary, German Dieri, I mean the aborigines in that area were the Dieri tribe.
So, it sort of gave me a bit of an insight into what some of these missionaries did. Cause, you know, we tend to have a view that missionaries just do terrible things and destroy cultures and, you know, the less we hear about them the better. But when you start hearing about what some of these missionaries were on about, you know, their sensitivity towards the landscape, towards the aboriginal population. Cause, I mean you could, I suppose, say that they were trying to be super sneaky and they wanted to learn their languages so that they could convert them better, cause you know, they use their knowledge of the languages to translate the New Testament. But the good thing is that through their work we've got dictionaries and grammars that for languages that have almost died out. So yeah, so just wanted to pay a small tribute to Allen and thank him retrospectively.
Now we're back to von Guérard and the gold rushes. Because, aside from the Lutheran—you know they were old Lutherans who were escaping from modernisation really, I mean, I don't think, you know, a lot of the Lutheran historians, you know, keep telling you they escaped for freedom and so on, but I was a bit suspicious of that. I think they came to Australia to maintain the religion that they knew, rather than modernise—the other big waves started coming in the 1850's, and it was due to two things.
You know gold on the one hand, that just lured everyone. But also the failed revolutions of 1848 to '49 in Germany. That was absolutely tragic. It was a revolution to try and liberalise Germany and that did it fail just was an absolute disaster. It meant that masses of Germans left, most of them to the USA. But, you know, due to gold I suppose, you know, Australia got a lot of them and a lot of them have stayed.
And it was sort of, it's quite interesting too, you know. A lot of them who were quite radical and they had prices on their heads and so on, they came to Australia and then they became sort of the most respectable people and then, you know, people had no idea that, you know, some of these respectable pinnacles of society had actually been, you know, sort of criminals I suppose.
But, one other thing I'd like to mention here quickly is that…I mean 1854 was the first census that where they separated out non-British, you know, they put it into different categories and they had a category of German-born. But I just wanted to alert you to be a bit careful of figures cause like in the 1854 census, it had 3,955 German-born people in Victoria. But what, what that meant, I've got no idea because the important thing to realise is that the Germans themselves had a much higher figure. Like Neuenmyer, for example, he was sort of saying in 1857 that there were 20,000 Germans in Victoria, whereas the 1857 census recorded 7,934 German-born persons.
And in 1870, another German, you know made the claim that there were 30,000 Germans in Victoria, whereas the 1871 census gave 9,624. I mean, these are just things that, you know, any historian has to sort of, you know, and family historians are historians in a very real sense, so you have to grapple with all these sort of things and try and work out what does it mean.
Well this is picnic of the German society it in Melbourne. This again, these are the kind of people who escaped from the failed revolutions and they sort of became, they were the sort of more urban type journeys. And in a way I find them, you know, fascinating, but they're a lot harder to trace than the Lutherans. The Lutherans kept fantastic records, so you know Lutheran archives in Adelaide, you know, can tell you everything you want to know. Whereas a lot of these people, they formed all these associations and did all kinds of things, and they really contributed to the sort of intellectual life of Melbourne, you know the royal society, you know, you name it and they were part of it.
But then, you know, gradually over generations, especially when WWI came, they just sort of blended into the general population and, you know, they're really hard to find. But, that's why good family-history sleuthing is really essential to try and work out who these people were and how many they were and so on.
But, I'll just give you a few more statistics. You know one American historian, McWalker is writing back in the 1960s. He estimated that just in the three years between 1852 and 1854, 1.5% of the entire German population emigrated. And most of them to the US. And British historian A.J.P. Taylor, in his survey of German history, he referred to them as ‘the best of their race, the adventurous, the independent, the men who might have made Germany a free and civilised country’. And I reckon that that's what you see here on the picture. It's from the illustrated Melbourne News.
This is von Mueller. I mean, you can talk for a bit about von Mueller because he's such a fascinating mystery. But, from a German point of view he was kind of like the unofficial ambassador for the Germans, in Victoria in particular, but Australia in general.
When, this is, you know, someone in the pre-internet world, he had the biggest networks across Australia and beyond that you could possibly imagine, because, you know, he was obsessive. He was a botanist whose aim was to classify the entire plant-world of Australia. In order to do that he needed plants, so if he knew of anyone going anywhere he would give them orders to collect plants for him. And that's why he used all the missionaries too. He used policemen. He used absolutely anyone. So his organising abilities were just phenomenal.
But, in a way his life is also quite tragic. But Neumayer I mentioned before, he and Muller, they were really the two big scientists in 19th century Victoria and possibly Australia. But Neumayer, he was smart enough to know that there was no future for him in Australia. If you want a career, you've got to go back. Neumayer did go back. I mean he was in Australia twice and you know did astonishing things, but then he went back and his big career was in Germany.
Whereas Mueller. Mueller's intention had also been to go back, you know, come for a few years, collect like crazy and then go back. But Mueller’s life path, you know, things happened and in the end he was stuck here. It was too late for him to go back. And he sort of suffered in some ways. He was ridiculed. He was probably the most knighted person in Australia, you know, he had knighthoods from just about any person who offers knighthoods. He had medals and, you know, was made a Baron by the King at the Wittenberg in Germany, Queen Victoria knighted him, you know, you name it he had it.
But, even, and in a way it was almost, I mean it'd be interesting to hear kind of a psychologist or psychoanalyst trying to give it perspective on why on earth would someone want so many knighthoods? But I think it was his way of trying to show that he was a human being in a kind of a British world. Because he, even though he worked well within a British world, he was also an outsider and made to feel that way, you know. Like Neumayer, he was a lot smarter, you know, street-wise and could see that there was no way for a German to rise to the top in a British kind of world. Whereas, Muller didn't. But it's to our great advantage that he did stay. He did wonderful things and he was a real pillar for the German society. Oh, yeah, the German population.
Here's another portrait of, I suppose it’s a sort of a bit more formal, it’s a Melbourne …, which started of as a gymnastic-type thing, but it very soon became a kind of a centre for sort of the more wealthy Germans, I suppose. So, you know, it's kind of like the pinnacle of German culture in Melbourne.
And in a way, these people, what was really tragic for them is 1896, which was the 25th anniversary of the German Unification which they celebrated quite profusely. But, when you sort of read—and fortunately, you know there were lots of German newspapers in Victoria. Sadly there's no complete set of any of them, though we got quite a lot of them on microfilm. And we've got hard copies of some of them, but we've got more on microfilm. Thanks to Michael Klein who died just a few years ago. He saw the need to try and pool resources and he just tried to get a hold of everything that was, had survived, and get it microfilmed—and by reading some of those German accounts you get a bit of an insight into how they were thinking, and at that stage they were so proud that there was a German Empire. But they were also proud of the British Empire. And in the speeches, which you know with hindsight for us they sound like bizarre, they were sort of saying that Britain and Germany can never be enemies cause we're such close friends and, you know, the friendship is just so intense and real that nothing can ever part them. And this is just year before the whole thing blows up.
Now, this is a postcard in our picture collection Preparing for the Germans. I think, as I was trying to say before, we've sort of got, it's hard for us to imagine how intense the anti-German wave was in the WWI years. It was just so intense that people changed names. They did everything. They destroyed, you know, books, newspapers, letters. Anything that was written in German, you know, got hidden or just, you know, mostly destroyed. So, you know, so much stuff got lost then that it's really hard for anyone today to reconstruct what was going on at that time.
You know the pioneer historian of Germans in Australia was a guy called Augusta Lodowych, who, actually, he was Flemish. He actually came to Australia during the WWI period but he wrote his history in the early 1930s and he was referring back to that to that time, he said that such a blow had been delivered that the German presence in Australia would never recover. A later historian of that period, Gerard Fisher, in Sydney, he just concluded that there was no, there was no future for a German-Australian community.
You know, and in a way after WWI, you know between the wars, there was virtually no German migration to Australia, or until the flow of people escaping from, you know, Nazi's that were starting to form, you know, in the late 1920s, early 30s, you know, before Hitler took over formerly in 1933.
Alright, another rule that all historians know is that there's no such thing as hard and fast facts. This is Sir John Monash, you know, the great, you know, the revered WWI leader. And what a lot of people don't know is his German background that was German-Jewish. But Monash, you know, the name was spelled M-O-N-A-S-C-H, and his father, you know, when the Franco-Prussian War was on, Monash’s father was this so gung-ho German he named his house Germania. And John Monash, you know, grew up bilingually and later in his life he always wrote to his father in German. I mean it's something that people, you know, have forgotten I think.
But, one book, I mean, I didn't want to recommend any books, cause I, you know, I used to hate people recommending books cause it always made you feel inadequate. But one book that I will mention, without necessarily recommending, it's a book called German Anzacs and the First World War, published in 2003 by a guy called John Williams. I mean, it just, sort of showed how many people of German extraction had actually fought in the Australian army. I mean, you know, it's sort of sobering to sort of see that.
Now I'm sort of jumping. This is from the—I mean the State Library is always fortunate in that a lot of people donate things to it—and this is a drawing by Fred Lowen, who was a Dunera boy. You know, the Dunera boys were basically young, most of them were Jews not all, German and Austrian Jews, where the parents when they sort of saw that things were going terribly wrong, they sent their children to England for safekeeping. But then when war broke out, WWII, the British sort of panicked and saw these German males of military age as a threat. So they interned them and sent them to the colonies, you know, or some of them were sent to Canada, and the Dunera was the famous or infamous ship that brought a lot of them to Australia. Again, it was Australia's big boon because, you know, it was one of the most culturally-advanced group that, you know, came to Australia. I think, since, you know, from the German world since the people escaping the 1848-49 revolutions.
But anyway, this drawing is called Owleys Ecke. I'm not sure who Owley is, but Ecke means corner. It just shows how, you know, these are the belongings of one person. This is what he brought with him, you know, a person's sole positions. And this is, it says orange.
I mean, yesterday, I mean Fred Lowen did write a book of memoirs and I was looking at it yesterday, I was trying to identify who Owley was. You know, it's obviously a nickname for one of he's friends, but I couldn't work it out.
And this is another picture of, this is Tatura, this is the other one was Orange in NSW. This is in northern Victoria, where a lot of the Dunera people were sent. And a lot of other Germans were interned there as well. This drawing, it's by a guy called Kurt Winkler. And he just signs himself as ‘Kurwing1944’. And again, he later on left Australia, but in 1987 he published memoirs in London called My Vagabond Life; an extraordinary eyewitness account of the 20th century by a cosmopolitan artist. And I was looking at that yesterday too. I mean, I remembered having seen it maybe 20 years ago. But, you know, I'm probably glad that this library collects all that kind of stuff. Cause, you know, when you see someone's memoirs, they just sort of give you a bit of background of what happened to them.
Now this is the guy I'm working on, Kurt Offenburg. And I can talk to you, or waffle on forever, but I'm, in a way, what I find quite tragic is he's been almost forgotten in Australia. He was here from the early 1930s til his death in 1947. I mean, he was only, 46, sorry, he was 47 when he died. He worked for the ABC, which is absolutely astonishing. You know, these were the days when the ABC was still quite young and it was almost mandatory to have a very British voice, British manners. And here's Offenburg—his real name was Kurt Dreyfuss from the town of Offenburg or City of Offenburg in the southwest corner of Germany—with a very regional-accent. It must have been quite thick cause there were complaints. But, he was one of the best informed people that the ABC had.
He'd been a foreign correspondent at the Frankfurt Insider, based in Shanghai. He'd seen the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1941, oh ’31 sorry. He actually fell in love with Chinese culture. He just loved things Chinese. He hated the Japanese. He saw them, he called them the Prussians of the east. He just saw similarities between Japan and Germany. But the thing is, he was so incredibly well-informed that his broadcasts on the ABC, some of them, I mean a lot of them have been lost. I mean, I don't mean that the audio I mean none of it, none of this stuff was recorded. People of the ABC told me that, you know, to be recorded in those years, you had to be a Prime Minister or something. But, the texts of these of a lot of these broadcasts are in the national archives in Sidney, and thank God for that although it's by no means complete.
But in a way, the one place that did preserve his name was this library, Public Library of Victoria, as it still was in the 1950s. Because after his death, a group of people got together, you know, quite powerful people. Richard Boyer who was head of the ABC. Charles Bean, who'd been the WWI historian, who really had absolute respect for Offenburg. I mean he did two tributes that have survived and they're quite astonishing. Also Clunies Ross, who was head of the CSIRO, who also knew Asia really well, he was part of it. And the idea was to bring a collection of books together here on international affairs. Cause they thought the big danger was that Australia didn't, or Australians didn't know enough about the world. So, the idea was to build a collection on international affairs and keep extending it. And anyway that collection here kept his memory alive for a long time. Although by the 70s it was quietly shunted into the storage. And then there was a period when no one had a clue what it is was and gradually his memory faded here too. You know, the annual reports couldn't even spell his name right, you see there was money attached to the fund. So, every year there was a line spelled a bit differently. But anyway, so what I'm trying to do now is try and piece together what we can on him.
And have I got time just for one more? This is one I'd like to end on. This is Ursula Hoff. And this is the one image that's not from the State Library's collection, it's from the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra. You know, thank God for the Internet, because you know, you can pinch people's things.
She was an art historian. She came to Australia in December 1939. I mean, her story's fascinating. She was actually born in London. Her dad was Jewish, German Jewish, and her mum was German Lutheran. And the absolute tragedy was that the mum's family was anti-Semitic and the dad's family thought that their son had just, you know, did something shocking by marrying the wrong person.
So, and she's an only child. Grew up in Hamburg where her father is a businessman, and had a fantastic education and then, of course, she just started a doctorate when the Nazis came to power. The family went to England straightaway, in ’33, and she wanted to finish her doctorate at the University of London. But the advice they gave her was that you know, go back, finish it in Germany. So she went back and then finished a doctorate in Germany, then went back to England. But then she, you know it was hard. She did sort of odd jobs in the art field, but one of the tragedies of being an art historian is that there were lots of them and few jobs.
So she ended up getting the job as a secretary at the University of Melbourne, and she jumped at the chance. So she came on her own to Australia. The war had already broken out. Cause, I knew her a bit later in her life and I used to tease her and just try and get her to talk. And used to ask her what did it feel like on your own, you know, world at war, going to somewhere you'd never been to before on your own? And she said, ‘oh, it was a huge adventure’. But, she said the ‘ship just zigzagged all the time, you know, to avoid Torpedos’ and so on.
But anyway she, so she was working as a secretary at the University of Melbourne at the Women’s College. And then some friends of hers contacted Daryl Lindsay who was head of the National Gallery in Victoria and said, look, this is your best chance to get someone who knows what they're on about and grab her for the Gallery. And Lindsay, you know, bless him, did that. And Ursula Hoff was just loyal to him like anything for the rest of her life.
She stayed with the National Gallery for her working life. I mean it wasn't always pleasant working in a bureaucracy, as anyone working in bureaucracy knows, but she did fantastic work. And for me it’s a lovely thing to end with her.
But I'd like to read just a few lines from the preface of her book on Arthur Boyd. I mean, she loved Arthur Boyd. I mean, she loved lots of practicing artists. I mean, she was cause, I mean she was a very private person, quietly spoken. People who knew who earlier said she was very strict. But, you know, she kept her private life to herself.
So, it kind of amused me in the preface to her book on Arthur Boyd she just opens up a little bit. And then she just says, ‘Here, when in the early 1940s I came to live in Melbourne and went is search of private galleries, I was depressed by the scarcity of art made in a contemporary idiom. In early youth I had come to love the work of Franz Marc, Paul Clay, Oskar Kokoschka and their contemporaries, and she sort of goes on how she’d seen Cézanne’s work, Picasso and the Surrealists, and then she comes to Australia and is a bit horrified by it. Drabness. But then when she met Arthur Boyd—and first, who was then living in Murrumbeena, which was obviously quite different to what it is now—she was just bowled over. And then she describes the first visit to Boyd. And then she says, ‘it left such a vivid impression that to this day the Murrumbeena of my memory resembles a world landscape of Pieter Bruegel and I'll remain convinced that the blue waters of Port Phillip Bay could be seen from the Boyd's garden’.
Ok, I think I'll end there, but thankyou.
'family history is a way into history in general, and the more history you know the richer your family history can become'
– Walter Struve
About this recording
Walter Struve's Family History Feast 2014 presentation touches on a colourful array of topics, focusing on the German contribution to Victorian society and culture.
Filled with personal reflections and anecdotes, Walter's talk notes how German involvement with Australia stretches back to before the First Fleet, to the voyages of Abel Tasman and James Cook.
As a State Library librarian, he provides insights into the Library's vast collections, and touches on the Library's early history. He mentions major figures in German-Australian history, such as Von Mueller and Von Guérard, along with lesser known stories from our German heritage.
Hear more from Family History Feast 2014
- Jenny Harkness on FamilySearch: Don Grant Lecture 2014 (video)
- Liz Denny on researching the records of Chinese miners on the Ballarat goldfields (audio)
- Andrew Griffin on Australia's non-British migrants (audio)
- Diana Hookham on multicultural family research (audio)
- Dr Moya McFadzean on collecting migrant stories at Museum Victoria (audio)
Walter Struve is a Redmond Barry team librarian at State Library Victoria.