Ian Lawrence Duff Forbes

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Ian's Story

Ian Lawrence Duff-Forbes was the son of Lawrence Walter Gordon Duff-Forbes and Clara Elsie May Guest, who were married on 9th August 1924 in the Baptist church at St. Kilda, Victoria, Australia. He was born at 232 Wattle Street, Bendigo, Victoria on 27th August 1925.

Life would have been tough for the little family in those days. Bendigo was a small community, located about 150 kms from Melbourne, and although it still benefited from the early days of the gold rush, the beginnings of the great depression were starting to bite into the local economy. Ian, his brother Donald and sister Heather were kept in very close order by their father, who was a strict disciplinarian. By deed poll dated May 1951, Ian removed the hyphen from his name, being known from that time on as Ian Lawrence Duff Forbes.



Ian attended Bendigo high school. The records show that he entered the “Australian Natives’ Association” of Bendigo spelling bee competition for sixth grade on 14th October 1937 and secured first prize. His report card in form F1 in 1938 shows that he placed 1st in the class of 48 students, with an average score of 91.8 percent. He studied English, history, Latin, arithmetic, algebra, geometry, science, geography and drawing, beating the class average in every subject. By the time he finished high school in 1940 his head-master wrote “He is a very bright boy ..... conscientious and very reliable. He is honest, helpful and dedicated. He has been first in the form, and was always very attentive to his studies ....”

A reference from Foggitt Jones Pty Ltd, Ham and Bacon Curers, Bendigo – dated 30th June 1941 – stated, “to whom it may concern ...... this is to certify that Ian Duff-Forbes was employed by us for about 12 months as office junior. During this time he proved to be honest and trustworthy and picked up office routine very quickly. We believe that he is a lad who will go a long way in life. He is leaving us of his own accord and carries with him the very best wishes of the company and staff.”

In 1947 Ian embarked on a bachelor of arts degree (with honours) at the University of Melbourne, studying (among other things) ancient Greek, philosophy, ethics, theory and method of history, and logic. He was admitted to the degree in February 1952.

He married Beryl Daphne Gomm on 8th December 1951 at Kew Baptist church. In 1951 he took up the role of Baptist minister at Wangaratta in Victoria and served there for four years. According to the local Wangaratta newspaper, Reverend I. L. D. Forbes “planned considerable expansion of the church property, including a new hall, stepped up youth activity and considerably improved the musical standard of church services.” In 1952 he attained a “Bachelor of Divinity” by external examination at the University of London.

In May 1956, his thesis titled “Theological theories and history” was recognised by the University of Melbourne, and he was admitted to the degree of Master of Arts. Ian took up a posting as pastor of the City Baptist church in Ballarat, Victoria, in 1957. In 1959 he oversaw the rebuilding of the hall at the City Baptist church. He was president of the Ballarat Council of Churches. He was the judge of the essay writing competition which the council sponsored. Ian loved music and was a member of the Ballarat light opera company. In 1957 he sang in a “sparkling Viennese operetta” called “In Waltz Time”, and in 1958 sang in Schubert’s “Blossom Time”. He sang the role of “The Earl of Mount Ararat” in a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Iolanthe” held between August 4th and August 7th 1959 in the Ballarat lower civic hall. At about the same time, he was a member of the Yaraandoo Players, and played the role of Victor Montenay in a play called “All for Mary” which was described by the local press as “a sparkling play” ... which “kept a capacity audience in one long chuckle” ... and “Ian Forbes as the suave proprietor of a smart hotel in the French alps gave a polished performance.”

In 1960 he moved to Adelaide to take up a posting at Kings’ College at Kensington Park (now Pembroke school) as a master. He taught English, history, Latin and mathematics. In 1961 he was appointed as senior English master at Kings. In January 1965 he was appointed “Lecturer, grade 1, history” at Adelaide Teachers College. In November 1968 Ian was appointed “Senior lecturer in history” at Adelaide Teachers College. His main field of research was German history. He learned to read and speak German to deepen his research, and spent six months living in Germany in 1974 researching in archives in Munich, Stuttgart and many other cities. While teaching himself German, the whole family was expected to learn it with him. The only thing his poor, exasperated wife could learn to say was “nicht alle menschen sprechen Deutsche” which means “not everyone speaks German”.

In June 1976 he graduated as Doctor of Philosophy at Adelaide University by a thesis entitled “German commercial relations with South America 1890-1914”. In September 1978 Ian was appointed as head of the history department at the college, now renamed to “Adelaide College of Advanced Education”. One of his referees during the application process described Ian as having “remarkable success in teaching students what history is all about, and how to develop the necessary skills. Students appreciate the clearly defined steps in his argumentation, his dislike of woolly thinking and his intolerance of slovenliness.” She went on to describe him as “a serious man of strong ethical principles, who has a mischievous sense of humour, a strong quality of humanity and an unfailing tact.” In June 1988 he officially retired from the college, and was appointed “visiting research fellow” in the department of history at the University of Adelaide. This position was renewed in 1994 and extended until 1999.

Between 1982 and 2007 he researched and wrote several books, including: · St Bede’s Anglican Church, Semaphore 1879-1979 · A history of St Margaret’s Hospital Incorporated, Semaphore, South Australia · Maughan Thiem Motor Company Pty Limited, 1912 – 1982 · Mitchell Park High School – the first twenty-five years · The Queen Victoria Hospital, Rose Park, South Australia, 1901 - 1987 · The Queen Elizabeth Hospital Woodville, South Australia, 1954 – 1994 · To succour and to teach; a recent history of Royal Adelaide Hospital · Calvary Hospital Adelaide: in celebration of one hundred years of service of the sisters of the little company of Mary at Calvary Hospital Adelaide 1900-2000 · From colonial surgeon to health commission; the government provision of health services in South Australia, 1836-1995 · Ashford Community Hospital: 1950 – 1999 · A history of Lincoln College

Beryl Daphne Forbes, the love of Ian’s life, died on 14th January 2005, aged 78 years. Ian nursed her for many years, giving himself tirelessly to ensuring her comfort and well-being under difficult circumstances. As Ian grew older, he served on many committees and spent many hours giving of his talents to Pilgrim church in Adelaide. He drew ever closer to his family and enjoyed the special events and celebrations for which all families come together. As his health began to fade, he continued to be fiercely independent, insisting that he drive himself everywhere under his own steam. As he suffered more at the hands of the cancer that would eventually claim him, he would try to insist on taking a taxi for his radiotherapy treatment, rather than bother the family. In the end, however, he gave in to repeated insistence and was happy to be looked after by his family.

When he was admitted into Mary Potter hospice at Calvary hospital in the last weeks of his life, he was chuffed at the fact that he had written the history of the place. He ensured that a copy of the book was brought to him so he could show all the staff. Ever the gentleman to the end, he would counsel other patients at the hospice if ever they were rude to the nursing staff.

When Ian died on 1st November 2012, he was in the middle of reading Geoffrey Blainey’s “A short history of the 20th century”. The bookmark shows that he was up to page 194 when he died. Ian had a strong love of history. He also loved cats. So of course it followed that all his family cats had to be named after Roman emperors – Tiberius, Diocletian, Augustus, Caligula, Nero, and Vespasian. His love of cricket meant that he would sit in front of the TV with his two sons during each test match and watch the whole test over five days.

Ian always considered himself as part of the “landed gentry” – until he discovered the convict in his past, at which point all research into the family history ceased. The Scot in him caused him to say (quite often) “if there’s any riotous living to be done on my money, it will be done by me” (which of course meant that there would be no riotous living done on his money at all). He would always reply, when asked how he was feeling, with the retort “dangerously fit”, and he would often announce that “you are a gentleman and a scholar” if you offered him something innocuous like a biscuit or some sugar for his coffee.

Ian Lawrence Duff Forbes – will be sadly missed by all.