Monday, August 02, 2010

David Henry Drummond 1890-1942

Gran & Fah c1930 In Why I remain optimistic about Australian politics I linked my optimism about politics to my grandfather. This photo from cousin Jamie's collection shows Gran and Fah from the 1930s.

I have now finished posting the story of the first part of his life. You will find all the posts listed in Decentralisation, Development and Decent Government: the life and times of David Henry Drummond, 1890-1941 - introduction.

There is something of a sense of relief about having finally put the whole PhD thesis minus the intro on-line. Having done so, I would like to thank my supervisors, Grant Harmon, Bruce Mitchell and Colin Hughes for their support.

I would especially like to recognise the work of Professor Colin Hughes during the last critical phase. He read and reread every draft over the first half of 1983 as I struggled to complete while working in a demanding job. Two to three times a week I would drive new material out to ANU for him to look at, collecting previous comments at the time.

Colin was mortified about the problems that the PhD thesis struck with my examiners. He is not to blame. It may be, as Professor Colin Bolton as adjudicator argued, that my closeness to the subject affected my judgement. It is not true, as Professor Bolton also suggested, that there was a a danger that Drummond was of insufficient importance to warrant a PhD topic.

I leave it to you as reader to make your own judgments. Certainly, were I writing now my balance would change. For example, and as Professor Colin Tatz suggested in discussions with me at Sydney airport, I would increase the emphasis on Drummond's role in Aboriginal education. He was Minister for Education at a critical point, struggling to resolve what was in fact the irreconcilable. His then ideas were already dated, old fashioned.

Yet I would not alter the broad thrust.Far and Gran c1955

The next photo from cousin Jamie's collection shows Fah and Gran at Mann Street in 1955.

David Drummond had no idea in 1942 that he would never again be a minister, never again have a chance to put his ideas into effect. None of us can foresee the future. We have to deal the cards we are dealt at the time without foreknowledge.

The last chapter on Drummond's ministerial career deals in part with the establishment of the public library system in NSW. Today, we take our public libraries for granted, yet they are really quite new.

Drummond can be given credit for his support for the cause. As a self-educated man, he knew the importance of access to books. However, he cannot be given full or perhaps even primary credit. Without the work of Andrew Carnegie and especially of the Free Library Movement, the public library system would not exist, or at least would have come much later. Drummond facilitated the work done by others.

This is partly why I remain an optimist about politics and my own work.

Our world is a complex system. None of us can be sure that we have or can have any influence. Indeed, for most of us we can be sure that we do not! Yet when you look at the positive things that have happened, you can see that they all come back to individual endeavour.

Individually, we are not important, but collectively we are. We just can't tell when the the things we do will be important, nor how important they will be. Individually, our efforts are almost certainly bound to fail, but some of those efforts for some will be important. We can only know later.

I think that that's kind of important.

If we all give up, only the worst can happen.   



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