State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 30 December 1982



Sam Merrifield

The Hon. Dr. Samuel Merrifield died on 24 August, aged 78. He was born in Moonee Ponds on 6 February 1904 and lived there throughout his life. He attended the local state school and was one of the early pupils of Essendon High School, one of the first metropolitan state high schools. Sam remained a great Essendon man, representing the district in State Parliament and being an office-bearer of innumerable local sporting and other societies.
He practised as a licensed surveyor and became a Labor Party member of the Legislative Assembly from 1943 to 1955 and of the Legislative Council from 1958 to 1970; he was minister for public works in the Cain government from 1952 to 1955.
Sam Merrifield also made a considerable contribution to scholarship, recognized by Monash University in 1973 by award of an honorary doctorate of letters. He was founder of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, the inspiration of its Victorian branch and for long editor of Recorder. But he was primarily a great collector, gathering over the years publications and documents relating to the history of the Australian labour movement, many of them ephemera which would otherwise have been lost. His collection became in many respects more comprehensive than that of any public institution. Innumerable students visited him at Moonee Ponds to make use of it, were invariably helped with great kindness, and learned much from their contact with a classic type of the Labor man of the old school.
He was a great benefactor of the La Trobe Library where his collection is now held. He was a founding member of the Friends and sat on our committee for ten years. Few of us have ever known a man of greater honesty and integrity.

Kenneth Austin

Kenneth Austin, who died earlier this year, was a member of the Committee of the Friends for eight years from 1972. Born in 1911, after graduating B.A. at Melbourne University he worked in the Bank of New South Wales before serving as sub-lieutenant in the R.A.N. during the war. In 1945 he joined the staff of Melbourne Grammar School, and quickly became known as an enthusiastic and innovative teacher. In due course he was able to write a number of books, some primarily for use in schools, and others of wide general interest, all enhanced by the drawings he obtained as illustrations; he will be remembered for his Voyage of the Investigator (1964), Port Phillip Bay Sketchbook (1970), Phillip Island Sketchbook (1972), Lights of Cobb and Co. — The Story of Frontier Coaches, 1854–1924 (1972), Matthew Flinders on the Victorian Coast, April-May 1802 (1974), and a Gippsland Sketchbook (1975). In writing his book on Cobb and Co. he made tapes of many interviews with men who could remember the old coaching days, and these, with his other notes, papers, and a very fine collection of slides, are shortly to be presented to the Library.

Tristan Buesst

Tristan Buesst, who died in August, made a great contribution to the Society of the Friends of the La Trobe Library, as its first president.
Born in 1894, he was educated at Melbourne Grammar School and New College Oxford, before serving in Flanders as a Lieutenant in the Middlesex Regiment in 1916–18. After the war he was in Berlin as an officer of the British Reparations clearing office before he returned to follow a business and legal career in Australia. During the second world war he was a major in Intelligence, and subsequently was Federal President (and later Treasurer) of the Australian Institute of International Affairs, President of the National Gallery Society of Victoria, and Vice President of the National Trust in Victoria.
To the La Trobe Library, he has presented some 200 volumes of foreign language Australiana,
dealing with the discovery and exploration of Australia, as well as his own and his wife's private papers, which include significant personal correspondence and the War Diary he kept as an Intelligence Officer. In 1971 he established the Tristan Buesst fund, which has since been used to purchase 21 works of art for the Library, in addition to nine which he donated from his personal collection.
The Society will long remember its first President, not only for these gifts, but for the enthusiasm with which he was able to help to get it off the ground and become a body which will, over the years, be able to fulfil its objective of contributing to the expansion of the Library.

Leslie Henderson

Miss Leslie Henderson, whose death occurred on 9 July, was a good friend to the La Trobe Library. Her gifts over the years include family papers and much ephemera. The importance of the latter item is only now being appreciated, yet she early realised its value to social historians. From time to time she would give the Library fugitive leaflets, handbills and similar trivia. Declining health in recent years prevented her from visiting her beloved Library.
Leslie Moira Henderson was born in Melbourne to Charles James Henderson and his wife Lina, daughter of Jacob and Isabella Goldstein. Jacob was born in Cork, Ireland, of Polish parents, while Isabella came of a well-known Western District family named Hawkins. Charles Henderson, educated at Ballarat College, had joined the Bank of Australasia on leaving school. He steadily advanced to the chief executive post — Superintendent for Australia. Leslie, after graduating in arts and law from Melbourne University in 1920, spent some time abroad. In 1923 she joined her aunt Elsie Belle Champion, wife of radical journalist Henry Hyde Champion, in the Book Lovers’ Library. The literati met there. At that time it had no telephone or typewriter. Her literary-minded aunt had little business aptitude and when Leslie became a partner in 1926, she set out to reform the organization.
Leslie in 1930 became secretary to the Board of Social Studies, which eventually became affiliated with Melbourne University. In World War 2 she entered her brother Allan's legal practice, then served in the Navy, War Organisation of Industry and Defence departments, retiring in 1956.
At the suggestion of Mr. Phil. Garrett of the State Library, Leslie wrote The Goldstein Story (1913). It was dedicated to the Library staff. Shy, generous and compassionate, Leslie Henderson had a first-class brain, but she had always been overshadowed by the dominating personalities of her parents and aunts.