Jim May

Ian was my first cousin and only a few months older than me.  He is very much a significant part of my earliest memories. I would like to tell you of just a couple of these events of the late 1940’s and early 1950’s.  While considering what things I would mention it interested me that many related to happenings in our later days.

I was a youngster living on a farm at Sandford just out of Hobart where my nearest small boy company was a mile or so away.  So when I got the news that Ian was coming to stay with his grandparents and Aunt Lois my sense of anticipation was great at the prospect of having a mate just across the yard.  We would spend our days wandering the paddocks, exploring the bush and the sea shore.  The added bonus was that Ian had a huge suitcase full of comics such as Donald Duck, Micky Mouse, Superman and Ian’s favourite cowboy Hoppalong Cassidy.  I did not have any comics as my mother maintained that reading comics would addle your brain, a fate that surely must await Ian.  Well she certainly got that one wrong.

In recent years when visiting Melbourne I would find Ian in the lab at RMIT surrounded by his post-grads at the Friday session where an assortment of wine was being sampled and critiqued.  Together with the camaraderie and good cheer there was an evident atmosphere of mutual respect and purpose within the group.  Ian obviously had a great gift as a leader, teacher and educator.  In thinking about what I might say today I realised that I was the first person whose education Ian influenced.  Back in 1952 the consensus was that as I could not ride a bike I would not start at the local school three miles away until the next year.  Ian was staying at the farm at the time and we were left to our own devices at my house.  We decided that a good move would be to cover the front verandah with dirt from the garden and then run the hose to make this macro mud pie.  When my mother returned she went ballistic.  I was immediately subjected to an intensive short course in cycling with my mother behind me with a switchy stick.  So I was off to school the very next day.   In hindsight it all worked out for the greater good and Ian had had his first very positive influence on the learning of other people. 

From 1958 to 1968 we were in the same class at Friends School and together on the campus at UTas with Ian winning all the chemistry prizes and me struggling to pass chemistry at all.  I maintained that he had inherited all the family genes for excelling in chemistry and I had missed out.  Ian said I was lazy and in comparison to his dedication to study he was probably closer to the truth than I was.


This leads me to comment on his incredible memory for anything and everything.  On those occasions that I stayed with Ian and Marie at Vermont it was not uncommon for Ian to have one or three robust reds and then launch into prolonged recitations of Shakespeare that we had apparently studied at school.  I was in the same class with him but don’t remember studying the plays let alone any of the content.  This leads me to just about the only thing that I know of that Ian claimed to have no recollection of at all.  About 1950 the two of us were in the garden helping ourselves to Aunt Lois’s green peas.  We were caught in the act and told that eating raw green peas would give you worms.  My contention is that he took this so much to heart that he detested green peas, raw or cooked, from then on.  He always said denied this but I still wonder.

We both enjoyed sport but did not excel at any.  We maintained a mutual interest in cricket and football which were always a topic of conversation when we talked.  The apparent anomaly of a scientist and educator of international standing, a connoisseur of fine wine, art, classical music and jazz being such a devout Collingwood supporter goes back to the 1950’s.  I was a supporter of the Clarence Kangaroos and as Ian lived in Glenorchy territory he was a Magpie through and through.  So coming to Melbourne with one black eye and one white eye already in place who else could he support.

So I have lost a mate and partner in mischief of 67 years which leaves me so sad because he had so much more to give us all.  But we all should celebrate a life so well lived and I am so honoured to have spent so much time with him and those memories will be amongst my most precious.