Graham Levido writes:
"Before compiling my bio I must comment on the extraordinary tales that have already circulated
regarding the whereabouts of Jack Moffatt. My NSBHS memories of Jack are now somewhat
vague as I lost 20% of my memory due to brain damage following bypass surgery and
complications in 1993 (a well known medical condition). I would love to claim the prize but my
cardiologist reminded me that viagra could kill me but maybe its worth a try.
Jack was in our rollcall class and as many of you will remember he was always present when his
name was called but he was obviously shy as he never answered any of the teachers questions. I
do remember him doing rather well in one class Maths test.I cant remember if he was in the
cadet unit though.
I first came across Jack, after NSBHS, in 1966. I had graduated with an honours building
degree undertaken at UNSW and took off for South America on the way to starting a career in
Canada. By the way as you can already tell I got Geography honours in the leaving certificate.
Amazingly who should I run into at the ruins of Machupicchu in Peru but an another old
falconians who answered to the name of Moffatt. I'm sure it wasn't an illusion brought on by
After many "interesting" experiences in South America and the Caribbean I settled in Montreal,
Canada working as an engineer for Imperial Oil. I married Patricia ,an Australian girl, in
Montreal in 1967 and we returned to
Sydney in 1969. After working as a construction manager in the local building industry for a few
years I fled to to ivory tower of academia at UNSW teaching in the Faculty of Architecture.If
you have never worked at a university you dont know what you have been missing. I had the
opportunity to travel, work in different countries and be a director of a project management firm
while still being employed by the Uni.It was on one of my sabaticals that I next ran into Jack. It
was 1974 while I was doing research in a bar in Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory that the
vision of Jack appeared to me once again though he looked a little older now.
Jack faded from my memory over the years. In the mean time I got a masters degree, had a son
and lived happily in idealic splendor in Mosman.
1988 the bicenntenial year was busy for most of us. It seemed appropriate to do something
memorable so I convinced my everloving wife to join me crewing
on HMAV Bounty sailing through the Barrier Reef. As we had never sailed anything before, and
my wife has a fear of heights, this was a great experience especially meeting another crew
member, a bearded chap with a striking resemblance to one J.M., while we were hauling sail on
the yard arms during a a midnight gale.
Life moved on and between teaching, some research and writing, raising our first and only child I
managed to work in the USA on three occassions at Colorado State University and once at
Concordia University in Montreal. The project management business thrived and the firm did
projects in Australaia, NZ and Hong Kong. In recognition of my devotion to duty the UNSW
made me Head of the School of Building in the Faculty of Architecture in 1989.
The resposibility was obviously too much for me. After four years of dealing with 30 staff
(managing university staff is like trying to herd cats)and about 500 students I had a "cardiac
event' at work with subsequent bypass
surgery and complications which led to a medical discharge from work in 1997.
My wife and I now travel when we can and when the Aussie dollar is worth more than two
It was in 1998 on one of these trips that I last ran into Jack. It was in Monument
Valley, Utah. He was obviuosly much older
now and I dare say you might assume that he was virtually unrecognisable in the dust of the
desert in such an awe inspiring location.
In conclusion unlike all you hard working successful high flyers I can only say that retirement in a
great townhouse on Balmoral slopes beats the hell out of working for a living. I do wait at home
for a visit from Jack but he
has probably heard about my poor email spelling and has chosen to shun me.
Perhaps his ghost will grace the reunion."
And for those who had the dubious pleasure of Nancy/Ann Robson for French,
Morris West writes:
"I first met John Kerr during his brief spell as chairman of a theatre board in the Sydney suburbs.
Then there was my encounter with Kerr, a respected judge, who later divided the country, and
ended up one of the villains of Australian history, if a somewhat comic one. When I first met him
he was already a florid figure whose suits had difficulty containing him, his hair white and fluffy
like a wig in one of those amateur productions of The Rivals. Considering his rise from humble
origins (his father was a boilermaker) to a position of some eminence, one overlooked the comic
side, the snob in me even accepted the voice. But as time passed and history unfolded, I was
made more conscious of the voice: it had a tinny, common edge….
A fanfare of trumpets, a rattle of drums, and I realised Kerr was again on the scene: he was
being installed as Governor-General of Australia. That was that. I never imagined our paths
would cross (as they did only briefly and unimportantly.) At this stage there was nothing I could
hold against him. I thought, better an Australian as Governor-General than another English
import. We read about the serious illness of his wife, an exceptional woman according to all
those who knew her. At the time I was less interested in Kerr as a symbol of office than as a
man living through a tragic episode in his personal life. The wife died. The husband had our
sympathy, both personal and formal.
Then, suddenly, a spanner was thrown into the formal works. Kerr, or Sir John as we must
remember to call him, was re-marrying. Sir John's second Lady, not so brand-new it turned out,
was the wife of a fellow judge hastily divorced for vice-regal convenience. Along with many
others, Manoly and I exchanged a few knowing nods and smiles. The event did not affect us to
any great extent because we didn't imagine we should make an entrance on the vice-regal scene
even as spear-carriers.
Kerr had been the friend of Gough Whitlam, the Prime Minister we had supported. He was the
friend of our friends James (Senator) McClelland and his wife Freda. Even so, it surprised us
when we were invited to dinner at the McClellands' to meet the Governor-General and his
Our fellow guests on the occasion were Elizabeth Riddell, a worldly and distinguished journalist,
and the British Council representatives, Mac and Isabel Mackenzie-Smith. We were all
assembled before the arrival of the personages. Kerr himself made no demands on formality. As
a longstanding friend and legal colleague of his host he had every reason to feel at case.
But one look at her ladyship and the climate perceptibly altered, the temperature fell. It was
obvious she would expect protocol observed even in private circumstances. Nancy Robson, the
judge's ex-wife, had made it clear to Freda McClelland that Nancy had become Anne, but that
her subjects should address her as Her Excellency. One of the most natural and charming of
women, Freda seemed surprised to discover such pretensions at what she had planned as a
dinner for friends.
Always a bad sign, the Governor-General's lady tended to avoid the women. Isabel
Mackenzie-Smith appeared overawed, but I could hear threaded through the conversation Betty
Riddell's distinctive laugh. In the dregs of summer, Anne Kerr had got herself up in furs, and
gloves to the elbow. She was a tall, stringy figure with what she herself obviously considered
allure, and from what one heard, had converted others to her own opinion.
I had more contact with her on subsequent occasions than on this strange evening in the early
days of the Kerrs' elevation. The Governor-General struck me as being harmless enough: an
amiable, rorty old, farting Falstaff. He continued putting away the drink. Who doesn't at Sydney
dinner parties…I was asked to a dinner at Admiralty, House, the only other guest a woman
writer whose work and character I had respected, till her continued loyalty to Annie
Taggart/Nancy Robson/Anne Kerr became difficult to understand as history was made and the
dramatis personae came out in their true colours. On this night the dinner, the most succulent
imaginable, was served with all pomp and ceremony on a small table beside the fire in the main
reception room. What was a delightful occasion at the time became a shameful one later and for
At the height of the courtship we invited the Kerrs to Martin Road. I can't remember what we
ate, but my cooking was not up to that of the chef at Admiralty House. There was plenty of
drink, conversation, and the McClellands to help us out with the Kerrs.
Again Lady came in gloves and furs(at least it was winter) and perhaps because she saw the
event as a gesture towards demi-bohemia she had streaked her eyelids with green shadow.
Discussing the evening afterwards as we cleared away the glasses and cigarette butts, Manoly
saw her as an elderly lizard. An intellectual one, it had been borne in on us. Hadn't she been to
the Uni? She refused to air her French, in which she is said to be fluent, perhaps thinking it wiser
not to run the gauntlet of those who had a bit of the language themselves. But she roamed
around, looking at paintings, explaining to herself aloud why her trained university mind should
accept this one or reject that. She seemed to see my work-room as a chamber of horrors. 'Oh,
no,' she recoiled from one wall in particular, 'that's Cruel Corner! I'm not going to look at that!"
The drawing which most offended her sensibility, had been done by one of her predecessors,
Maie Casey, inspired by, the Frances Cornford poem, "0 fat white woman whom nobody loves
. . . ''
It was the last lime we met Lady, the last time we met Sir, Her Majesty's representatives.
Towards the end of the evening the amiable farting Falstaff seemed to be trying to winkle out of
us what we really thought of Whitlam. We had nothing to subtract from our opinion of the man
we had elected. If Kerr gave the impression of being inwardly confused we put it down to the
drink. They were driven away, and we did not seriously question his integrity till the coup…
From overplaying their parts in the tragedy for which they had been cast the Macbeths of
Yarralumla were reduced to figures of farce. They continued dragging to official functions,
reviled, booed, pelted, briefly accorded a kind of martyrdom by those who had set them up till it
was seen what a liability the man was. The press showed us Sir lying on the ground at a country
agricultural show, apparently shrugged off by the shoulder of a prize-winning beast, while Lady
stood aghast at the rump of the Cow who Missed her Opportunity. There were other
photographs of Sir, pathetically anachronistic in his top hat and Edwardian clothes pasted on a
contemporary Australian background, and the classic shot of him in Ascot grey staggering
towards the camera to present the Melbourne Cup.
A peaceful morning towards the end, I was standing on the kerb of a Sydney suburban street
when Lady was driven past in one of the vice-regal limousines. She was sitting alone on the back
scat under a large flat mushroom hat, holding to her flat stomach a large flat handbag as though it
were a hot-water bottle. She looked neither to left nor right….
One hears of Sir and Lady living with their perks and diminished fame in a house in stockbroker
country outside London: John Kerr, the Balmain boiler-maker's brilliant son, and Annie Taggart
who as a student was innocent enough to face an audience with her fly undone while playing a
male part in a university production. I am inclined to pity them both till I remember their
pretensions, and the occasion when Kerr as barrister lost a case for one of my friends. When my
friend protested, 'But it isn't just!' his advocate replied, 'You should be old enough to know you
can't expect Justice of the Law.'
Towards the end Of 1979 somebody asked one of Kerr's daughters how her father occupied
himself. 'Oh,' she said, 'he's taken up cleaning and cooking. The woman he married doesn't care
for that sort of thing.'
Marrying the daughter's remark to her father's conception of justice I sometimes indulge in a
fantasy in which Sir, armed with a feather duster, totters in a frilly apron round a neo-Tudor
mansion till the smell of burning diverts him to the kitchen, while Lady sits behind those green
eyelids, spurring him on in her university French. If there is a Hell, it is probably a trail of broken
glass, the humiliations public and private which the feet of the damned are condemned to tread,
[From: Patrick White, "Sir and Lady", Flaws in the Glass (Jonathan Cape, 1981,