I am an independent (this seems to be the accepted, if in my opinion unnecessary, clarification) historian living in Armidale on the wonderful New England tablelands of New South Wales, Australia. I came to the serious pursuit of history as a late starter, and a brief career outline probably puts that development into some reasonable perspective.
After growing up in Armidale I moved to Sydney to commence a thirty year career as a Chartered Accountant in practice, mostly in the Sydney CBD and later regional NSW.
My wife and I took the early approach (i.e. new born) of sending the kids to sleep by whispering in their ears ‘when you are 18, you are leaving home’ and lo and behold they did (with a couple of short bounce-backs). That allowed a career change (and income drop) to join ABC Concerts, the then division of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation controlling the six state symphony orchestras. My role as Business Manager was no2 in the division and included (bizarrely) periods as the ABC’s Acting Director of Music! After 15 months I moved to Adelaide to act as General Manager of the Adelaide Symphony, became permanent in the role and later responsible for taking the Orchestra out of the ABC when the state orchestras all took on independent identities. The nine years I was in charge of the Orchestra was the most enjoyable, challenging, frustrating, and rewarding period of my career.
After the Orchestra I spent five years as Managing Director of the Australian National Academy of Music in Melbourne. The Academy was, and is, a training institution designed to develop the performance and professional skills of elite young classical musicians. It has assisted in developing the careers of some exceptionally fine Australian musicians.
Retirement – from paid employ that is. A permanent fate given society’s inability to recognise and appreciate accumulated skills once past some ill-defined age that for many starts around 55 or so.
In my early 40s I took on some study as relief from the tedium of the accounting profession, enrolling in a BA at the University of New England as an external student and majoring in history taking advantage of UNE’s fabulous Australian history department. I later added Honours to this (also at UNE) with a thesis titled Irish Convicts and the Bathurst Frontier 1820-1825.
Retirement allowed me to take on a PhD at the Australian National University, an exercise of great fun, challenge, and brain stretching. My thesis was Vanguards of Empire: the lives of William Dawes, Watkin Tench, and George Worgan. More on this at another time.
Although the academic rigour and conventions of my PhD was foreign territory, I found the forensic mind-set of an accountant was a big plus in asking research questions and analysing results even if the brain needed a major re-jig to move from management English to academic writing. Still, cleverer people than me ticked off the final result. I believe I am not too bad at research even if charging off on the occasional tangent adds some time (it often rewards however).
I will add some observations on my experience of teaching and mentoring skills in a later post.
To some extent a personal blog has elements of ‘look at me’, but I am working on the theory this will be an exercise in self-discipline as well as an aide in developing my (too many) projects. Hopefully future posts will attract some critical responses.
The blog will be politics free….