It was a great surprise to me when I was selected to become a Churchill Fellow. I actually put in a very last-minute application and when I was interviewed I didn’t think I had a chance.
My Fellowship was to study the conservation and museum preservation of coins, medals and paper money. At the time of my Fellowship application I was the Curator of Coins and Medals at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, which had a collection of over 40,000 ancient coins from Rome and Europe. The coins in my view were badly stored and needed urgent conservation work, which was not available in Australia.
I set up my program to take advantage of the best coin and medal conservators in Europe. I had many friends at the British Museum, and the Imperial War Museum in London was the centre of numismatic restoration; all assured me that they could help.
The first stop was the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, where I spent a week watching ancient coins being found in Greek archaeological digs; it was an incredible experience. The museum staff were delightful.
Then on to London to the Institute of Archaeology, where I discussed cleaning of ancient coins; and the Imperial War Museum, where I was given practical training in the restoration of medals. I then spent some time at the British Museum and made lifetime friends of the staff. I worked with some of the world’s leading numismatists.
I then spent time at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, The Ashmolean in Oxford and the University of Glasgow collections – an amazing adventure. I then visited the Paris Mint and later the Austrian State Collection, and brought back so many new ideas.
I was present at the 1984 Churchill Fellowship presentations in London and met Churchill’s grandson.
After my Fellowship period was completed I travelled around Europe for two weeks with my wife and two children. On the return trip I was able to address the International Coin Convention in Los Angeles and was presented with their medal – the only Australian ever to receive it.
The Churchill Fellowship changed my life and I became very active in the Association, as I felt that I had to give something back. Here I have made so many wonderful lifetime friends. I am currently a guest speaker on ABC talkback radio on coins and medals and am very busy writing a Tasmanian fire history. Jill and I have five adorable grandchildren.
Excerpt from “Bringing Knowledge Home” published by the Churchill Fellows Association of Tasmania (2016)
Awards and Honours
- 1996 awarded Medal of the Order of Australia for service to the community and community history as founder of the Tasmanian Numismatic Society and as a member of fire brigades recording and publishing related histories.