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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Andrews, Barry Geoffrey (1943–1987)

by H. P. Heseltine

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Barry Geoffrey Andrews (1943-1987), university lecturer and literary scholar, was born on 13 February 1943 at Auburn, Sydney, elder of twins and second child of Stanley Geoffrey William Andrews, store manager, and his wife Evelyn Jean, née McWilliam, both born in New South Wales. Barry attended Granville Central and Parramatta High schools. In 1960, supported by a Teachers’ College scholarship, he joined the first group of students to enter the faculty of arts at the University of New South Wales (BA, 1964; MA, 1969). After graduating with honours in English, he completed a diploma of education (1965) at the University of Sydney. The subject of his master’s thesis was the life and work of `Price Warung’ (William Astley). During 1965-66 he was a junior lecturer at Teachers’ College, Sydney.

In 1968 Andrews began a two-year appointment at Fort Street Boys’ High School. On 10 May that year at the Methodist Church, Northbridge, he married Robyn Gwladys Turner, a schoolteacher whom he had met at Teachers’ College. He joined the Royal Military College, Duntroon, Canberra, in 1970. As a lecturer in English in the faculty of military studies maintained at RMC by UNSW, he found congenial colleagues, notably W. H. Wilde and Joy Hooton. His first major publication was a selection of Warung’s short stories, Tales of the Convict System (1975). It was followed by a critical study, Price Warung (William Astley) (1976). With Wilde he published Australian Literature to 1900: A Guide to Information Sources (1980), and with Wilde and Hooton he collaborated in editing (and writing much of) The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature (1985).

His love of factual detail and his encyclopaedic knowledge were demonstrated not only in books but also in numerous reviews and articles (including twenty-seven entries for the Australian Dictionary of Biography). He also wrote on popular culture, especially sport. In his own right, he was a talented cricketer. Quick of hand and keen of eye, he played with three clubs in the Australian Capital Territory: Woden, Western District and the Australian National University. He was also a passionate supporter of Parramatta’s Rugby League team.

Andrews’ enthusiasm for sport sat easily with his approach--forthright, informal, often exuberant--to all his personal and professional relationships. A demeanour which, in repose, could seem almost languid, masked an abundant energy. Any hint of humbug or false pretension would bring fire to his pale eyes; at any conference he attended he could be seen at the centre of debate or discussion, his face passionate beneath a crop of ginger hair. His capacity for friendship, generosity and inspirational leadership strongly influenced many of his generation of Australian literary scholars. As Ken Stewart, his UNSW classmate, recalled, the Association for the Study of Australian Literature was conceived over late-night conversations at a conference in Brisbane in May 1977. Frustrated by what they perceived as an inhibiting conservatism in the higher academic ranks of their discipline, Stewart, Andrews, Julian Croft and Mary Lord decided to set up their own organisation—relaxed, adventurous and exciting. The association held its first conference at Monash University, Melbourne, in 1978 and its second, under Andrews’ leadership, in Canberra in 1979. He was president in 1985-86.

A senior lecturer from 1976, Andrews, with other RMC academic staff, transferred to the Australian Defence Force Academy in 1986. He died of cerebrovascular disease on 15 May 1987 at Royal Canberra Hospital and was buried in Gungahlin cemetery with the forms of the Churches of Christ. His wife and their three daughters and son survived him. With his death the literary community lost one of its most convivial and engaging personalities. He is commemorated by an annual memorial lecture at ADFA.

Select Bibliography

  • Notes & Furphies, Apr/May 1987, p 1
  • Canberra Times, 23 May 1987, p B12
  • Island Magazine, Winter 1987, p 78
  • Australian Book Review, July 1987, p 39
  • H. Heseltine, `Roost High and Crow Low’, Australian Literary Studies, May 2000, p 313
  • Barry Andrews papers (Australian Defence Force Academy).

Citation details

H. P. Heseltine, 'Andrews, Barry Geoffrey (1943–1987)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 27 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

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