Our grandfather, Tom Compson Trumble (1898–1970), known to the Peter Trumbles as “Pa,” and to the Colin Trumbles as “Cum-pa,” was the youngest of the six children of John William Trumble, the cricketing legend and solicitor of note, and his wife Susan (née Davies).
All five of Pa’s older siblings were interesting, and each bore the middle name of Compson, presumably some now forgotten inheritance of their mother’s family, who lived in a pretty house called Leddicott in Lavender Bay, McMahon’s Point, North Sydney. I presume her mother’s maiden name was Compson.
Mabel Compson Trumble (1889–1961) was a teacher of French and English and for some years joined the staff of an exclusive school for young ladies at Montreux in Switzerland. Auntie Mab, as she was known, was the author of a French reader for young children entitled Micheline et Didi, which, together with charming illustrations by her brother-in-law, the artist A. E. (“Peter”) Newbury, and slightly less interesting ones drawn by a cousin, Arthur C. Trumble (more like diagrams, really), was published in Melbourne in 1935 by Macmillan, in association with McCarron, Bird & Co.
Micheline and Didi are fox cubs who live with their parents, Monsieur et Madame Renard, in a comfortable, middle-class, three-storey tree-house with hammock. According to our eccentric cousin Robert, this brief but intelligent publication may be regarded as the first book ever written by a Trumble. But it also attests to the vision and prescience of McCarron, Bird & Co., whose shrewd proprietor obviously recognized that spark of genius that distinguishes Trumble women in every generation, as indeed his grandson Bruce Stewart did, and still does.
John Compson (“Jack”) Trumble (1891–1968) served in the A.I.F. during World War I, and afterwards settled at Red Cliffs, a few miles south of Mildura, on the River Murray, where he occupied himself with the cultivation, harvest, and production of dried fruit. Uncle Jack was a confirmed bachelor, and evidently a familiar figure in the Long Room at the Melbourne Cricket Club.
Ruth Compson Trumble (1892–1964), affectionately known as Auntie Winkie, married the tonalist painter and disciple of Max Meldrum A. E. (Peter) Newbury. She is to be seen, seated in a comfortable leeward dune at Anglesey, with two separate representations of the same little boy, their son David Newbury, who grew up to be an artist also, in a fine oil painting from the mid-1920s by Peter Newbury that currently hangs in my brother’s sitting-room in South Melbourne.
Hugh Compson Trumble (1894–1962), graduated M.B.B.S. from the
Nancy Compson Trumble (b. 1896) married Leonard B. Cox in 1925, and subsequently engaged Edna Walling to create a beautiful garden at Folly Farm at
Tom Compson Trumble went to school at
After the War, Pa resumed his legal studies at Melbourne, obtaining in record time the truncated LL.B. that was devised for ex-servicemen. It was still relatively unusual for solicitors to earn law degrees, and in fact Pa showed such talent at university that he was encouraged to consider teaching in the law school. Instead he chose to become articled to an ancient solicitor at Malleson, Stewart, Stawell and Nankivell, as it was then known, and was on March 1, 1920, admitted to practice at the Victorian bar. By then Pa was engaged to Nona, the only daughter of Alexander Campbell, a director of the Broken Hill Proprietary Block 14 Company, Ltd., and Chairman of the King Island Scheelite Co. They got married the following year, when Pa was a salaried solicitor at Mallesons. They spent their honeymoon adventurously cruising on a motorcycle, Nona riding comfortably in the side-car.
Pa did not remain at Mallesons for very long, however, because in April 1922, three months after Dad was born, evidently not seeing any immediate prospect of entering the full partnership that he had been led to believe might come straight away, Pa left the firm and instead went into partnership with his father, J. W. Trumble, and Edward J. (“Ned”) Hamilton, another young solicitor, and, as “Trumble and Hamilton,” the three men practiced together in Temple Court, 422 Collins Street, Melbourne, until their firm merged discreetly and profitably with Mallesons on Monday, October 27, 193o, and they moved back to 46 Queen Street.
Pa remained a partner at Mallesons for most of the rest of his professional life, eventually becoming senior partner, in which role he was eventually supported by his two eldest sons, Dad and Uncle Colin, who joined Mallesons on the same day not too long after the end of World War II.
The culmination of Pa’s legal career was when he was one of the instructing solicitors to Garfield Barwick, Q.C. (a future Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia) in the famous case of Commonwealth of Australia v. The Bank of New South Wales, which was decided on appeal by their lordships of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
Pa came to this enormous case fresh from an impressive victory over the dead hand of socialism in the matter of Melbourne Corporation v. The Commonwealth (State Banking), which reached the High Court of Australia in 1947. From December 10, 1945, he had served as the principal solicitor for the City of
Nan and Pa sailed to
The case was complex. Pa’s clients were actually the National Bank of Australasia, Ltd., and the Australian Bankers’ Association, but the government of the state of
Rarely, if ever, has dried fruit assumed such constitutional importance, and the case stands as a tribute to the ingenuity, not to say brilliance, of my grandfather’s legal reasoning.
Afterwards Pa sat on the boards of several public companies, including H. B. Dickie, Ltd., the distinguished Australian towel, sheet, and pillow-case manufacturer, and Younghusband, Pty. Ltd., the old firm of stock and station agents, of which he was also chairman. Another was an wholly respectable firm of organ builders, for whom Pa drafted an impeccably worded contract in which a Melbourne representative of the company undertook “to erect an organ in the chancel of St. George’s Church of England, Malvern, according to the churchwardens’ specifications,” of whom Pa also happened to be one.
Pa was a devoted Freemason. He was also a keen golfer, and made a unique contribution to the history of the Royal Melbourne Golf Club when in 1930 the club committee took the controversial decision to sell its land in Sandringham, and seek a new and more spacious but far less convenient and possibly less attractive site further away from
Perceiving the full and worsening impact of what ultimately turned into the Great Depression, Pa conceived a far cheaper and less disruptive solution to the underlying problem, which was that the Club was becoming so hemmed in by semi-rural/semi-suburban development in the locality, and the links so overcrowded, that future growth and prosperity seemed impossible. So over a period of several months he walked all over the surrounding neighborhood of
For this plan to work it was vital for these negotiations to be conducted with each cocky as discreetly as possible, so that none of them got wind of the Club’s intentions, and the prices were held down as far as possible. When the Club committee, of which he was not a member, haughtily rejected Pa’s shrewd plan (even though by then he had successfully secured the vital options for the equivalent of a song), a majority of members forced its resignation and substituted men of vision, who proceeded to save the Club a fortune by going ahead and carrying it out.
One thinks of the famous epitaph of Sir Christopher Wren in St. Paul’s and, in respect of Pa, hearty, otherwise oblivious golfers playing the second course at Royal Melbourne might justly say “Si monumentum requiris, circumspice.”
I have only the faintest recollections of Pa, mainly, I think, as an enormous pair of highly polished brogues, which I recall studying intently at floor level in the sitting-room at 18,
Evidently, Pa drove Nona right across, from
Pa and Nona raised their four boys in the pretty old house in
In a privately published volume of reminiscences, Uncle Colin has sketched a beautiful portrait of the family’s happy life in
They built a little holiday house in amongst the tea-tree scrub in Macgregor Avenue, Portsea, and, after Pa retired, they moved to Pearcedale on the Mornington Peninsula, and, finally, to a sleak and snappy small modernist house in Gordon Grove, South Yarra, tucked into a fiendishly inconvenient spot just off Punt Road, on the busiest, steepest, and most lethal stretch of the hill rising on the left bank of the Yarra.