Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Robert Trumble

In my slightly callow way I have occasionally referred in these pages to our cousin Robert Trumble, and his dotty historical works The Golden Age of Cricket and The Trumble Family in Australia. Alas, Robert Trumble died recently, and, as his obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald makes clear, he was a remarkable man. I only met him once or twice, but most recently he paid me the compliment of coming along to hear a talk I gave a few years ago at the National Gallery of Victoria. Due to a process of generational slippage that has played havoc with the relevant chronologies, Robert was actually the first cousin of our late grandfather, T. C. Trumble, though Cousin Robert was many years younger than Pa, in fact almost an exact contemporary of our beloved father Peter. Robert Trumble was therefore our first cousin twice removed. However, we Trumbles are clannish and comparatively insular as regards our extraordinary shared heritage. Robert’s son, Simon, with whom I have been in touch lately, recalls a moment in the early 1970s when Simon proudly showed his father a brand new electric guitar. He suspects Robert had no idea what it was. In comformity with traditional Trumble parenting techniques, Robert was also given to thrashing his son on the tennis court, impeccably attired in long white trousers and a long-sleeved shirt, looking rather like those Wimbledon gents of the 1920s. Robert was very tall, lean, physically strong, gentle, kind, and, yes, undeniably eccentric—a true Trumble. Most importantly, Robert’s dogged work in connection with resuscitating the reputation of the French composer Vincent d’Indy was conspicuously unacknowledged at home in Australia where cultural matters are shamefully undervalued. In this sense, at least as a musicologist and composer, Robert came unto his own, but his own received him not. The French knew better. In 2003, the Republic of France conferred upon Robert Trumble the rank of chevalier dans l’ordre des arts et des lettres. May light perpetual shine upon him.


  1. Talking of deaths, Aunt Maddy (Madeleine Vegter, daughter of Alexander Hay Borthwick) (your cousin) died at Philip Island last night at the age of eighty-whatsit - something of a relief, in her sleep, after several years of bitching about how slow death was in coming, no regrets to speak of. Farmer's daughter, farmer's wife. I'll send her memoirs of her dad on at some stage, if you have any interest.
    Anyway, that leaves just one of that generation, being Aunt Jan (Janet Mendonca). I note you're in town soon to give us The Finger; Jan won't be coming, as she says she can't hear talks any more, but she'd probably appreciate a chance to meet up for a coffee - any prospect?
    [chris.borthwick at deal.org.au]

  2. Hello Chris. I would love to catch up with Cousin Janet Mendonca when I am in Melbourne next month. Please remember me to her, and also maybe add that I speak with a loud, clear voice, and do my best with consonants, even if the vowels need work. I am so sorry to hear the news about Cousin Maddy--whom I don't think I ever met, unless she was with Janet at Mum's funeral. I send you warm greetings from freeeeeezing New England (minus 5F tomorrow)!