The Parrot Press

From Colac to Cambridge:
a 1938 sea journal

A. Graham Brown

193 pp. • hardback • ISBN 9780987155689 • $25

Published 5 August 2015 (out of print).

Book cover - From Colac to Cambridge, A. Graham Brown

About the book

In 1938 an 18-year-old boy sailed out of Melbourne for England, to further his education at Cambridge. He was equipped with binoculars, a notebook, a good schooling, and the skills of a budding natural historian. He recorded the curiosities and marvels of ship life, of coastal and inland waters, and of ports of call: the enchanting entry into Sydney Harbour, the butterflies of Brisbane, the proud Aborigines of Darwin, the "Natives" of the East, Singapore of an age now lost, crowded Rangoon and the timeless Irrawaddy River, cricket in Colombo, bustling Marseilles, and many other places. During a trip to Sweden and Norway he was enchanted by the countryside: "All was calm, majestic, serene. Its absolute beauty just weighs on one."

His descriptions of cargo-passenger ships, grand hotels, food, countryside, local people, sea and river, are sensitively drawn. He reports the opinions of others, and is discreet about his own.

The diary is much more than this. It was a private record of the agony and thrill of emerging sexuality. Girls! Women! Parents! Was this still a boy, or a budding young man? He danced, he played, he chatted, and he pondered the question of sex. "I am terribly young and innocent - 'green' I think is the word," he wrote. "I have no adult poise and feel still a boy. I guess Cambridge will fix that." The diary ends in Cambridge.

The introduction and notes are by his son, who re-visited many of the places his father passed through.

About the author

Graham Brown was born in England in 1919, the son of Mildred and Dr Arthur Brown of Colac who brought him to Australia in the same year. He grew up in Colac, and was educated at Glamorgan and Geelong Grammar School. He studied medicine at Christ's College, Cambridge and Middlesex Hospital, London. After gaining his medical qualifications, he returned to Colac in 1947 with his Anglo-American wife, Joan Frecheville. They had four children, and he practised as a doctor in Colac until 1971.

He had a life-long love of natural history, the bush, and birds. He was president of the Royal Australasian Ornithological Union from 1969 to 1972. He died in 1982.

Get the book

Copies of the book were for sale in Colac from Blanes Newsagency, 164 Murray Street, and Cow Lick Bookshop, 86 Murray Street, and in Melbourne from the Hill of Content, 86 Bourke Street, and Readings, 309 Lygon Street, Carlton, but stocks were exhausted by November 2016.