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Ernest Alexander Lyall (1931–1972)

Ernest Lyall, 1972

Ernest Lyall, 1972

photo supplied by family

In a tribute to Mr E. A. [Ernest Alexander] Lyall, Lecturer in Political Science, who died on Thursday 2 March, Professor Leslie F. Crisp wrote that Mr Lyall's 'integrity and sincerity, his loyalty and his independence and steadfastness of viewpoint were the common knowledge of his colleagues and his students.'

'Similarly well known were his fast-moving, fertile and serious mind in debate and his bubbling, earthy humour which lightened any tendency to undue heaviness in a discussion,' said Professor Crisp.

'His industry was prodigious, as attested at once by his recent number and range of publications and by a sifting of his teaching and research files. It is a tragedy that, at 41, he should have been prevented from completing the books on which he had commenced working and the others which clearly would have followed upon them.'

Mr Lyall was born in Launceston, the son and grandson of miners. He studied part-time for his BA and BEc degrees in the Canberra University College and Australian National University while advancing his career as a Commonwealth public servant. He achieved one of the most distinguished masters qualifying results in political science and gained his masters degree with a thesis on political patronage in Australia after joining the staff of the Department of Political Science in 1965 as a lecturer whose special field was public administration.

'Lyall wrote a great deal during the years 1965-71,' Professor Crisp said. 'He contributed a number of controversial articles to discussions proceeding in Public Administration (Sydney) and other journals. Just a month before his all-too-early death, he delivered a paper to the annual Political Science Summer School at the Canberra Theatre, and a week later contributed more than once to the discussions of the Annual Summer School of Professional Journalism at the ANU. At the time of his death he had already commenced to develop his masters thesis for publication by MUP and had published more than one article by way of ground-clearing for his detailed study of the Federal Parliamentary Member as exemplified by the late J. R. Fraser, M.P. He was a regular and lively reviewer for the Canberra Times.

'As a student of the CUC/ANU, Lyall had been a leading footballer. He served as president and as a coach to the ANU National Football Club and as vice-president of the Sports Council. His services were recognised with life-membership of the Club.

'As secretary of the ANU Staff Association he never spared himself, whatever the nature of the call on his time.

'Both his sporting interests among the students and his Public Service background gave him close bonds with his own students, especially the Public Service part-timers who found in him, as a teacher of public administration, "one of themselves", who shared their experiences, their aspirations and frustrations, with whom they could readily identify and to whom they could take their problems and difficulties in complete confidence that they would be met with understanding, sympathy and helpfulness. His wide network of Public Service contacts, both in the several departments he had served and beyond, proved invaluable to him as a teacher and researcher, and to his students.

'After major surgery last August it seemed briefly that he would be spared to bring his research enterprises to fruition, but the New Year soon gave evidences that this was not to be. In less than a month after he knew that he was, as he characteristically put, "for the high jump", he worked, with pen as long as he could, and by tape recorder until a day or two before his death, to finish off articles, a chapter for a symposium, reviews he had contracted to write, acknowledgements of cards and messages, arrangements about his personal and family affairs. Early and late he welcomed family and friends to his bedside and none came but were astounded, humbled and strengthened by his dauntless and unyielding spirit.'

Original publication

Citation details

'Lyall, Ernest Alexander (1931–1972)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 31 May 2024.

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