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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

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Victor Hugh Parkinson (1917–2010)

by Malcolm Brown

It was an awful thing for Mosman Council when a group of visiting New Guineans became a bit raskolish on Friday nights in the early 1960s and started tearing up shrubs on the nature strips.

The council could have come down very heavily but decided to call on someone who had real insight into the people, Victor Parkinson.

At the end of World War II, Parkinson had joined the Australian School of Pacific Administration, run from Middle Head, to train teachers and patrol officers, including one Michael Somare.

He had started as a law tutor and taken over the position of registrar. Parkinson found the riotous lads were students at the school. He packed them into a vehicle, took them off and settled them down.

Parkinson took his civic spirit with him when he became the mayor of Mosman from 1965 until 1970, making him the council's second-longest serving mayor.

Victor Hugh Parkinson was born on March 11, 1917, the son of Hugh Parkinson, a State Electricity Commission maintenance officer in Victoria, and Constance (nee Skepper). He grew up in Yallourn, a Victorian coalmining town, and was impressed by the orderliness of the place, a notion that stayed with him for the rest of his life.

After attending Melbourne High School, he also joined the State Electricity Commission and worked there until the late 1930s when he had saved enough money to go to Europe.

In London, an electrical firm offered Parkinson an executive training job but before he began, he visited relatives in Lincoln and decided to study law at Manchester University. Six months later the war began.

The war was not yet as critical as it would become, so he pursued his interest in debating. He was selected in a two-man team to represent England's northern universities on a tour of the US.

During a tour of 26 universities in the midwest he met an astonishing array of people in a country that was hyped up for the war they knew would come to them.

At the end of the tour, Parkinson returned to Australia and enlisted in the army. He served within Australia, at times being called on to use his rudimentary legal training to defend soldiers.

On a train journey from Melbourne to Sydney he met a young woman called Marjorie Eve, who admired the dashing young officer but was not to see him again for 13 years.

Parkinson joined the army education unit and served in Queensland and the Northern Territory. At the end of the war he joined the School of Pacific Administration.

He married and had a son, John, but the marriage did not last. He met Marjorie Eve again in 1953 and they married.

In the early 1960s, Parkinson became interested in local government and was elected to Mosman Council in December, 1962. He became the mayor in 1965 and also joined the council of the National Trust.

He was committed to preserving historic buildings and extended that interest to trying to regulate development in the area, though powerful interests were arrayed against him.

Viv May, the present general manager of the council, recalled working at the front desk when he was mayor: ''I would see him coming in in a rush from the college to perform duties as mayor in the lunch hour. He was a thorough gentleman, always immaculately dressed. He was Old Mosman through and through.''

Parkinson served as mayor until 1970 and continued on the council for another year. In that year he became vice-president of the National Trust of Australia (NSW) and was awarded the British Empire Medal.

In 1973 he became president of the National Trust and in 1974 the NSW representative on the Australian Council of National Trusts.

In 1975 Parkinson and his wife retired and bought a property, Gowan Green, near Wellington in central western NSW.

In 1978, he was elected chairman of the Australian Council of National Trusts, a position he held until 1982. In 2000 he and his wife sold the property and moved to Orange. In 2003, he was awarded the Centenary Medal.

Victor Parkinson is survived by Marjorie, his children John and Lindy, daughter-in-law Karen, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Original publication

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Citation details

Malcolm Brown, 'Parkinson, Victor Hugh (1917–2010)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 20 May 2024.

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