The Royal Historical Society of Victoria (RHSV) and the community History movement in Victoria is saddened by the passing of one its greatest sons, Professor Weston Bate on 31 October.
Weston Bate was born in Surrey Hills Melbourne, son of Mary Olive Akers, a Californian and Ernest Bate an English-born engineer. He attended Surrey Hills primary for three years before moving to Scotch College. He then served in the RAAF and flew Lancaster bomber missions from England.
After the war he enrolled at the University of Melbourne under a serviceman’s tertiary scholarship and was captivated by History under the tutelage of Max Crawford and his few staff. Weston began teaching at Brighton Grammar in 1949, under the headship of Philip Wilson his future father-in-law. taking teacher training classes each afternoon. He began a part time MA in 1950, while teaching. His marriage to life-long partner Janice Wilson in 1955, and their four of six children being born before 1962, delayed the MA. It then became the ground breaking A History of Brighton (1962, 1983).
After fifteen years of teaching at Brighton Grammar and Melbourne Grammar, Weston was appointed to the History Department at the University of Melbourne, where he became a passionate and captivating lecturer. He became Professor of Australian Studies at Deakin University in 1978 before retiring in 1989.
If his History of Brighton set new standards in local history, Lucky City (1978) and his second volume of Ballarat’s history, Life After Gold (1993) set new heights in goldfields community history. This writing assisted the creation of Sovereign Hill, which honours him with the Weston Bate annual lecture. In retirement he wrote histories of Geelong and Melbourne Grammar, of the Metropolitan and Barwon Heads golf clubs (for he was a skilled player into his nineties), a wonderful book on Melbourne laneways and other publications. He also published a chat book of love poems to the Mornington Peninsula, Haphazard Quilt (2006).
Weston Bate served on the Museum Advisory Board in the 1980s. He was a long-serving member of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria and was awarded a fellowship of the Society in 1991. Weston served on the RHSV Council for fifteen years from 1990 and as President of the RHSV from 1991-97 and 2002-05. His greatest gift was to energise all those he met and to inspire historical societies across the state to pursue history with more skill, passion and tenacity.
The RHSV sends its deepest sympathy to his wife Janice Bate, their children James, Rosemary, Tristan, Nicholas, Linden and Christopher, their partners and their families. His last days were spent peacefully at Cabrini Prahran with close friends and his much loved and loving family by his side. A passionate lifeforce finally quelled.
Written by Professor Richard Broome on behalf of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria.