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Inside Teaching : October 2010
www.atra.edu.au | firstname.lastname@example.org MY BEST TEACHER 19 from the Lord’s Prayer, ‘trespass against us.’ Playing truant, Murray says, wasn’t that hard. ‘When they don’t provide a school,’ he explains, ‘they don’t come to check up on you.’ At Nabiac Central School, which Murray attended after his mother’s death, he was taught Social Studies by Lionel Gilbert – who now lives in Armidale. Most of his teachers, Murray observes, are still alive. ‘He was humane,’ Murray explains. ‘His interest in us, and his subject, was communicable.’ Murray, in his words, ‘dropped out’ in Year 9, then attended Taree High School to complete his leaving certificate. It was here that he met teachers Keith and Edie McLaughlin, and Les Lawrie. ‘Keith had a good deal of nous and truly loved his subject. He introduced me to modern poetry. I think he had a feeling that he might distract me from the bullying with something he thought I’d love. It was a good piece of lateral thinking. Edie was more into the artistic lifestyle. She bought me my first cappuccino in 1956. In Taree, that was a remarkable achievement. ‘Les Lawrie was the sportsmaster at Taree. He introduced me to modern Australian poetry. I didn’t know that existed before then. I think he thought I needed rhythm. He was probably worried about me on the horse vault. I was a big boy, even then.’ Like school, Murray’s experience of university was also occasional – he went to the University of Sydney in 1957 to study modern languages, left in 1960 without graduating, and returned in 1969. At the University of Sydney he met teachers Len McGlashan and Barry Blake. ‘Len had energy and vim. He had humour, but he was jovially brutal in teaching German. He got your interest. Barry was one of those chaps who could make a subject perfectly clear to you. ‘At the University of Sydney, though, a kind of paralysis crept over me. I stopped attending and even started sleeping rough. I didn’t realise at the time it was my first depressive breakdown.’ Murray married Valerie – they have five children – then found work as a translator at the Australian National University from 1963 to 1967, and briefly as a clerk in the Department of Prime Minister for John Gorton, before returning to university. ‘I went back,’ he explains, ‘because it was a world that I knew. I knew I wouldn’t be much good at a sit-down job.’ Murray’s job, since 1971, has been poetry, and he’s visited schools across the country since then to talk with teachers and students. ‘Schools are always a ‘LES LAWRIE WAS THE SPORTSMASTER AT TAREE. HE INTRODUCED ME TO MODERN AUSTRALIAN POETRY.’