A beer with … Bernard Whimpress

 

Bernard Whimpress has written and edited 48 books, mainly on sport. A former curator of the Adelaide Oval Museum, he published and edited the cricket history journal Baggy Green from 1998 to 2010. Bernard holds a doctorate in history from Flinders University and in 2017 was awarded a South Australian Life-Long Achievement Award.

 

 

 

 

A BEER WITH BERNARD WHIMPRESS

 

How did you become interested in writing?

I wrote a Matric English essay on the subject of ‘Success’ on which my teacher commented ‘Written in a style I can only admire’. That was a confidence boost and after dropping out of teachers college and university, and spending a few years as a public servant I entered journalism by a side door.

 

Why do you write?

Because I want to express myself and it is my medium.

 

Where do you write and how often do you write?

Mainly in my study and most days. The form varies – books, articles, historical journalism, reviews, satire, a poem now and again.

 

Which writers do you like?

Steven Carroll, particularly his Glenroy series is my favourite. Among literary writers these have changed over the years – DH Lawrence, Hemingway, Kerouac, Orwell, Gerald Murnane, Graham Swift, Lionel Shriver and Elizabeth Strout. In crime Philip Kerr, Adrian McKinty, Peter Corris and Garry Disher. In non-fiction Don Watson and Bob Ellis. In sport Gideon Haigh, John Harms, Martin Flanagan, Duncan Hamilton and Eric Midwinter.

 

Why do you write about sport?

It’s a subject I know and care about. After travelling overseas in 1973-74 I thought I might become the new Kerouac but struggled because I had nothing to say.

 

What is the writing process for you?

It depends on the form. In an essay a great last line sometimes springs to mind, and I plot my way towards it. In various books I begin with the reason for writing it and in a work of history it’s then doing archival research, maybe interviews and pulling the elements together. Structuring and editing give me a lot of pleasure. I once heard a writer say that she hated editing her own books. My reaction was that she wasn’t a writer at all.

 

When did you first get published?

I had a poem published in a small magazine about 1970 but the first real publishing began in 1975 when Ashley Hornsey and I launched Football Times.

 

You have a doctorate. What was the subject you explored?

‘Aborigines in Australian Cricket in the Protection Era (1850-1939)’. It was half cricket history and half to do with Aboriginal policy in the various colonies and states. The thesis examined pastoral cricket, the game on Aboriginal missions and reserves and collective biographies of a handful of figures who had played first-class cricket. The PhD was awarded in 1999 and the book Passport to Nowhere was published a few months later.

 

What are you working on now?

I’m pulling together 90 interviews I conducted with former SANFL footballers in the early 1980s. Highlights are those beginning with Magarey Medallists Dan Moriarty, ‘Wacka’ Scott and others from the 1920s. I’m also editing a book on political history of the 1890s.

 

What is the theme of your writing?

This is a big question because it depends on the subject. For instance, in my cricket books I have written several biographies, histories of clubs, Australian cricket, grounds, events, and issues such as throwing and selection. In football I began with a history of South Australian league football, have done a couple of club histories and written long essays on the social history of the game, and its origins and development outside Victoria. Other books include such subjects as city heritage, memoir, Australian art, photography and poetry.

 

What is the backdrop to your writing?

Silence. I only play music to drown out the barking of a neighbour’s dog.

 

What is your view on publishing in Australia?

It’s difficult. I’ve published nearly 50 books but it’s seven years since I did so with a main commercial publisher. I began what I term niche publishing (mainly limited edition books and booklets) thirty years ago and this remains a major area of interest and pleasure. When I published the cricket history journal, Baggy Green (1998-2010) I had around 200 subscribers and that just covered costs. Only three of my books have been commercial successes – one going through five editions – while other commissioned works did reasonably well. The book I’m most disappointed didn’t attract commercial interest was On Our Selection (2011). It’s screaming out for an update so maybe I’ll be luckier second time around.

 

What has been your experience of writers’ festivals in Australia?

They have not been valuable to me. I’ve never received a gig as a writer at Adelaide Writers’ Week although I did chair a successful session involving Gideon Haigh, John Harms and William McInnes (who’d just written a cricket novel) in 2008. I was delighted to attend the splendid little Dunkeld Writers’ Festival last year where I shared a panel session with Gideon Haigh and Marion Stell, and conducted a cricket quiz.

 

What could be done to support writers in Australia?

Buy their books.

 

You’ve mentored several writers. Do you gain pleasure from that?

Yes. I suppose I’ve reached the stage in life of becoming a greying eminence. While I hope there are still a few projects I’d like to complete I also like to help younger writers achieve their potential and find an audience.

 

If you had your life over again, what career would you choose?

Dancer. Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly are the ideal models..

 

Profile

 

Nickname:         Mobile (short for Mobile Ruckman)

Acquired only a few years ago because of my enthusiasm for this type of footballer – Rick Davies, Adam Goodes – and not my own football career which ended at age twelve when I took up golf.

 

Social media:              Facebook, X

 

Favourite food:         Spinach ravioli

 

Favourite drinks:      Shiraz, Coopers Pale Ale

 

Favourite band:         Liked Blondie about 40 years ago.

 

Best pub:                     Exeter

 

Last book read:  Andrew Faulkner, Guts Glory and Blunder: Noreuil, 1917

 

One word to describe your life at the moment:      Fulfilled

 

What is your Desert Island book?:            Wisden

 

 

Read Bernard’s Almanac pieces Here

 

 

Barry Nicholls is a former A-grade district cricketer (for Kensington in Adelaide) who has written about the sport for three decades. He’s also been a broadcaster on ABC Radio for nearly 20 years. Barry has written nine books, including You Only Get One Innings: Family, Mates and the Wisdom of Cricket and For Those Who Wait: The Barry Jarman Story and The Pocket History of the Ashes. He has contributed to Inside SportWisden Cricketers’ Almanac Australia and other publications.

 

 

 

 

 

Read more from Barry Nicholls Here.

 

 

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Comments

  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    If I count the Footy Budget, I have dozens of Bernard’s publications. His (and Santo Caruso’s) 2018 book, Adelaide Sporting Sites is a gem. Well played all.

  2. Mickey Randall says

    Really enjoying this series. Hugely affirming to note the Exeter’s Bernard’s favourite pub and I wonder if there’s an Adelaide writer who’d prefer somewhere else! Always great to hear writers share their insights into the craft.

    Thanks Barry and Bernard.

  3. Shattered not being Bernard’s favorite author! Good read again thanks Bazz and Bernard

  4. Bernard Whimpress says

    Thanks Barry
    The questions were fun to answer although I omitted the one about pets. I thought about saying ‘pet rock’ whose name was ‘Rocky’. Pet rocks were a brief 80s craze and I thought this would be lost on the audience. Probably not, however.

  5. Bernard Whimpress says

    Hi Swish
    If you’ve got all the Budgets I edited you can add 155 publications. Thanks for the kind words about Adelaide Sporting Sites which Santo Caruso funded as publisher. It was great fun to edit and pull together the contributions of around 25 members of the local members of the Australian Society for Sports History. A shame it wasn’t a big seller because it deserved to be. I think Santo just recouped his money.

  6. Bernard Whimpress says

    Cheers Mickey
    Raised a red to Jack Clarke with a friend on Wednesday afternoon after attending Jack’s funeral service at Adelaide Oval. The official wake was in the top room of the Cathedral Hotel but I figured the drinking there would be a bit too competitive. Let’s hope the Ex is not the next heritage site being target for more bloody overseas student accommodation. Save the Cranker.

  7. Bernard Whimpress says

    Understand your distress, Rulebook. You’d better get a few more runs on the board.

  8. Bernard has always been an inspiration to me from my Adelaide childhood to this very day. His work was invaluable to me when writing my new book on the Economics of Sport. Bravo Bernard – well played sir!

  9. Great profile. Lots of good insights.
    Too much cricket and football.
    Not enough golf.

  10. george james giamalis says

    Love your work BW

  11. Frank Taylor says

    Great interview chaps.

    “Written in a style that I can only admire.” – simply amazing how one sentence can change your self image and the course of ones’s life said by someone you respect.
    That luck/moment-in-time/mentor thing…….

    “…..she wasn’t a writer at all.”
    I get it.

    My career goals if I had my time again strangely are the same.
    Sadly only took up dancing in my late’40’s and tap this year.

    Love your work
    Thanks again
    Frank

  12. Bernard Whimpress says

    Peter
    Yeah, I’d like to do more golf writing as it was my main competitive sport. I have written two articles on Australian Opens played in SA – Jim Ferrier’s win at Royal Adelaide in 1938 and Gary Player’s when he shot two 62s at Kooyonga in 1965.

  13. Bernard Whimpress says

    Cheers George G
    Welcome back to ASSH anytime.

  14. Bernard Whimpress says

    Excellent Tim and send me your book and I’ll have it reviewed in Sporting Traditions.

  15. Bernard Whimpress says

    Thanks Frank and nice to hear about your dancing. Incidentally, the same English teacher had put me on the right path a year earlier with a pithier comment. After I had laboured over the first sentence of another essay and included four jawbreaking words he commented “What’s this bullshit?” From then on I determined to write clean clear prose.

  16. Thank you Barry and Bernard.
    I think you both are the epitome of Adelaide culture especially with your excellent sports books and raconteuring.
    Next week I will be hanging out at the MCC Library so will be able tp peruse your books.
    Look forward Bernard (hopefully soon) to an update to your book On our Selection.
    Meanwhile good luck and please never let the ink run dry.

  17. Bernard Whimpress says

    Cheers John
    An English friend Eric Midwinter is my favourite sports historian and he continues to produce wonderful books into his nineties and is a great inspiration to me.

  18. Good on you Bernard. I will look up Eric.

    You Bernard, Barry, Gideon H, JTH, PB, CB, Mike Coward, John Arlott, Jack Fingleton, Greg de Moore, Ian Wilson, Peter Clark et al are some of my inspirations. ( By no means exhaustive)

    In 1996 I was travelling from Melb to Darwin, with an overnight stop in Adelaide.
    Next day I visited the Adelaide Public Library and had a riveting chat with I thought the librarian.
    It was Max O’Connell, former Test umpire.
    He asked me if I was going to the Sheffield Shield final and I told him I was after we finished.
    SA won and the then Premier Dean Brown presented the trophy.
    As he did and politicians do, in his presentation speech he extolled the virtues of SA and his Government.

  19. Bernard Whimpress says

    Thanks again, John
    You must have been there for that fabulous 59-ball last-wicket survival by McIntyre and George which enabled us to win the Shield before a crowd of around 12,000 at the finish.
    I’m glad you mention Greg de Moore in your list because I bracket Greg’s Tom Wills with Gideon’s Jack Iverson as the greatest Australian sports bios.

  20. Daryl Schramm says

    Greetings from late Sat night in Mullinvat, Ireland. Well done Baz and Bernard and others. Didn’t know you are a golfer Bernard. You were the one that broke the news to me about my pending umpiring debut in the SANFL league way back in late May 1982.

  21. Thank you Bernard. Yes from memory, the Sheffield Shield Final was a hot and exciting day.
    So much so I forget to eat my blue castella cheese which melted in my bag..
    Were you there also?

    Circa 2014 I visited Greg de Moore in Sydney.
    Greg grew up in Merlynston as did another Melbourne work colleague of mine who passed away young.
    His name was Phil and Greg said Phil and he were close mates.

    I shared Greg’s biography of Tom Wills with Graham Churcher, a Darwin friend since relocated to
    Royal Tunbridge Wells.
    Graeme headed up the Churcher Estate which were the biggest landowners in Darwin and outer areas.
    His Great great Grandfather invested in the NT over 100 years ago but details are sketchy.
    Graham read Law at Cambridge but changed to History.
    His College was Gonville and Caius.
    Graham was fascinated by Greg’s book having Rugby school and MCC connections.

    My connections are more modest.
    Gideon Haigh’s and Jack Iverson’s alma mater is also mine.

    I endorse your views on Greg’s and Gideon’s books.

    Greg and I agreed there is a need for a statue of Tom Wills at Kardinia Park, Geelong.

  22. Bernard Whimpress says

    Hi Daryl
    Trust you are having a good time in Ireland. Couldn’t quite work out how I informed you of your first umpiring appointment. Guess I would have been told by Kelvin O’Reilly because I would have needed to know at least by Thursday for insertion in the Budget.
    Re the golf I was runner-up in a club championship at North Adelaide and played 20 years of pennant including one season of Simpson Cup.

  23. Bernard Whimpress says

    John
    Are you willing to disclose your surname as I might like to pass it on to Greg. Yes, I was most certainly at the Shield final. I began working for SACA in 1994 as curator of the Adelaide Oval Museum and was employed until 2009. I wrote an essay on the Shield final in the SACA newsletter I edited (Long Boundary) and this was republished in my book, Off Cuts, which is a 2008 collection of my sports writing (mainly cricket). I still have copies of that book available so if you are interested, please contact me at [email protected]

  24. John Harms says

    Enjoyed the interview and the comments thread.

    I’d add that a big slab of Whimpress energy is directed at the writing and reading communities. He is a facilitator, a whizz at bringing people together for events – especially his ASSH stuff. Good food and wine and an interesting speaker.

    He is a prolific writer. He gets things written. Just as he gets things done.

  25. Cracking and enlightening interview, Barry. Thanks.

  26. Hi Bernard
    My surname is Stevenson and email is [email protected]
    I have written you an email as I am interested in purchasing your book Off Cuts.
    Not sure if Greg remembers me except I barrack for TGTOA and met him in
    SW Sydney. Please pass on my regards.
    His biography of John Cade was equally superb.
    Thank you.

  27. Bernard Whimpress says

    John H
    Would have replied earlier in for my recent tumble – like being on the end of a Brereton / Johnny Wynne tackle on a hard ground. Recovery beginning.

  28. Bernard Whimpress says

    Cheers Smokie

  29. Bernard Whimpress says

    John S
    Agree Greg de Moore’s Cade bio which I reviewed on Newtown Review of Books

  30. Sorry to hear of your recent impairment Bernard and I hope your recovery goes well.
    Look forward to receiving your book.
    On our recent travels I purchased Ray Carroll’s tribute book ‘Shadows on the Green’ and
    Ashley Mallett with Ian Chappell ‘Chappelli Speaks Out.

  31. Greg de Moore says

    Lovely to read this discussion, and thanks for your comments about the ‘Tom Wills’ book

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