Almanac Lunch: A Conversation with Geoff Blainey (May 27)


Geoffrey Blainey, writer, historian, and lifelong Geelong fan is coming to lunch at the North Fitzroy Arms on May 27.

I first heard of Geoffrey Blainey when I was at school in the 1970s. His books had reached the Oakey High library. However, there was no Australian history subject then. We were preoccupied with subjects like Europe and Revolutions, and the Causes of World War I (a Euro-centric subject then), and Racism and Imperialism. Our texts were written by H.R. Cowie.

However, Australian History was taught at the University of Queensland. I read Geoffrey Blainey when I was studying (turning up?) there in the early 1980s. My Australian History teacher was a Queenslander, Denis Murphy, a grand story-teller and a very interesting man (who sadly died too young). Later I did postgraduate research under a contemporary of Geoffrey Blainey’s, Geoffrey Bolton and I became familiar with the classic Australian texts.

At that time, I was surprised and delighted to find, when reading The Greatest Game, a collection of essays put together by Ross Fitzgerald and Ken Spillman, that Geoff Blainey was a footy-lover and Geelong supporter. I learnt this from his wonderful piece of memoir about following Geelong, and about his neighbour Jim Knight who played for Geelong and was killed in action in World War II, and about going to matches at Corio Oval (superb description).

Soon after I was even more delighted when Geoff published A Game of our Own a study of the origins of Australian football.

After moving to Melbourne some years later, I met Geoff when he came on The Conversation Hour on ABC radio to talk about one of his many books – the brilliant Black Kettle and Full Moon: Daily Life in a Vanished Australia. (Still as interesting today as the day it was published). Of course the conversation, certainly off air, turned to the trials and tribulations of the Geelong Football Club. Since then we have bumped into each other from time to time – at the MCG or on the train to Kardinia Park, or at Kardinia Park.

We now have a Geelong decade to celebrate. Who’d have thought!

Geoff was born just before the start of the 1930 season, the year Geelong lost to Collingwood in the Grand Final (and the year of Bradman in England, Phar Lap and the Great Depression) so the Cats have won eight flags in his life-time.

Geoff is one of the most fascinating people I’ve encountered. His memory for detail is simply phenomenal. He can make anything interesting.

It is not surprising that Geoff and Gideon Haigh are good friends.

I look forward to a Conversation with Geoff Blainey at the North Fitzroy Arms on Friday May 27. Lunch will be served at 1pm. All welcome.

We’ll be talking about more than the Geelong Football Club.


Bookings essential:   [email protected]



North Fitzroy Arms, corner of Reid and Rae Streets, North Fitzroy (Tram 11 or 96 – too easy)

May 27, 12.30 for 1pm

Three courses, $40

Drinks at bar prices

North Fitzroy Arms - for Friday lunch. Click photo for details.

North Fitzroy Arms – for Friday lunch.

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. Steve Hodder says

    J.T.H., if my memory serves me correctly, I remember an interview Philip Adams did with Stuart Macintyre, quite a few years ago. Apparently Blainey and Macintyre had been quite close at some time. During the interview Adams asked Macintyre what had provoked Blainey’s controversial comments about Asian Immigration and his equally provocative comments about “the black arm band of history” etc. Macintyre said the comments caught everyone by surprise, or something like that. Perhaps you might quiz Blainey about them? Particularly as the whole Windschuttle/culture wars stuff has faded from a few peoples’ minds. But not forgotten?

    I agree with you about Black Kettle and Full Moon. That book could only be written by someone once described as a “magpie of history”, pecking here and there and occasionally raising his cocked head to listen.

    I for one would love to hear about what Blainey regards as the good writing of history i.e. just good writing.

    Shame some of us have to eat sandwiches for lunch most days.


  2. G’day Steve

    There is a lot to unpack here – and a comment box is not the place to do it!

    We’ll be concentrating on Geelong at the lunch.


  3. Looking forward to it. Blainey is a wonderful speaker and a very gentle, intelligent bloke. At Melbourne Uni many years ago he was our history lecturer. Marvellous teacher and story teller. My note book was always blank after his lectures because I was too busy listening.

  4. Dips, Blainey was a terrific lecturer wasn’t he. In the midst of some pretty technical (and often boring) commerce subjects such as stat method and, dare I say it, accounting, his economic history sessions were like beacons of light. I distinctly remember his presentations on the causes and economic consequences of war. Riveting stuff with the Vietnam war raging not far from our shores at the time.

    Looking forward to hearing him again next Friday. Especially his thoughts on how far he thinks the mighty Cats may go this year.

    Cheers, Burkie

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