The Historian

I stumbled upon Max Kelly's book during 2010, on a shelf at Berkelouw's in Paddington. There were quite a few cuttings stored between the pages, but this is the only one I retained. The others told about "the boulevard of broken dreams". "Faces on the Street" was published in 1982. Kelly died, suddenly, in August 1996, aged just 60. The SMH of 15 August 1996 carried this Obituary:

Maxwell Jon Kelly (1935 - 1996)

Professor Max Kelly, Associate Professor of History at Macquarie University, died on Monday, aged 60.

A mentor to professional historians, he also helped to popularise heritage issues. He was President of the NSW National Trust from 1986 - 1988 and last year he became the first President of the new History Council of NSW, a body which aims to bring together historians and history issues in the state.

Max Kelly grew up in Victoria, and pursued a number of interests before taking up a lectureship at Macquarie University in 1971. In 1986 he became an Associate Professor teaching economic and urban history, with a strong environmental strand, to several generations of students.

He taught them that urban history was a valid field. Few remember when Sydney was NOT considered a fit subject for serious study - Max Kelly helped achieve that shift. In the late '70s, he helped establish the Sydney History Group. Last year he launched its last book and formally abandoned the group because its job was done.

As a teacher and scholar, he focussed on supporting and enthusing his students and colleagues. He did not engage in intellectual sparring matches, did not put colleagues down, and was not concernd to impress.

He may come to be rememberednot so much for his own writing about history as for his contribution to a profound mind-shift in the way many who knew him came to practise history.

Max Kelly loved people, fine architecture, good food, and good conversation. Above all, he loved places: Venice, where he participated in academic exchange; and Port Hacking, where he retreated at weekends. (Many were surprised to find this charming, urbane mandrove a ute, in which he carried building materials for his weekender.) Other places he loved were Melbourne, lately rediscovered, and rural Warnambool, which had childhood roots. But mostly, he loved Sydney, and he was critically aware of its faults.

For 30 years he engaged inurban debate, as the Letters archive of The Herald would show. He began with issues in Paddington, where he once lived. He went on to plead the cause in numerous heritage battles and to criticise Sydney's development excesses. He was a voice against recent episodeswhich he considered shameful or unfortunate: the slow destruction of the Woolloomooloo Finger Wharf; and the disfiguring of the Monorail.

In the last few weeks of his life, he had dcided to take early retirement from Macquarie University to devote more time to the History Council of NSW and other activities.

His funeral will be held tomorrow at 11:30am at Woronora Crematorium.

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Another Obituary, written by fellow historian, Jill Roe, can be found in the History Workshop Journal (No. 44, Autumn 1997, pp 290-292)

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The major published works of Max Kelly

A Certain Sydney 1900 (1977)

Sydney takes Shape: A collection of Maps from Foundation to Federation (1977)

A Paddock full of Houses: Paddington 1840-1890 (1978)

Faces on the Street: William Street 1916 (1982)

Sydney: City of Suburbs (Editor)(1987)

Anchored in a Small Cove: A History and Archaeology of The Rocks (1997)

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