MS 8048
Papers of Sir James Plimsoll

Scope and Content Note



11 metres (79 boxes)

Available for reference (with exception of 4-6 folders in Series 2)

Sir James Plimsoll, who died on 8 May 1987, bequeathed his papers and books to the National Library. Following intervention by the Department of Foreign Affairs, the executors were informed that some of the papers were Commonwealth records and others were records of the Tasmanian Government. Consequently, the papers were transferred to the Australian Archives for detailed examination. It was finally determined that 149 boxes would come to the National Library, four boxes would be sent to the Tasmanian State Archives, and the remaining boxes would be retained by the Australian Archives. The papers were received by the National Library in March 1990.

A very large proportion of the material comprised publications and the collection is very strong in art exhibition catalogues, theatre and concert programs, travel and tourist literature, Russian and Japanese language material, and newspaper cuttings. Much of the published material was of no biographical interest and duplicated material held in the Library's general collections. As a result, almost half of the material received in 1990 was discarded by the Library.

The Plimsoll Papers contain a few documents dating from Plimsoll's early years, but the collection as a whole is very uneven. There is virtually nothing on his war service, his activities in the Far East after 1945, or on his early diplomatic career. With the exception of a long run of diaries, material on his work as a diplomat is scanty; nearly all the files he retained in the period 1948-82 are in the Australian Archives. There is, however, quite a lot of information about his social and cultural activities in this period. By far the strongest segment of the papers were accumulated during his term as Governor of Tasmania and includes an extensive personal correspondence, as well as photographs and publications.

With the exception of some of the Tasmanian papers, the Plimsoll Papers were unfiled and in extreme disorder when they came to the Library. The present arrangement has been imposed by Library staff.

The official and semi-official papers of Plimsoll held at the National Archives of Australia occupy 3.69 metres of shelving (M2203).

Biographical Note

1917 Born, 25 April, at Sydney
1929-33 Educated at Sydney Boys' High School
1938 Graduated as Bachelor of Economics, University of Sydney
1938 Appointed economist, Bank of New South Wales
1941 Graduated as Bachelor of Arts, University of Sydney
1942 Enlisted in Australian Imperial Forces
1945 Member of Australian delegation, Far Eastern Commission
1948 Appointed First Secretary, Department of External Affairs
1950 Australian representative on United Nations Commission for Unification and Rehabilitation of Korea
1953 Returned to Department of External Affairs
1955 Assistant Secretary, Geographical Regions Division, Department of External Affairs
1956 Awarded C.B.E.
1959 Australian Permanent Representative to United Nations
1962 High Commissioner to India and Ambassador to Nepal
1962 Awarded knighthood
1965 Secretary, Department of External Affairs
1970 Ambassador to United States of America
1974 Ambassador to Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
1976 Awarded A.C.
1977 Ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg and European Economic Community
1980 High Commissioner to United Kingdom
1981 Ambassador to Japan
1982 Governor of Tasmania
1984 Admitted to degree of Doctor of Science in Economics, University of Sydney
1987 Admitted to degree of Doctor of Laws, University of Tasmania
1987 Died, 8 May, at Hobart

Series List

  1. General correspondence, 1949-87
  2. Family papers, 1948-87
  3. Diaries, 1945-87
  4. Notes, lists and biographical material
  5. Speeches, 1962-86
  6. Financial papers, 1948-86
  7. Newspaper cuttings, 1950-87
  8. Photographs, 1945-87
  9. Christmas cards, 1959-86
  10. Early papers, 1928-47
  11. Korea, 1950-80
  12. Department of External Affairs, 1953-59
  13. United Nations, 1959-63
  14. India, 1963-65
  15. Secretary, Department of External Affairs, 1965-70
  16. United States of America, 1970-74
  17. Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, 1974-77
  18. Belgium and European Economic Community, 1977-80
  19. United Kingdom, 1980-81
  20. Japan, 1981-82
  21. Governor of Tasmania, 1982-87
  22. Art exhibition catalogues, 1965-84
  23. Music, ballet and theatre programs, 1965-81
  24. General publications
  25. Miscellaneous material

Series Descriptions

Series 1 General correspondence, 1949-87

Apart from the last five files in this series, the correspondence was loose and in no order and has been arranged chronologically by Library staff. Although it covers a long period, it only becomes relatively extensive in the final years of Plimsoll's life. In many earlier years there are only a handful of letters. There are only a small number of copies of Plimsoll's own letters. A few of the papers were badly damaged in 1977 in the fire at the Australian Embassy in Moscow and photocopies have been substituted.

The subject matter of the correspondence is necessarily varied and ranges from congratulatory letters on Plimsoll's honours in 1956, 1962 and 1978 and on his many appointments, expressions of sympathy following his heart attack in 1985, business matters and orders for the supply of books to discussions about Australian and international politics, diplomatic appointments, social events at Government House in Hobart, and the roles of governors and the governor-general. Among the correspondents are Lord Casey, Lady Casey, Sir Paul Hasluck, Sir Laurence Macintyre, Lady Macintyre, Sir Douglas Copland, Joyce McConnell, Evelyn Dutton, Sir John Kerr, Cecily Osborne, Sir Peter Heydon, Sir Daryl Lindsay, Richard Krygier, Francis Stuart, Sir Walter Crocker, Sir Bruce Williams, Marion O'Dea, Lady Cawthorn, Hugh Gilchrist, Barrie Dexter, Ruth Dobson, Peter Curtis, Max Loveday, Warren Reed, Sir William Heseltine, Lady Gore-Booth, Stewart Jamieson and James Mollison.

Other personal letters can be found attached to Christmas cards in Series 9. There are also many personal letters in the files created when Plimsoll was Governor of Tasmania (Series 21).

1 1949-58
2 1959
3 1960
4 1961
5-8 1962
9 1963
10 1964
11 1965
12 1966
13 1967
14 1968-69
15 1970
16 1971
17 1972
18 1973-74
19 1975
20 1976-77
21 1978
22 1979
23 1980
24 1981
25 1982
26 1983
27 1984
28-31 1985
32-33 1986
34 1987
35-36 Undated
37 Lord Casey, 1958-71
38 Lord Casey, 1972-76
39 Art galleries and exhibitions, 1963-74
40 Scouting, 1965-69
41 National Gallery of Victoria, 1981-82

Series 2 Family papers, 1948-87

Plimsoll never married but he was close to his father (who died in 1965), his brother John, his nieces and other members of the family, including relatives in New Zealand. This series mostly comprises letters from various members of the family, with a very small number of copies of Plimsoll's own letters. Many of the letters have been lost. There is only one letter from his mother, written in 1954. The great majority of the letters from his father date from 1960-65, while there are large gaps in the letters from John Plimsoll. The letters from John Plimsoll are often accompanied by newspaper cuttings referring to his son or to Australian politics. Most of the letters from John Plimsoll deal with financial and investment matters.

1 Letters from James Plimsoll (father), 1948-62
2 Letters from James Plimsoll (father), 1963
3 Letters from James Plimsoll (father), 1964-65
4 Letters from John Plimsoll, 1960-76 (Restricted)
5 Letters from John Plimsoll, 1982-86 (Restricted)
6 Letters from Pat Plimsoll and Plimsoll's nieces, 1970-86 (Restricted)
7 Miscellaneous family letters, 1954-87
8 Photographs
9 Family history

Series 3 Diaries, 1945-87

Although the long sequence of diaries starts in 1947, there are two notebooks at the end of the series containing diary notes for 1945-46. Over a period of 42 years the format of the diaries hardly changed. They record Plimsoll's daily activities, official, social and personal, usually down to the hour and sometimes to the minute. They do not, however, record the content of conversations or discussions, nor do they record his thoughts, impressions and feelings on any subject.

Some of the diaries contain lists of letters sent or books read. Similar lists can be found in Series 4.

Apart from some correspondence in Series 1, the diaries are the only papers affected by the fire in the Australian Embassy in Moscow in 1977. Nearly all the pre-1977 diaries are fire-damaged, but fortunately very little text has been lost. The worst eight diaries have been photocopied and the originals may not be used.

1 1947
2 1948
3 1949
4 1950
5 1951
6 1952
7 1953
8 1954
9 1955
10 1956 (photocopied)
11 1957
12 1958
13 1959
14 1960 (photocopied)
15 1961 (photocopied)
16 1962 (photocopied)
17 1963 (photocopied)
18 1964 (photocopied)
19 1967
20 1968
21 1969
22 1970
23 1971
24 1972
25 1973
26 1974 (photocopied)
27 1975
28 1976 (photocopied)
29 1977
30 1978
31 1979
32 1980
33 1981
34 1982
35 1983
36 1984
37 1985
38 1986
39 1987
40 1964 pocket diary
41 1983 appointment diary
42 1984 appointment diary
43 1985 appointment diary
44 1986 appointment diary
45 1987 appointment diary
46 Notebook containing diary entries, 15 Feb.-25 Dec. 1945
47 Notebook containing diary entries, 25 Dec. 1945-31 Dec. 1946

Series 4 Notes, lists and biographical material

Plimsoll frequently made notes based on his reading or travels and some of these notebooks, loose sheets and short essays are preserved in this series. He was also an inveterate compiler of lists, including lists of books read, opera performances, places visited, knighthoods and deaths. The handwritten translations of Russian plays and operas were presumably written while Plimsoll was Ambassador to the Soviet Union. The final folder contains photocopies of extracts from historical works referring to Plimsoll, especially his involvement in the Korean War. Copies of newspaper articles about Plimsoll can be found in Series 7. Series 4 also contains a few personal documents, such as the citation for his knighthood and a copy of his will.

1 Notebooks
2 Notebooks and manuscripts
3 Lists
4-5 Russian translations
6 References to Plimsoll in published works

Series 5 Speeches, 1962-86

This very small series contains printed and typescript copies of a few speeches that Plimsoll made as High Commissioner to India, Secretary of the Department of External Affairs and Governor of Tasmania. Speeches may also be found in other series, such as 15 (Secretary, Department of External Affairs) and 21 (Governor of Tasmania).

1 Speeches, 1962-68
2 Speeches, 1983-86

Series 6 Financial papers, 1948-86

Apart from the income tax returns, and to a lesser extent the income tax papers, the financial papers were not in any order and were dispersed throughout the collection. They are far from complete and many of them are chance survivals from Plimsoll's desk drawers in different parts of the world. Apart from tax returns and supporting documents, there is some correspondence, receipts, bank statements, pay slips, cheque butts and related material. There are some letters on financial and investment matters in Series 1, as well as the letters of John Plimsoll in Series 2.

1 Income tax returns, 1948-57
2 Income tax returns, 1959-72
3 Income tax papers, 1967-68
4 Income tax papers, 1976-77
5 Income tax papers, 1981-82
6 Income tax papers, 1982-83
7 Income tax papers, 1983-84
8 Income tax papers, 1984-85
9 Income tax papers, 1985-86
10 Salary, 1981-82
11 Bank statements, 1952-66
12 Bank statements, 1968-71
13 Miscellaneous papers, 1951-61
14 Miscellaneous papers, 1963-66
15 Miscellaneous papers, 1967
16 Miscellaneous papers, 1970-73
17-18 Miscellaneous papers, 1981-82

Series 7 Newspaper cuttings, 1950-87

Throughout his diplomatic career Plimsoll cut reviews and articles from newspapers on subjects that interested him. The bulk of cuttings in this series do not refer to Plimsoll, but reflect his interests, especially his wide cultural interests. Book reviews and articles and reviews of musical performances, plays, ballet, art exhibitions, films and sound recordings make up the largest category of cuttings. In addition, there are obituaries, biographical articles, and articles about international relations, politics and history. There are far fewer cuttings dating from his Tasmanian years and they are of a more general nature.

There are two folders containing articles about Plimsoll. The first comprises photocopies supplied to him by the National Library from its biographical files, while the other contains original cuttings. Other cuttings can be found in Series 2 (attached to letters from his father), 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 20.

1 1950, 1958
2 1959
3 1960
4 1961
5 1962
6 1963
7 1964
8 1965
9 1966
10-11 1967
12-13 1968
14-15 1969
16-18 1970
19-21 1971
22-24 1972
25-28 1973
29-30 1974
31-34 1975
35-38 1976
39-41 1977
42-45 1978
46-50 1979
51-53 1980
54-55 1982
56 1983
57 1984
58 1985-87
59 'Classics revisited', Saturday Review, 1965-69
60 Biographical cuttings, 1950-82 (photocopies)
61 Biographical cuttings, 1961-84

Series 8 Photographs, 1945-85

All the series relating to diplomatic postings and also Series 21, concerning the Governorship of Tasmania, contain photographs. The residue have been filed in this series. Most of them are unidentified and undated. The earliest date from 1945 and depict Plimsoll and other members of the Far Eastern Advisory Committee and Plimsoll meeting Eleanor Roosevelt. There are a number of photographic portraits of Plimsoll taken in the 1950s. The non-personal photographs include photographs of Plimsoll's collection of Indian works of art.

1-2 Early photographs
3 Later photographs
4 Non-personal photographs
5 Miscellaneous photographs

Series 9 Christmas cards, 1959-86

The great bulk of the Christmas cards date from 1982-86, when Plimsoll was Governor of Tasmania. Only small numbers date from earlier years, apart from 1980 when he was in London, and for some years there are no cards at all. Some of the cards contain lengthy messages or have letters attached, so they complement the personal letters in Series 1. Among the senders of cards were the Queen and other members of the Royal Family, the Governor-General and other governors, Prime Ministers and other politicians, former diplomatic colleagues, and a large cross-section of Tasmanian society.

The cards have been arranged chronologically. The 1982-86 cards were in bundles, so although most of them are not dated it is reasonably certain that they were received in the year in which they have been filed. There may, however, be some strays. Cards which cannot be dated have been placed in folder 61.

1 1959
2 1960
3 1961
4 1962
5 1963
6 1964-66
7 1969
8 1970
9-10 1971
11 1972-73
12 1977
13 1978
14 1979
15-16 1980
17 1981
18-24 1982
25-31 1983
32-40 1984
41-49 1985
50-60 1986
61 Undated
62 Christmas card list, 1983
63 Christmas card list, 1984
64 Christmas card list, 1985

Series 10 Early papers, 1928-47

This small series contains a variety of documents dating from Plimsoll's adolescence and early working life. They include his reports from Bondi Commercial School (1928) and Sydney Boys' High School (1929-33), a report submitted to his father by the Australian Institute of Industrial Psychology in 1934, an essay he wrote on the Australian monetary system while an undergraduate at the University of Sydney in 1937, the degree ceremonies in 1938 and 1941, a short article on Sir George Gipps published in the Economic Record in June 1939, the report of the Secretary General of the Far Eastern Commission for 1946-47, and a list of books read by Plimsoll in 1939-44.

1 1928-41
2 1939-47

Series 11 Korea, 1950-80

Plimsoll was the Australian delegate to the United Nations Commission for the Unification and Rehabilitation of Korea. There are only a few items in his papers documenting his involvement in the Commission. The series, however, contains a number of photographs, both official and non-official, and an extensive correspondence with Robert O'Neill, the author of Australia in the Korean War 1950-53.

1 Papers, 1950-52
2-3 Photographs
4 Historical writings
5 Official War History, 1978-80

Series 12 Department of External Affairs, 1953-59

From January 1953 to June 1959 Plimsoll was based in Canberra as an Assistant Secretary in the Department of External Affairs. This small series contains some documents on the organisation of the Department, a photograph of R.G. Casey and the heads of Australian diplomatic missions in Europe in 1957, photographs of Plimsoll in Vietnam in March 1956 and a few letters and invitations. There are also itineraries, programs and photographs of the visit by the Prime Minister, R.G. Menzies, and Dame Pattie Menzies, accompanied by Plimsoll, to Japan, Thailand, the Philippines and New Guinea in April 1957.

1 Papers
2 Prime Minister's Asian tour, 1957

Series 13 United Nations, 1959-63

Plimsoll took up his post as Australian Permanent Representative at the United Nations in New York in July 1959. The series contains a small number of official documents and a larger number of photographs, cuttings, invitations and programs documenting many of his social and cultural activities. As well as a group of letters on miscellaneous subjects, there are programs, invitations, tourist literature and other

items collected during his visits to West Africa in May 1962 and East Africa in May-June 1962, and his attendance at the Inauguration of Chung Hee Park as President of South Korea in December 1963. The correspondents include Adlai Stevenson, Sir Hugh Foot, Rohan Rivett, Harry Belafonte, and William Sebald. Among the large number of official photographs are several showing Plimsoll addressing the General Assembly and the Disarmament Commission, meetings with other diplomats and Australian parliamentary delegations, and some photographs of Sir Garfield Barwick. A number of the printed items relate to the death of the United Nations Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjold, in September 1961.

1 Correspondence
2 Financial papers
3 Newspaper cuttings
4-5 Printed items
6 West Africa, 1959
7 East Africa, 1962
8 Korea, 1963
9 Invitations and menus
10-11 Photographs
12 Programs
13 Theatre and concert programs

Series 14 India, 1963-65

Plimsoll was appointed High Commissioner to India and Ambassador to Nepal in February 1963. Apart from a large number of photographs, the series contains very little relating to Plimsoll's official duties. There are a few letters and cuttings, some invitations and menus, and a quantity of publications documenting his travels around India and his strong interest in Indian art, music and dance.

1 Correspondence and itineraries
2 Invitations and menus
3 Official programs
4 Newspaper cuttings
5 India International Centre publications
6-7 Printed items
8-10 Photographs
11 Photograph album
12 Photograph album, Lakshmi Mills, Paladam, Madras, 1965
13 Dance and theatre programs
14-16 Art exhibition catalogues
17-18 Tourist publications

Series 15 Secretary, Department of External Affairs, 1965-70

Plimsoll succeeded Sir Arthur Tange as Secretary of the Department of External Affairs in April 1965 and remained in the position for five years. His personal papers contain very little documentation of his work as Secretary, which would mostly be recorded on official files, but there are official programs, speeches and menus and invitations which record many of the functions that he was required to attend. The programs include visits to Laos in December 1965, Israel in April 1966, the United States in November 1966, the United States in April 1967, Vietnam in October 1967, the Philippines, Malaysia and Ceylon in June 1968, Canada in September 1968, the United States in May 1969 and the Philippines in December 1969. The Vietnam papers relate to the inauguration of Nguyen Van Thieu as President in October 1967. Many of the photographs depict Sir Paul Hasluck, the Minister for External Affairs in 1964-69.

1 Letters
2-3 Official programs
4 Official publications
5 Speeches and lectures
6-9 Menus and seating lists
10 Invitations
11 Visit to Vietnam, Oct. 1967
12 Visit to Canada, Sept. 1968
13 Conferences and meetings
14 Newspaper cuttings
15-16 Photographs
17 Articles and reprints
18 Theatre programs
19 Art exhibition catalogues
20 Ballet programs
21-22 Concert and opera programs
23-24 Miscellaneous papers

Series 16 United States of America, 1970-74

Plimsoll took up the post of Ambassador to the United States in June 1970, succeeding Sir Keith Waller. He had hoped to have a reasonably lengthy term in Washington, as had been the case with earlier Ambassadors, but the Whitlam Government decided that he should be replaced by Sir Patrick Shaw. Plimsoll left Washington in early February 1974.

This series contains a somewhat larger correspondence than the other diplomatic series, including letters from Spiro Agnew, General William Westmoreland, Chester Bowles, William Sebald, Ed Clark, E.G. Whitlam, Sir Keith Waller, L.J. Lawrey, John Buchan and M.G.M. Bourchier. Of particular note are some letters and cables of August-September 1973 concerning the Government's decision to transfer Plimsoll from Washington to Moscow. There is also material on Australia's challenge for the America's Cup at Newport, Rhode Island, in September 1970, the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment at Uppsala, Sweden, in June 1972 and the inauguration of Richard Nixon as President and Spiro Agnew as Vice-President in January 1973. Most of the photographs are not unidentified, but among the subjects are Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, William Rogers, Hubert Humphrey, Ed Clark, George Wallace, William McMahon, Gough Whitlam and Lionel Murphy. The series documents Plimsoll's travels in the United States and his attendance at a great many art exhibitions, concerts, opera performances, plays and other cultural events.

1 Correspondence, 1970
2 Correspondence, 1971
3 Correspondence, 1972-73
4 Correspondence, 1974 and undated
5 Certificates
6-7 Menus and guest lists
8 Invitations
9 Church services
10 U.N. Conference on Human Environment, 1972
11 Inauguration of President Nixon, 1973
12 America's Cup, 1970
13 Newspaper cuttings
14-17 Photographs
18 Miscellaneous papers
19 Official publications
20 Miscellaneous publications
21 Theatre programs
22 Ballet programs
23-25 Opera and concert programs
26 Film programs
27-29 Art exhibition catalogues

Series 17 Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, 1974-77

The bulk of the material in this series consists of Russian publications, including theatre, ballet and opera programs, historical publications and a great quantity of tourist literature. In addition, there are a few letters and cuttings, a speech and a large number of photographs. Most of the photographs are unidentified, but there are a number depicting the visit of Gough Whitlam to Moscow in 1974.

Correspondence about Plimsoll's appointment to Moscow, including a letter from his predecessor L.J. Lawrey, can be found in Series 16, folder 3.

1 Correspondence, 1975
2 Russian vocabularies
3 Newspaper cuttings
4-5 Photographs
6 Miscellaneous papers
Russian language publications (2 boxes)

Series 18 Belgium and the European Economic Community, 1977-80

In August 1977 Plimsoll was appointed Ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Economic Community. This is the smallest of the diplomatic series. There are a small number of letters, programs, menus, invitations and papers of the Committee on Disarmament. The photographs are mostly unidentified, but include several of Plimsoll and Roy Jenkins, the President of the European Economic Commission. The remaining papers mostly consist of programs and exhibition catalogues, including productions in Brussels, Ghent, Strasbourg and London.

1 Papers
2 Photographs
3 Theatre programs
4 Ballet programs
5-11 Opera and concert programs
12 Art exhibition catalogues
13-14 Tourist publications

Series 19 United Kingdom, 1980-81

Plimsoll was appointed Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom in February 1980. Although the High Commission had been in existence for seventy years, he was the first career diplomat to hold the office. Apart from Sir John Bunting, all previous High Commissioners had been politicians. Plimsoll greatly enjoyed living in London, but his stay there was unexpectedly brief. In December 1980 the Government announced that, following a Cabinet reshuffle, Victor Garland, the former Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, would replace Plimsoll as High Commissioner. Plimsoll left London in March 1981.

The series resembles the other diplomatic series in containing quite a lot of papers on Plimsoll's social and cultural activities, but very little on his official work. Most of the correspondence relates to his admission as a Liveryman of the Tallow Chandlers Company. There is also a letter from the former English cricket captain, Colin Cowdrey. The programs include the unveiling of the Australian Settlers' Memorial at Old Portsmouth by Queen Elizabeth on 11 July 1980. The photograph album was presented to Plimsoll and depicts a number of English places he visited and events in which he was involved, including his inspection of a bust of his forebear Samuel Plimsoll.

1 Correspondence
2 Official programs
3 Church services
4 Invitations
5-7 Menus and guest lists
8 Theatre and ballet programs
9 Film programs
10-11 Opera and concert programs
12 Art catalogues
13 Photographs
14 Photograph album
15 Printed items

Series 20 Japan, 1981-82

Plimsoll was appointed Ambassador to Japan in January 1981 and arrived in Tokyo in March. He was 64 and it was not expected that he would serve a lengthy term. In fact, within eight months it was announced that he would be the next Governor of Tasmania. He continued, however, as Ambassador until September 1982.

The correspondence is a little more extensive than in the previous series and includes letters from diplomatic colleagues, Australian businesmen, academics and expatriates, and Japanese officials and acquaintances. Among the correspondents are Peter Henderson, H.C. Coombs, Peter Nixon, Ted Pocock, Hiroshi Sakamoto, Sir Ian McLennan, Harold Stewart and Lady Price. There are a very large number of photographs, mostly unidentified and of varying quality. Most of them were sent to Plimsoll to commemorate a meeting or social function. Among the miscellaneous papers is a report by Jane Anthony, the daughter of Doug Anthony, the Deputy Prime Minister, who attended Ichijo High School for six months in 1978. There are a large number of Japanese publications, including exhibition catalogues, concert programs and tourist brochures.

1-2 Correspondence
3 Official papers
4 Official publications
5 Inventory
6 Invitations
7 Newspaper cuttings
8-14 Photographs
15-16 Programs and catalogues
17-18 Miscellaneous papers
Japanese language publications (2 boxes)

Series 21 Governor of Tasmania, 1982-87

In November 1981 it was announced that Plimsoll would succeed Sir Stanley Burbury as Governor of Tasmania. He had visited Tasmania on a number of occasions, but he had no personal or family links with it. He returned from Japan in September 1982 and was sworn in as Governor in Franklin Square, Hobart, on 1 October 1982. In October 1986 Queen Elizabeth agreed to the extension of his term for a further three years.

This is by far the largest series within the Plimsoll Papers and comprises both personal and semi-official papers documenting Plimsoll's work as the Governor and his cultural, literary and historical interests. The major part of the series consists of two sequences of files maintained by Plimsoll's secretary. The subject files (folders 1-80) contain letters, notes for speeches, cuttings, minutes, agenda papers, newsletters and other material. The following date files (folders 81-97) mostly contain letters, but occasionally they have printed attachments or photographs. In addition to these files, there was a large quantity of unfiled letters, mainly dating from 1984-87. They have been sorted roughly into years (folders 98-122).

The correspondence is very extensive and ranges from personal letters from old friends, former diplomatic colleagues and other governors, correspondence on current political affairs, correspondence with academics and others on historical and biographical subjects, letters from people who had stayed or dined at Government House, and letters from a wide range of Tasmanian organisations, families and individuals. Many of the letters are purely personal, but because they were filed with semi-official letters they have been retained in their original files rather than being placed in Series 1. Some of the letters were addressed to Plimsoll's secretary, David Pitchford. There are copies of some of Plimsoll's own letters.

Among the more prolific or important correspondents are Max Angus, Jan Arriens, Colonel R.P. Beesley, Allan Behm, Sir John Bunting, Jim Burns, Clyde Cameron, Edmund Capon, Philip Chandler, Sir Charles Court, Sir Zelman Cowen, Sir Walter Crocker, Professor David Cubbin, Sir Neil Currie, Sir Harold Cuthbertson, Sir Roden Cutler, Rawdon Dalrymple, Don Dobison, Ruth Dobson, Alexander Downer, Lady Downer, Dorothy Downes, Sir Edward Dunlop, Nick Evers, Graham Feakes, W.N. Fisher, Sir Harry Gibbs, Hugh Gilchrist, Lady Gore-Booth, Bruce Grant, Robin Gray, Sir Guy Green, Ron Green, D.R. Gregg, Stuart Harris, Sir David Hay, J.V. R. Hearder, Heather Henderson, Peter Henderson, R.A. Herr, Sir William Heseltine, Michael Hodgman, Ross Hohnen, Brigadier Garth Hughes, Sir Gordon Jackson, Sir John Kerr, Justice Michael Kirby, Hendrik Kolenberg, Richard Krygier, Sir Peter Lawler, Professor Alec Lazenby, Sir John Leahy, Marie Louise Loridan, Max Loveday, Davis McCaughey, Patrick McCaughey, Gavan McCormack, Lady Macintyre, Dame Pattie Menzies, James Mollison, Sir Brian Murray, Justice Kemeri Murray, Ken Myer, Bishop Phillip Newell, Marion O'Dea, John Oldham, Brian Page, A.R. Parsons, Ted Pocock, Lady Price, Warren Reed, Professor Gordon Reid, Alan Rix, Professor Michael Roe, J.R. Rowland, Sir James Rowland, Sir Ninian Stephen, Harold Stewart, Sir Arthur Tange, G.N. Upton, Nancy Bird Walton, Ken Ward, Sir Alan Watt, Brenton Whitford, Richard Woolcott.

The remainder of the series contains the wide variety of papers that can be found in some of the diplomatic series, including invitations, guest lists, speeches, photographs, exhibition catalogues, programs and publications. The miscellaneous papers include a paper by David Pitchford, dated 18 September 1985, on the legal and administrative arrangements necessary in Tasmania following the passage of legislation to remove legislative links with the United Kingdom. The photographs were mostly taken by guests at Government House, but there are also some good quality portraits. There is a photograph of Plimsoll with premier Robin Gray and his Cabinet. The programs cover sports events, military parades and agricultural shows, as well as a variety of cultural events, and provide a good record of Plimsoll's activities as Governor.

Filed papers: Subject files
1-2 Art
3 Art Foundation of Australia, 1984-86
4 Asian Studies Association, 1985-86
5 Asiatic Society of Japan, 1982-87
6 ABC radio and television, 1985
7 Bicentennial, 1983-87
8 Britain-Australia Society, 1984-86
9 Burnie Art Gallery, 1984
10 Clyde Cameron, 1983-86
11 China, 1985
12 Commonwealth Club, 1983-87
13 Committee for Economic Development of Australia, 1984
14 Sir Charles Court, 1984-86
15 Curricula vitae
16 Design, 1983-85
17 Economics, 1984
18 Economic Conference, Hobart, Aug.-Sept. 1983
19 1986 election
20 Finance, 1987
21 Governor-General's visits, 1983
22 Sir Guy Green, 1983
23 R.J. Grigg, 1986-87
24 Peter Henderson, 1983-85
25 G. Heywood Hill, 1982-86
26-27 Honours, 1983-85
28 Honours, Jan. 1986
29 Honours, Queen's Birthday, 1986
30 India, 1984-86
31 Japan, 1982-84
32 Japan, 1985-87
33 Japan - Kimi Coaldrake and Alan Rix, 1984
34 Japan Studies Association of Australia, 1983
35 Launceston Art Foundation, 1986
36 Legal, 1983
37 Lions, 1983
38 Davis McCaughey, 1986
39 Menzies Foundation, 1987
40 Military, 1983
41 Sir Brian Murray, 1983-84
42 Music
43 Ken Myer, 1983-85
44 Y. Nakasone visit, 1985
45 National Gallery of Australia, 1983-85
46 National Gallery of Victoria, 1982-84
47 Operation Raleigh, 1984
48 Order of Australia - speech
49 Order of the British Empire, 1981-86
50 Order of St John, 1982
51 Order of St John, 1983-86
52 Parks and World Heritage
53 Parliament, 1983-87
54 J.S. Prout exhibition, 1986
55 Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery Friends
56 Referees' reports, 1982-84
57 Rhodes Scholars, 1983-86
58 Royal Society of Tasmania, 1983-87
59 Scouts, 1983-86
60 Sir Ninian Stephen visit, 1985
61 Tallow Chandlers Company, 1984-86
62 Tasmanian Economic Report,1983-84
63 Tasmanian Art Gallery Friends, 1983-85
64 Tasmanian Art Gallery - general, 1984-86
65 Tasmanian Art Gallery - speech, 1983
66-68 Thank you letters, 1982-86
69-70 Thank you letters, 1985
71 Thank you letters, 1987
72 Theatre Royal, Hobart
73 Theatre Royal Restoration Fund, 1985
74 United Services Institute, 1983-86
75 University of Sydney - honorary doctorate, 1984
76 University of Sydney Union
77 Visits - coming, 1987
78 Visits - past, 1983-85
79 Who's Who, 1984-86
80 Yencken Lectures, 1983
Filed papers: Correspondence arranged by date
81 Oct. 1982 - Jan. 1983
82-83 Jan. - June 1983
84-85 June - Dec. 1983
86 Jan. - Feb. 1984
87 March - June 1984
88 July - Dec. 1984
89-90 Jan. - June 1985
91-92 July - Dec. 1985
93-94 Jan. - June 1986
95 Sept. - Dec. 1986
96 Nov. 1986
97 Jan. - May 1987
Unfiled letters
98 1982-83
99 1983
100-3 1984
104-10 1985
111-19 1986
120-21 1987
122 Undated
123 Programs and itineraries, 1983-87
124 Speeches
125 Guest lists
126 Exhibition notices and invitations
127-31 Miscellaneous papers
132-36 Photographs
137 Church services
138-41 Music programs
142 Ballet programs
143 Theatre programs
144 Art exhibition catalogues
145 Sports programs
146 Miscellaneous programs
Tasmanian publications (3 boxes)

Series 22 Art exhibition catalogues, 1965-84

Most of the catalogues of the numerous art exhibitions that Plimsoll visited have been filed in Series 14-21, as they help to document his cultural activities as Ambassador, High Commissioner and Governor of Tasmania. The remainder have been placed in this series. The majority date from 1965-73 and relate to exhibitions in Australia, but there are also a few for overseas exhibitions. (6 folders)

Files relating to the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria, galleries in Tasmania and Plimsoll's own art collection can be found in Series 1 and 21.

Series 23 Music, ballet and theatre programs, 1965-81

As with the art exhibition catalogues, the programs of concerts, operas, musicals, ballets and plays attended by Plimsoll have generally been filed in Series 13-21. The programs in this series mostly date from 1965-70, when Plimsoll was living in Canberra, and the majority of them are of Australian productions. (4 folders)

Series 24 General publications

A great many publications which did not refer to Plimsoll or document any of his activities accompanied the papers. Many of them were newspapers, periodicals or official publications held in most large libraries and they were therfore discarded. A small selection of the less common publications have been retained in the collection.

Series 25 Miscellaneous material

This small series contains Plimsoll's certificate as a Doctor of Laws, a medal commemorating the inauguration of Ferdinand Marcos as the President of the Philippines in December 1969, and a few sound recordings. The latter consist of a radio program entitled 'A jurist in politics: Dr H.V. Evatt' (3 tape recordings), a tape recording of the launching ceremony of USS Harold Holt on 26 March 1971, a tape recording entitled 'A musical holiday in Australia' (1973), a 45rpm recording entitled 'Introduction to Winston S. Churchill', and a 45rpm recording of poems of Jack Davis read by Leonard Teale.


Box Series Folder/Item
1 1 1-9
2 1 10-19
3 1 20-29
4 1 30-38
5 1
6 2
7 3 7-13
8 3 14-16
9 3 17-21
10 3 22-26
11 3 27-31
12 3 32-39
13 3 40-47
14 4
15 6 1-9
16 6 10-18
17 7 1-9
18 7 10-17
19 7 18-25
20 7 26-33
21 7 34-41
22 7 42-48
23 7 49-56
24 7
25 8
26 9 9-17
27 9 18-25
28 9 26-34
29 9 35-42
30 9 43-50
31 9 51-58
32 9
33 11
34 13 3-10
35 13
36 14 7-11
37 14 12-16
38 14
39 15 8-17
40 15
41 16 3-10
42 16 11-19
43 16 20-28
44 16
45 17 Publications
46 17 Publications
47 17
48 18 7-14
49 18
50 19 8-14
51 19
52 20 9-16
53 20
54 20 Publications
55 21 1-9
56 21 10-18
57 21 19-27
58 21 28-35
59 21 36-44
60 21 45-52
61 21 53-61
62 21 62-70
63 21 71-79
64 21 80-86
65 21 87-92
66 21 93-99
67 21 100-8
68 21 109-17
69 21 118-26
70 21 117-35
71 21 136-44
72 21
73 21 Publications
74 21 Publications
75 22 1-7
76 23
77 24
78 25
Folio box
Guide prepared January 1998