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Emmett, Evelyn Temple (1871–1970)

by Jack Thwaites

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Evelyn Temple Emmett (1871-1970), tourist director, bushwalker and writer, was born on 18 May 1871 at Launceston, Tasmania, youngest of four sons of Skelton Buckley Emmett, farmer, and his wife Maria Evelyn, née Smith, and grandson of Henry James Emmett. He was educated at the Stanley State School and Scotch College, Hobart, where he also taught for a short period. On 14 April 1903 at St Paul's Church of England, Stanley, he married Sophie Margaret Maguire; they had three sons and three daughters.

In 1888 Emmett joined the Tasmanian Main Line Railway Co., before it was taken over by the government in 1890, and was appointed chief clerk in 1902. Proficient in shorthand, he occasionally took evidence at government inquiries. In 1913 he was sent to Melbourne to open a Tasmanian Government Railways tourist office; next year he returned to Hobart as director of the Tasmanian Government Tourist Bureau which was separated from the Railway Department in 1934.

Always an outdoor man, in his youth Emmett excelled in cycling, road races and walking matches. He acquired an extensive knowledge of the State and a deep appreciation of its scenic and historic attractions, enabling him to assess its tourist potential accurately. Gentle and courteous, he exercised a moderating influence in committee debate. During the 1920s he regularly lectured in other States, using lantern slides to illustrate Tasmanian scenic highlights; later he made full use of film and radio. In 1923, after visiting Mount Kosciusko, New South Wales, where he learnt the rudiments of skiing, he publicized the sport in Tasmania and arranged skiing weekends at the National Park Reserve (Mount Field National Park). In 1929 he established the Hobart Walking Club. He was a foundation executive member of the Scenery Preservation (1915) and National Park (1917) boards and for several years from December 1931 personally led parties of mainland bushwalkers on the 65 mile (105 km) track through the Cradle Mountain—Lake St Clair Reserve. Mount Emmett, near Cradle Mountain, and a lake in the Mount Field National Park are named after him.

Emmett also had considerable literary ability. He wrote with humour and gentle irony, sometimes under the pseudonyms 'Orion' or 'Ah Wong', on a variety of topics for Tasmanian journals, and gained top awards in Tasmanian and Victorian literary competitions. A member of the Royal Society of Tasmania from 1921, he spoke on historical subjects and in 1937 published A Short History of Tasmania (Sydney). He also wrote much early departmental publicity, including Tommy's Trip to Tasmania (Hobart, 1913) and is said to have walked over 1000 miles (1609 km) while researching his later Tasmania by Road and Track (Melbourne, 1952).

After his retirement in 1941, Emmett continued his activities as bushwalker and Rotarian, became acting secretary of the Royal Autocar Club of Tasmania, and re-established a skill as a ballroom dancer. In 1918 Emmett was deputy director of the committee which hosted a French mission to Tasmania; in recognition of his work the French government conferred upon him the Palmes d'Officier d'Académie. In 1959 he was appointed O.B.E. He died on 9 December 1970 at New Town and was cremated after a Congregationalist service.

Select Bibliography

  • Tasmanian Tramp, Dec 1949, p 9, Dec 1961, p 4, Dec 1972, p 20
  • Mercury (Hobart), 23 May 1961, 14 Oct 1967, 10 Dec 1970.

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Citation details

Jack Thwaites, 'Emmett, Evelyn Temple (1871–1970)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/emmett-evelyn-temple-6113/text10479, published in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 20 April 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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