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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Glassop, Jack Lawson (1913–1966)

by J. T. Laird

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Jack Lawson Glassop (1913-1966), journalist and author, was born on 30 January 1913 at Lawson, New South Wales, fifth child of Sydney-born parents John Glassop, shire clerk, and his wife Lillian Mary, née Witney. In 1918 John was appointed town clerk of Newcastle. Educated at Hamilton Boys' Intermediate and Newcastle (Boys') High schools, in 1930 young Jack was employed as a reporter on the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miner's Advocate. On 3 June 1940 he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and served (1940-43) in the Middle East, spending some eighteen months in Cairo on the army newspaper, the A.I.F. News. Back in Australia in February 1943, he worked for two years with the army's press unit on another service newspaper, Table Tops, published at Atherton, Queensland. While in Cairo he had been inspired by the role of the A.I.F. in the 1941 defence of the Libyan port of Tobruk, and had begun to write a novel, We Were the Rats (Sydney, 1944).

Following his discharge from the army on 9 August 1945, Glassop rejoined the Newcastle Morning Herald. On 24 April 1946 he found himself famous when a Sydney magistrate held that certain passages in We Were the Rats were obscene and imposed a £10 fine on the publishers, Angus & Robertson Ltd. During the proceedings the chief police witness, Sergeant Roy Munro, had testified that the word 'bloody' in the text was offensive to him. On 13 June Judge Studdert dismissed an appeal, ruling that thirty-one pages of the book were 'legally obscene' and describing passages in chapter 31 as 'just plain filth'.

On 3 May 1946 at Christ Church Cathedral, Newcastle, Glassop married with Anglican rites Beryl Agnes Regan who nursed in a mental hospital; they moved to the seaside resort of Norahville, near Wyong. After his next novel (about life in a fishing village) failed to find a publisher, he joined the Sydney Morning Herald, living in Sydney and later in Canberra. From October 1950 to March 1951 he was a war correspondent in Korea. Over the next nine years he worked successively on the Sydney Daily Mirror and Truth, the Melbourne Truth, and in Adelaide as chief-of-staff of Truth & Sportsman Ltd and (from 1960) as a feature writer on the Advertiser. Divorced in 1956, he married Alison Esau on 5 January 1962 at the office of the principal registrar, Adelaide.

Meanwhile, he continued to write fiction: a children's tale, Susan and the Bogeywomp (1947), a racing novel, Lucky Palmer (1949), an abridged version of We Were the Rats (1961) and The Rats in New Guinea (1963). His accurate and candid reportage were more impressive than his creativity and skill in handling plot, thematic development, or characterization. The two war novels were heavily indebted to the recollections of veterans of Tobruk and the New Guinea campaigns, which Glassop meticulously recorded in interviews (he was never in Tobruk or New Guinea). For Lucky Palmer, about the seedy side of the world of racing and gambling, he drew on his own knowledge and experience. In 1965 he was awarded a Commonwealth Literary Fund grant to work on a novel on Captain Cook.

Five ft 9 ins (175 cm) tall, with a 'muscular body', Glassop had a 'mobile face', 'almost Orientally sloping hazel eyes' and a 'prominent jaw'. His journalism and his war novels both reflected his devotion to 'the Anzac legend'. A compulsive gambler for many years, he displayed 'an enormous zest for living'. While playing golf, he died of a coronary occlusion on 4 November 1966 at Mount Osmond and was cremated. His wife survived him; he had no children.

Select Bibliography

  • D. Stewart, The Flesh and the Spirit (Syd, 1948)
  • R. Gerster, Big-Noting (Melb, 1987)
  • Southerly, 6, no 4, 1945, p 49, 7, no 1, 1946, p 57
  • L. Glassop, 'The ''We Were the Rats" Case', Overland, no 19, 1960-61, p 38
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 16 Dec 1944, 25 Apr, 14 June, 14 Sept, 7 Dec 1946
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 5 Nov 1966
  • H. de Berg, interview with Lawson Glassop (transcript, 1966, National Library of Australia).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

J. T. Laird, 'Glassop, Jack Lawson (1913–1966)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 24 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

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