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Kinloch, Hector Gilchrist (1927–1993)

by Lucy Maniam Kinloch

This article was published online in 2017

Hector Kinloch, by Cliff Bottomley, 1964

Hector Kinloch, by Cliff Bottomley, 1964

National Archives of Australia, A1501:A5241/​1

Hector Gilchrist Kinloch (1927–1993), historian, film critic, and politician, was born on 14 December 1927 in Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America, the son of British-born parents, Robert Kinloch and his wife Jane, née Gilchrist. The family returned to Britain when Hector was a baby, and he had a difficult childhood in England and Ireland living in foster homes, including Barnado's, while his parents sought work, his father in ship-building and his mother as a nurse. His younger sister, who had Down syndrome, spent most of her life in care. Attending Collyer’s School at Horsham, Sussex, he was fortunate to come under the influence of the headmaster and classics teacher, Philip Tharp, who inspired him to study. He won an exhibition in history to Christ’s College, Cambridge (BA Hons, 1949), gaining first-class honours in the history tripos.

Returning to the United States, Kinloch spent three years employed in the army (1949–52). At Yale University (MA, 1954; PhD, 1959) he was a teaching assistant and instructor in European and American history, also serving as director (1958–59) of the International Student Center. He married Anne May Russell in Connecticut in 1955; they later divorced. He was visiting lecturer (1959) in North American history at the University of Alberta, Canada. He was then appointed lecturer (later senior lecturer) in history at the University of Adelaide (1960–64), also serving as vice-master (1962–64) of St. Mark’s College. He was visiting Fulbright professor of American history at the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur (1964-–6). On 24 December 1966 he married Lucy Maniam in Singapore. Kinloch became senior lecturer and then reader (1966–88) in history in the School of General Studies, Australian National University (ANU), Canberra, and held visiting positions at the University of Hawaii (1968–69) and at Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania (1973–74). He spent his sabbatical year (1984) at Harvard University.

His interest in caring for students from diverse backgrounds continued at the ANU as deputy warden of Burton Hall (1967–68), dean of students (1981–84), and acting warden and honorary senior fellow at Fenner Hall (1989–93).

Sometimes a controversial figure, from 1960 Kinloch had been a frequent commentator on American politics and a keen film reviewer on television, radio, and in print. His style and wit were infectious, if with the quality of innocent enthusiasm rather than critical dissection. A committed Christian, in the early 1970s he joined the Society of Friends in Canberra, and at St Mark’s National Theological Centre was an adjunct member of the faculty and council member. He became an Australian citizen in 1972. Wrestling with his own gambling habit, he was a co-founder of the National Association of Gambling Studies, and vigorously opposed a planned casino in Canberra–at one point uncharacteristically destroying a model of the proposed complex on public display.

Kinloch’s commitment to this cause, and more generally to ‘oppose big development, and promote education’ (Hull 1993, 10) encouraged him to run as a founding member (and briefly deputy leader) of the Residents Rally for Canberra, a coalition contesting the first election to the Australian Capital Territory’s Legislative Assembly in May 1989. Gaining a seat, he served in the Liberal Party-led coalition government as executive deputy to the minister for education and the arts. Budget-driven school closures prompted his resignation from this position in 1990; the government’s decision in April 1991 to proceed with a casino led to his withdrawal from the coalition. Unsuited to politics, he nonetheless embodied the strains of Canberra’s lurch into self-government. He did not contest the next election.

Diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 1992, he died on 6 August 1993 in Canberra, survived by his wife, and their son and their two daughters. He was buried in Gungahlin cemetery following a thanksgiving at which many among the five hundred people attending spoke of his good humour, integrity and decency. A road in the Canberra suburb of Bruce and a students’ residence at the ANU are named in his honour.

Research edited by Brian Wimborne

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Capital Terrtory. Legislative Assembly. Debates 17 August 1993, 2247-2253. Canberra Times. ‘Foster Home to ANU.’ 7 August 1993, 4
  • ‘University Lecturer Plans “Rethink” on Question of Discipline.’ 20 January 1977, 17. Hull, Crispin. ‘Passionate Crusader for Cherished Causes.’ Canberra Times, 9 August 1993, 10. Muse (Canberra). ‘A Life Spent Celebrating Humour and Enthusiasm.’ September 1993, 7. Personal knowledge of ADB subject. Rossiter, Geoffrey. ‘Tribute. Hector Gilchrist Kinloch.’ ANU Reporter, 25 August 1993, 2.

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Citation details

Lucy Maniam Kinloch, 'Kinloch, Hector Gilchrist (1927–1993)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/kinloch-hector-gilchrist-18283/text29890, published online 2017, accessed online 13 December 2018.

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