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Lack, Clem Llewellyn (1900–1972)

by Ruth S. Kerr

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Clem Llewellyn Lack (1900-1972), journalist, public servant and historian, was born on 19 December 1900 at Bundaberg, Queensland, son of William Lack, an overseer who came from England, and his Queensland-born wife Elizabeth, née Evans. Educated locally, Clem began work in 1918 as a cadet with the Gympie Times, then moved to the Brisbane Courier (later Courier-Mail) in 1922 as a 'C' grade reporter. On 18 December 1923 at the Surface Hill Methodist Church, Gympie, he married 28-year-old Ivy Beatrice Latimer (d.1971).

As political columnist and chief of the parliamentary-gallery staff for the Courier-Mail and Sunday Mail, Lack wrote a daily commentary on proceedings in the Legislative Assembly. He studied part time at the University of Queensland, obtaining a diploma of journalism (1928) and a B.A. (1934). In 1935-70 he lectured on journalism intermittently at the university. Between 1940 and 1944 he was special writer, leader-writer and book reviewer on the Brisbane Telegraph. He spent the next three years with the Melbourne Age, but found the experience unrewarding. Returning to Brisbane, he joined (1948) and headed (from 1953) the public relations bureau of the Chief Secretary's Department.

Lack became increasingly involved in the (Royal from 1959) Historical Society of Queensland as a member (1949), councillor (1958), chairman of the editorial committee and editor of publications (1959), fellow (1962) and vice-president (1968). The society wielded considerable influence, publishing periodicals and monographs, promoting the establishment of affiliated branches in regional areas of the State, participating in public functions in Brisbane and gathering a photographic collection. Office-bearers of the R.H.S.Q. were prominent on government committees which organized Queensland's centenary celebrations in 1959, with Lack chairing the publications committee. He helped Sir Raphael Cilento, the society's president, to compile a centenary history, Triumph in the Tropics (1959), and edited Queensland, Daughter of the Sun (1959), a survey marking one hundred years of responsible government.

Although Lack was notable for the volume of his historical writing, his first book had been a collection of verse, The Fields of Amaranth and Other Poems (1936). His most significant work was in compiling and editing Three Decades of Queensland Political History (1962). An exhaustive review of the period from 1929 to the parliamentary session of 1960, the book drew on his close observation of events and personal knowledge of the participants. One of his numerous articles in the R.H.S.Q.'s journal, '''Wild White Men" in Queensland'—co-authored with Cilento—dealt with Whites living among the Aborigines; the society released it as a monograph in 1959.

With Harry Stafford, Lack wrote The Rifle and the Spear (1964), a dramatic account of frontier battles between Aborigines and Europeans. Late in life Lack expressed his view that history was the 'master study of humanity and progress': rather than merely recording 'wars and the reigns of kings', it should be all-embracing in covering 'the development of human civilisation'. A Bookman's Essays, a collection of his writings on the Celtic and English peoples, was published in 1969.

Lack was tall, bulky and bespectacled. After retiring in 1966, he engaged in freelance journalism, edited the Queensland Country Party's monthly magazine, and remained active in the R.H.S.Q. as research officer and editor of its journal. Survived by his son and daughter, he died on 20 March 1972 at his Teneriffe home and was cremated. His preoccupations and values belonged to Brisbane's cultural milieu of the 1950s. The R.H.S.Q. inaugurated the Clem Lack memorial oration in 1973. Delivering the second oration, Cilento described his friend as a 'competent, romantic, indefatigable and lovable man' who had treasured his Celtic inheritance and sympathized with downtrodden groups.

Select Bibliography

  • Royal Historical Society of Queensland, Journal, 7, no 1, 1962-63, p 33, 9, no 5, 1973-74, p 50
  • Telegraph (Brisbane), 21 Mar 1972.

Citation details

Ruth S. Kerr, 'Lack, Clem Llewellyn (1900–1972)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lack-clem-llewellyn-10769/text19095, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 27 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

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