Leonard Burrows interview, 13 September 2012 and 20 September 2012

Dublin Core


Leonard Burrows interview, 13 September 2012 and 20 September 2012


English literature


Leonard Burrows joined the UWA English Department in 1949 (from the UK) and stayed until his retirement in 1986. He taught the introductory poetry and fiction course for much of that time. His main area of expertise is 19th century literature, and he published a book on Browning and another on the 18th century Augustan poets. He also sang folk songs and participated in poetry readings. He served on the Board of the UWA Press and the Festival of Perth Film Festival.


Burrows, Leonard


University of Western Australia Historical Society


Copyright holder University of Western Australia


MP3 files


Oral history

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Julia Wallis


Leonard Burrows


Claremont, W.A.


Interview 1: 45 minutes, 54 seconds
Interview 2: 38 minutes, 32 seconds
Total: 1 hour, 24 minutes, 26 seconds

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbs

Time Summary

Interview 1

Track 1
00:00 Introduction by JKW

Track 2
00:00 Leonard Ransom Burrows. Grandfather’s name and background. Move to London and then Sheffield. Leonard’s mother was born in Sheffield as was he. Grandfather died in the flu epidemic after the First World War.
03:44 Educated in Sheffield. Won a scholarship to Sheffield University. Called up for the army after the first year at uni in 1941.
05:00 Born 1921 so went into the army aged 20.
05:26 Scarborough, Kent and then Egypt via SS Mexico for Port Said.
06:56 Cairo and the Western Desert. Rommel and General Montgomery. Celebrated his 21st in the Western Desert.
08:19 Took part in the 2nd battle of El Alamein in October 1942.
09:06 Leonard was in the Royal Artillery as a gunner signaller.
10:08 Rommel retreated and the army followed him up the coast of N Africa. Was in N Africa for a year and prepared for the invasion of Italy.
11:03 In September 1943 the army embarked for Sarlerno and occupied it. Then they began moving up towards the north of Italy.
12:05 Captured by the Germans and spent the rest of the war in a prison camp.
13:20 After the war, Leonard returned to England in May 1945 and given an early release into civilian life as an ex student who hadn’t completed his degree. Leonard finished his BA degree in 1947. He wrote his MA thesis on Charles Dickens. He finished this in 1948.
14:37 Married in August of 1948. Awarded the William Noble Fellowship at Liverpool University.
15:03 July 1949 - awarded position of Senior Lectureship at UWA which he accepted.
16:03 Professor Knights at Sheffield University was a Cambridge graduate and he met Professor Allan Edwards from UWA while at Cambridge. Harry Thompson had died and Prof Edwards wrote to various people including Professor Knights requesting applicants for the job.
17:34 Arrived in Fremantle on a wet, windy day in July 1949.
18:30 Put up at the Captain Stirling Hotel and then found somewhere to live in Subiaco. After a couple of months in Subiaco they moved to a concrete built University house in 1950.
20:11 The new house was in Parkway, Nedlands.
20:47 In around 1951, Leonard gave talks for schools broadcasts and on the Woman’s Hour. Woman’s Hour was run by Catherine King who was married to Leonard’s colleague, Alec King. She was also the daughter of Walter Murdoch, ex Professor and Vice Chancellor.

Track 3
00:00 Mrs Burrows returned to England for a few months as she was home sick.
00:24 First son born in 1954. In 1956 they went to England on study leave where another son, Tim, was born. In October 1957, they moved to Claremont.
01:09 Study leave entitlement after 6 years work at UWA.
02:19 Their daughter was born in 1958.
02:27 Leonard did not want to stay in England. His wife settled in better as well and they both became used to being ‘Australian’.
03:19 Impressions of Perth.
05:39 Impressions of UWA sketchy – more involved in getting to work.
06:12 The English Department was beginning an enormous expansion due to the CRTS Scheme (Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme). Ex services people given allowances and scholarships to come and study.
07:11 Expansion of numbers in the university and particularly in the English department. 200-250 people attended English 1 lectures. English considered a necessary subject.
08:11 There was money available for staffing. It was a small department when Leonard arrived – Professor Edwards, Alec King, senior lecturer/reader, David Bradley and Jeana Tweedie. Leonard took Harry Thompson’s place (who was the Old English teacher).
09:25 Leonard lectured on Browning but lectured on most things as time went on (except for Old English).
09:41 Composition and structure of the English course in 1950s. It wasn’t so much historical as much as how to study English. First years studied poetry, the novel and drama.
11:25 2nd years read more drama and 17th century poetry. It might be anything in the 3rd year such as a Victorian novel.
12:05 This idea was picked up by Allan Edwards in Cambridge. It was deliberately intended to be different. Leonard had to learn what they wanted.
13:17 Jeana Tweedie was a drama specialist as was David Bradley and keen on producing student plays. The teachers also read poetry and sang songs to the students.
14:41 The students particularly loved the poetry readings and folk songs.
15:09 There was no Dolphin Theatre but places were made into a theatre. A building that belonged to Chemistry was turned into a theatre.
16:11 English lectures were held in a newly built wooden lecture more or less located where the Sunken Garden and the Art Gallery are now.
16:52 Leonard’s office was in the main building upstairs. The French lecturer was next door to him.
17:37 More rooms were built near the lecture theatre when they needed more space. They all disappeared long ago. Some Education faculty people were here as well. Classes were held in the wooden building as well. These class rooms held about 20 students.
18:56 Tutorials were held in their rooms with up to 12 students. Novels or poetry would be discussed in a smaller group. It was an essential part of the Edwards theory.
21:46 Examinations were also held. These were more work for the lecturers.
22:48 Not everybody wanted to work in this way. Some other Arts faculty people such as the French lecturer found this too avant garde.

Track 4
00:00 Conclusion by JKW

Interview 2

Track 1
00:00 Introduction by JKW

Track 2
00:00 Discussion of The Critic. First issue in 1961.
02:05 Discussion of lack of staff facilities for eating and drinking. Establishment of first staff house in a University house in Cooper Street, Nedlands in 1950s. A staff house was eventually built in the 1960s opposite Riley Oval. Added to social life.
06:43 Discussion of new staff house – the UWA Club. Leonard still invited mostly for his birthday party on 18 August.
08:33 Common rooms in Arts Building.
10:09 The new Arts building. Other language departments. Leonard’s room faced Riley Oval and the new staff house.
12:12 English department office and secretaries. Gloria Greer. Louise Visvikis.

Track 3
00:00 Writers in residence as staff. Dorothy Hewitt. Peter Cowan. Randolph Stow
01:25 Change from terms to semesters.
02:28 English courses. English 1. Short stories, novels, poetry and drama.
04:00 Special English 1 course established to accommodate requests from Education Department, Medical Faculty and Law Faculty.
08:10 The old library. Miss Wood the librarian. Furniture donated by estate of Joseph Furphy.
10:25 Leonard Jolley and the new Reid Library.
11:30 Toby Burrows, medieval historian gets job in Reid Library.
13:40 Lunch at the staff house with Leonard Jolley and others.
13:55 How has the university changed? Bigger, harder, more concerned with money, prestige. How can we be the best? D H Lawrence, The Rocking Horse Winner.
15:36 Leonard retired in 1986. University now very commercial. Comments on Chancellor, Michael Chaney.

Track 4
00:00 Overseas students not so prevalent in the English department.
00:53 Research – problems of trying to teach and do research. Promotion and research money.
02:30 Discussion of role of Vice Chancellor in touting for business. Discussion of former Vice Chancellor Robson. Working for local council amalgamation. Discussion of Bigger and Better. Throwing money at problems.
06:04 Discussion of setting up of Murdoch University in 1974. UWA still the main university in Perth that everyone wants to go to.

Track 5
00:00 Conclusion by JKW



Burrows, Leonard, “Leonard Burrows interview, 13 September 2012 and 20 September 2012,” UWA Historical Society: UWA Histories, accessed April 20, 2024, https://oralhistories.arts.uwa.edu.au/items/show/5.