Peerless scholar of classics, military

ALAN TRELOAR SOLDIER, SCHOLAR 13-11-1919 22-7-2011



13-11-1919 22-7-2011

COLONEL Alan Treloar, a distinguished soldier who became one of Australia's greatest philologists and classical scholars, has died in Armidale, New South Wales. He was 91.

The term classicist applied to Treloar is far too narrow.

As a scholar of Greek and Latin, few could rival his knowledge and control. He had, for instance, read the entire classical literatures of both languages at least twice, and among many other remarkable feats could compose Latin verse in the most challenging lyric metres, a skill few individuals master in any generation.

Treloar had an astonishing gift for languages and a profound understanding of the way they function and develop. His first interests were French from the age of six, and Latin from the age of 10.

He soon took up Greek, was learning Japanese by correspondence while at school, and would eventually admit, when pressed hard, to direct knowledge of about 80 languages. Proficiency in German, French, and Dutch may not surprise, but his range also included a formidable command of such languages as Sanskrit, Russian, Chinese, Hittite, and Eblaite.

Even in his early 80s he was investigating Bunuba, an indigenous Australian language of the Kimberleys, and his publications reflect the diversity of his interests. They include The Importance of Music (1987) and Lyra (1994, a collection of his verse compositions), along with numerous academic and military papers. He also edited N. A. Bonavia-Hunt, Horace the Minstrel (2nd edition, 1969) and J. L. Treloar, An ANZAC Diary (1993).

Treloar was the eldest of four children born in Ivanhoe to Clarissa (nee Aldridge), a music teacher, and John, an Anzac who went on to become the first director of the Australian War Memorial.

Educated at Carey Grammar School and Melbourne University, he was a Victorian Rhodes scholar in 1940. However, because of service in the 2nd Australian Imperial Force, he did not take up the award until 1945. He had begun his military involvement with the Melbourne University Regiment and went on to serve with the 2/14 Battalion in 1940-44, with overseas service first in the Syrian campaign, where he was seriously wounded, and later in Papua on the Kokoda Track.

Transferred to a staff job at Victoria Barracks in Melbourne, he worked in his own time for his MA from Melbourne University, then moved to the army's intelligence corps.

On release from the army he had a brief stint as lecturer in classics at Melbourne University and tutor at Trinity College, Melbourne, before taking up his Rhodes scholarship at New College, Oxford, in the northern autumn of 1945. There he read the classical greats (BA 1949, MA 1953).

During the Oxford years, Treloar also served with the British Army on the Rhine (1946). In 1949-50, he was assistant lecturer in ancient history at Nottingham University, before a long tenure (1950-59) at Glasgow University as lecturer and later senior lecturer in humanity (i.e. Latin). He was also attached to Nottingham University Training Corps and then the Glasgow Highlanders, with whom he transferred to the Territorial Army and was eventually seconded to command Glasgow University Officer Training Corps.

In 1959, Treloar and his wife, the French specialist Dr Bronnie Treloar, whom he married in 1945, brought their young family home to Australia, where he was first warden of Hytten Hall and reader in classics at Tasmania University (1959-60). The year 1960 saw an important move to New England University, where he was master of Wright College (1960-66), and then reader in comparative philology (1966-84).

He also resumed his military involvement with the Australian Army and served with Tasmania Command, and then with Sydney University Regiment in command of New England Company until he retired in 1969. This facet of his life instilled in him a deep interest in military history, and he developed a detailed knowledge of it, as well as a wealth of stories of his own military experiences.

Academic retirement came nominally at the end of 1984. In fact, it ended only with failing health in the last few years of his life. He continued to be sought out for expert advice by scholars from around the world and to make his skills available as an inspirational teacher to a string of students.

To be taught by Treloar was to receive meticulously detailed instruction on the language in question, accompanied by constant courtesy, and a keen and gentle sense of humour. Never can the honorary award of doctor of letters, in his case from New England University in 1992, have been more deserved.

Treloar was a reserved and dignified man of great honesty and integrity, a true gentleman, and a warm and generous friend.

He is survived by his daughters Anna and Jeannie, and grandchildren Sarah, Katy and Alex. His wife, Bronnie (1991) and daughter, Meg (1995), predeceased him.

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