Under friendly fire: New Guinea 1943
Guest worker scheme on the way

Peter Ryan, MM

Ryan Peter Peter Allen Ryan was born on 4 September 1923, and educated at Malvern Grammar School. He joined the Victorian Crown Law Department but left in 1941 at the age of 18 to enlist in the Army. For eighteen months he worked on special intelligence work in PNG behind Japanese lines, winning the Military Medal in 1943 and being mentioned in dispatches.

When he returned to Australia he was posted to Victoria Barracks in Melbourne. In 1944-45 he was an officer in the Army's Directorate of Research and Civil Affairs under Colonel Alf Conlon, serving both in Melbourne and at the Land Headquarters School of Civil Affairs – ASOPA’s progenitor - at Duntroon.

In 1946-48, Peter was at the University of Melbourne, graduating with an honours degree in History. While studying Australian history he was taught by Manning Clark. In time, Peter was to become Clark's publisher of the six volumes of a History of Australia. In 1993 he caused a major controversy by publishing a long essay in Quadrant criticising Clark's character and his writings.

From 1958-62, Peter was Public Relations Manager of Imperial Chemical Industries and in 1962 became Director of Melbourne University Press, where he was to remain until his retirement in 1988. Works published during his directorship of MUP included the first twelve volumes of the Australian Dictionary of Biography (to which Ryan was also a contributor), Insects of Australia and Norman Lindsay's Micomicana and books by such well-known authors as Manning Clark, Macfarlane Burnet, Paul Hasluck and AD Hope. Ryan was also pivotal in establishing MUP's high quality publishing subsidiary, Miegunyah Press.

Later Peter held a number of executive positions, including member of the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (1985-88); Executive Officer for the Council of Legal Education (1988-2003); Administrative Officer, the Council of Law Reporting in Victoria; and Secretary of the Victorian Board of Examiners for Barristers and Solicitors. He retired from the latter two appointments in 2003.

In addition to numerous press articles and book reviews, Peter wrote several books including Fear Drive My Feet (1959), Redmond Barry (1972), William Macmahon Ball: A Memoir (1990), Black Bonanza: A Landslide of Gold (1991), Chance Encounters: AD Hope (1992), Lines of Fire: Manning Clark and Other Writings (1997) and Brief Lives (2004).


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Clodagh Mulcahy

Have so much enjoyed reading this book. It will be all the more real when I go up to follow the track from Wau to Salamaua in May this year.

If anyone is interested in joining us please check out Kokoda Historical website http://www.kokodahistorical.com.au.

Also I would love to get in contact with Peter Ryan. Will try Quadrant magazine as advised.


Ben Zoffman

Len - I am the eldest grandchild of Tom Zoffman and I live in Sydney. I was fascinated to read your post.

If you are coming to Australia, my father Tom (now 70) and I would dearly like to meet with you at some point and have a chat about the mine at Bulolo, Tom's adventures, Maruk and everything else.

I can be reached at [email protected] and look forward to hearing from you!

Len Price

Catherine - My father, Joseph Price, purchased Tom Zoffman's mine in Bulolo in the early fifties.

I met your grandfather briefly and lived in his house before going to boarding school.

Recently my sister in Tweed Heads, Queensland, sent me photographs of the mine that my father named Zero Mining Co.

Tom's old houseboy, Maruk, is in the photos, along with many mine photographs.

Mt Zoffman moved to Vaucluse in Sydney. I have been in Canada for years but will be in Australia in a few months time.

Ross Wilkinson

If Michael and Catherine would like to contact me at [email protected] I can provide additional information and links that would be of assistance in their respective quests.


Peter Hruby

I very much enjoyed Peter Ryan's criticism of Manning Clark's books. He should be interested in my latest study that devotes five chapters on 67 pages to a thorough examination of Clark's writings, his pro-Leninist bias, mental problems, and hopes for a Communist revolution in Australia: Peter Hruby, Dangerous Dreamers: The Australian Anti-Democratic Left and Czechoslovak Agents (Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2010).

Michael Barrand

Having just reread my third copy of 'Fear Drive My Feet', I too wonder about Peter Ryan.

I knew him briefly in 1969 when I went to school with his son Andy. He made a big impression on me then for his urbane, cultured character.

It was he who shouted me my first filet mignon at the Latin Restaurant, his favourite in Lonsdale Street.

Andy went to PNG, I went to the USA and our paths have not crossed again.

But in the past few years I have taken groups to walk the Kokoda Track four times and I want to retrace my father's journey on the Huon Peninsula in 1943 - just a few miles away from the events of Peter's book.

Phil Fitzpatrick

Catherine - Peter Ryan writes for 'Quadrant' magazine.

Contact the deputy editor George Thomas at [email protected] and he will pass on a message. Otherwise try Melbourne University Press.

Catherine Connolly

Just wondering if Peter Ryan is still alive and if so could he contact me, as he knew my grandfather Tom Zoffman during the war in PNG.

Tom passed away when I was four years old and as Peter's book 'Fear Drive My Feet' is the only book to have any reference to Tom in it, albeit a brief one, I was hoping he could tell me more about him. Thank you.

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