Dear Joe: Letters to a prime minister
As an old friend, George Lobban wrote to Prime Minister Joe Lyons with Christmas greetings in December 1932. George spoke of his ‘kindly affection’ for Joe and Mrs Lyons, wishing them the ‘compliments of the season’. Lyons wrote back to say how much they appreciated his kindness in remembering them, and wished him well.
These letters are part of a series of friendly exchanges between the two Tasmanians over 1932–33 kept on file in the National Archives. One letter from George Lobban marks the birth of the Lyons’ eleventh child – George and his own wife had but nine children, and he notes that Joe had now beaten him ‘by 2, not by a head, as I once remarked, when we compared families.’
At the time of writing, George Lobban was a returned soldier down on his luck, mostly looking for a helping hand from his old friend. His December 1932 letter describes a serious motor accident which had left him bedridden. He hoped the Prime Minister could restore his war pension, which had been replaced by a smaller invalid pension due to the accident. Unable to work, he had fallen into arrears on his war service home payments.
The letters reveal that he was not, however, content to be idle. He was a writer, composer, newspaper manager and most of all, a man of ideas – or ‘stunts’ as he called them. Among the stunts he dreamed of were a mint tea enterprise in Tasmania, work in the paper pulp industry and a venture in the Northern Territory.
Lyons made personal inquiries into work opportunities on George’s behalf but wrote that he regretted, with Australia still in the grip of the Depression, how hard it was to place anyone. George was disappointed when Lyons was unable to help him – not for himself but for the Prime Minister! ‘Poor old Joe, he will be vexed after doing his utmost’.
Despite his hardship, Lobban never gave up hope – ‘God pays a good divvie to the man who tries his best’, he wrote.