Vale Bill Mandle

Bill-Mandle-2012I learned today of the death of Bill Mandle.
He and I are connected in many ways even though we did not meet in person. Most recently, my remarkable PhD students, Robin Poke and Bruce Coe, inducted me into his work and alerted me to his connections with Sport Studies at the University of Canberra.
Brian Stoddart (2009) provides some background to Bill’s time at the Canberra College of Advanced Education “were he created the Centre for Sports Studies to support educationally the new Australian Institute of Sport” (p.67). Brian describes Bill as “physically towering with blazing eyes, mercurial intellect and unpredicatable temperament” (p.67).  Brian notes Bill’s role in the first Sporting Traditions Conference held in Sydney in 1977. Darryl Adair (2013), amongst others, has noted the seminal importance of the Conference for the intellectual foundations of sport history.
Brian (2009, p.68) added:
Bill was appointed an Emeritus Professor of the University of Canberra in 2000.
Robin Poke, with the help of Doug Booth and Ron Miller, has compiled a very sensitive obituary. I include extracts here with Robin’s permission.
“By his own admission a ‘working class kid’, Mandle won a scholarship to Pembroke College, Oxford and completed his PhD in modern history in 1957. Appointments at St Antony’s College, Oxford (1956-57), the history departments of both the University of Auckland (1958-59) and the University of Adelaide (1960-64) then a move to the department of politics at the University of Auckland (1965-68) preceded a longer tenure at the Australian National University (1969-77). He was recruited to this position by the doyen of Australian history, Manning Clark. The ANU promoted Mandle to Reader in 1975 and in 1978 the Canberra College of Advanced Education — from 1991 the University of Canberra—appointed him Head of the School of Liberal Studies. At UC—initially conceived as the educational arm of the Australian Institute of Sport—Mandle established a program that included the first degrees in sports management, sports journalism and sports administration in Australia. It was in sports history, however, that Mandle secured his reputation, as a founding member, in the late 1970s, of what became the Australian Society for Sports History.”
After retiring from University life, Bill taught in U3A. He moved to Moruya Heads where he died at the age of 80.
Robin notes of his funeral service:
“It was a funny and fitting service for one of the great (and loud) raconteurs, with deeply personal reminiscences from his children and colleagues, images recording a life from Oxford to the South Coast; and adorning the coffin, a Carlton jumper, an aged bottle of red wine, a copy of Dickens’ Martin Chuzzlewit, and poetry by Sylvia Plath. Tennyson and Yeats also got a guernsey. As Irene said, “we ‘Billed’ it up a bit.”
There is a wake for Bill in Canberra on 3 June. Many of his sport history friend will be there.
Undoubtedly they will be reflecting on this sentiment from Robin:

‘If I have been able to see farther’, physicist and mathematician Isaac Newton is reputed to have said, ‘it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants’. For many sports historians in Australia, Bill Mandle was their giant.


  1. Oh, yes? … And others tell it like it really was … For a start, the man held no PhD. More seriously, he was a deplorably incompetent manager and, during his tenure, he almost destroyed the faculty – before eventually being belatedly removed from the job. He was a shameless, loud-mouthed racist and regularly caused much offence among overseas students. His apparent ‘joviality’ soon faded whenever he was contradicted or crossed and he would then reveal a vindictive (at times violent) streak which could be extremely unpleasant. Worse, he was plausibly rumoured to be some kind of ASIO nark and, according to reports, he had been in trouble in previous jobs for allegedly ‘spying’ on and dobbing-in left-wing colleagues. All in all – whatever his contribution to the history of sport – he was the kind of Pom who gives Poms a bad name.

    • Thank you for finding this post, Lupus. I will keep your comment here with the blog to record your concern about the accuracy of my post.

      • And thank you, Keith, for retaining my heartfelt comment. All the sycophants who have praised him posthumously should be ashamed. Clever and articulate he may have been, but in no way did his talents make up for his gross displays of racism and general insensitivity. I once heard him comment loudly that a Jewish member of staff (who was complaining legitimately about something) should best keep his mouth shut as he was ‘lucky to have survived the gas chambers’. Hilarious, eh? A group of young Asian students he once described as ‘an ugly bunch of slant-eyes’. While he was Dean, he ran the faculty into so much unapproved debt it became insolvent and had to be bailed out by a desperate Uni admin. In his ASIO guise, he was prone to enter staff members’ rooms while they were absent on leave and search for ‘left-wing propaganda’. He physically and in public savagely attacked a staff member he believed was having an affair with his wife. This was all hushed up by a very alarmed University. Alas, there is plenty more …

  2. ‘The UC – initially conceived as the educational arm of the Australian Institute of Sport …’ ? What utter tosh! This is stupid irresponsible invention. Such a ridiculous concept was never even mooted, except perhaps in jest by the self-aggrandising Mandle himself – whose popular nicknames were ‘Mandle the Mouth’ and ‘Mandle the Vandal’. Says it all really.

    • Hello, Jess
      Thank you for writing this comment. As with Lupus I understand there are different views about Bill.
      Best wishes


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